Dario Saric

Suns Notes: Paul, Ayton, Booker, Johnson

The Suns‘ season ended in embarrassing fashion on Sunday night in Game 7 at home vs. Dallas, falling behind by 30 points by halftime and trailing by as many as 46 in the second half before losing by a score of 123-90. After yet another Game 7 loss for Chris Paul, the 37-year-old point guard made it clear he has every intention of returning to Phoenix next season and trying to right the ship.

“You play long enough and you don’t win, every time you lose, they’re going to say it was your best chance,” Paul said, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “But I think for me, us, it’s we’ll be right back next year. I’ll tell you that much. I’m not retiring tomorrow, thank God. Hopefully, I’m healthy coming back. But I’m (going to) keep playing.”

Paul had a poor showing on Sunday, recording just 10 points and four assists and failing to score his first field goal until the Suns were down by 40 points. He played through a left quad injury that limited his mobility, sources tell ESPN’s McMenamin and Marc J. Spears (Twitter link).

In his post-game comments to reporters, Suns head coach Monty Williams took responsibility for the Suns’ sluggish performance and for the loss, but Paul said the blame should fall on his own shoulders.

“I think we just came out and just didn’t have enough,” Paul said, according to McMenamin. “I think Mont said that’s on him, but I think that’s on me, as the point guard, the leader of the team. To come out and make sure you’re getting the right shots and all that.”

Paul has a $28.4MM guaranteed salary for next season, followed by a partially guaranteed $30.8MM salary in ’23/24 and a non-guaranteed $30MM salary in ’24/25.

Here’s more on the Suns:

  • Suns center Deandre Ayton was pulled early in the third quarter on Sunday and didn’t return to the game after exchanging words with Williams on the sidelines, according to McMenamin, who notes that the former No. 1 overall pick logged just 17 minutes, the third-fewest minutes he has played in a game since entering the league.
  • Asked after the game about the reason for Ayton’s limited playing time, Williams curtly responded, “It’s internal.” It’s an ominous ending to the season for Ayton, who will be a restricted free agent this summer and will likely be seeking a maximum-salary contract or something close to it.
  • Ayton’s upcoming free agency will be the primary focus for the Suns this summer, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) details in his offseason preview. With Ayton up for a new deal and Devin Booker and Cameron Johnson both eligible for extensions, Phoenix’s roster could start to get very expensive, Marks observes.
  • In his own preview of the Suns’ offseason, Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype also examines potential new contracts for Ayton, Booker, and Johnson.
  • The Suns could have used injured forward Dario Saric in their series vs. Dallas, suggests John Hollinger of The Athletic, writing that the team was ultimately undone by its lack of perimeter lineups to counteract the Mavericks’ “space ball” approach. Dallas often employed lineups with five capable three-point shooters, reducing the defensive impact of Suns centers Ayton and JaVale McGee.

Suns’ Dario Saric Undergoes Knee Surgery

Suns forward Dario Saric underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair meniscus in his right knee on Thursday, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic tweets.

There’s no timetable for his return. Saric missed the entire season after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee during Game 1 of last year’s Finals.

The power forward made $8.51MM this season while on the mend and has another $9.24MM guaranteed for 2022/23. It’s a troubling sign that Saric needed another knee procedure 10 months after the initial injury, putting his status for training camp in some jeopardy.

Saric, 28, entered the NBA during the 2016/17 season with Philadelphia. He averaged double digits in points until last season, when he came off the bench in 46 of 50 regular season games. He averaged 8.7 PPG and 3.8 RPG in 17.4 MPG in those games, then appeared in 14 postseason contests.

Postseason Injury Updates: Curry, Kennard, Doncic, Saric, Williams

Earlier on Thursday, reports surfaced that Warriors star guard Stephen Curry was on track to return from his foot injury for Game 1 against Denver on Saturday. That didn’t change after the team’s scrimmage today.

Afterward, coach Steve Kerr said that Curry is “optimistic he’ll play Saturday,” Anthony Slater of The Athletic tweets. Curry wouldn’t say it’s a given he’ll play, but that’s his expectation, Kendra Andrews of ESPN writes.

“Everything has been positive in terms of getting back out there and understanding I’ll be ready to play whenever that time is. I’m hoping it’s Saturday,” he said. “I’ll try to be the best version I can be having missing a little bit of time … I have high confidence I can go out there and help our team win.”

