Devin Booker

Suns Notes: Warren, Jackson, Ayton, Booker

The Suns are in the midst of an eight-game losing streak and have dropped 11 of their last 12, as their offense struggles immensely without top scorers Devin Booker and T.J. Warren in the lineup. Phoenix has cracked the 100-point mark just once in its last six games and has posted nine-point first quarters twice during that stretch.

However, while Booker’s return still isn’t imminent, the team will get some added firepower this week, with Warren poised to return to the lineup on Monday, as Bob Young of The Athletic details.

“We’re missing him and Book, our two leading scorers,” Jamal Crawford said. “When you have those guys, it kind of settles everybody else down. (Warren) is somebody who helps give the team that swagger, for sure. Offense has been pretty hard to come by, but I think we’ll figure it out.”

Here’s more out of Phoenix:

  • Since entering the NBA in 2017, former fourth overall pick Josh Jackson has played for three different head coaches and two general managers. Speaking to Paolo Uggetti of The Ringer, Jackson said that he thinks the instability in Phoenix has had an effect on his play. “It would definitely be a lot better if we were more stable,” Jackson said recently. “I don’t think any other player in my class has gone through as much change within their team as I have. Since the moment I came into the league, it’s just been all about changes and adjustments, new coach after my second game of the season, like, c’mon now, really? That doesn’t happen.”
  • Addressing a heated postgame exchange with Devin Booker that took place after last Thursday’s loss to Portland, rookie center Deandre Ayton downplayed the incident, saying that he and Booker are “just two guys that want to win,” writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic.
  • Earlier today, we relayed a couple other Suns-related news items, passing along word of the Suns’ contract talks with Eric Moreland and writing that at least eight teams have inquired on Trevor Ariza.

Pacific Rumors: Booker, Warriors, Jones, Joerger

Suns star guard Devin Booker will take a cautious approach after re-aggravating a hamstring injury against the Lakers on Sunday, Gina Mizell of The Athletic tweets. There’s no timetable for Booker’s return, Mizell adds. Booker, who missed the team’s previous game against Orlando, departed after 17 minutes. He is averaging 23.5 PPG and 6.7 APG. Booker has been starting at the point and rookie Elie Okobo could pick up some of Booker’s minutes.

We have more from around the Pacific Division:

  • The Warriors dealt with a meningitis scare last March, Sam Amick of The Athletic reports. An outside vendor who handled the team’s food on a daily basis contracted a contagious form of the disease. Extensive precautionary measures were taken to ensure the meningitis didn’t spread to the team, Amick continues. A majority of the Warriors’ players and some members of the basketball operations staff took vaccination shots and a team practice was relocated to Oracle Arena while the team’s practice facility in downtown Oakland was sanitized, Amick adds. The health scare appears to be what David West was referring to when he made cryptic comments in the spring about the private challenges the team had dealt with.
  • With Damian Jones likely out for the season, the Warriors are evaluating whether to make a roster move, as Anthony Slater of The Athletic details. Jones tore a pectoral muscle in Detroit on Saturday. Willie Reed, currently posting big numbers in the G League, could be a candidate. Robin Lopez and Enes Kanter could be options if they’re bought out after the trade deadline, Slater opines. But the Dubs have Marcus Derrickson on a two-way deal and DeMarcus Cousins should return soon from his Achilles injury, so they may elect to stand pat, Slater adds.
  • The issues between Kings coach Dave Joerger and assistant GM Brandon Williams is par for the course in a dysfunctional organization, Jason Jones of The Athletic notes. Details of Joerger’s increasingly uncomfortable situation became public last week. With the perception of a divided front office, it wouldn’t be a shock if Joerger seeks another coaching job, Jones adds.

Devin Booker Wants To Build Super-Team In Phoenix

The 4-15 Suns are the only team in a hyper-competitive Western Conference that hasn’t won at least nine games already this season. However, while Phoenix may not be ready to contend in the West quite yet, Devin Booker is thinking big after signing a five-year contract extension with the franchise over the summer, as he tells Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports.

“I’d like to build a super-team. I’d like the super-team to come to me,” Booker said. “If that’s through free agency, people seeing what we have here with the big fella [Deandre Ayton] and myself and wanting to join in on that, to reach higher heights, then I’m with that.”

Phoenix hasn’t won more than 24 games in a season since 2014/15 and looks like a good bet to finish at the bottom of the Western Conference once again in 2018/19. Still, Booker’s “super-team” goals aren’t quite as outlandish as the club’s spot in the standings might suggest.

