Devin Booker

Pacific Notes: CP3, Suns, Oubre, Kings, Metu

The Suns, who last made the NBA postseason 11 years ago, remain very much in the hunt for the top seed in the Western Conference, as their 41-16 mark puts them just a game-and-a-half behind the 43-15 Jazz. While the ongoing development of several young Phoenix players has been a major factor in the team’s improvement, the offseason arrival of Chris Paul was arguably the key turning point in making the Suns a legitimate contender.

“I don’t have enough time to talk about everything he’s done,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said of Paul, per Royce Young of ESPN. “He’s brought such a — he’s improved the winning mentality. All of our guys want to win. But when you see a guy that has done it from afar and then you look at how he does it, from his diet to the exercise routine he has every day, and then in game when he’s able to be in those situations and really lift the level of our team, it’s pretty cool to watch.”

In addition to impressing Williams, who said he has “story after story” about the impact Paul has had in Phoenix, the veteran point guard has made a lasting impression on his young teammates, including fellow All-Star guard Devin Booker.

“I’m inspired every day. I tell Chris that every day. It’s not something I’m going to take for granted,” Booker said of his Suns’ backcourt mate. “I pick his brain. I listen to him — closely. I watch how he moves, and even when he’s not talking or leading us, I just watch how he goes about his business. There’s so much respect for him and not just from me, but leaguewide and worldwide.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Warriors forward Kelly Oubre made some comments in March suggesting he wasn’t enthusiastic about the idea of coming off the bench, but he accepted a reserve role in stride upon his return to action on Monday, head coach Steve Kerr told reporters (video link via Anthony Slater of The Athletic). Oubre’s role as a sixth man gives the second unit a boost this season and could be a preview of next season’s rotation if the 25-year-old re-signs with Golden State, writes Kendra Andrews of NBC Sports Bay Area.
  • The Kings have been in a brutal slump this month, but their deadline additions continue to look good, as Delon Wright and Terence Davis played key role in a Sunday win that snapped a nine-game losing streak, writes Jason Jones of The Athletic.
  • Kings big man Chimezie Metu, who missed nearly a month-and-a-half earlier this season due to broken wrist he suffered when he was thrown to the court by Jonas Valanciunas, said he’s not holding a grudge toward the Grizzlies center, as Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee relays. “It is frustrating looking back on it at times because who knows what could have happened in those six weeks for myself and what that could have meant for my career or for the team, for the team’s success,” Metu said. “… It’s tough looking back at it. It was tough in the moment, but I hold no hate in my heart for Valanciunas.”

USA Basketball Expands Finalist List for Olympic Roster

Fifteen players have been added to the list of finalists for the U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team, USA Basketball announced today in a press release. The group will eventually be pared down to 12 players who will participate in the Olympic Games, which are set for July 23 to August 8 in Tokyo.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will serve as coach for the U.S. team, with Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Villanova coach Jay Wright and former Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce as his assistants.

No tryouts will be held this year. Instead, USA Basketball will choose the final roster by early summer. Training camp is scheduled to being in early July before the conclusion of the NBA playoffs.

“With the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics from 2020 to 2021, it’s important that we continue to remain flexible and consider all players who can contribute to our efforts to field the best USA team possible,” USA Basketball men’s national team managing director Jerry Colangelo said. “These additions we are announcing today will help ensure that we are doing that. Having a larger player pool than what we normally have is critical because of all of the uncertainties we face about availability. But for USA Basketball to receive the commitment of so many outstanding players remains an indicator of the great honor of representing your country means to these men.”

