Devin Booker

Pacific Notes: Suns, Leonard, George, Curry

The Suns are one loss away from what could be a very uncomfortable offseason and the only way to avoid it is to become the first team ever to overcome a 3-0 deficit, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. A loss on Sunday would be a monumentally disappointing way to end the season after acquiring Bradley Beal last summer to form a Big Three with Kevin Durant and Devin Booker.

With so much as stake, players are trying to avoid being overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenge ahead.

“I’m the type that just focuses on the next game,” Booker said. “So, play by play, possession by possession. They say no one has ever done it before. That’s exciting.”

Beyond the 3-0 margin, it’s concerning for Phoenix that none of the games have been very close. Rankin notes that the Suns are losing by an average of 17.6 points per game and are scoring just 99 PPG against a Minnesota defense that ranks at the top of the league. Coach Frank Vogel and his staff have a lot to figure out to make the series competitive.

“So far, they’ve been too much for us to handle, but the series is not over,” Vogel said. “I expect our guys to play better and I feel like we still have a lot of fight in us.”

Added Beal, “I’ve never been swept a day in my life. I be damn if that happens.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Clippers still aren’t sure about the Game 4 availability of Kawhi Leonard, who continues to battle inflammation in his right knee, per Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Leonard participated in practice on Saturday, which didn’t involve any contact drills, and the team’s medical staff will closely monitor Leonard if he’s able to take the court on Sunday. “I think just doing what’s right by him,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “So, just talking to medical staff throughout the course of the game, talking to him, seeing how he’s feeling and just kind of go from there. So, he can monitor his own body, he’s grown and he can tell us how he’s feeling. Sometimes you got to protect a player from themselves. And, so, that’s what my mindset is. Kawhi and our staff is the same way.”
  • Paul George may be losing some negotiating leverage with a shaky performance in the playoffs, notes Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. George, who holds a $48.8MM player option for next season, is hoping to reach a long-term extension with the Clippers. He had a chance to cement his value with Leonard’s limited availability, but Swanson observes that the team has been relying on James Harden as its number one option against Dallas.
  • Warriors guard Stephen Curry doesn’t expect missing the playoffs to become a habit, relays Sam Gordon of The San Francisco Chronicle. Appearing on “Inside the NBA” after winning the Clutch Player of the Year award, Curry said he’s been keeping a close eye on postseason action. “I’m taking notes, doing a little scouting, just on the feels of how much I miss that environment, that atmosphere,” he said. “I don’t want our absence to be another year next year.” 

Suns Notes: Playoffs, Outlook, Okogie, Booker

No team has come back from the 3-0 playoff hole the Suns find themselves in, and all of their losses this postseason have come in blowout fashion. After making major shakeups to the roster, including acquiring three-time All-Star Bradley Beal and replacing Deandre Ayton with Jusuf Nurkic, the Suns are at risk of a first-round exit and a worse finish than the last three seasons. Fans vocalized their displeasure with Phoenix’s performance as Game 3 dragged on.

That’s sports,” coach Frank Vogel said, according to PHNX Sports’ Gerald Bourguet (Twitter link). “You get your butt kicked at home, the fans are gonna boo. I don’t blame them.”

Still, the Suns are trying to use their back-against-the-wall mentality to their advantage ahead of Game 4 at home.

Yeah, of course, we hear it all. They expect so much out of us, they pay their hard-earned money and they deserve to react how they wanna react,Kevin Durant said, per Bourguet (Twitter link). “So it’s on us as players to use it as fuel and hopefully it ignites us for next game.

Phoenix is experiencing the majority of its issues in the third quarter, having been outscored by 34 points in the third quarter this series. By comparison, they’ve been outscored by 20 points in the first, second and fourth combined. The Suns’ chance to right the ship begins with Game 4 on Sunday.

I’ve never been swept a day in my life, so I’ll be damned if that happens,” Beal said, per Bourguet (Twitter link).