As Booker alludes to, the Suns already have two long-term cornerstones in place — Booker is 22 years old and is under contract for five years beyond this season, while Ayton is 20 years old and in his rookie season.

The club is also fairly flexible in terms of its salary cap outlook. Ryan Anderson still has one year left on his pricey contract after this season, but otherwise, the only players on Phoenix’s books beyond 2018/19 are Booker, Ayton, Josh Jackson, Mikal Bridges, T.J. Warren, Elie Okobo, and De’Anthony Melton. On top of all that, the Suns should have another top draft pick to work with in 2019.

With Booker and Ayton locked up for the next several years and likely to keep getting better, the Suns have plenty of time to figure out how to fill out their roster with the pieces necessary to return to contention. Landing a star player via trade or free agency within the next year or two would accelerate the team’s timeline, and it sounds like Booker would like to go that route.

“It’s my job to speed up that plan and have the team believe we can move forward with me as a center point,” Booker told Goodwill.

Nets Notes: Free Agency, Russell, Faried, LeVert

The Nets were one of the NBA’s most aggressive teams in free agency in 2016 and 2017, handing out a total of four offer sheets to Allen Crabbe, Tyler Johnson, Donatas Motiejunas, and Otto Porter during that time. All four of those offers were matched, which probably ended up being a good thing in retrospect for Brooklyn, writes ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.

While Crabbe ended up on the Nets eventually as a result of a trade, he has struggled with his consistency, as has Johnson. Meanwhile, Motiejunas is no longer in the NBA and Porter is off to a bad start for the 2-8 Wizards this season.

If most or all of those players had landed in Brooklyn as a result of those offer sheets, the Nets almost certainly wouldn’t be in position to make a splash in the 2019 free agent period — instead, their cap would be weighed down with lucrative multiyear deals for players who haven’t necessarily emerged as impact players. So while GM Sean Marks deserves some credit for making the most of a bad situation during the first few years of his tenure, he has also benefited from some good luck in restricted free agency.

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Before the Nets defeated the Suns on Tuesday, Devin Booker told Greg Logan of Newsday that he’d “love to play” with Brooklyn guard D’Angelo Russell someday, adding that Russell “makes people around him better.” A union between the two players is unlikely to happen in Brooklyn anytime in the next few years, since Booker’s five-year extension with the Suns begins next season. But perhaps Russell, who will be a restricted free agent in 2019, will draw interest from Phoenix.
  • After being buried in Denver’s rotation last season, Kenneth Faried finds himself in a similar situation in a contract year with the Nets. As Brian Lewis of The New York Post writes, head coach Kenny Atkinson praised Faried’s play in practice, but said there’s simply “no room” in the lineup for him at this point. “I can’t say, ‘Oh, he’s played bad,’ or ‘Oh, he’s not playing well.’ I can’t say that. Some guys, I can,” Atkinson said. “I’m telling you the honest truth, it’s a situational thing. And the other guys have got to start playing badly for him to get a chance.”
  • In another article for The New York Post, Lewis explores how Caris LeVert has evolved from a risky, injured draft pick to a crucial long-term piece for the Nets.

Pacific Notes: Walton, LeBron, Booker, Warriors

Lakers president Magic Johnson has said Luke Walton’s job is safe for the rest of the season, but Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders believes rumors of a coaching change will reignite if things don’t improve soon. Teams tend to look at their seasons in 10-game stretches, he explained, and the Lakers had a mix of positives and negatives in their 4-6 start.

However, they could start to slide out of the playoff race if the next 10 games aren’t better, which may cause management to reconsider Walton’s future. Kyler notes that Walton was hired in 2016 to oversee a gradual rebuilding process, but the timetable sped up quickly when LeBron James signed with the team over the summer. L.A. is focused on landing a second star in next year’s free agency, and a winning season could be an essential selling point in a highly competitive market.

Kyler believes it’s also possible that Walton is retained, but some of his assistants will be replaced. He doesn’t think Tyronn Lue, who was recently fired in Cleveland, would be considered if Walton is axed. Although Lue still has a good relationship with James, such a move could lead to a locker room “rebellion,” and James isn’t pushing for Walton to be replaced.

