Suns Notes: Payne, Paul, FAs, Bridges, Ayton

Already missing Devin Booker for several weeks, the Suns are finding themselves increasingly shorthanded in the backcourt.

Key reserve Cameron Payne aggravated his right foot injury on Wednesday in his second game back from the ailment and was ruled out for Friday’s contest vs. Miami. Starting point guard Chris Paul was available for that game against the Heat, but didn’t play in the second half due to right hip soreness, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic.

“It’s tough having guys in and out,” Suns wing Torrey Craig said. “Soon as you think you’re about to get guys back, somebody else gets hurt. Guys get re-injured, but it’s part of the game It’s part of adversity, but we’ve just got to figure out a way to get through all this.”

The banged-up Suns – who have also been without starting forward Cameron Johnson (knee surgery) since early November and former starting forward Jae Crowder (away from team) all season – are in the midst of their worst skid of the last few years — after a 16-7 start, they’ve lost 13 of their last 17 games, including the last five in a row. Now at 20-20 on the year, Phoenix has already lost more games than it did all of last season, when the club led the NBA with a 64-18 record.

“If you think about everything we’ve been through, we’re still .500,” Williams said after Friday’s loss, per Rankin. “We just want to win one. Our guys are hurting to win a game and that’s where as a coach, you just feel bad for those guys because you know how hard we’re playing and how bad they want it.”

Here’s more on the Suns:

  • The Suns have an open roster spot and could look to the free agent market for help, writes Greg Moore of The Arizona Republic. Although Moore mentions Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Favors as possibilities, the player he’d really like to see the team call is Josh Jackson. Moore argues that the former Suns lottery pick could help bring the team the “fire and intensity” it needs.
  • With Booker and Johnson out and Paul underachieving, there has been more pressure on Mikal Bridges this season to be a two-way force. He has struggled to score as efficiently as he has in the past — his .449 FG% is easily his lowest mark since his rookie year. Gerald Bourguet of considers what the Suns and their fans should realistically expect from the fifth-year forward and whether or not he’s meeting those expectations this season.
  • After averaging just 10.3 points per game in his previous three appearances, Deandre Ayton bounced back offensively on Friday with 23 points, though it took him 20 field goal attempts. Before Friday’s contest, Ayton spoke about his role on offense, and Rankin has the highlights in a story for The Arizona Republic.
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