Phoenix Suns

Pacific Notes: Morris, Clarkson, Sims, Koufos

Markieff Morris demanded a trade last month, but the Suns are giving no outward appearances of a rift, going so far as to tweet birthday greetings with an illustration of the now 26-year-old, which strikes an awkward tone in light of the power forward’s recent comments. The Suns “need and want” Morris, Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic wrote last week, so it would appear the team is making its best to attempt to patch up the relationship before the start of training camp at month’s end. Morris wasn’t planning a verbal offensive when he came across Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer, to whom he expressed his demand, Coro notes, though John Gambadoro had heard a week before Morris made the demand that the former 13th overall pick wanted out of Phoenix. See more on the Suns amid the latest from the Pacific Division:

  • The Excel Sports Management agency has ended its relationship with Lakers point guard Jordan Clarkson, reports Jon Krawczynski of The Associated Press. It’s an unusual move, since players typically make the call to change agents, and not the other way around. Clarkson, the 46th overall pick from last year’s draft who far outstripped expectations as a rookie, is set for restricted free agency next summer. Agent Mike George had been Clarkson’s primary representative.
  • Suns camp signee Henry Sims is determined to prove his production for the Sixers wasn’t merely a product of playing for an inferior team, as he tells tells Coro for a separate piece. The three-year NBA vet saw inconsistent playing time in his season and a half in Philadelphia, though he doesn’t begrudge the chances the Sixers gave him when they did put him on the floor, Coro notes. “Being gritty is how I made my name,” Sims said to Coro. “It’s how I earned my way. But getting up and down like they do here is something I can do. Here, the talent is off the chart. Even though they’re young guys, they’ve been in the league a while. You’ve got the head of the snake, Eric Bledsoe, making it easier — he and B-[Brandon] Knight. I’ve still got tons to prove.”
  • Kosta Koufos left an elite Western Conference team when he departed the Grizzlies for Sacramento this summer, but he believes the Kings can make the playoffs, and he has enduring respect for George Karl, who once coached him on the Nuggets, as Koufos expressed on SiriusXM NBA Radio (Twitter links; full audio here).

Pacific Notes: Morris, Rondo, Russell, Davis

Markieff Morris was notably absent as Suns players began gathering for voluntary workouts this week, writes Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic. Morris, unhappy since his twin brother Marcus was traded to the Pistons July 9th, isn’t expected to attend the sessions. Markieff Morris was irate about the deal and asked the Suns to trade him as well, but Coro notes that it would be nearly impossible for Phoenix to get equal value at this point and the team has no one on the roster to fill his role. The twins are angry because they contend they gave the Suns a break on the extensions they signed last year in hopes of remaining together.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The KingsRajon Rondo tops Yahoo Sports’ Ben Rohrbach’s list of players facing make-or-break seasons in 2015/16. Rondo, who signed a one-year, $9.5MM deal with Sacramento last month, is trying to rebuild his reputation after being shut down early during the playoffs by the Mavericks. Ty Lawson, who was traded to the Rockets July 20th, is second on Rohrbach’s list, followed by Miami’s Hassan Whiteside, Boston’s Jared Sullinger and Oklahoma City’s Dion Waiters.
  • The addition of D’Angelo Russell has Lakers‘ part-owner Jim Buss excited about the upcoming season, according to Eric Pincus of The Los Angeles Times. The Lakers took a risk by drafting Russell second overall, ahead of Duke’s Jahlil Okafor, and Buss said the front office had about 30 meetings before making its final decision. “It was a long, long process that we decided to go with Russell,” Buss said. “He’s just very impressive. We saw an upside of being a potential superstar in the league.”
  • Free agent Glen Davis, who has spent the last season and a half with the Clippers, has to convince a team that he can still be an effective scorer, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Nearing age 30, Davis has evolved into an energy player in recent years, averaging just 4.0 points per game last season, down from a career-high 15.1 in 2012/13. Washburn also notes that the Clippers are being selective in possible deals involving Jamal Crawford. They are willing to part with the 35-year-old, but only for the “right return.”

Suns Sign Cory Jefferson, Henry Sims

SATURDAY, 3:15pm: The signings are official, according to the RealGM transactions log. No formal announcement has been made by the Suns.

TUESDAY, 6:16pm: The Suns have agreed to training camp deals with Henry Sims and Cory Jefferson, Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic reports. The length and terms of the contracts are unknown, but they are likely minimum salary agreements that include little or no guaranteed money, though that is merely my speculation. Phoenix already has 15 players on its roster, including 13 with fully guaranteed pacts.