There’s more tonight from the Pacific Division:

  • James supports the decision to televise the All-Star draft, relays Sam Amico of AmicoHoops. He and Stephen Curry served as captains last year as the top vote-getters in each conference, but the draft was done by phone and the order of picks wasn’t released. “What’s bad about it? It’s All-Star Weekend,” James said before tonight’s game. “You got 24 of the best players in the world that’s going to make the team. It doesn’t matter if you’re first or last, you’re 24 of the best in the world at that point in time. I don’t think it’ll be bad. We’ll see.”
  • Suns star Devin Booker believes chemistry issues have affected the team as it has stumbled to a 2-8 start, according to an ESPN story. Phoenix fell at home to the Nets by 22 points Tuesday, marking its sixth defeat already by 18 or more points. “I think all good teams have that trust and chemistry, where they’re able to get on each other and know that it’s for a better purpose,” Booker said. “For us, I don’t think we have that right now. We’re not comfortable with each other, we don’t step on each other’s toes, we don’t push each other, and I think that’s what we need to do.”
  • Dieter Kurtenbach of The San Jose Mercury News examines the challengers in the Western Conference and wonders if any of them presents a legitimate threat to the Warriors.

Suns Notes: Chandler, Canaan, Crawford, Ayton

At 36, Tyson Chandler may seem out of place on the rebuilding Suns, but he remains focused on providing the best possible example for his young teammates, writes Gina Mizell of The Athletic. Chandler, who is beginning his 18th NBA season, admits the process of getting ready is much different now than when he entered the league in 2001.

“When I was a rookie, I just had a bunch of nervous energy. You’re young and you can move all over the place,” he said. “Now everything is precise. Everything has a time. Even energy output, you just kind of measure everything you do now in this league. I used to get so pumped up. Now it’s all mental where I analyze what’s going on.”

Even so, Chandler isn’t ready to give up the NBA lifestyle. He hopes to reach at least 20 years in the league, although with an expiring contract that may happen somewhere other than Phoenix. He will help mentor No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton for now and may be a popular target at the trade deadline among teams that need frontcourt depth.

There’s more today out of Phoenix:

  • After experimenting with several options at point guard during the preseason, Isaiah Canaan will be the starter in tonight’s season opener, Mizell tweets. Coach Igor Kokoskov indicated that Devin Booker may finish out games at the position in an effort to get the best offensive lineup on the court.
  • Jamal Crawford finalized his contract with the Suns just in time for tonight’s game and is eager to get started with his new team. In a video posted by The Arizona Republic, the 38-year-old expressed confidence that Phoenix is moving in the right direction. “I feel re-energized, to be honest with you,” Crawford said. “I just like what the organization’s doing. I like the moves they’re making. I love the young players, I love the vets they brought in, so I’m excited.” Crawford said Kokoskov just asked him to be the same type of player he has been throughout his career.
  • Booker believes the addition of Ayton provides the chance to build a winner, relays Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Although Booker has blossomed into one of the NBA’s best young players, the Suns haven’t been competitive since he arrived. “It’s a start of his legacy,” Booker said of Ayton. “His new career. My job is to make it special for him and not make it like my first three years. So turn it around. Let him be known as a winner. Let our whole organization turn around to a winning franchise.”

Pacific Notes: Booker, Suns, Clippers, House

When Devin Booker underwent surgery on his injured last hand in September, the Suns estimated that it would take six weeks for him to recover and return to the court. Based on that timeline, Booker would miss the first week of the regular season, but the 21-year-old is still aiming to get back on the court for Phoenix’s season opener, according to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link).

The Suns’ season will begin next Wednesday night when the team hosts the Mavericks in what has been billed as a showdown between two of this year’s top rookies, Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic.

As Booker looks to beat his recovery timetable, here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • The Suns cleaned house in their front office on Monday, with a team source confirming to Adam Johnson of 2 Ways & 10 Days (Twitter link) that Louis Lehman, the GM of Phoenix’s G League affiliate, was fired. GM Ryan McDonough, assistant GM Pat Connelly and director of scouting Courtney Witte were among the other executives let go by the club.
  • The Clippers‘ success in 2018/19 may hinge in large part on the health of Avery Bradley, writes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Bradley, who re-signed with the Clips over the summer, only has a small partial guarantee on the second year of his new contract, so he may return to the free agent market in 2019 if he’s slowed by injuries again.
  • With Patrick McCaw still unsigned, there may be an opportunity for Danuel House to earn a regular season roster spot with the Warriors. Anthony Slater of The Athletic (subscription required) takes a closer look at House’s case for a place on the 15-man squad.
  • After initially reaching a free agent agreement with Philadelphia, Nemanja Bjelica changed course and inked a three-year deal with the Kings. Now, he’s showing off his ability to open up the floor for his new team, as Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee details.

Pacific Notes: Booker, Bender, Gilgeous-Alexander, Lakers

Devin Booker is making rapid progress in his recovery from surgery on his right hand last month, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. The Suns‘ leading scorer was shooting with his right hand on Wednesday after having his splint removed. He had an operation September 10 to fix the fifth metacarpophalangeal joint on the hand.

