Damion Lee

Suns Notes: Budenholzer, Coaching Staff, Ishbia, Eubanks

Mike Budenholzer is getting right to work after being officially hired as the Suns‘ new head coach earlier today. Sources tells ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Budenholzer is expected to attend the draft combine in Chicago, which starts Monday, and he has already begun the process of forming an entirely new coaching staff.

Members of former head coach Frank Vogel‘s staff have been told that they won’t remain with the team, tweets Chris Haynes of TNT and Bleacher Report.

Budenholzer, a two-time Coach of the Year, had been out of the league since being dismissed by the Bucks following a disappointing first-round playoff exit last season. He’s moving into another high-pressure situation as success will be expected right away from an expensive roster built around Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal.

Phoenix appears to be a good situation for Budenholzer because he has been able to succeed without having a natural point guard, according to an Arizona Sports article, which examines how his teams fared with Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder in Atlanta and Eric Bledsoe and Jrue Holiday in Milwaukee.

There’s more from Phoenix:

  • Budenholzer will have to prove that he can hold his new Big Three accountable in a way that Vogel couldn’t, observes Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports. None of them are naturally vocal leaders, so Budenholzer may have to fill that role, which Bourguet notes could either unlock the group’s full offensive potential or could lead to personality clashes. Bourguet also looks at Budenholzer’s coaching style and states that the Suns are likely to play at a faster pace and take more three-pointers next season.
  • While there were reasons to make a coaching change, Doug Haller of The Athletic argues that owner Mat Ishbia should receive a large share of the blame for everything that went wrong this season. The Suns have talked about the need to build continuity since they acquired Durant in February of 2023, but Ishbia’s string of big moves have made that impossible to achieve.
  • Backup center Drew Eubanks, who holds a $2.65MM player option, has received indications that the Suns want him to return next season, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Eubanks, who averaged 5.1 points and 4.3 rebounds in 75 games, appears to be leaning toward picking up the option, but he added, “I’m going to make the best decision for my family and I when the time comes.” Eubanks, Eric Gordon, Josh Okogie and Damion Lee all hold player options and have a June 29 deadline to decide whether to exercise them.

Pacific Notes: Davis, Lee, Allen, Kawhi, Kings, Warriors

Anthony Davis missed the final six minutes of Sunday’s victory over New Orleans due to back spasms, but he’s confident he’ll be ready to go on Tuesday when the Lakers and Pelicans meet again in the play-in tournament, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“No doubt that I’m going to play,” Davis said after Sunday’s game.

Davis’ injury occurred with 5:52 remaining in the fourth quarter when he was attempting to grab a rebound and was pushed in the back by Pelicans big man Larry Nance Jr. (video link). According to McMenamin, Davis said the contract resulted in hyperextension when he landed and that his back “just locked up.”

“I was in the air,” Davis said. “Obviously it’s a dangerous play. I know he’s not a dirty player.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Suns wing Damion Lee admits that he went through some “dark days” during the lengthy recovery process from an October meniscus surgery that sidelined him for the entire regular season, as Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic relays. However, Lee is in a better place now as he nears the end of that recovery process — he also hasn’t given up on the idea of returning this spring. “To be determined,” Lee said. “I’ll just leave it at this. I feel like the longer we go in the postseason, the more likely there is a chance. No timetable necessarily. It’s all feel based. You saw me out here shooting, jumping. Running.”
  • Grayson Allen gave up a little money to sign an extension with the Suns, according to John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter link), who says the veteran swingman could have secured $80-85MM on the open market. Allen has reportedly agreed to a four-year, $70MM deal with Phoenix.
  • The Clippers continue to be evasive about Kawhi Leonard‘s outlook for the start of the playoffs, writes Janis Carr of The Orange County Register. Asked on Sunday whether Leonard has been doing workouts, head coach Tyronn Lue said he’s “been doing a little something,” but Lue declined to say whether or not he expects the star forward to be available in the postseason.
  • It won’t be an easy path to the playoffs for the Kings or Warriors, who will each have to win two play-in games just to claim the No. 8 seed in the West. Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee takes a look at the challenge facing the Kings, while Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic checks in on a Golden State team in “March Madness mode.”

Western Notes: Thompson, Lee, Gobert, Biyombo

The prospect of a reduced role wouldn’t prevent Klay Thompson from re-signing with the Warriors this offseason, he told Logan Murdock of The Ringer. Thompson will become an unrestricted free agent if he doesn’t sign an extension.

“Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with that,” he said. “I’ll be 35 next year. At 35, coming off the ACL and an Achilles [tear] and still have the ability to be a really good player. Maybe not the guy who scored 60 in three quarters and scored an NBA record 37 points in a quarter, but still a great threat out there. I’ve modeled my game after Reggie [Miller] and Ray [Allen], and those guys were incredibly effective until their late 30s. So I plan on kind of following that mold.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Damion Lee hasn’t played this season after undergoing knee surgery in October, but the Suns haven’t given up hope that Lee will return this season, even though he has yet to go through on-court activities, according to Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. “Hopefully at some point towards the end of the regular season we can start talking about where he’s at in terms of getting back on the floor,” coach Frank Vogel said. The swingman re-signed with Phoenix as a free agent last summer, inking a two-year, minimum-salary deal that includes a player option.
  • The Timberwolves took plenty of heat last season for their blockbuster trade with the Jazz that brought Rudy Gobert to Minnesota. Bucks coach Doc Rivers recently said those critics have been muffled this season, Nolan O’Hara of Sports Illustrated relays. “I don’t think anyone’s laughing at that trade anymore,” Rivers said after Minnesota defeated Milwaukee last week. “They’re just so long, and they play hard, too.”
  • New Thunder big man Bismack Biyombo won’t make his franchise debut until after the All-Star break, Brett Dawson tweets. Biyombo signed with OKC after the Grizzlies waived him earlier this season.

Suns Notes: Lee, Durant, Eubanks, Watanabe, Tournament

Suns wing Damion Lee, who underwent right knee surgery last month, is still using crutches, but will be “off of them very soon,” head coach Frank Vogel said on Thursday (Twitter video link via Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic).

At the time of Lee’s procedure, the Suns didn’t offer any sort of timetable for his recovery process, simply stating that more updates would be provided “as appropriate.” Asked on Thursday if he had a sense of whether the 31-year-old might be able to return in December or January, Vogel still wasn’t able to share any specifics.

“This year hopefully though,” Vogel said, referring to the 2023/24 season (Twitter link via Rankin).

Here’s more on the Suns:

  • Star forward Kevin Durant has been listed as questionable for Friday’s game in Memphis due to right foot soreness, Rankin writes for The Arizona Republic. It sounds like a decision will be made on his availability closer to game time.
    [UPDATE: Durant has been ruled out, per Rankin.]
  • Suns big man Drew Eubanks, who left Wednesday’s game due to a left ankle injury, has been ruled out for Friday, with the team designating the ailment as a sprain, tweets Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports. In addition to Lee and Bradley Beal (back), who are sidelined with longer-term injuries, the Suns will also still be without Yuta Watanabe, who will miss a fourth consecutive contest due to a quad contusion.
  • Phoenix is playing its final in-season tournament game on Friday vs. Memphis and remains in the hunt for the Western Conference’s wild card spot despite losing Group A to the Lakers, Rankin writes. A victory would result in a 3-1 record in group play, but it may need to be a blowout win to advance to the tournament quarterfinals, since they’d almost certainly need to win a point differential tiebreaker (Twitter link).

Suns’ Damion Lee Undergoes Right Knee Surgery

Suns guard/forward Damion Lee underwent successful surgery on Wednesday to repair the meniscus in his right knee, the team announced (Twitter link via Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic).

According to Phoenix, updates on Lee’s recovery timeline “will be provided as appropriate.”

Lee, who turns 31 next week, was injured at the Suns’ practice facility a couple weeks ago and ruled out indefinitely. The swingman re-signed with Phoenix as a free agent this summer, inking a two-year, minimum-salary deal that includes a player option.

In 2022/23, Lee averaged 8.2 PPG and 3.0 RPG on .442/.445/.904 shooting in 74 regular season contests (20.4 MPG) with the Suns. The six-year veteran has also played for the Hawks and Warriors, winning a championship with Golden State in ’21/22.

It’s a tough setback for Lee, but being on a guaranteed two-year contract likely means his spot on the roster is safe. The Suns are currently carrying 17 players on standard contracts, so they’re facing a roster crunch. Previous reports from Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports indicated that Keon Johnson and Ish Wainright may be on the chopping block.

In other Suns injury news, Wainright continues to be hampered by a right calf strain and has been ruled out for Thursday’s preseason game against Portland. Jordan Goodwin, meanwhile, was a full practice participant on Wednesday and has been upgraded to probable vs. the Blazers (Twitter links via Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports). Goodwin has been battling right hamstring tightness.

Damion Lee Out Indefinitely With Meniscus Injury

Suns shooting guard Damion Lee injured the meniscus in his right knee during a workout at Phoenix’s practice facility and will be sidelined indefinitely, the team announced in a press statement. Further details of the exact nature of the injury were not revealed.