Sims, 25, made 73 appearances for the Sixers last season, including 32 starts. He averaged 8.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in 19.2 minutes per contest. His career numbers through three NBA campaigns are 7.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG, and 1.1 APG to go along with a slash line of .475/.174/.760. The big man wasn’t tendered a qualifying offer by Philadelphia this offseason, making him an unrestricted free agent.

Jefferson, the final pick of the 2014 draft, appeared in 50 games for the Nets this past season, averaging 3.7 points in 10.6 minutes per game. The 6’9″ forward was waived by Brooklyn back in July so the team could avoid his non-guaranteed salary becoming partially guaranteed for $150K.

Pacific Notes: Kobe, Buss, Casspi, Suns

Lakers Executive VP of basketball operations Jim Buss believes Kobe Bryant is worth his league-high $25MM salary this season after all he’s done for the franchise and said that while the team is operating on the premise that Bryant will retire at season’s end, he’d welcome him back with open arms if he’s willing to accept a role that fits his age and ability. Buss made his comments as part of an interview with Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times, adding that he “feels like we’ve righted the ship” with coach Byron Scott and a new cast of key players, even if the team didn’t sign a star free agent this summer.

“It’s just that it takes time to build a core that guys want to play with,” Buss said to Pincus. “I understand a superstar doesn’t want to come in and say, ‘Oh, we still have two or three years of rebuilding.’ I think with Jordan Clarkson, [D’Angelo] Russell, [Julius] Randle, even [Roy] Hibbert … we’re getting a core of seven or eight players.”

See more on the Lakers amid the latest from around the Pacific Division:

  • Buss, also a part-owner of the team, has no regrets about pledging in April 2014 to resign from his basketball operations position if he couldn’t restore the Lakers to contention in three or four years, as he said to Pincus for the same piece. Buss’ sister Jeanie, the primary owner of the franchise, has said she’ll hold him to that pledge if the Lakers aren’t back in the Western Conference Finals by the spring of 2017. Still, the top goal for this season, Jim Buss said to Pincus, is identifying core players for the future, and not necessarily making the playoffs.
  • Omri Casspi cited DeMarcus Cousins, calling him the best center in the league in an interview with James Herbert of CBSSports.com, among the reasons why he decided to re-sign with the Kings this summer.
  • The Suns officially named Chris Jent the head coach of their one-to-one D-League affiliate, the franchise announced Thursday. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported earlier this month that the sides were finalizing a deal. Jent had been Michael Malone‘s lead assistant with the Kings.

Pacific Notes: Jordan, D-League, Suns

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer stressed that the team’s sale pitch to DeAndre Jordan which included an endorsement deal with Lexus for $200K a year, and subsequently garnered the organization a $250K fine from the league, played no part in the center’s decision to spurn Dallas and return to Los Angeles, Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders writes. “Today, the NBA announced it has fined the team for violating NBA rules in our presentation to DeAndre Jordan on July 2nd,” Ballmer relayed in an internal team memo (hat tip to Dan Woike of the Orange County Register). “The League’s investigation concluded that the presentation of a potential third-party opportunity had no impact on DeAndre’s decision to re-sign, and having been a part of the process, I can attest to this fact. As we, and the basketball world, observed DJ ultimately chose to stay with the Clippers because he felt it was his best opportunity to win a championship, and because of his desire to remain part of the Clippers family.

Here’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • The L.A. D-Fenders, the Lakers‘ D-League affiliate, filled out head coach Casey Owens‘ staff with Paul WoolpertBrian WalshJermaine Byrd, and Will Scott, who were all named as assistants, tweets Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News.
  • The one-year, minimum salary training camp deals that Henry Sims, Deonte Burton, and Cory Jefferson inked with the Suns include no guaranteed salary, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders notes (via Twitter).
  • Lakers 2015 first-rounder D’Angelo Russell believes that he and 2014 second round pick Jordan Clarkson can be an effective tandem playing together in the backcourt, as he told ESPN 710’s Mychal Thompson and Mike Trudell during a radio appearance. “I feel like we’re dangerous for our team,” Russell said of he and Clarkson. “We both rebound. We both can push the break, and we both can run the wing. So if he gets it and I’m running the wing, he can set up the offense or make the right decisions and vice versa with me. I feel like it’s dangerous, and we can play together easily. I think it will just take some time.