However, Booker still hasn’t been cleared for contact and Phoenix isn’t sure if he’ll be ready in time for the season opener.

“We’re just following the steps,” said coach Igor Kokoskov. “That’s not my jurisdiction. I know nothing about when it comes to medical science. The medical staff, we have one of the best in the league. They’re going to tell us when the next steps are. We’re going to follow those steps being disciplined and wait for him to make the recovery and to play.”

There’s more this morning from the Pacific Division:

  • Dragan Bender‘s poor play continued in Wednesday’s exhibition game against New Zealand, Rankin adds in a separate story. The Suns didn’t use Bender until the fourth quarter and he committed a couple of costly mistakes, fouling a player shooting a 3-pointer and mishandling a pass. Richaun Holmes, who was acquired from the Sixers in an offseason deal, got more minutes than Bender did.
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a serious candidate for playing time in the Clippers‘ crowded backcourt, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. The rookie made a quick impact off the bench in the preseason opener with 10 points, four steals and four assists in 24 minutes of a win over Sydney. He was L.A.’s only young player to see significant time in the game. “I thought in the first half he was fantastic,” coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought in the second half he was still catching his breath from the first half. Good lesson for him because they don’t back off, teams keep coming.”
  • The Lakers aren’t a lock for the playoffs despite adding LeBron James, cautions Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post. He predicts L.A. will fail to reach the postseason, citing the number of good teams in the Western Conference, the Lakers’ shortcomings at center, defensive issues, injury concerns involving James and the possibility that some veterans will be unhappy with their playing time.

Contract Notes: Jokic, Gordon, Nurkic, Jazz

Nuggets center Nikola Jokic didn’t technically sign a maximum-salary contract when he re-upped with the club this summer, but he can increase his 2018/19 earnings to the maximum if he helps lead Denver to postseason success.

As ESPN’s Bobby Marks details (subscription required), Jokic is one of several NBA players with incentives in their contracts for the coming season. In Jokic’s case, he’s currently about $862K shy of his maximum salary, but he can earn $431K if the Nuggets advance to the playoffs, and another $431K if they win in the first round.

Here are a few more details from Marks on this season’s incentives and bonuses:

  • Aaron Gordon has a potential path to an All-Star nod in an Eastern Conference that lost more top talent this offseason. Gordon’s new contract with the Magic calls for a $500K bonus if he’s named an All-Star, per Marks. He could also further increase his earnings by being named to the All-NBA and All-Defense teams at season’s end.
  • Jusuf Nurkic can earn an extra $1.25MM this season if he appears in 70 games and the Trail Blazers crack the 50-win threshold, according to Marks. Nurkic played in 79 games last season, but because Portland only had 49 wins, this incentive is considered unlikely and doesn’t currently count against Nurkic’s cap hit.
  • Davis Bertans has to meet several criteria in order to earn a $250K bonus on his new contract with the Spurs — the veteran forward must play in 70 games, make 165 three-pointers, and average 6.5 defensive rebounds per 36 minutes, as Marks details.
  • Dante Exum, Raul Neto, and Derrick Favors all have incentives on their new deals with the Jazz, with a focus on games played — they all must appear in at least 67 games to start earning their bonuses. Favors, in particular, has plenty riding on his performance, as he can earn $2.8MM in incentives. Of those incentives, $900K are considered likely and already count against his cap charge.
  • Marks also notes that several players will have a chance to become eligible for super-max contracts with their current clubs if they make All-NBA teams this season. That list includes Anthony Davis (Pelicans), Draymond Green (Warriors), Klay Thompson (Warriors), Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers), and Kemba Walker (Hornets). Additionally, Devin Booker‘s new extension with the Suns would start at 27.5% of the cap if he’s named to the All-NBA Third Team, 28.5% if he’s named to the Second Team, and 30% for First Team.

Pacific Notes: Kings, Lakers, Booker, Labissiere

The Kings have made two additions to their basketball operations staff, according to James Ham of NBC Sports.

Adam Filippi has joined the team as the Director of Pro Scouting. He most recently served as the Director of Global Scouting with the Hornets, and will be based out of Los Angeles covering the Southeast Region.

Sacramento also hired Anthony Darmiento as the Assistant Performance Coach. Darmiento will work alongside Head Performance & Strength Coach Ramsey Nijem this season, and holds experience in similar roles with USA Volleyball, USA Water Polo and the USA Olympic Committee.

There’s more out of the Pacific division: