Cameron Johnson

Suns Notes: Ishbia, S. Lee, Johnson, Okogie

Mat Ishbia isn’t officially the new owner of the Suns yet, but his presence at courtside for Thursday’s game reinforced the idea that a new era is starting in Phoenix, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. It was the first time the billionaire mortgage lender has attended a game since reaching an agreement to purchase the team last month, and the players were happy to have him there.

“He’s a cool guy,” Ish Wainright said. “I look forward to meeting him, picking his brain about not just basketball, but about business. I want to get to know him.”

Ishbia is still awaiting league approval on his $4 billion purchase, a process that Rankin notes typically takes about two months. Once the sale is official, the franchise can move on from current owner Robert Sarver, who was pressured to sell the team after being suspended for a year and fined $10MM for creating a toxic work environment. Coach Monty Williams believes Sarver shouldn’t be judged too harshly for his actions.

“Robert did a lot for this team, he did a lot for this city, he did a lot behind the scenes that people will never know about,” Williams said. “It was an unfortunate ending … but now as we turn the page, you start to look forward to what can be with the team with new ownership.”

There’s more from Phoenix:

  • Saben Lee is thrilled to get a second 10-day contract, Rankin tweets. Although Lee saw consistent playing time in his first four games with the Suns, averaging 11.3 points, 3.8 assists and 2.5 rebounds in 21.8 minutes per night, he didn’t take a second deal for granted. “When you expect things in this league, it usually doesn’t go the way you want it to,” Lee said.
  • Cameron Johnson, who played 22 minutes Thursday in his return to action following meniscus surgery on his right knee, will sit out Saturday’s game due to injury management, tweets Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports.
  • Josh Okogie, who suffered a broken nose Monday when Deandre Ayton accidentally elbowed him in the face, will be able to play Saturday night after clearing his final concussion evaluation, according to Bourguet (Twitter link).

Pacific Notes: Warriors, Curry, Holmes, C. Johnson

The Warriors tried out a new starting and closing lineup on Thursday in a Finals rematch again Boston, subbing in Jordan Poole for Kevon Looney. The five-man unit of Poole, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andrew Wiggins was less stout defensively, but was more dynamic on offense — it’s a look head coach Steve Kerr suggested he plans to stick with for now, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

“Just wanted to open up the floor,” Kerr said. “Give us a little different look. Maybe get a spark. We’re past the halfway point and we’re .500. Like, let’s try something different. … It’s a lineup we know can be explosive. Against Boston, in particular, you have to open up the floor. I think I’ll keep doing it.”

Following Thursday’s loss, the defending champions are now 22-23, a game below .500. It makes sense that Kerr would be looking to generate a spark with a lineup shake-up, and his players are on board with giving the new starting group a shot.

“There’s strength and weaknesses to it,” Curry said after Thursday’s game. “But we got great shots with it tonight. Came out with a lot of juice. We gotta be better at rebounding. If we give up size, we gotta be more physical, prepared to rebound. But it gives us great space and gets us great shots, and you gotta like the way we can play fast and put pressure on defenses.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • In a Substack conversation with Marc Stein, Curry expressed interest in joining Kerr and Team USA in Paris for the 2024 Olympics and discussed how much longer he might want to play in the NBA. As the Warriors star explained, his hope when he entered the league was to match the 16 seasons his father Dell Curry played, but once he gets beyond that figure, he has no specific target in mind. “I don’t have any (longevity) goals other than maintaining the feeling that I have right now in my body and the night-in, night-out expectation of how I play and having that energy and joy and being able to recover from game to game,” Stephen Curry said.
  • With Domantas Sabonis out on Wednesday due to a non-COVID illness, Kings center Richaun Holmes got his first start since last February and played a season-high 31 minutes, registering 16 points (on 7-of-7 shooting) and 11 rebounds. As Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee outlines, it was a major achievement for a player who has gone through both professional and personal hardships in the last year. “It’s a testament to his character, his professionalism and his ability to play the game at a high level,” head coach Mike Brown said of Holmes. Sabonis is listed as questionable to play on Friday vs. Oklahoma City.
  • Cameron Johnson‘s return to action on Thursday – which saw him score 19 points in 22 minutes – provided a huge lift for a Suns team that has been mired in a lengthy slump, perhaps giving them a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel, writes Doug Haller of The Arizona Republic. Head coach Monty Williams said Johnson “brought a level of juice to the arena that we haven’t felt in a while,” while Deandre Ayton said his teammate “definitely gave us a breath of fresh air.”

Suns’ Cameron Johnson Set To Return On Thursday

The injury-plagued Suns will get some reinforcements on Thursday vs. Brooklyn, as Cameron Johnson intends to make his return from a knee injury that has sidelined him for most of the season, according to the team (Twitter link).