Curry will be on an unspecified minutes restriction, Andrews adds.

We have more postseason-related injury news:

  • The Clippers are listing swingman Luke Kennard as questionable for Friday’s do-or-die play-in game against New Orleans, Scott Kushner of NOLA.com tweets. Kennard tweaked his right hamstring during the regular-season finale on Sunday.
  • While Luka Doncic reportedly will miss Game 1 of the Mavericks’ playoff series against Utah, the team has yet to officially rule him out, Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News reports. Coach Jason Kidd said Doncic is “progressing” from the calf strain he suffered in the regular-season finale. “He’s doing good,” Kidd said. “Didn’t practice, but is in good spirits, and had a good day.”
  • It’s very unlikely Dario Saric will suit up for the Suns during the playoffs. However, he left the door open a crack, telling the media he could return in an emergency situation where multiple Suns big men get hurt and he’s feeling healthy enough to play, according to Kellan Olson of ArizonaSports.com. Saric tore the ACL in his right knee last July during Game 1 of the Finals.
  • Celtics center Robert Williams continue to “ramp up” his left knee rehab, according to coach Ime Udoka, though he’s still not cleared for contact, Jared Weiss tweets“He’s getting on court basketball drills, mixing in pretty much everything,” Udoka said. “Not contact, but any basketball drill. Getting a lot of shots up, weight-bearing, strength, agility. It’s low level, but he’s ramping up day by day and feeling good about it.”

Timberwolves, Suns Interested In Thaddeus Young

The Timberwolves and Suns are among the teams that have expressed interest in trading for veteran Spurs forward Thaddeus Young, league sources tell Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.

Young, who was sent from the Bulls to the Spurs in the DeMar DeRozan sign-and-trade in the offseason, had a nice year in Chicago last season, averaging 12.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, and 4.3 APG in 68 games (24.3 MPG).

However, he was essentially just a salary-matching placeholder in that DeRozan deal and hasn’t been used much in San Antonio this season. His averages of 6.1 PPG, 3.6 RPG, and 14.2 MPG in 26 games are career lows.

Still, the Spurs are hopeful they’ll be able to find a trade partner willing to give up at least one draft pick for Young, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, who hears that San Antonio and Minnesota have discussed a deal that would feature Taurean Prince. Scotto has heard the same thing, writing that the two teams have had exploratory talks about a trade that would send Prince and a second-round pick to the Spurs for Young.

Phoenix, meanwhile, has had previous discussions with San Antonio about trading Dario Saric, Jalen Smith, and a second-round pick for Young, per Scotto. While Smith – like Prince – will be a free agent at season’s end, Saric has one more year left on his contract. If Saric is fully healthy next season following his 2021 ACL tear, that second guaranteed year may not be a problem for the Spurs, but it will certainly be an important factor to consider as they weigh their options.

If the Spurs don’t end up finding a deal they like for Young, the two sides would likely try to negotiate a buyout agreement, says Fischer.

Suns, Cavs, Pelicans Among Potential Eric Gordon Suitors?

Although a January report stated that the Rockets are leaning toward keeping Eric Gordon through the trade deadline rather than moving him in the next eight days, the veteran guard’s name continues to pop up in trade rumors.

The Suns, who are believed to be seeking an upgrade on the wing, have been mentioned by league personnel as a possible suitor for Gordon, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, who notes that Phoenix continues to shop injured forward Dario Saric.

Gordon has played in the past with Suns point guard Chris Paul and his ability to stretch the floor and make three-pointers would appeal to a Phoenix team that currently ranks 22nd in the NBA with 11.6 threes made per game.

The Cavaliers have placed calls on Gordon and Pacers swingman Caris LeVert, says Fischer, but the asking prices on those players have been higher than Cleveland is comfortable paying at the moment.

According to Fischer, Cleveland is hoping to acquire a player like Gordon or LeVert using Ricky Rubio‘s expiring contract and a pair of second-round picks, but Houston believes it can get a first-round selection for Gordon and Indiana is seeking at least one first-rounder, if not more, for LeVert.

Gordon is also drawing interest from the Pelicans, according to both Fischer and Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Fischer suggests New Orleans has been “repeatedly linked” to the Rockets guard in conversations he has had with league sources, though the Pels are believed to have their eye on a handful of other wings too.

Any team interested in acquiring Gordon will have to be able to take on his $18.2MM salary for 2021/22. He’s also owed a guaranteed $19.6MM salary in 2022/23 and is on the books for $20.9MM in 2023/24, though that figure is non-guaranteed.

That ’23/24 cap hit can become fully guaranteed if Gordon’s team wins a championship in either of the next two seasons and he plays at least 500 minutes, which is a factor that a serious contender like the Suns would have to consider if they pursue the 33-year-old.

Suns Notes: Bass, Booker, Saric, Payne, Shamet

The second 10-day contract that Paris Bass signed with the Suns this week will give him an opportunity to play in front of his hometown fans Sunday in Detroit, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Bass, who played his college ball at Detroit Mercy, is concerned with finding enough tickets to make sure his family gets to see him live out his NBA dream.

“Man,” Bass said. “To come from where I was last year to be to this point right here. I was in Puerto Rico last year, Dominican Republic.  Now to be here, the biggest stage in the world. Playing at home in front of my family, man, like, I don’t know what I’m going to do in that moment until I get there, honestly.”  

The 26-year-old Bass has played in a long list of overseas locales since going undrafted in 2017, along with a couple of stints in the G League. He started this season with the South Bay Lakers and may never have gotten an NBA opportunity if not for the hardship exemption that was instituted in response to COVID-19 outbreaks.

“I do think it’s pretty cool to see these guys get a chance to play in the league,” coach Monty Williams said. “In a normal economy, they probably wouldn’t. So I’m excited and pleased to see people get an opportunity.”

There’s more on the Suns:

  • Devin Booker enjoys social media, but he’s uncomfortable when fans put him on the same level as Kobe Bryant, Rankin states in a separate piece. “The only problem I have is people still comparing me to Kobe Bryant when I told them in the playoffs stop bringing up Mamba mentality,” Booker said. “I’m inspired by Kobe Bryant and Mamba mentality, but I am not Kobe Bryant.”
  • Phoenix is looking for someone willing to trade for Dario Saric, who may miss the entire season because of a torn ACL, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report said on the latest edition of the Solar Panel podcast. The power forward is making $8.51MM this season and has another $9.24MM guaranteed for 2022/23.
  • The Suns could be in the market for backcourt help before the trade deadline, as Kellan Olson of Arizona Sports 98.7 notes that Cameron Payne and Landry Shamet are having disappointing seasons. Olson adds that both players haven’t been able to adjust to regular roles because of shifting lineups created by COVID-19.

Suns Eyeing Thaddeus Young

The Suns are among the contending teams that have pursued veteran forward Thaddeus Young, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Young, who will earn $14.19MM in a contract year in 2021/22, was sent from the Bulls from the Spurs in the sign-and-trade deal that landed DeMar DeRozan in Chicago.

Young is coming off a productive season, having averaged 12.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, and 4.3 APG with a career-best .559 FG% in 68 games (24.3 MPG) for the Bulls in 2020/21. And his expiring contract at a reasonable rate makes the 33-year-old a relatively safe investment.

However, it’s unclear whether he’s in the Spurs’ plans or if the team simply acquired him as part of the DeRozan return for salary-matching purposes and would happily flip him. Charania suggests that San Antonio is expected to receive “strong interest” in Young from playoff teams.

Phoenix could use some extra depth at the power forward spot since Dario Saric is expected to miss most or all of the 2021/22 campaign while recovering from a torn ACL. Any offer the Suns make for Young would likely start with Saric (who is earning $8.51MM) for salary-matching purposes and would have to include another asset or two.

The Suns would have to add a little more salary to Saric’s $8.51MM to sufficiently match Young’s cap hit, and many of their lesser-paid players aren’t yet trade-eligible since they were recently signed. As such, second-year center Jalen Smith looks like a potential candidate to be included in any offer for Young, though that’s just my speculation.

Dario Saric Suffers Torn ACL

Suns power forward Dario Saric has suffered a torn ACL in his right knee, the team announced (via Twitter). Saric sustained the injury in the first quarter of Game 1.

It’s a tough blow for Saric, who won’t return this season and whose 2021/22 season is now in jeopardy as well, given the typical recovery timeline for an ACL tear. The 27-year-old remains under contract with the Suns for two more years.