The new names under consideration are:

  1. Jarrett Allen (Cavaliers)
  2. Eric Gordon (Rockets)
  3. Jerami Grant (Pistons)
  4. Blake Griffin (Nets)
  5. Jrue Holiday (Bucks)
  6. DeAndre Jordan (Nets)
  7. Zach LaVine (Bulls)
  8. Julius Randle (Knicks)
  9. Duncan Robinson (Heat)
  10. Mitchell Robinson (Knicks)
  11. Fred VanVleet (Raptors)
  12. John Wall (Rockets)
  13. Zion Williamson (Pelicans)
  14. Christian Wood (Rockets)
  15. Trae Young (Hawks)

Forty-two players remain from the original list, which was announced in February 2020:

  1. Bam Adebayo (Heat)
  2. LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs)
  3. Harrison Barnes (Kings)
  4. Bradley Beal (Wizards)
  5. Devin Booker (Suns)
  6. Malcolm Brogdon (Pacers)
  7. Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
  8. Jimmy Butler (Heat)
  9. Mike Conley (Jazz)
  10. Stephen Curry (Warriors)
  11. Anthony Davis (Lakers)
  12. DeMar DeRozan (Spurs)
  13. Andre Drummond (Cavaliers)
  14. Kevin Durant (Nets)
  15. Paul George (Clippers)
  16. Draymond Green (Warriors)
  17. James Harden (Nets)
  18. Montrezl Harrell (Lakers)
  19. Joe Harris (Nets)
  20. Tobias Harris (76ers)
  21. Gordon Hayward (Hornets)
  22. Dwight Howard (Sixers)
  23. Brandon Ingram (Pelicans)
  24. Kyrie Irving (Nets)
  25. LeBron James (Lakers)
  26. Kyle Kuzma (Lakers)
  27. Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
  28. Damian Lillard (Blazers)
  29. Brook Lopez (Bucks)
  30. Kevin Love (Cavaliers)
  31. Kyle Lowry (Raptors)
  32. JaVale McGee (Cavaliers)
  33. Khris Middleton (Bucks)
  34. Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
  35. Victor Oladipo (Rockets)
  36. Chris Paul (Suns)
  37. Mason Plumlee (Pistons)
  38. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
  39. Myles Turner (Pacers)
  40. Kemba Walker (Celtics)
  41. Russell Westbrook (Wizards)
  42. Derrick White (Spurs)

Two players removed from that list are Warriors guard Klay Thompson, who is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon, and Celtics guard Marcus Smart. Sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic that Smart turned down an invitation because of injury concerns due to having a short offseason and playing late into consecutive seasons (Twitter link).

Mike Conley Replaces Devin Booker In All-Star Game

Jazz guard Mike Conley has been named by Commissioner Adam Silver to replace injured Suns guard Devin Booker on Team Durant in Sunday’s All-Star Game, according to a league press release.

It’s the first All-Star appearance for Conley, who is in his 14th NBA season. He’ll also sub for Booker in the 3-Point Contest, which will be held prior to the game.

Conley is averaging 16.1 PPG and 5.7 APG in 29 games this season for Utah, which has the league’s best record at 27-9. He joins Jazz teammate Donovan Mitchell on Team Durant. Another Jazz starter, Rudy Gobert, is on Team LeBron.

Booker will miss the All-Star extravaganza due to a left knee sprain.  He had been named as an injury replacement for Lakers forward Anthony Davis.

According to NBA rules, when a player selected to the All-Star Game is unable to participate, the Commissioner shall choose a replacement from the same conference.

Simons, Stanley, Toppin To Compete In Dunk Contest

Anfernee Simons of the Trail Blazers, Cassius Stanley of the Pacers, and Obi Toppin of the Knicks will compete for the annual Slam Dunk title at halftime of the All-Star game on Sunday at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, the NBA announced in a press release.

Simons, a 6’3” guard, is averaging 8.2 PPG in his third NBA season. Stanley is a 6’5″ rookie guard on a two-way contract after being selected in the second round last fall. He recorded a maximum vertical leap of 44 inches in the 2020 draft combine. Toppin, a 6’9″ rookie forward and lottery pick, is averaging 4.6 PPG in 25 games off the bench.