Lee re-signed with the Suns this summer on a two-year, veteran’s minimum contract following a productive 2022/23 season with the team. The 6’5″ swingman has a player option for the 2024/25 season. He had been expected to play rotation minutes as a sharpshooting wing for a top-heavy Phoenix team.

Last year, the 30-year-old carved out a major rotation role with a fourth-seeded Phoenix squad. Across 74 regular season contests (20.4 MPG), Lee averaged 8.2 PPG on .442/.445/.904 shooting splits, along with 3.0 RPG and 1.3 APG.

While this is certainly a blow, Phoenix still has plenty of depth on the wing even with Lee out. Beyond All-Star shooting guard Devin Booker, the team also has Grayson Allen, Josh Okogie, Eric Gordon, Yuta Watanabe, Keita Bates-Diop, and Nassir Little at its disposal at the shooting guard and small forward spots.

Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic notes that the team is currently carrying 17 players on its 15-man standard roster, meaning it will need to release or trade two of them prior to the start of the regular season.

Suns Notes: Okogie, Lee, Goodwin, Title Keys

Forward Josh Okogie‘s positive experience with the Suns last season convinced him to re-sign with the franchise on a one-year deal, he told Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. Okogie carved out a major role with Phoenix, appearing in 82 games, including 10 postseason contests.

“I took the deal looking at the long-term,” Okogie said. “Just in terms of being able to build, not only this year, but just my career. I’ve had a lot of success here, kind of revamped my career here last year, and they were able to give me a chance and be gracious on how they move in this organization. So I decided to take a chance on them again.”

We have more from the Suns:

  • Guard Damion Lee expressed similar feelings after returning to the franchise on a two-year, minimum-salary contract, which includes a player option for the second year. “It feels good,” Lee told Rankin. “I’m excited. I took a chance coming here last year on a one-year deal and being able to turn that into a multiyear deal. So, that’s huge for myself and my family. A little bit of security, but still trying to continue to find my way in this league and learn my teammates.”
  • The team has been taking a cautious approach to recently-acquired Jordan Goodwin during Summer League action, Rankin tweets. Goodwin, who was part of the Bradley Beal blockbuster, has been dealing with left knee soreness. He was ruled out of the team’s game on Tuesday, Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports tweets.
  • In a column, Rankin weighs in on what he thinks it will take for the Suns to win the championship next season. Good health, Devin Booker‘s play-making, and Deandre Ayton taking advantage of his offensive opportunities will be some of the key ingredients, he writes.

Suns Sign Four Free Agents

JULY 11: The Suns have officially signed Okogie, Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports tweets.

“Josh plays with relentless energy. His grit, intensity and athleticism are vital to the success of our team,” Jones said in a statement. “He consistently makes winning plays on both ends of the floor. He is truly unique.”

JULY 7: After officially signing Eubanks and Bates-Diop earlier in the week, the Suns have finalized Lee’s deal as well, per a press release.

“Damion’s elite three-point shooting, championship experience and toughness help elevate our team,” general manager James Jones said in a statement. “His leadership and professionalism are pivotal as we pursue an NBA title.”

JUNE 30: The Suns have reached agreements with four free agents, including two of their own.

Forward Josh Okogie is re-signing with the Suns, Chris Haynes of TNT and Bleacher Report tweets. Guard Damion Lee is also returning on a two-year deal with a player option for the second season, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets.

Power forward Drew Eubanks is leaving the Trail Blazers to sign a two-year deal with a player option, The Athletic’s Shams Charania tweets. Spurs forward Keita Bates-Diop is signing with Phoenix on a two-year, $5MM contract that also features an option, Wojnarowski tweets. Bates-Diop will have a chance to earn a starting spot — presumably, he’ll battle Okogie to start alongside Kevin Durant.

Okogie started in 26 of 72 regular-season games last season for the Suns, averaging 7.3 points and 3.5 rebounds in 18.8 minutes. He also started in half of their 10 postseason games.

Lee saw action in 74 of Phoenix’s regular-season games and averaged 8.2 points in 20.4 minutes. He made a career-best 44.5% of his 3-point attempts.

Eubanks averaged 6.6 points and 5.4 rebounds in 20.3 minutes while appearing in 78 of Portland’s games, including 28 starts. He figures to play backup minutes at power forward and perhaps center. Bates-Diop started 42 of the 67 games in which he played for San Antonio last season. He averaged a career-best 9.7 points and 3.7 rebounds in 21.7 minutes.

