Jusuf Nurkic

Pacific Notes: Legarza, Nurkic, Clippers’ Offseason

The Suns have added Vince Legarza as an assistant coach, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic reports.

Legarza has a history with new head coach Mike Budenholzer. He was an assistant in Milwaukee in Budenholzer’s final season there in 2022/23 but wasn’t retained when the Bucks hired Adrian Griffin as their new head coach going into this past season.

Legarza was an assistant with the Jazz for four seasons (2018-22) and a player development coach with the Timberwolves for three seasons (2015-18).

The Suns didn’t retain any assistants from Frank Vogel’s staff and are having a tough time filling out a new coaching staff, Rankin adds.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • With severe cap limitations, Jusuf Nurkic may be the Suns’ most likely trade candidate, according to Gerald Bourguet of GoPhnx.com. Nurkic has two years left on his four-year, $70MM contract. By attaching draft assets, Bourguet writes, the Suns might be able to find an upgrade at his position. Bourguet explores 20 potential trade ideas involving Nurkic.
  • In his first mailbag since the beginning of the season, The Athletic’s Law Murray answers a number of questions involving the Clippers. Among the topics are free agency, Kawhi Leonard‘s health, James Harden‘s free agency, whether Joshua Primo could return, and the usage of the team’s younger players going forward.
  • In case you missed it, J.J. Redick has some prominent assistants in mind if he gets the Lakers’ head coaching job.

Pacific Notes: LeBron, Bronny, Suns, Budenholzer, Green, Nurkic

Appearing on ESPN’s Get Up earlier this week (YouTube link), Brian Windhorst said that he believes Lakers star LeBron James will decline his player option for 2024/25. There are a number of reasons why James may be motivated to opt out, Windhorst says, and creating “optionality” to play with his son Bronny James is among them.

However, agent Rich Paul has made an effort in recent weeks and months to dispel the idea that his father-and-son clients need to play together, according to Windhorst, who suggests that if LeBron does opt out, that’s unlikely to be the primary reason why. Windhorst also says he believes the four-time MVP will ultimately end up back with the Lakers, whether or not his son lands there too.

“I think if the Lakers have an opportunity to draft Bronny James, they will do so, whether that’s with the 55th pick or if they make another deal around the draft where they (acquire) another pick, I think they will try,” Windhorst said. “I do not think it’s going to be their top priority. And I don’t think the league right now is looking at this like, ‘Draft Bronny James and you can get LeBron.'”

Shams Charania of The Athletic expressed a similar sentiment regarding the Lakers and Bronny during an appearance on ESPN’s Pat McAfee Show (YouTube link). “In a perfect world,” Charania stated, Los Angeles would like to have a chance to draft Bronny, but the team won’t be structuring its draft plans around that goal.

Charania also went on to discuss how many years LeBron might have left in the NBA, explaining why family considerations will be a factor in that decision and why the longtime NBA superstar may just play a couple more seasons.

“He knows how much people around him have sacrificed,” Charania said. “His wife, his kids, his close friends, his loved ones – they’ve sacrificed a lot for him over these 21 years, could end up being up to 23 years that he plays in the league, and so pouring that back to them at some point in the next one to two years, I know that’s a priority as well.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • The Suns are expected to be “aggressive” on the trade market this summer, Charania said during his appearance on The Pat McAfee Show (Twitter video link). Charania points out that Phoenix will be able to trade its 2024 first-round pick (a deal could be agreed upon prior to the draft and officially finalized after the Suns make the pick) and its 2031 first-rounder this offseason. Still, the team’s ability to be aggressive will be somewhat limited due to the restrictive trade rules that apply to teams whose salaries are above the second tax apron, including an inability to aggregate player salaries.
  • Doug Haller of The Athletic takes a look at what the Suns are getting in new head coach Mike Budenholzer, speaking to some of Budenholzer’s former players and outlining why the coach’s “bulldog” personality might be just what Phoenix needs.
  • Warriors forward/center Draymond Green and Suns center Jusuf Nurkic, who had their share of run-ins during the 2023/24 season, have continued to trade barbs following the end of their teams’ respective seasons, as Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic details. After Green said during a TNT segment that the Suns “have no big man” (Twitter video link), Nurkic tweeted, “I see that brother still needs help,” and suggested that Green still hasn’t gotten over Suns tar Kevin Durant leaving Golden State in 2019.

Suns Notes: Narratives, Future, Olympics, Jones

After getting swept out of the first round of this year’s playoffs by the Timberwolves, the Suns face a potentially very expensive future, writes Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report.

The Suns have limited options for improving the team around their current starting lineup of All-Stars Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, plus former All-Star Bradley Beal, center Jusuf Nurkic, and swingman Grayson Allen. Pincus notes that the Suns may look to offload one of their three priciest players in Durant, Beal or even Booker to add higher-quality role player help.

The Suns’ payroll could head north of $213MM next year, far above the league’s second tax apron of $189.5MM. That will greatly impede some of the team-building options previously open to tax-paying teams.

Pincus believes Phoenix will strive to hold onto combo forward Royce O’Neale this summer and thinks the Suns should at least explore offloading Nassir Little‘s $6.8MM contract.

There’s more out of Phoenix:

  • Though things do look dire for the Suns now, Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports takes pains to push back on five “annoying” Phoenix-relative narratives heading into a long offseason, suggesting that the team has a bit more opportunity and higher upside than it might appear. For instance, though the Suns don’t control their own draft picks in the immediate future, the team will still have at least some picks, including first-rounders. Bourguet also believes the club’s current core might just need more time playing together to truly become successful in the playoffs.
  • The 2024 Olympics in Paris could have an impact on the fates of the Suns’ stars, as Brian Windhorst of ESPN (YouTube video link) details. “Kevin Durant has reached a point in his career where his future is basically determined by him, and so where he’s at is going to be very important,” Windhorst said. “One variable… is that this summer is an Olympic summer. Team USA is gathering, and this is the biggest gathering of star players on Team USA since the Beijing Olympics in 2008. We have never seen this collection of stars who have committed over basically the last decade-and-a-half. On that team will be Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, they have committed to play in it… Let’s see where everybody’s mood is after the Olympics experience is, because you know that Team USA always opens up doors for big things to happen with star players.”
  • Following pressers from both Suns owner Mat Ishbia and general manager James Jones on Wednesday, Doug Haller of The Athletic seems convinced the team will not look to move on from its starting five. The club’s three stars — Durant, Booker, and Beal — only suited up for 41 regular season contests together, and key Phoenix decision-makers believe they have room to grow together. The club will at least talk about acquiring a true starting-caliber point guard, Haller notes. “We’ll go through every channel,” Jones said. “We’ll explore every scenario to add and build our team. It’s important to remember that we’re starting with six, seven, eight, really good core players. And when you’re talking about building on the margins, I think we have more than enough to do that effectively.”

Suns Notes: Vogel, Jones, Offseason Priorities, Second Apron, Beal

The Suns will take “a hard look” at a coaching change after being swept out of the playoffs by Minnesota, sources tell Shams Charania and Doug Haller of The Athletic. If Frank Vogel is retained, management will consider making adjustments to his staff, according to the authors, who add that general manager James Jones will be kept in his current role.

Vogel still has four seasons remaining on the $31MM contract he received when he was hired last June. He was 49-33 in his first year with Phoenix and the team made a late charge to claim the sixth seed in the West, but there were concerns by the end of the season that his voice was no longer resonating with his players, Charania and Haller write.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported before Sunday’s game that Vogel’s future is in jeopardy. In a meeting with reporters before the contest, Vogel expressed confidence that he will remain the team’s coach (video link), telling reporters, “I’ve got full confidence from (owner) Mat Ishbia.”

But Charania and Haller wonder how patient Ishbia will be after spending heavily to add Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal to form a Big Three alongside Devin Booker. That approach was shaky throughout the regular season, and it fell apart completely in the playoffs against the less experienced Timberwolves.

The Suns already have to replace lead assistant Kevin Young, who was in charge of the team’s offensive game plans. Young accepted the head coaching job at BYU two weeks ago, but agreed to remain with Phoenix through the end of its playoff run.

There’s more from Phoenix:

  • The Suns plan to keep the core of the team together and build around Booker, Durant, Beal, Grayson Allen, Jusuf Nurkic and Royce O’Neale, according to Charania and Haller. Allen recently agreed to a four-year, $70MM extension, but O’Neale, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, will have to be re-signed. The team will also be on the lookout for available veterans to help build a more professional atmosphere in the locker room, sources tell the authors.
  • John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 expects a “cooling-off period” before Ishbia makes any decisions about his coaching staff (Twitter link). He also notes that finding a traditional point guard will be necessary this offseason as neither Booker or Beal appeared fully comfortable filling that role. Gambadoro also sees a need for a backup center and more size at the wing, pointing out that Phoenix was out-rebounded by a 185-130 margin during the four-game series.
  • The Suns’ offseason options will be limited because they’re now operating under full second-apron rules, tweets Keith Smith of Spotrac. Among those restrictions, the team can’t aggregate players in trades or take back more money than is sent out in any deal. The Suns won’t have access to the mid-level exception and can only sign their draft picks and add players on minimum contracts.
  • Although Beal is widely considered to be untradeable with a contract that pays him $161MM over the next three seasons, Sam Vecenie of the Athletic believes the Suns could find a market if they decide to move him (Twitter link). He sees possible interest from the Kings if they lose Malik Monk in free agency, the Bulls if they trade DeMar DeRozan, or the Sixers if they can’t land a significant free agent with their available cap space. Beal still has a no-trade clause though and would have to approve any deal.

Suns Notes: Thomas, Nurkic, Beal, Young

Isaiah Thomas, whose 10-day contract with the Suns will expire following Friday’s game in Oklahoma City, hasn’t had a chance to make much of an impression in his first five games with the team, logging just 1:48 of garbage-time action in his lone appearance last Wednesday.

Still, the veteran guard has earned praise from his coaches and teammates based on his performances in practices and pickup games, as Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic details. Devin Booker told reporters that Thomas looks “great,” while Josh Okogie said the 35-year-old has been “the Isaiah we all know.”

“He’s looked really good,” head coach Frank Vogel said after watching Thomas participate in a pickup game on Tuesday. “Healthy and still can fill it up. He can shoot it. He can attack in pick-and-rolls and he’s a hell of a passer, too.”

According to Vogel, the Suns will make a decision on a possible second 10-day deal for Thomas once his initial contract expires. With more than two weeks left in the regular season, the team is in position to potentially give Thomas 10 more days before having to make a decision on whether to commit to him for the rest of the season.

“I’m just taking it day by day,” Thomas said, per Rankin. “I hope I’m here the rest of the way because I know I can help, whether I’m playing or not. I know my voice helps. My leadership helps. My experience helps, but that’s out of my control. I’m just here taking it day-by-day and doing what I can and controlling the things I can control and that’s by being a great teammate each and every day.”

Here’s more on the Suns:

  • After missing Wednesday’s win in Denver due to a right ankle sprain, Suns center Jusuf Nurkic is considered questionable to return on Friday in Oklahoma City, per the official injury report. Drew Eubanks earned his fifth start of the season on Wednesday with Nurkic out and would presumably remain in the starting five if the Bosnian big man is unable to go tonight.
  • Bradley Beal played on Wednesday after spraining his right ring finger on Monday and isn’t on Friday’s injury report. He told reporters that he’ll likely have pain in that finger for a few weeks, but intends to play through it (Twitter video link via Rankin).
  • Beal and Booker combined to make just 8-of-28 field goal attempts against the Nuggets. However, as Rankin writes for The Arizona Republic, Kevin Durant scored 30 points and the Suns’ bench outscored Denver’s reserves by 14 as Phoenix bounced back from Monday’s disappointing loss to the Victor Wembanyama-less Spurs to beat the defending champs on the road.
  • One of the Suns’ reserves who came up big on Wednesday was Thaddeus Young, a buyout market addition who hadn’t seen much action yet for Phoenix. He had six points and nine rebounds and was a +15 in 18 minutes vs. Denver. “It’s going to be tough to keep him off the floor now,” Booker said of Young, who also earned praise from Vogel (Twitter video link via Rankin).

Suns Notes: Allen, Beal, Nurkic, Spurs Loss, Schedule

The Suns play the Nuggets on Wednesday. It’s also a significant day for wing Grayson Allen.

Allen becomes eligible tomorrow for a four-year extension that could be worth up to $75MM. If he doesn’t sign an extension, he’ll be an unrestricted free agent, with the Suns holding his Bird rights. If he were to sign an extension with a maximum starting salary of $16.4MM, Phoenix’s luxury tax bill projects to jump another $65-70MM, Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic notes.

“I try not to think about it too much,” Allen said about a potential offer. “One, because it’s not a done deal until it’s signed. You don’t want to count it, start counting stuff too early before it happens. Another part of is it’s March and we’ve got 11, 10 games left. We’re getting at a time where you don’t want to have stuff like that on your mind cause it’s an individual goal for me and right now, it’s the Suns and team stuff. I don’t want to think about that kind of stuff too much.”

We have more on the Suns:

  • Not only did the Suns lose to San Antonio on Monday, they came out of the game with a couple of new injuries, ESPN’s Andrew Lopez tweets. Bradley Beal left with a sprained right ring finger late and could not return. X-rays were negative. Jusuf Nurkic left the game earlier with a sprained right ankle. Neither one practiced on Tuesday, according to Rankin (Twitter links). They’re listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game, Gerald Bourguet of GoPhnx.com tweets.
  • The Suns had defeated the Spurs by 25 points two days earlier and San Antonio didn’t have Victor Wembanyama in the lineup during the rematch. Yet the Spurs were able to pull out a two-point win against a team fighting for playoff position. “It’s disappointment,” Beal told Lopez and other reporters. “We came in here and laid an egg. We thought it was going to be easy with no Wemby. Just got our (butt) kicked. They came out aggressive, just like Coach (Frank Vogel) told us they would, and we didn’t respond. Well, we did, but we didn’t withstand their punches.”
  • Phoenix’s final 10 opponents have a combined winning percentage of .648, Lopez notes. According to ESPN, it’s the toughest final 10-game stretch for any team since the 2015/16 Grizzlies. However, Vogel said that shouldn’t impact how the Suns finish. “We like our chances against anybody,” he said. “We don’t worry about the schedule.”

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.

Pacific Notes: Moody, Kings, Nurkic, Stoudemire

Moses Moody‘s strong defense on Jalen Brunson was one of the keys to the Warriors‘ victory over the Knicks in New York on Thursday, writes Anthony Slater of The Athletic. The 21-year-old wing has experienced inconsistent playing time throughout his first three NBA seasons, but he had an unusually grounded take on the way his role has fluctuated to this point in his career.

It’s real life,” Moody said. “Different things happen. You gotta be able to keep your head, control your emotions. All my friends are in that space where they’re leaving college, trying to figure out life. Everybody’s going through different adversities. Who am I to think I should have an easy road to whatever I want? It’s just kind of how it goes.”

The 14th pick of the 2021 draft, Moody will be eligible for a rookie scale extension in the offseason. He’s currently starting in place of Andrew Wiggins, who is away from the team for personal reasons.

Here’s more from the Pacific:

  • Prior to Friday’s overtime victory over the Wolves in Minnesota, the Kings held a players-only meeting that lasted about 35 minutes, per Chris Biderman of The Sacramento Bee. It was the first time the team held such a meeting since Mike Brown became head coach in 2022/23. “We had a team meeting to talk about (how) we have to take this s–t seriously because we got 23 games left now,” Malik Monk said after Friday’s game. “The coaches are going to say what they’re going to say, but we’re out they’re playing. We knew we had to come together and outwork somebody.” Monk finished with a season-high 39 points, including 35 after halftime, and Brown was “thrilled” that the players took accountability for their up-and-down play, Biderman adds.
  • Suns center Jusuf Nurkic pulled down a career-high 31 rebounds on Sunday vs. Oklahoma City — the most in an NBA game in 13 years and a new franchise record for Phoenix — but he wasn’t in a celebratory mood after the loss, according to a report from ESPN.com. “I don’t know, man, I’m just trying to do my role the best I can. But it’s kind of really messed up when you have 13 offensive rebounds and 16 shots then zero free throws,” Nurkic said. “As hard as I work, and I feel like [I’m] getting fouled as [much as] anybody in the league. And I’m not here saying — we lost the game, it is what it is — [but] it’s just, it’s not really common sense. At least one [free throw]. [To] not even have one? But I know it happens. I ain’t the first one, and I ain’t going to be the last, either, unfortunately.”
  • On Saturday, former Suns star Amar’e Stoudemire — one of the most electrifying dunkers in league history — was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor. Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports passes along several quotes from the occasion.