The 3-Point Contest, which will be held prior to the game, has a lot more star power. Suns guard Devin Booker and Warriors guard Stephen Curry, former winners of the long-ball contest, head the list of participants. The Celtics’ Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, the Bulls’ Zach LaVine and the Jazz‘s Donovan Mitchell round out the six-man field.

The Skills Challenge, which will also be held prior to the game, also has plenty of All-Star firepower. Mavericks guard Luka Doncic and Suns guard Chris Paul head that six-man listKnicks forward Julius Randle, Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis, Magic center Nikola Vucevic and Trail Blazers forward Robert Covington round out the field.

Devin Booker Named All-Star Injury Replacement

Suns guard Devin Booker has been selected to replace Anthony Davis as a Western Conference All-Star, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Booker was considered one of the most glaring All-Star snubs after averaging 24.7 points, 3.8 points and 4.3 assists through 26 games. His play has helped Phoenix rise to fourth place in the West at 20-10. This will be the second All-Star appearance for Booker, who was chosen as a reserve last season.

[RELATED: Poll: Biggest 2021 NBA All-Star Snub?]

Davis is recovering from a strained right calf and isn’t expected to return for about four weeks.

Pacific Notes: J. Smith, Booker, Wiseman, Dudley

Suns rookie Jalen Smith confirmed that his recent absence was a result of testing positive for COVID-19, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Phoenix had three games postponed this month because of a shortage of eligible players due to health and safety protocols.

“I had COVID for like 10 days,” Smith said. “For like those first, I’d say eight, I didn’t experience any symptoms, but then like basically the last night before getting off, my smell was faint and my taste was faint, but I got my taste back and my smell is starting to come back a little bit now.”

The virus isn’t the only obstacle that Smith, the 10th pick in last year’s draft, has encountered during his first NBA experience. He suffered an ankle injury during a workout last month and has only gotten into two games. He was cleared to return January 6, but tested positive the next day.

“Mentally, I’m fine,” he said. “It’s a process. I still got to learn a lot of new stuff that was put in while I was out, but it’s a part of basketball. I feel fine. it’s just a matter of me getting my wind back. Just continuing to get back into the motion with the team.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Suns star Devin Booker suffered a left hamstring strain Friday that will force him to miss tonight’s game and possibly longer, tweets Gerald Bourguet of The Step Back. “We’re really not sure,” coach Monty Williams said. “What I’ve been told is it could be day-to-day. Depending on how he feels, it could be another week.”
  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr is coordinating the minutes for rookie center James Wiseman to get him on the court as much as possible with the team’s veteran leaders, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic. So far, the No. 2 pick has played 267 minutes with Stephen Curry and 182 minutes with Draymond Green“If we’re going to be a championship contender the next few years, those guys have to learn to play together,” Kerr explained.
  • Lakers forward Jared Dudley is close to returning from a calf injury that has kept him out of action since January 8, according to Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register (Twitter link). Coach Frank Vogel said Dudley is probably “a game or two out” from being available. The 35-year-old has played in just six games this season.

Suns Notes: Crowder, Arena, Payne, Roster

Jae Crowder‘s arrival at training camp was delayed by personal issues apparently unrelated to COVID-19, but the Suns forward has reported to his new team and said this week that he’s “looking forward to moving forward,” writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic.

Crowder was one of the most popular free agents on the market last month, telling reporters that 14 teams expressed interest in signing him (video link via Rankin). He cited recruiting from Chris Paul and Devin Booker as a significant factor in his decision to choose Phoenix.

Those guys made a strong pitch and I felt like Devin is ready for real pressure,” Crowder said. “When I say real pressure, that’s playoff basketball. Playing for it all.”

