Devin Booker

Pacific Notes: Warriors, Booker, Jordan

When Stephen Curry and the Warriors brought Kevin Durant to the Bay Area they did so with situations like the one the team is going through right now in mind. Marcus Thompson of The Athletic writes that having Durant available to lead the way while Curry recovers from an ankle injury can be a game changer for the franchise.

Prior to Durant’s arrival, the Warriors struggled to win with Curry on the sidelines, let alone dominate. Having the two available to support each other – as Curry did when Durant was out toward the end of last season – could extend both of their primes.

As Thompson writes, we may not remember this particular stretch of games where Durant filled in for Curry but the fact that we’ve seen the two stars willingly share the offensive load at different times over the course of the past two seasons will benefit the team for years.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • While he’s still expected to miss two-to-three weeks with an abductor strain, Suns guard Devin Booker is already up and walking, Jose Romero of the Associated Press writes.
  • The Clippers may look to move DeAndre Jordan at the deadline if they’re not pleased with their chances of competing in the Western Conference. This ESPN Insider piece explores four possible trade scenarios, including one that would see Jordan land with the Bucks in exchange for Jabari Parker, Thon Maker and Matthew Dellavedova.
  • Former Raptors coach Jay Triano has the personality to develop young basketball players, something that will come in handy as he serves as the interim head coach of the Suns. DeMar DeRozan witnessed as much during the coach’s tenure in Toronto from 2002-11. “There’s a personality about Jay that’s so positive, it makes you want to be at work, makes you want to do all the things that he asks from you,” DeRozan told Doug Smith of the Toronto Star. “[He’s] kind of a player’s coach. The things he was doing, it was so long ago and I was so young, I didn’t understand. I thought the whole league was like that. Now looking back on it, Jay was definitely one of them guys.”

Devin Booker Expected To Miss 2-3 Weeks

Suns guard Devin Booker, who left the team’s loss to Toronto on Tuesday with a left adductor strain, is expected to be sidelined for the next two or three weeks, the team announced today (via Twitter). That timetable would put Booker on track to return to the court sometime before the new year.

While the Suns have looked better under interim head coach Jay Triano than they did to start the season under Earl Watson, it has still been an uphill battle for the club, which has dealt with injuries to multiple rotation players and traded Eric Bledsoe last month. The Suns’ 9-17 record is the fifth-worst in the NBA, and that mark is unlikely to improve while Booker remains out of action.

Booker, 21, had been enjoying a career year for the Suns so far this season, establishing new career highs in PPG (24.3), APG (4.1), RPG (4.5), FG% (.453), 3PT% (.383), and several other categories, despite not playing fewer minutes per game than he did last season.

Booker joins Alan Williams, Brandon Knight, and Davon Reed on the injured list for the Suns, but even with four players sidelined, Phoenix won’t immediately qualify for a hardship provision, which would allow the team to temporarily carry a 16th player on its roster.

The rules for the hardship exception dictate that Booker would have to miss at least three consecutive games before Phoenix becomes eligible. So while the Suns may eventually apply for an injury exception, they won’t be able to use it immediately to convert Mike James‘ two-way contract to an NBA deal, as GM Ryan McDonough confirmed today (Twitter link via Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic). James is set to reach the 45-day NBA limit for two-way players.

Pacific Notes: Carter, Randle, Jackson

While 40-year-old veteran Vince Carter was brought to a rebuilding Kings team to provide experience and leadership, he was signed as a player and not a coach for a reason, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee writes.

That reason, Carter and Kings head coach Dave Joerger agree, is to support the development of the team’s young players on and off the court. Although Carter did miss a handful of games with kidney stones last month, his goal when he’s healthy and active is to teach his teammates to play the right way – by  leading by example.

Sure, Jones writes, Carter’s 11.7 minutes per game could go to Kings rookie Justin Jackson or raw sophomore Malachi Richardson, but his presence adds credibility to the organization in transition.