Johnson tore the meniscus in his right knee in his eighth game of the season on November 4 and underwent surgery a few days later to remove a portion of his meniscus. Because the procedure involved trimming the meniscus rather than removing it, the 26-year-old will only end up missing about two-and-a-half months instead of most or all of the rest of the season.

Johnson had gotten off to a strong start to the season as the Suns’ full-time starter at power forward, averaging 14.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.3 steals per night in his seven healthy games (28.2 MPG), with a .457/.440/.727 shooting line.

The second half of the season will be crucial for both Johnson and the Suns — he’ll be eligible for restricted free agency this summer, while Phoenix had been looking to build on a 64-win season and emerge as a legitimate title threat.

Hit hard by injuries to Johnson, Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Cameron Payne, and others (and missing disgruntled forward Jae Crowder), the Suns are currently just 21-24, having lost 12 of their last 14 games.

Pacific Notes: Johnson, Payne, George, LeBron

A return to the floor for Suns starting power forward Cameron Johnson appears to be imminent, reports Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Johnson has been sidelined for Phoenix since November 4 with a torn right meniscus that required surgery.

“Just sometime when I get back from the [team’s just-wrapped road trip], but I feel pretty good,” Johnson said when asked about his return timeline. “Taking it one day at a time right now, but I’m looking forward to getting back soon, very soon.”

In his eight healthy games this year, Johnson has averaged 13.0 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.8 APG and 1.1 SPG. The Suns have gone 15-21 since Johnson’s injury, though other major absences to Phoenix players have played a role in that record, too.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • Suns reserve point guard Cameron Payne is set to have his right foot sprain reassessed later in January, Rankin notes (Twitter link). “I haven’t started doing anything,” Payne said. “I think [Monday] when I get back into Phoenix, we should be doing our next checkups and check off a few things for me to get back on the court.” Payne has played just twice since December 13.
  • Injured Clippers star forward Paul George has been cleared for full team practices, but head coach Tyronn Lue is unsure of an exact timeline for his return to the floor, tweets Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.
  • All-Star Lakers forward LeBron James took to social media today to register his discontent about what he sees as inconsistent game officiating. “And all year they keep telling me to my face on the court, ‘I didn’t see it’ or ‘It wasn’t a [foul],'” James tweeted. “It’s not making sense to me seriously! Frustrating as hell man! Anyways keep going Squad!” James seemed particularly upset during L.A.’s two latest losses, to the Mavericks on Thursday and the Sixers Sunday.

Haynes’ Latest: Crowder, C. Johnson, Barton, Tatum

The injury bug has bitten the Suns in a major way in recent weeks, but forward Mikal Bridges told Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report that the club’s struggles are also due in part to the absence of Jae Crowder. Bridges added that he supports Crowder’s decision to remain away from the team while the Suns attempt to trade him.

“That’s one of our leaders,” Bridges said. “I texted him not too long ago and told him how much I miss him. That’s my guy. It’s the NBA. It happens. I know he wants to be here, but it’s the league. That’s just how it is sometimes. This is my fifth year in the league, and I understand how it could be. You’ve got to protect yourself sometimes. We’ll love to have him here, but we get it.”

For his part, Crowder tells Haynes that his teammates respect and understand his decision, but that he’s frustrated by his situation.

“This move of pushing me out the door was a blindsided hit to not only me but my teammates, as you can see from speaking to them and myself and the conversations we’ve had behind closed doors,” Crowder said in a text message. “I will continue to prepare myself daily for battle once the call is made and continue to be a leader on the court, locker room, as well as off the court. I am thankful my teammates appreciated my leadership. I’m confused and hurt my coaches didn’t appreciate the things I brought to our team and organization. And this has nothing to do with financial or contract differences.”

We don’t necessarily know all the details about how things have played out between Crowder and the Suns behind closed doors, but the two reasons most frequently reported for his absence have been his desire for a contract extension and his dissatisfaction with his role (the team intended to move him from the starting five to the bench).

Given Crowder’s claim that his disappointment has “nothing to do” with his contract situation, perhaps the role change is why he doesn’t feel appreciation from the Suns’ coaches. Sitting out more than half a season seems like an overreaction to being asked to become a sixth man though, so perhaps there’s more to the story.

Here’s more from Haynes:

  • Suns forward Cameron Johnson told Haynes that he expects to return from his knee surgery at some point after the team returns from its current road trip. Phoenix will have a five-game home stand from January 19-26 — it sounds like Johnson plans to be back at some point during that week.
  • The Wizards have been receiving inquiries on Will Barton‘s availability, but aren’t said to be actively shopping him yet, Haynes writes. The 32-year-old is shooting a career-worst 37.5% in his first season in D.C., is earning over $14MM, and and has received multiple DNP-CDs recently, so the idea that there would be teams willing to give up anything of real value for him is dubious. Josh Robbins of The Athletic recently identified Barton as a possible buyout candidate, but perhaps the Wizards could get an asset for him if they’re willing to take on some multiyear money in exchange for his expiring contract.
  • Celtics forward Jayson Tatum has been invited to participate in next month’s three-point contest, but has yet to decide whether he’ll take part, per Haynes.

Pacific Notes: C. Johnson, D. Lee, Kuminga, Vezenkov

Suns forward Cameron Johnson, who is recovering from knee surgery and has been out since November 4, has played some 1-on-1 but isn’t yet taking contract, head coach Monty Williams said on Wednesday (Twitter video link via Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic).

While Johnson has a few more hurdles to clear before he’s ready to get back onto the court for the Suns, general manager James Jones indicated on Wednesday that the 26-year-old is entering the final stage of his rehab process, according to Kellan Olson of Arizona Sports 98.7.

“He’s in the latter stages of it but as far as a definitive timeline I don’t have anything,” Jones said during a radio appearance on Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo. “I do know at some point soon we should get him back. I just can’t tell you if that’s going to be in five days, 10 days, but every day he’s getting closer.”

The banged-up Suns have also been without Devin Booker, Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton, Cameron Payne, and Landry Shamet as of late, so getting Johnson back would provide the team with a huge lift.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Current Suns and former Warriors guard Damion Lee, Stephen Curry‘s brother-in-law, finally got his 2022 championship ring when his team played in Golden State on Tuesday. Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic takes an in-depth look at what was a memorable day for Lee, who helped upset his old team by going 14-for-14 from the free throw line and scoring a season-high 22 points.
  • With Jonathan Kuminga getting close to returning from a right foot sprain that has kept him out of action since December 30, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said he’ll welcome the “physicality and athleticism” the second-year forward brings to the lineup. “I thought last game against Phoenix (on Tuesday) we were not physical enough,” Kerr said, per Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area. “Phoenix came in and really took it to us. They were physical, they were aggressive on the boards.”
  • In an interview with BasketNews, Kings draft-and-stash prospect Sasha Vezenkov clarified that the extension he recently signed with Olympiacos in Greece doesn’t rule out the possibility of him making a move to the NBA this summer or in a future season, since the deal includes a buyout estimated to be worth $1.5MM. “Before the contract and after the contract, I’m in the same position,” Vezenkov said.

Suns’ Cameron Payne Out At Least Two Weeks With Foot Sprain

Suns guard Cameron Payne has been diagnosed with a right foot sprain and will miss at least two weeks, which is when he’ll be reevaluated, tweets Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports.

Payne missed nine games in mid-to-late December with right foot soreness, and then aggravated the injury in just his second game back during Wednesday’s loss to Cleveland. He was sidelined for last night’s loss to Miami as well.

It’s a tough blow for the Suns, who continue to be hit hard by injuries. Payne is an important member of Phoenix’s backcourt, with averages of 12.1 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 5.3 APG and 0.9 SPG on .412/.378/.776 shooting splits through 28 games (14 starts, 24.0 MPG). The points and assists per game both represent career highs.

The Suns are already without star shooting guard Devin Booker (groin strain) and starting power forward Cameron Johnson (torn meniscus and subsequent surgery).  Johnson has been making progress in his rehab, but he hasn’t participated in contact work yet, per head coach Monty Williams (Twitter link via Bourguet).

Williams also said Chris Paul is considered day-to-day with right hip soreness, and another update will be provided on Sunday. The veteran point guard missed 14 games earlier in the season with right heel soreness.

The Suns have dropped eight of their past nine games, including five straight, to move to 20-20 on the season. Their upcoming schedule over the next two weeks won’t do them any favors — they’re home against Cleveland on Sunday, then go on a four-game road trip against the Warriors, Nuggets, Wolves and Grizzlies, followed by home games against the Nets and Pacers.

With Payne, Booker, and potentially Paul sidelined, look for guards like Landry Shamet, Damion Lee and Duane Washington to get more minutes and shot attempts.

Injury Updates: Leonard, C. Johnson, Garland, Brunson

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard has been playing under a minutes restriction all season while returning from a partially torn ACL, but that appears to have been lifted, tweets Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Leonard logged 35 minutes Saturday afternoon at Indiana after playing 37 and 35 in the team’s past two games, meaning he’s basically back on a regular schedule.

“Still moving up the right track, feeling healthy still and that’s what it’s about,” Leonard said after the game. “Just keep getting better.”

Coach Tyronn Lue didn’t confirm that Leonard’s minutes limit is gone, but he said the increased availability is welcome because it allows him to stagger Leonard and Paul George and keep at least one star on the court throughout the game.