Here’s more out of Phoenix:

  • The Suns announced in a press release on Thursday that they won’t host fans at their home games to start the 2020/21 season, a decision that “did not come easily,” per team president/CEO Jason Rowley. “Our fans are the lifeblood of the Suns organization, and we want nothing more than to welcome our fans into our newly transformed arena in Downtown Phoenix,” Rowley said in a statement. “… However, we are exercising an abundance of caution and doing our part to maintain the health and safety of all our stakeholders during this crisis.”
  • Cameron Payne was a regular part of the Suns’ rotation during the team’s 8-0 run during the summer restart. Given the changes the roster has undergone since then, he’s looking to reestablish himself as a key contributor going forward, writes Duane Rankin for The Arizona Republic.
  • Gina Mizell of Suns.com takes a look back at the Suns’ offseason moves, writing that the front office was able to add veterans with playoff experience, as well as improving the team’s depth and outside shooting.
  • In case you missed it, despite being hired in 2019, Monty Williams already ranks near the middle of the pack on the list of the NBA’s longest-tenured head coaches.

Pacific Notes: CP3, Suns, Clippers, Ibaka, Morris, Warriors

At age 35, Chris Paul is more than a decade older than Suns cornerstone players Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. However, the star point guard doesn’t plan to simply be the veteran mentor on a young Phoenix roster — he made it clear during his first media session this week that he also wants to help the team get back to the postseason, as Royce Young of ESPN writes.

“Everyone always talks about what I can teach (Booker) or teach some of these other guys, but they’re teaching me at the same time too,” Paul said. “I’m not James Naismith by no means. First things first, I’m not just coming in here trying to teach everybody. I’m his teammate. We’re here to hoop, we’re here to compete and that’s how I approach this.”

Meanwhile, Booker and Ayton are excited by the opportunity to team up with a 10-time All-Star like Paul, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic, who says both players were shocked when they first heard about the trade bringing CP3 to Phoenix.

“I wanted to do a backflip,” Ayton said. “You ever seen a seven-footer do a backflip? OK. That’s how excited I was.”

Besides getting an opportunity to play with up-and-coming stars like Booker and Ayton, Paul is looking forward to reuniting with head coach Monty Williams, whom he played for in New Orleans for a single season 10 years ago. Williams said this week that he thinks both he and Paul have “grown a lot” in the last decade.

“I think we both were really headstrong, too, back then,” Williams said, according to Young. “I was walking around like a dictator ready to cut somebody’s head off, trying to implement my way and my program. I don’t think I was really good at allowing him to do what the great ones do. There were times I felt like I took the paintbrush out of (Paul’s) hand.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • After chemistry issues helped sink the Clippers last season, head coach Tyronn Lue is confident he’ll be able to hold players accountable in his new role by always being blunt and honest, writes Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. “What I learned from Brian Shaw a long time ago was always tell the truth, whether they like it or not,” Lue said. “Even (back in his playing days) with Kobe and Shaq, just telling those guys the truth. They might not like it, but they respect it.”
  • Serge Ibaka‘s friendship with Kawhi Leonard was a factor in his decision to join the Clippers in free agency, he said on Thursday, as Swanson relays in a separate O.C. Register story. “One thing about me and Kawhi is like, there is no ego in our friendship,” Ibaka said. “… I know who he is and he knows as a teammate what I can do for him, for the team and it is make things smoother and easier.”
  • Lakers forward Markieff Morris said this week that rumors last month about him potentially teaming up with twin brother Marcus Morris for the Clippers were “just talk,” per Swanson. “They were just trying to scare Lakers fans,” Markieff said.
  • Warriors big man Marquese Chriss is confident that there will be plenty of minutes at center to go around around for him, Kevon Looney, and No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman, as Marcus White of NBC Sports Bay Area details.

No Indications Devin Booker Wants Out Of Phoenix

Ryan Russillo of The Ringer created a stir earlier this week by declaring during an episode of Bill Simmons’ podcast that Devin Booker’s desire to leave the Suns is “the worst-kept secret in the league.” However, that claim has been repeatedly refuted in recent days.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7, one of Phoenix’s most plugged-in reporters, emphatically shot down the idea that Booker wants out of Phoenix, calling it “100% not true” and adding that “not one time has he ever told anyone he wanted out” (Twitter link). For good measure, Gambadoro added, Don’t listen to this garbage.”