I think the worst thing you can do is trot five freshmen and sophomores out there together,” Joerger said. “I’ve been told that by many, many people in management, and those who’ve gone through a rebuild. You try to have a nice mix.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Lakers have emerged as a solid defensive force this season and much of that can be attributed to reserve forward Julius Randle. Joey Ramirez of the team’s official site writes that Randle’s versatility on that side of the ball – he’s adept checking everything from perimeter players to big men – can be chalked up to his showing up to training camp in the best shape of his career.
  • Rookie Josh Jackson insists that his opting out of a predraft workout with the Celtics was because of a miscommunication between him and his agent and not because he didn’t want to play for a team stacked with veterans at his position, Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald writes. “I’m not threatened by anybody, ever. I welcome competition,” the Suns forward said.
  • Leave it to Kyrie Irving to understand Devin Booker‘s reality with the SunsA. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston writes that Irving toiled in Cleveland before LeBron James returned much the same way that Booker is in Phoenix. “He already has that mentality of being a killer,” Irving said. “Now it’s just getting pieces around him in order to be at a high level to showcase that.

Pacific Notes: Clarkson, Booker, Warriors

After seeing close friends like D’Angelo Russell and Lou Williams traded by the Lakers during the offseason, Jordan Clarkson says he has grown accustomed to the business side of the NBA, as Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times details. As for the trade rumors that have swirled around him this year, Clarkson isn’t ignoring them, but he’s also not letting them negatively impact him.

“To me it’s motivation,” the Lakers guard said of those trade rumors. “It’s a business, you’re either going to be here or you ain’t. Wherever I am, I want to be productive.”

Clarkson’s name hasn’t surfaced much recently in trade rumors, but it’s possible that could change as the trade deadline nears. The Lakers remain focused on clearing as much cap space as possible for the summer of 2018, so any non-core players could become expendable.

While we wait to see what Clarkson’s future holds, let’s round up a few more notes from around the Pacific division…

  • In a Q&A session with Nick Friedell of ESPN.com, Suns guard Devin Booker discusses the trade that sent Eric Bledsoe out of Phoenix, becoming the face of the Suns, and several other topics. The highlight of the conversation may have been Booker’s “no comment” when asked about the hair salon that Bledsoe supposedly didn’t want to be at when he published his infamous tweet last month.
  • While some players around the NBA might feel pressure to play through injuries, that’s not the case for Warriors players like Kevin Durant, who missed a game last week due to a leg issue. Golden State’s talent and depth allows the club to rest players to avoid making minor ailments worse, as Durant explains to Mark Medina of The San Jose Mercury News. “We have such a deep team. Guys can go out and get those knick knack injuries taken care of,” Durant said.
  • It has been a while since the veteran-heavy Clippers have had to lean on rookies, but they’ve done just that with Sindarius Thornwell and Jawun Evans lately, says Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. The rookie guards have been forced into action as the Clips deal with backcourt injuries.

Suns Interested In Nets’ Unprotected First-Rounder

The Suns are ready to fully commit to rebuilding after firing coach Earl Watson and that includes trying to obtain the Nets’ unprotected first-rounder that currently belongs to Cleveland, writes Sam Amico of AmicoHoops.

Phoenix plans to explore trades involving veterans Eric Bledsoe and Tyson Chandler, among others, Amico adds. The organization sees Devin Booker, Josh Jackson and T.J. Warren as the building blocks for its future and would like to add other young talent to the mix.

Brooklyn’s pick has been seen as one of the league’s most valuable trade assets for several years. The Celtics obtained it in a 2013 trade involving Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett and shipped it to the Cavaliers in the offseason deal for Kyrie Irving.

Cleveland hasn’t committed to keeping the pick, but a source tells Amico the asking price will be extremely high and that Bledsoe and another player probably won’t be enough. The Cavs had offseason discussions with the Suns about obtaining Bledsoe in exchange for Irving and could use help at point guard with Isaiah Thomas expected to be sidelined until January.