Suns Sign Deonte Burton

The Suns have signed unrestricted free agent Deonte Burton, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders reports (Twitter link). It is a non-guaranteed training camp pact, adds Pincus, and most likely for the league minimum, though that is merely my speculation. The agreement will also include limited injury protection, Pincus adds, so it is likely an Exhibit 9 contract. The addition of Burton will give Phoenix a roster count of 18 players, including 13 with fully guaranteed deals.

Burton, 24, went undrafted out of Nevada in 2014 after averaging  20.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 4.4 assists against 2.0 turnovers in 38.6 MPG as a Senior. His career NCAA numbers were 16.2 PPG, 2.9 RPG, and 4.0 APG to accompany a shooting line of .439/.337/.751.

The guard appeared in the 2014 summer league with the Wizards before catching on with the Kings for training camp. Burton was cut by Sacramento last October and later signed with Germany’s Ratiopharm Ulm for the remainder of the 2014/15 season. His numbers in 31 appearances for Ratiopharm were an underwhelming 2.6 PPG, 0.6 RPG, and 0.5 APG in 10.1 minutes per contest. Burton played in the 2015 NBA Salt Lake City Summer League for the Sixers’ squad.

And-Ones: Euroleague, Aldridge, Huertas

For the first time on North American soil, two Euroleague powerhouses will go head to head when Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv and three-time European champs EA7 Emporio Armani Milan meet this fall. As Maccabi announced recently, the two squads will play at Chicago’s United Center on October 1st before heading to Madison Square Garden on October 4th.

Adding some intrigue to the games, Hoops Rumors has learned that it is very likely that Dragan Bender, whom Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress projects as a top-five pick in the 2016 draft, will be making the trip to the U.S. The Croatian star, who is signed to Adidas, did not take center stage at the Nike-run U19 World Championship games in June, but he’ll now get his chance to shine in NBA territory. Bender, who doesn’t turn 18 until November, has been wowing scouts for a long time with his play for Maccabi’s junior squad.

Euroleague teams have played exhibition games against NBA clubs in the past, but American fans will now be treated to one of Europe’s premier basketball rivalries. In 2014, Maccabi downed Milan in a playoff series to advance to the Final Four and eventually win the Euroleague title. In 1987 and 1988, Milan beat Maccabi in back-to-back championship games that featured legends such as Bob McAdoo and Mike D’Antoni, among others.

Here’s more NBA-related news:

  • The key to perhaps the most significant free agent coup of the summer was Spurs assistant coach Ime Udoka, who “got the deal done” between LaMarcus Aldridge and the team, Aldridge tells USA Today’s Sam Amick. Udoka, a long-ago teammate of Aldridge’s with the Trail Blazers, took a flight with the power forward after San Antonio’s pitch meeting and cleared some of the doubts in his mind as he weighed the Spurs against signing with the Suns. “Everybody was making this big fuss about how I’m not going to be able to take shots anymore, or be the scorer that I am, and he was just telling me, ‘We need a guy to score down there. Tim [Duncan] is older, and we need a guy to command a double team down there,’” Aldridge said in part. “So I was like, ‘Maybe I’m not a Spur, because I’ve been averaging 23 [points per game] for the last three to four years, and maybe I don’t fit into y’all’s system of let’s all average 17 [points per game].’ And he was like, ‘No, we’re not trying to change who you are and make you average 16 or 17. We want you to be you, because you’re going to help us be better and vice versa.’ He kind of reaffirmed that they didn’t want to change me, and that who I am is OK.”
  • Point guard Marcelo Huertas, who had planned a jump to the NBA this season and had been expected to draw significant interest, has instead agreed to sign with Galatasaray of Turkey, according to the team (Twitter link; hat tip to Sportando’s Orazio Cauchi). Agent Gerard Darnes late last month denied reports that Huertas had a deal with the team at that point, though it appears that’s now the case.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Pacific Notes: Weems, Bryant, Griffin

Matt Petersen of NBA.com chronicles Sonny Weems’ path back to the NBA after playing in the D-League and overseas. Weems was traded to the Nuggets during the 2008 draft and ending up playing most of his minutes in the D-League. In less than a year, the guard was traded twice. Once he received meaningful minutes for Toronto, he showed he belonged in the NBA. Then the lockout happened. Like quite a few NBA players, he signed overseas, but his contract was the only one not to contain an “out” clause. Once his contract expired, he signed a two-year contract with CSKA, but this time he made sure to secure an “out” clause. The Arkansas product was shooting better than 40% from behind the arc and he knew he would generate enough interest to use it.