Michael Scotto of HoopsHype conveyed a similar sentiment, citing a source who says there’s no truth to the idea that Booker wants out. Scotto also noted that multiple executives who have been in touch with the Suns say the star guard won’t be traded.

Elsewhere, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic reported that the Timberwolves have been looking into Booker’s possible availability for months but have been given zero indication he’ll be available. And Zach Lowe of ESPN wrote this week that the Suns have shown no interest in moving Booker for either of the top two picks in this year’s draft.

The notion that Booker would have become dissatisfied with his situation in Phoenix this year doesn’t make a lot of sense. The Suns were one of the most impressive teams in the Walt Disney World bubble this summer, winning all eight of their seeding games and finishing the season with a .466 winning percentage — it was the first time in Booker’s career that number didn’t end up below .300.

On top of that, Booker still has four years remaining on the contract extension he signed in 2018. Even if he did want out of Phoenix, he wouldn’t be in a strong position to push for a trade.

“He has no leverage,” an Eastern Conference executive told Scotto. “He’s locked up for four more years. There is no way for him to demand a trade with that much time left on his contract.”

While the Timberwolves and other clubs will likely keep checking in with the Suns to see if anything changes, it sounds like a safe bet that Booker will remain in Phoenix for the foreseeable future.

Lowe’s Latest: Beal, Celtics, Culver, Heat, Gordon, More

Teams with interest in Bradley Beal haven’t given up hope that the Wizards will consider trading him this fall, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN, who notes that multiple “strong playoff teams” have looked into what it would take to acquire a top-10 pick and may be seeking extra assets to swing a big trade for someone like Beal.

However, the Wizards have shown zero interest in trading Beal, even for the No. 1 or No. 2 pick in this year’s draft, sources tell ESPN. The Timberwolves (No. 1) and Warriors (No. 2) are both known to be hoping to trade their selections for an All-NBA caliber player like Beal (or Ben Simmons or Devin Booker), but it seems unlikely that such a deal will materialize, says Lowe.

For the Wizards to really consider the idea of moving Beal, he may have to tell the team he would prefer to play elsewhere, per Lowe. Perhaps that will happen down the road if Washington doesn’t bounce back from a second consecutive lottery finish, but it hasn’t to this point.

Here’s much more from Lowe:

  • Lowe confirms the Celtics have explored using their three first-round picks to trade up in the draft, but says Boston is considering a number of options with those picks, including trying to trade for a “solid veteran.” Since so many teams are in win-now mode, there aren’t many of those players available, according to Lowe, who says that Larry Nance Jr. and Dennis Schröder are among the players who could be under-the-radar targets for teams looking to upgrade their rotations.
  • Jarrett Culver‘s name has popped up in trade rumors, but Lowe thinks the Timberwolves would only move him in a package for a star, or for a draft pick that would help acquire a star. Lowe adds that he thinks Minnesota will dangle the No. 17 pick and James Johnson‘s expiring contract in search of a veteran contributor.
  • While Lowe thinks the Heat should be able to re-sign Goran Dragic on a big one-year deal, he expects it to be tougher for Miami to take the same approach with Jae Crowder, who will likely receive multiyear offers in the mid-level range.
  • Rival executives have pitched the idea of the Mavericks acquiring Rudy Gobert from the Jazz, but Lowe is skeptical there will be a match there and believes Dallas will have a tough time acquiring a third star via trade this offseason.
  • It’s unclear what sort of leaguewide interest there is in Magic forward Aaron Gordon. Lowe points to the Trail Blazers as a potential match, but says the two teams have never seriously discussed a swap involving Gordon and CJ McCollum and isn’t sure whether lesser assets like Zach Collins or Anfernee Simons would appeal to Orlando.
  • Lowe’s offseason preview is jam-packed with many more notes and is worth checking out in full. We relayed a number of Lowe’s other most intriguing tidbits in our stories earlier today, including items on the Bucks, Pistons, and Knicks.