Saric has served as a key cog off Phoenix’s bench, averaging 8.7 points and 3.8 rebounds in 17.4 minutes per game this season. Suns forward/center Frank Kaminsky will likely see more playing time in his absence the rest of this series.

Despite losing Saric, Phoenix managed to take a 1-0 lead at home by defeating Milwaukee 118-105. The team was led by Chris Paul, who finished with 32 points, nine assists and a plus-17 net rating on the night.

The Suns will host the Bucks in Game 2 on Thursday before traveling to Milwaukee for Game 3 on Sunday.

NBA Finals Notes: Giannis, Saric, Paul, MVP

When Giannis Antetokounmpo hyperextended his knee during Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Bucks star initially thought his season was over — and that the start of his next season may be in jeopardy too.

“I thought I would be out for a year,” Antetokounmpo said, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Giannis added that until the results of his MRI came back, he was convinced his absence would be a lengthy one.

“I couldn’t walk, and my knee was like double the size,” Antetokounmpo said. “Usually I never swell up. But you know, I woke up the next day, did whatever it’s called, MRI or X-ray — I don’t know what it’s called — and they said I’m good. And I was like, ‘Thank God.'”

Antetokounmpo, who was originally listed as doubtful for Game 1, was upgraded to questionable on Tuesday afternoon and was cleared after going through pregame warmups without any issues. He didn’t look too bothered by the knee on Tuesday night, racking up 20 points and 17 rebounds, but said he hopes to feel even better for Game 2, as Bontemps relays.

Here are a few more notes related to the NBA Finals, which the Suns lead 1-0:

  • Despite the fact that the Bucks lost Game 1, Antetokounmpo’s return offers the team hope for the rest of the series, writes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today.
  • Suns forward Dario Saric suffered a right knee injury the first quarter on Tuesday night and didn’t return. As Dave McMenamin of ESPN details, there was no official update on Saric’s condition after the game, so his status going forward is unclear.
  • Chris Paul, who is playing in his first Finals in his 16th NBA season, joked on Tuesday that he hasn’t gotten used to not being able to watch other basketball games on days the Suns aren’t playing. “I was watching them soccer games,” Paul said, according to McMenamin. “I watched a hockey game last night.”
  • Paul looks like the early favorite to become this year’s Finals MVP, racking up a game-high 32 points and nine assists on 12-of-19 shooting on Tuesday. Check out our poll from last night to make your prediction for Finals MVP.

Suns Notes: Galloway, Crowder, Saric, Craig

With Game 1 of the NBA Finals set to tip off in a matter of hours, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington examines Suns guard Langston Galloway‘s path from going undrafted in 2014 to being four wins away from an NBA championship.

Oftentimes when I’m in the locker room, I’m the only undrafted guy in the locker room,” Galloway said. “I look at it like this, it’s like if I can beat out the next guy to me, I can worry about myself going forward and the opportunity I’ve provided in front of me.”

Galloway discussed the ever-vigilant edge that being an undrafted player causes you to play with: “You have to always be paranoid. It’s knowing that I can’t rest on my laurels, I can’t rest on my career. I have to always get better knowing that the next opportunity is my best opportunity.”

Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News also takes a look at Galloway’s impending free agency, as well as his potential fit with the first team that gave him a shot, the Knicks.

We have more news from the Suns:

  • Jay King of The Athletic has a piece on Jae Crowder and why every team in the league, especially the Celtics, need a guy like him. “I’m not saying Boston don’t have toughness,” Crowder’s father said on a podcast with former player Etan Thomas, “but they could have used a Jae Crowder. Miami got to the Finals last year. Jae Crowder’s gone, now where they at?” Celtics president Brad Stevens seems to agree: “Everywhere Jae Crowder goes, they win, which is great credit to him,” Stevens said.
  • Between injuries, a positive COVID test, and inconsistent minutes, it wasn’t the easiest year for forward Dario Saric, tweets Suns reporter Gina Mizell. “But to be, right now, here, with my teammates, it’s a dream come true, you know what I mean,” Saric said.
  • In a video from The Arizona Republic, Torrey Craig speaks on the experience of going up against his former team in the Finals: “… To compete against guys you played with, not only just compete against them but with the NBA Finals competing against them, that definitely sets the bar for whatever narrative you want to set for it,” Craig said, a smile on his face. “I’m definitely excited.”