Suns Exercise Options On Booker, Bender, Chriss

The Suns have exercised teams options on the contracts of Devin Booker, Dragan Bender, and Marquese Chriss, according to their website. The trio will remain under contract through the 2018/19 season.

Booker, who was the no. 13 overall pick in the 2015 draft, broke out last season, scoring 22.1 points per game in the Suns’ fast-paced offense. The Kentucky product will make approximately $2.32MM this season and as a result of the team picking up his option, he’ll take home $3.31MM next year.

Bender’s 2018/19 team option is worth roughly $4.67MM and Chriss’ will come in at slightly under $3.21MM. The team controls each player for at minimum two additional two seasons beyond the 2018/19 campaign. Each of the big men’s contracts has another team option in it for the 2019/20 season and if exercised, the team can extend a qualifying offer to each player during the following offseason, rendering them restricted free agents.

Booker can become a restricted free agent during the summer of 2019, though I would expect the team to make an attempt at extending the shooting guard next summer. Per the team’s website, among all players with two years of experience under the age of 21, only LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Durant have scored more than Booker’s 2,774 total points.

Pacific Notes: Griffin, Booker, Chandler, Lakers

Blake Griffin signed a long-term deal to stay with the Clippers this past offseason and when he signed on the dotted line, he became the undisputed face of a revamped franchise. Longtime point guard Chris Paul was traded to the Rockets, ending an era that saw the Clippers as perennial playoff contenders but also a team that never advanced past the first round.

In an interview with ESPN’s Sam Alipour, Griffin addressed the Clippers’ changed roster but said that change is not always a bad thing.

“I don’t know. You never want to blow up something like that — you have All-Stars in CP and DJ [DeAndre Jordan], great pieces like J.J. RedickJamal Crawford, Griffin said. “But at the same time, we haven’t had success, so a shake-up doesn’t hurt.”

With a five-year, $173MM deal keeping Griffin in Los Angeles, he said that he will take on a stronger leadership role. Despite losing Paul, the team still has talent that can lead the team to the playoffs.

“Yeah, I led by example, but I’ll be more outspoken this year,” he said. “Over the years, I’ve learned that leaders aren’t always popular. You have to say things people don’t necessarily want to hear.”

Read up on other news coming out of the Pacific Division below:

Heat Notes: Richardson, Olynyk, Ellington

A pair of Heat forwards who spent much of the 2016/17 campaign on the sidelines will be competing hard for a starting role, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes. Expect Josh Richardson to put up a fight for a shot at the three, while Dion Waiters fills in at shooting guard.

Of course Richardson’s path on the depth chart is blocked by Justise Winslow, another individual expected to compete like crazy for the role, and to an extent, Rodney McGruder.

Last season Richardson averaged 10.2 points per game while Winslow added 10.9 of his own. In addition to modest offense both players provide length and versatility.

Wherever [Erik Spoelstra] wants to take this positionless game, it can be real small, with him playing five on down to three point guards with Justise at four [or three bigs],” team president Pat Riley said.

There’s more out of Miami this evening:

  • A Boston beat writer isn’t all that impressed with some of the contracts on Miami’s payroll but A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England does add that the addition of sharpshooting Kelly Olynyk could bode well for the Heat considering Hassan Whiteside‘s lack of an outside game.
  • The Heat have gotten flak from fans for taking Justise Winslow ahead of Devin Booker in the 2015 NBA Draft but Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel reminds readers that there isn’t much point to looking back on such situations in hindsight, especially considering the club had Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on board at the time as well.
  • The Heat were fortunate to have Wayne Ellington step up and play a significant part in their turnaround last season but the forward could see his role decrease slightly considering that Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow are expected to be back at full health, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes.

Western Notes: Jackson, Harden, Muhammad, Wolves, Clippers Arena

Rumors of the Suns trading promising rookie Josh Jackson for Kyrie Irving should be put to rest, writes Greg Moore of AZCentral.com. Moore writes that Jackson and Devin Booker each create a sense of “awe and wonder,” making anyone who watches them dream of the future.