There’s more injury news to pass along:

  • Suns forward Cameron Johnson appears to be getting closer to a return after having meniscus surgery on November 8, tweets Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic, who posted a video of Johnson running before Friday night’s game.
  • Darius Garland, who suffered a sprained right thumb late in Thursday’s game, will miss the Cavaliers‘ contest on Saturday night in Chicago, according to Chris Fedor of Garland has been receiving treatment for the injury since it happened, Fedor adds. Cleveland will also be without big man Evan Mobley, who is missing his first game of the season because of soreness in his right ankle. Lamar Stevens and Kevin Love will start in their place, giving the Cavs their 17th different starting lineup in 37 games.
  • Knicks guard Jalen Brunson will miss his third straight game with a hip injury tonight in Houston, tweets Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. The Rockets will be without starting center Alperen Sengun, who is suffering lower back pain, according to Mark Berman of Fox 26 in Houston (Twitter link).

Suns Notes: Booker, Johnson, Williams, Bridges

The Suns fell to 1-4 on the season without Devin Booker after a lopsided loss to the Grizzlies Friday night, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. After scoring a season-high 58 points last Saturday, Booker has sat out three straight games with groin soreness.

“I am not going to downplay the fact that we miss Book,” Landry Shamet said. “Of course we do. He is an All-NBA guy. He should be in the MVP conversation. We miss him, but none of the basketball X’s and O’s stuff matters if we don’t pick up on that mentality, physicality. Hit first.”

Coach Monty Williams updated reporters on Booker’s condition before the game, saying he has started shooting again but still isn’t able to move around very much. He refused to speculate on whether Booker might be available for the Christmas Day game at Denver.

“He’s chomping at the bit as you can imagine,” Williams said. “Book’s frustrated when he’s not on the floor. Hoping he can get out there soon.”

There’s more from Phoenix:

  • Injured forward Cameron Johnson will accompany the team on its upcoming six-game road trip, Rankin notes in the same story. Johnson isn’t expected to play during the trip, which runs through January 4, but it’s still a positive sign as he works toward returning from November 8 meniscus surgery. Johnson was projected to miss one to two months, and he’s nearing the end of that timeline.
  • The Suns’ poor showing lately has included a couple of losses to teams that were able to push them around, Rankin adds. The latest occurred Friday as Memphis came into Phoenix and built a double-digit lead in less than four minutes on its way to winning the first quarter by 19 points. “Our edge in these games, whether it’s Boston, Memphis, these teams who are big and physical and want to put their hands on us, we don’t have the pre-game edge that we’ve had around here,” Williams said. “We’ve got to get back to chasing something and right now. I feel like the prey, and I don’t like that feeling. I just told our guys the same thing. We got to get our edge back.”
  • Mikal Bridges has apologized to Deandre Ayton for his role in Tuesday’s argument that was perceived as a dispute between Ayton and Williams, Rankin states in a separate story. Bridges and Ayton clashed on the court shortly before Ayton and his coach were seen yelling during the time out. “It’s something we do. I feel like it was longer than usual,” Bridges explained. “Me and (Ayton) usually get into it and then five seconds later, we’re like best friends because we can do that to each other.”

Suns Notes: Booker, Ayton, Landale, Payne, Okogie, Bridges, Johnson

Suns guard Devin Booker erupted for 58 points against New Orleans on Saturday but it’s no slam dunk that he’ll play Monday against the Lakers, according to Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic.

Booker is listed as questionable to play due to groin soreness. He recently missed two games due to hamstring tightness.

Several other prominent players are on the injury report. Deandre Ayton (left ankle sprain), who has missed the last two games, is also listed as questionable. Jock Landale (concussion protocol) and Cameron Payne (right foot strain) won’t play.

We have more on the Suns:

  • Josh Okogie has continued to impress his teammates and coach with his energy and effort, Dana Scott of the Arizona Republic writes. Okogie didn’t hit a single field goal, but made seven free throws and grabbed six rebounds (four offensive) against the Pelicans on Saturday. “I thought the offensive rebounds he got were just about as impressive as any play that happened (Saturday),” coach Monty Williams said. “He just kept going, and you could see him spring off the ground. Go above everybody to get it, like I said, I have to figure out ways to get him on the floor because he helps us on both ends.” Okogie is on a veteran’s minimum deal and will be an unrestricted free agent next summer.
  • Mikal Bridges, who is in the first season of a four-year, $90MM extension, is disappointed with his defense this season, he told Mark Medina of “It’s early, but I have to continue to get better and not have any lapses,” he said. “I’ve had a lot of lapses with getting beat on (backdoor) cuts. I have to stay with it. They want me scoring more, but I still have to stay locked in on the defensive end. I have to be more aggressive and physical.”
  • Cameron Johnson, rehabbing from meniscus surgery performed early last month, did some shooting during Saturday’s shootaround without a knee brace, Rankin notes. “He’s looked good,” forward Torrey Craig said. “I’ve been checking him out in the weight room, watching him do things in there, and then coming out shooting with us. Obviously, a huge step.”