Western FA Rumors: D-Lo, Lakers, H. Jones, Suns, Warriors

There are “strong” indications that the Lakers are trending toward a new two-year deal with free agent point guard D’Angelo Russell, reports Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. According to Fischer, that two-year contract could be worth in the neighborhood of $40MM in total, though the second season may be a team option or non-guaranteed.

While the Lakers have interest in re-signing both Dennis Schröder and Lonnie Walker, it’s unclear which one the club is prioritizing, Fischer writes. Schröder will likely require a raise that exceeds the Non-Bird exception, so if Los Angeles uses its mid-level exception on an outside free agent, the team may have to allot its bi-annual exception to him, Fischer explains. In that scenario, it’s unclear whether the team would have enough room to re-sign Walker to a market-value deal as well while remaining below a hard cap.

Another potential path would see L.A. splits its mid-level between Schröder and a frontcourt player such as Mason Plumlee, sources tell Yahoo Sports. If Schröder doesn’t end up back with the Lakers, a reunion with Bulls coach Billy Donovan in Chicago is possible, Fischer writes. Donovan previously coached the point guard in Oklahoma City.

Finally, Fischer is one of a handful of reporters who have linked free agent forward Cam Reddish to Los Angeles. The Lakers were said to have some trade interest in Reddish – a Klutch Sports client – during each of the past two seasons. He’d be a minimum-salary target, Fischer notes.

Here are a few more free agency rumors from around the Western Conference:

  • Two forwards who had their team options declined by the Pelicans on Thursday figure to take very different paths this summer. According to Fischer, Herbert Jones will likely end up back in New Orleans on a four-year deal worth a little more than $50MM, which would presumably be his Early Bird maximum. Willy Hernangomez, on the other hand, is considered a good bet to accept a lucrative offer from a EuroLeague team rather than seeking another minimum-salary NBA deal, Fischer reports.
  • The Suns intend to bring back several of their own free agents, including Torrey Craig, Damion Lee, Jock Landale, and Josh Okogie, according to Fischer, who says agent big man Drew Eubanks is another strong candidate to end up in Phoenix. Fischer is also the latest reporter to link Yuta Watanabe and Mike James to the Suns.
  • The Lakers and Warriors are among the teams eyeing free agent guard Shake Milton, per Fischer. Free agent forward Dario Saric has also received “strong” interest from Golden State, sources tell Yahoo Sports.

Stein’s Latest: Barnes, Reaves, Rockets, Harden, Irving, More

The Pacersinterest in signing Max Strus may be an indication that free agent forward Harrison Barnes will remain with the Kings, Marc Stein writes in his latest Substack column.

Stein reported recently that Indiana was interested in adding Barnes, who has huge supporters in Rick Carlisle, his former coach in Dallas, and Tyrese Haliburton, his ex-teammate in Sacramento. However, the Pacers only have $30MM in cap space, and Stein assumes Barnes is no longer in their plans if they’re preparing an offer for Strus in the $16MM range.

Sacramento radio host Carmichael Dave tweets that Barnes’ return to the Kings is “picking up major steam,” but the final details of a new contract still have to be worked out.

Stein offers inside information on a few more free agents:

  • Even though the Lakers are reported to have significant interest in Bruce Brown, Stein believes somebody will offer the Nuggets free agent more than the mid-level exception. L.A. appears certain to match any offer for restricted free agent Austin Reaves, who is eligible for nearly $102MM over four years from a rival team. A source told Stein that it should be considered an “automatic match.”
  • Fred VanVleet and Dillon Brooks are increasingly expected to commit to the Rockets shortly after the start of free agency, according to Stein, who says there would be “legitimate leaguewide surprise” if it doesn’t happen. Stein hears that Brooks will likely get a two-year contract with an annual salary in the $14-16MM range, while Houston is prepared to make a two-year, maximum-salary offer of $83.6MM for VanVleet. Stein states that the Rockets are confident new coach Ime Udoka can maximize Brooks’ game while limiting his excesses, while VanVleet is viewed as a leader and culture setter for a young roster.
  • The “prevailing expectation” is that Sixers guard James Harden and Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving will re-sign with their current teams, according to Stein. He added that it remains difficult to project the length and dollar value of their new contracts as of Thursday morning.
  • According to Stein, multiple rival teams expect Andre Drummond to join the Mavericks, who added two new centers last week by drafting Dereck Lively II and trading for Richaun Holmes. Sources tell Stein that free agent Christian Wood and JaVale McGee are no longer in the team’s plans, though McGee has one more guaranteed year left on his contract, along with a $6MM player option for 2024/25.
  • Free agent guard Damion Lee is considered likely to sign a new deal with the Suns, Stein adds.