The Arizona-based scribe argues that the manner in which coach Earl Watson talks about Jackson comes off much more as genuine optimism for the future than big talk to boost trade value.

“I love Josh Jackson,” Watson said Monday. “Something about him is just uncommon.” Devin Booker, meanwhile, “always had that edge.” “(Those) two together are going to be great young guys who can push other guys to become better because they’re so inner competitive,” Watson said.

Watson joked in response to being asked about a rumor that Jackson had grown two inches since being drafted:  But “if he did, we love it, and even if he didn’t … let’s build the legend. Yeah, he grew. Absolutely. He’s like 7 feet now … anyone coming up against him should be intimidated by his constant growth vertically, in height, and ability to play above the rim.”

In a recent interview, Jackson addressed the trade talk, saying, “I think if that was going to happen, it would have happened by now.” However, he also said: “I’m going to make the best of whatever situation that I’m presented with. If I’m traded to China, whatever, I’m going to come out, and I’m going to be happy and just try to make the best of it.”

Here are more notes from the Western Conference:

  • James Harden is more fit and fired up than ever, writes Sam Amick of USA Today.  “I know how exciting this season is (going to be, and) I know how important it is, so I’m going to take full advantage of it. I have a lot of charity (events), a lot of things going on, but when I’m in that gym that’s kind of my getaway. That’s kind of when I’m locked in,” Harden said. The Rockets‘ 2017 postseason ended with concerns over Harden’s fatigue and stamina.
  • Shabazz Muhammad may have to settle for a short-term “prove-it” deal for next season, writes Michael Rand of The Star Tribune. Heading into the offseason, coach Tom Thibodeau used the word “optimistic” when discussing re-signing Muhammad. However, in July, the wing’s rights were renounced. On Wednesday, Timberwolves signee Jamal Crawford tweeted Muhammad, “c’mon back home.”
  • The mayor of Inglewood and the four other council members unanimously approved a revised agreement with a Clippers-controlled company to shrink the four-block area where an arena could be built so homes and a church aren’t displaced, reports Nathan Fenno of The Los Angeles Times. More than a dozen citizens had raised concerns about the potential arena before the vote took place.

Kyler’s Latest: Irving, Suns, Wolves, Melo, Rockets

As we enter the dog days of the NBA offseason, two All-Star trade candidates remain on the block — the Cavaliers and Knicks continue to explore trades involving Kyrie Irving and Carmelo Anthony, respectively. Nothing appears imminent on either front, but Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders checks in on both situations to see where they stand, so let’s dive in and round up the highlights from Kyler…

  • The Cavaliers aren’t operating with a sense of urgency to find an Irving deal. One source from a team interested in Irving tells Kyler that Cleveland doesn’t seem to be operating with a deadline when it comes to getting something done. The source described the Cavs as still being in “fact-finding mode” at this point.
  • The Suns and Timberwolves are viewed as two strong candidates for Irving, but they’ve been reluctant to include Josh Jackson and Andrew Wiggins, respectively, and are unlikely to win out unless they relent on that stance. While Phoenix doesn’t want to move Jackson or Devin Booker, there’s a sense that anyone else on the roster could be had, says Kyler. That may not be enough for the Cavaliers, however.
  • The “prevailing thought in NBA circles” is that the long-rumored Anthony deal between the Knicks and Rockets isn’t going to happen unless Houston finds a way to improve its offer. As Kyler details, the idea of the Knicks accepting a package made up entirely of players they don’t view as long-term pieces isn’t “appealing or agreeable” to the team’s front office.
  • The Knicks seem as if they’re willing to bring Anthony to training camp if he doesn’t expand his list of preferred landing spots or if the Rockets don’t improve their offer, according to Kyler, who describes the Carmelo situation as “more like a standoff” than the Cavaliers‘ situation with Irving.
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