We have more Suns notes:

  • As ESPN’s Bobby Marks observes (Twitter link), the Suns have $150MM tied to Durant, Devin Booker and Beal next season, which is more than the salary of 14 entire teams’ projected payrolls for 2024/25. If the Suns lose in the first round, sweep or otherwise, it’s going to be difficult to make meaningful additions to the roster without trading one of their stars. Like last offseason, Phoenix will have mostly only minimum contracts at its disposal given the team’s position relative to the tax. The Suns control the No. 22 pick in this draft but are barren in the way of future draft capital thanks to the trades for Durant and Beal.
  • The noncompetitive nature of the final scores between the Suns and the Wolves doesn’t mean the series isn’t chippy. Booker slapped the ball out of Jaden McDaniels‘ hands in the fourth quarter and double technicals were assessed (YouTube link via NBA on ESPN). Later in the quarter, Josh Okogie was ejected after a hard foul on Rudy Gobert, for which he earned a flagrant 2 (YouTube link via NBA on ESPN).
  • Booker is the only player remaining from the Suns’ NBA Finals roster from 2021, and he has been subject to continual change over the course of his career in Phoenix, Andscape’s Marc J. Spears writes. Before the season, Booker said the Suns’ new-look team falling short of a championship would constitute an unsuccessful season. In the event of a first-round exit, no one will be tougher on themselves than Booker, Spears writes. “I’m always my toughest critic,” Booker said. “That’s how it’s going to be. So, I feel the pressure, but it feels good. It’s everything I always want. I’m good at putting things in perspective. [I have a] great family around me, great friends around me in a beautiful situation of living. I don’t mean that to be cocky. I’m just truly grateful for what I’m doing.

Western Notes: Doncic, Suns, Spurs, Ingram

While Luka Doncic‘s 32 points and nine assists in Tuesday’s Game 2 win over the Clippers were nearly right in line with his regular season numbers, he may have been even more impactful on the other end of the court, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Doncic has never been known for his defense, but he played a key role in limiting L.A.’s shooting percentage on the night to just 36.8%.

“I think his defense has been great this whole series,” head coach Jason Kidd told reporters after his Mavericks evened the series at 1-1. “We know they’re going to put him in pick-and-roll. A couple years ago we saw this, and we had to tell him to participate. But I think he’s participating at a high level on both ends. He’s leading not just on the offensive end but also the defensive end.”

As MacMahon details, the Mavericks had the NBA’s best defensive rating in the final 20 games of the season, and Doncic has made a concerted effort to improve his individual defense. The Clippers repeatedly attacked him on Tuesday, but they made just 2-of-17 shots with Luka as the primary defender, per ESPN.

“I accept it,” Doncic said of the Clippers’ strategy. “It gets me going on defensive end too. That’s fine. I think I played good defense today. I’ve just got to stay locked in.”

Here’s more from around the West:

  • The Suns will need from their three stars if they hope to pull of a first-round comeback against Minnesota, writes Baxter Holmes of ESPN. Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, and Bradley Beal combined for just 52 points in Game 2, 20 points below their average regular season total, and turned the ball over 12 times. “Their physicality tarnishes our ability to get into our sets faster,” Beal said on Tuesday. “They do a really good job of just denying [Durant], denying [Booker], being physical with them. [Anthony Edwards] is picking me up full [court]. They’re just making us work before we even get into our sets.”
  • The Spurs have done a good job stockpiling extra draft picks, but now they’ll have to decide how best to use them, writes Nick Moyle of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required). As Moyle outlines, San Antonio could have as many as eight first-round picks and eight more second-rounders in the next four drafts. Given the young talent already on the roster and the desire to add complementary pieces around Victor Wembanyama, it won’t make sense for the Spurs to hang onto – and use – all those selections, so some could become trade chips.
  • After being benched down the stretch of the Pelicans‘ first play-in game vs. the Lakers, Brandon Ingram came up big last Friday vs. Sacramento, scoring a team-high 24 points to help New Orleans clinch a playoff berth. However, Ingram contributed just 12 points on 5-of-17 shooting in Game 1 against Oklahoma City. Noting that the Pelicans will need more from the former All-Star going forward, William Guillory of The Athletic explores how they might get him going.

Pacific Notes: Harden, Leonard, George, Booker, Wiggins, Thompson

Kawhi Leonard‘s absence didn’t hold back the Clippers in Game 1 against the Mavericks, in part because James Harden ramped up his scoring, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN notes. Harden scored 28 points, including 20 in the first half as his team built a 26-point halftime lead en route to a 12-point victory.

“I can score with the best of ’em,” Harden said. “Still can score with the best of ’em. My role for this team is just generating really good shots and making guys’ jobs easier. And then when my number to score is called, then you score the basketball. Obviously, Kawhi is out, so my play-making and my volume is going to go up a little bit more, and took advantage of it.”