The Suns signed Weems this offseason to help aid their bench unit and the 29-year-old couldn’t be happier. “Every basketball player growing up, their dream is to play in the NBA,” Weems said. “Now I’m back.”

Here’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Kobe Bryant is back on the court practicing shooting drills for the first time since tearing the rotator cuff in his right shoulder, Eric Pincus of The Los Angeles Times writes. Bryant is in the last year of his current deal, which will pay him $25MM.
  • The Clippers were able to improve their bench unit this summer with the additions of Lance Stephenson, Wesley Johnson and Josh Smith. The new arrivals should allow the team’s starters to get more rest during the regular season, which is something Blake Griffin sees as a huge advantage in the long run, Rowan Kavner of NBA.com writes. “It’ll help a lot,” Griffin said. “My third season in the league when we had that unbelievable bench, I think I dropped to like 32 minutes a game in the regular season…You definitely feel fresher toward the end, but you have to find that right balance of not holding back too much, being able to give everything. Having an elite bench is going to help us tremendously, especially come playoff time.”

Central Notes: Smith, Cavaliers, Pistons, Johnson

This week’s agreement with J.R. Smith was the last step for the Cavaliers in keeping together the core of last season’s Eastern Conference champs, writes Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer. Smith opted out of a $6.4MM deal for next season, against the advice of the team, before settling for a new contract that will pay him $5MM for 2015/16 with a $5MM player option for the following season. Pluto noted that the Cavs had “tremendous leverage” in negotiations once Smith failed to get a significant offer in free agency. In addition to bringing back Smith, Cleveland was able to re-sign LeBron James, James Jones and Matthew Dellavedova, while adding Mo Williams and Richard Jefferson. In addition, center Sasha Kaun struck a deal with the team today. Free agent Tristan Thompson has not reached an agreement, but is expected to remain in Cleveland for at least one more season.

There’s more news from the Central Division:

  • James averaged 36.1 minutes last season — the lowest total of his career — and Pluto writes in the same article that the Cavs hope to cut that figure even further. Smith and Jefferson will both help reduce his workload, Pluto says, and Williams should do the same for Kyrie Irving, who is rehabbing after surgery for a fractured kneecap.
  • Marcus Morris will likely win the Pistons‘ starting small forward job over rookie Stanley Johnson, according to David Mayo of MLive. Detroit acquired Morris from the Suns in a three-player trade last month. Mayo also points out that the addition of Ersan Ilyasova to go with holdover Anthony Tolliver gives the Pistons a three-point threat at the power forward position on both their starting and reserve units.
  • Rookie Stanley Johnson thinks the Pistons selected him because he has a personality similar to coach/executive Stan Van Gundy, writes John Niyo of The Detroit News. That includes a distaste for losing, which Johnson shares with his new coach. “You want to be around people that are like you,” said Johnson. “I don’t think Stan would draft me if he wasn’t looking for the same things.”

Suns, Kyle Casey Agree To Camp Deal

The Suns have agreed to sign former Harvard combo forward Kyle Casey to a contract for training camp, reports Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic. Casey, who turns 26 in November despite having been out of college ball for only a year, will join former 36th overall pick Terrico White, with whom Phoenix also has a deal for camp, as Shams Charania of RealGM reported Thursday. The Suns have their $2.814MM room exception available, but these are likely minimum-salary arrangements with little or no guaranteed money.

Casey spent the past season playing for Helios Domzale of Slovenia, averaging 12.6 points and 7.2 rebounds in 28.5 minutes per game. That was more playing time than he saw as a senior for Harvard in 2013/14, when he put up 9.7 PPG and 5.6 RPG in 22.0 MPG. At 6’7″, he averaged 1.2 blocks per game as a college senior but fewer than one block per contest in Slovenia last year, and he shot less than 30% from three-point range in both seasons. Casey played for the Nets summer league team in 2014 but didn’t take part in NBA summer league this year.

The additions of White and Casey give Phoenix deals with 15 players, 13 of which are fully guaranteed. The pair stand decent chances to make the regular season roster, depending on the other moves the Suns make between now and opening night, though it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see them end up with Phoenix’s one-to-one D-League affiliate. The Suns brought four players to camp last fall with the understanding that they would play for the D-League Bakersfield Jam if they didn’t stick in the NBA for opening night, as Coro notes.

Who do you think has a better chance to make the regular season roster for the Suns, Kyle Casey or Terrico White? Leave a comment to let us know. 

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