Harden will be hitting the free agent market after the season and performances like the one on Sunday should help him land another lucrative contract.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Clippers believe they can more than hold the fort until Leonard’s knee is healthy enough for him to play, Paul George told Janis Carr of the Orange County Register and other media members. “I mean, we still have more than enough,” George said. “Obviously Kawhi puts us well over the top, but we still got more than enough. So, I think we still got experience. We still, like I said we got enough to win games. Obviously, we want Kawhi back when he’s ready, but I still think we have enough confidence to continue to push forward and win games when we need to. We’re going to hold it down until Kawhi comes back. Honestly, he is the piece we do need if we plan on winning it all and getting to where we want to get to. But we’re going to hold it down for him until he’s ready to return and we feel comfortable with where we’re at.”
  • It’s time for the Suns to regroup after a 25-point loss to Minnesota in their first-round series. Devin Booker shot just 5-for-16 from the field and believes his team needs to match the Timberwolves’ physicality, he told Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. “We all just need to adjust to the playoffs, the physicality,” Booker said. “They’re being ultra-physical with me and I had three early fouls and went to the bench. Just trying to find a rhythm from there.”
  • The Warriors are likely to pursue upgrades via the trade market this offseason, with Andrew Wiggins among the players they’ll be willing to deal, according to Marc Stein in his latest Substack post. Stein notes the Warriors made unsuccessful attempts to create a market for Wiggins during the season. Stein also believes Golden State will find common ground with free agent Klay Thompson, though the veteran guard will have other suitors despite his 0-for-10 clunker in the Warriors’ play-in tournament loss.

Kawhi Leonard Completes Team USA’s Star-Studded Roster For Olympics

Team USA has completed its selection of an All-Star laden 12-player roster for the 2024 Paris Olympics, Shams Charania and Joe Vardon of The Athletic report (Twitter link). Kawhi Leonard was chosen for the final roster spot, USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt tweets.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Monday the 11 other selections for the roster. Team USA received a firm commitment from Leonard on Tuesday, Wojnarowski tweets.

Unlike USA Basketball’s FIBA World Cup roster last summer, which lacked size and interior strength, the Olympic roster is filled with quality bigs. Joel Embiid, Bam Adebayo and Anthony Davis will be joined at the power positions by LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

The wings will be manned by Jayson Tatum, Leonard, Devin Booker and Anthony Edwards. Jrue Holiday, Tyrese Haliburton and Stephen Curry round out the backcourt.

Haliburton and Edwards are the only players from the FIBA World Cup roster to make Team USA’s Olympic roster.

Team USA has won the gold medal in each of the last four Summer Olympics.

Team USA Locks In 11 Of 12 Olympic Roster Spots

The Team USA men’s basketball program has determined 11 of its 12 roster spots for this year’s Paris Olympics, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Woj suggests that the final roster opening could remain open for a while. Sources inform Wojnarowski that Hall of Famer Grant Hill, Team USA’s managing director, is waiting for a July training camp and some Las Vegas exhibition games before finalizing that 12th spot.

10 of the 11 players were honored as All-Stars this season, while the 11th was a key two-way force on the 2021 gold medal-winning team, which is officially considered the 2020 Olympic team.

Here are Team USA’s 11 players:

So far, three NBA teams – the Lakers, Celtics, and Suns – will feature multiple U.S. Olympians.

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, serving again as the leader of Team USA this summer, will have just one current familiar face in All-Star point guard Curry, who will be making his Olympic debut. Among the other players listed, four others will be making their debuts with the program on this stage: reigning league MVP Embiid and young All-Star guards Edwards and Haliburton.

As Woj notes, 35-year-old Durant is one of just two players to have won three gold medals in Olympic history, along with future Hall of Fame forward Carmelo Anthony. James is playing in his first Olympics since 2012. James and Anthony were also members of Team USA the last time it didn’t win gold at the tournament, in 2004.

Pacific Notes: Booker, Young, Bol, Looney, Reddish

Devin Booker returned to the Suns‘ lineup on Monday night and the team’s big three carried it to a six-point win over Cleveland, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic notes. Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal combined for 88 of the club’s 117 points. Booker scored 27 points after missing four games with a right ankle sprain. Phoenix is 15-9 with all three stars in the lineup.

“They’ve got a great ability to pierce single coverage or drop coverage in pick-and-roll and when they start bringing two to the basketball, they’re all willing passers,” Suns head coach Frank Vogel said.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Veteran forward Thaddeus Young has only played in two games since the Suns signed him off the buyout market. “If the matchup fits, then we’ll use him, but for now he’s behind Drew (Eubanks) on the depth chart,” Vogel said, per Rankin (Twitter link). Bol Bol has received steady, if limited, minutes this month. He’s averaging 5.5 points and 4.0 rebounds in 11.2 minutes over six March outings. Regarding Bol’s minutes, Vogel said it’s about either matchup or being able to go zone to protect him on the defense, Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports tweets.
  • Warriors center Kevon Looney’s consecutive games played streak lasted 254 games in the regular season and 289 including playoffs — second in the NBA behind only the Nets’ Mikal Bridges. It ended not because of injury but due to losing his rotation spot. He was a DNP-Coach’s Decision against the Bulls and Spurs. “I still get to carry it a little bit. I was available. I can still say I didn’t get hurt. Knock on wood,” Looney told Anthony Slater of The Athletic as he knocked on his locker. “I’m still taking care of my body. Still feeling good. Still available whenever they call on me again. I’ll be ready.”
  • Lakers forward Cam Reddish won’t play against the Kings on Wednesday due to a right ankle sprain, Khobi Price of the Orange County Register tweets. LeBron James (left ankle) is listed as questionable.

Pacific Notes: Dinwiddie, Jackson-Davis, Booker, Zubac

Lakers guard Spencer Dinwiddie used to imagine himself making game-winning plays, but he always expected them to come on offense, writes Khobi Price of The Orange County Register. Still, Dinwiddie will take the game-saving block he had against the Bucks’ Damian Lillard as time expired on Friday night.

“I’m not gonna lie to you, having been a high-usage offensive guy my entire career, even when I was a kid, I kind of dreamed of those moments in terms of hitting the shot, not necessarily getting the block,” Dinwiddie said. “But it feels pretty much just as sweet.”

Dinwiddie hasn’t gotten many moments to savor since signing with L.A. last month after Toronto traded for him at the deadline and waived him the same day. Friday marked his first start in 11 games with the Lakers, and it only happened because LeBron James was sidelined with a left ankle issue. Dinwiddie is averaging just 5.4 PPG and shooting 37% from the field with the Lakers, and he understands that he has to earn a steady role with his new team.

“It’s not a trade where it opened up a bunch of shots or opportunity or whatever,” Dinwiddie said. “… I was coming to like set-in-stone teams. And so it’s just a little bit different of a situation.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Warriors started Trayce Jackson-Davis at center tonight and moved Andrew Wiggins to the bench, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic. The move provides a lob threat for Chris Paul, who will be the team’s starting point guard while Stephen Curry recovers from a sprained ankle. Earlier this week, Draymond Green talked about the connection between Paul and Jackson-Davis, per Ron Kroichick of The San Francisco Chronicle. “We found a couple of things in our second unit that are working,” Green said. “Trayce with CP is dynamite. Throughout CP’s career, one thing you know that works is him with a lob threat, a dynamic roller to the rim to open up the defense. … I think we’re finding something there with that lineup, for sure.”
  • Devin Booker continues to make progress toward returning from the sprained right ankle he suffered last Saturday, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Suns coach Frank Vogel told media members that Booker went through an “extensive workout” earlier today, adding that he’s “pleasantly surprised” by how quickly Booker is recovering.
  • Clippers center Ivica Zubac was able to return today from the illness that forced him to miss two games earlier this week and prompted coach Tyronn Lue to keep on the bench for the second half of Wednesday’s contest at Houston, notes Janis Carr of The Orange County Register. Zubac had 16 points and nine rebounds in nearly 25 minutes and sparked a second half rally as L.A. defeated Chicago on Saturday.

Suns Notes: Wainright, Booker, Durant, Ishbia

Ish Wainright, who returned to the Suns on a two-way contract earlier this week after being waived by Phoenix in October and by Portland in January, jokingly referred to Devin Booker as the “president of Arizona” and said it was Booker who first called him with the news that the team was re-signing him (Twitter video link via Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports).

Wainright went on to say that he received calls from several former coaches and teammates after he was waived by the Trail Blazers in January, providing encouragement and assuring him that he’d get another shot in the NBA. Booker was among those who reached out, with Suns head coach Frank Vogel and team owner Mat Ishbia also remaining in touch.

The 29-year-old forward had been working out in Phoenix since being let go by Portland and is thrilled to be back on the Suns’ roster.

“This whole time we stayed in contact, ’cause I know what they want to build here and I wanted to be a part of it,” Wainright said (Twitter links via Bourguet).

Vogel told reporters that the Suns are excited to have Wainright back, referring to him as a talented player and a “really good culture guy” with a strong work ethic, adding that he benefits from already knowing the team’s system (Twitter video link).

Here’s more on the Suns:

  • Booker, who is recovering from a right ankle sprain, did some on-court work on Friday, but will be listed as doubtful for Saturday’s game vs. Boston, according to Vogel (Twitter video link via Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic).
  • Kevin Durant spoke to Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report about how he stays motivated, his belief in the Suns, and his desire to continue establishing chemistry not just with star teammates Booker and Bradley Beal but with the entire roster. “I think we’re starting to build something and form an identity. And that takes time and reps,” Durant said. “Our coaching staff is doing a great job. I’m not promising anything, but I like our chances against anybody.”
  • Ramona Shelburne of ESPN takes an in-depth look at Mat Ishbia‘s “topsy-turvy” first year owning the Suns and considers what comes next for the club. Ishbia told ESPN that he intends to do “whatever it takes to win” and isn’t concerned about the limitations that operating above the second tax apron will impose on the franchise. “I understand all the rules that come with the second apron. I understand exactly what the CBA tried to do,” he said. “I read it, I know it inside and out, and we made a calculated decision that we think the team with the best players wins. Would I rather have Brad Beal, Kevin Durant and Devin Booker than just having two of those guys? I’d rather have all three a hundred times out of a hundred, and I don’t think there’s another GM or owner or CEO that wouldn’t say that exact same thing.”
  • Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports passes along some of the notable quotes from Ishbia’s Thursday press conference with Adam Silver, where the NBA announced that Phoenix will host the 2027 All-Star Game. We relayed Ishbia’s comments about free-agents-to-be Grayson Allen and Royce O’Neale in a separate story.

Suns Notes: Nurkic, Booker, Little, Okogie, Playoff Prospects

The Suns were dispatched by the Nuggets pretty easily in last year’s playoffs, but Phoenix’s offseason additions could make a difference if the teams meet again, writes Tony Jones of The Athletic. Jusuf Nurkic isn’t as talented or athletic as Deandre Ayton, but he provides a more physical presence to match up with Nikola Jokic in a seven-game series. Nurkic had seven points, 12 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and two steals as the Suns pulled out an overtime win in Denver Tuesday night.

“We’re most definitely different,” Kevin Durant said. “Adding (Bradley) Beal and Grayson (Allen) and Nurk makes us a different team than last year. But having more experience as a unit helps a lot as well. Last year, we were thrown together pretty quickly, and we were playing against a well-oiled machine. We have nothing but respect for Denver. They challenge us in ways that other teams don’t, so it was good to fight through everything tonight.”

Although Phoenix can’t expect Nurkic to shut down his former teammate, Jones points out that he presents problems for Jokic that few other Western centers do. Nurkic is strong enough to match up with Jokic in the low post without the need for a double team, which limits open opportunities for Denver’s shooters.

There’s more on the Suns:

  • Coach Frank Vogel describes Devin Booker as “day-to-day” with the sprained right ankle he suffered late in Saturday’s game, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Booker is already ruled out for Thursday’s contest with Toronto, but with a projected timeline of five-to-14 days, Rankin notes that he could be back as early as Monday. “We’ll see how he is over the weekend and into next week,” Vogel said.
  • Nassir Little received a platelet-rich plasma injection for inflammation in his left knee and Vogel expects him to be sidelined “for a week or so,” Rankin tweets. Josh Okogie has been diagnosed with a lower abdominal strain, Rankin adds.
  • The past week showed why the Suns are so dangerous but so hard to predict heading into the playoffs, observes Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports. The surprising win at Denver followed back-to-back home losses to Houston and Oklahoma City. While injuries have limited the time that the starting five have played together, Bourguet points out that they have the fourth-best ranking of any five-man lineup in the league that has logged at least 250 minutes. He adds that during their only real healthy stretch of the season — from late December through the All-Star break — the Suns posted a 19-7 record.