Suns Notes: Booker, O’Neale, Nurkic, Beal

Suns guard Devin Booker exited Saturday’s loss to Houston in the fourth quarter after spraining his right ankle, according to reports from Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic and ESPN.

Booker suffered the injury when he and teammate Royce O’Neale got their feet tangled up on defense while Booker was guarding Rockets guard Fred VanVleet with just over a minute left in the game (Twitter video link). The Suns’ All-Star guard, who was in obvious pain, immediately left the court and headed to the locker room (Twitter video link).

Speaking to reporters after the game, head coach Frank Vogel said that X-rays were negative on Booker’s ankle and that the team doesn’t yet know the severity of the sprain (Twitter video link via Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports). The Suns are back in action on Sunday night vs. Oklahoma City, and while it would be a bit of a surprise if Booker is ready to go for that game, Vogel didn’t entirely rule out that possibility.

“We’ll see how he responds overnight,” he said.

Here are a few more injury-related notes out of Phoenix:

  • O’Neale also sustained an ankle injury on the play where he and Booker got tangled up, but his sprain appears to be a mild one. The forward said after the game that he was OK, per Rankin, and Vogel said O’Neale’s injury is “not as much of a concern,” adding that he didn’t get X-rays like Booker did.
  • Suns center Jusuf Nurkic left Saturday’s game in the second quarter and didn’t return after taking an inadvertent shot to the head from teammate Josh Okogie (Twitter link). According to Vogel, Nurkic was tested for a possible concussion, but has been diagnosed with “just a neck sprain.”
  • On the plus side for the Suns, Bradley Beal was back in action on Saturday for the first time since February 13 after missing five games due to a left hamstring issue. However, he was ejected from the game in the third quarter after he picked up a pair of technical fouls in quick succession following a brief altercation with Rockets guard Jalen Green (Twitter video link).

Suns Notes: Durant, Bol, Beal, Nurkic

In an interview with Malika Andrews of ESPN (video link), Kevin Durant talked about the possibility of finishing his career with the Suns, but he didn’t offer any guarantee that it will happen. Durant asked to be traded to Phoenix last February, and he told Andrews that he enjoys being in the city when she asked if that will be his final NBA stop.

“I’ve been on so many teams and I’ve said this before,” Durant responded. “Right now, in this moment today, without thinking about it in the next minute, yeah. But that’s just saying right now. I can’t really predict what may happen, but I love playing in Phoenix. I love the fan base, the city. I’ve grown to understand what our mission is being in the Valley and how deep these people care about their team. I started to understand the history of the Suns, and I’m glad to be a part of it. I want to go up in that Ring of Honor someday, so however long that takes.”

Durant is under contract for two more seasons and won’t reach free agency until the summer of 2026, when he’ll be 37. He’s still playing at an All-Star level, and he talked to Andrews about continuing his career past the age of 40. He also reflected on how he has learned to look at the game differently since he got older.

“Winning, I don’t even have to think about that no more because when I step on the floor that’s just in me already,” Durant said. “I tend to think about the other detailed parts of the game that’s going to help me get to the win. How to be a great teammate, how to inject myself into the game at different moments. I started to think about the small parts of the game, and that’s just made it more fun for me.”

There’s more on the Suns:

  • Bol Bol was outstanding in Friday’s loss at Houston, coming off the bench to deliver 25 points and 14 rebounds in 26 minutes. It was a rare outburst from Bol, and his teammates were thrilled to see him take advantage of the opportunity (video link from Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic). “Super proud of him, got in there ready to play,” Devin Booker said. “Wasn’t sure if his name was going to be called and still performed at a high level.”
  • A left hamstring injury will sideline Bradley Beal for a fourth straight game on Sunday, Rankin writes in a full story. Beal was listed as doubtful Friday night, but he was able to complete a pre-game workout that included running, shooting and resistance work. Jusuf Nurkic, who missed the game in Houston with a sprained right ankle, is expected to return.
  • Friday’s loss showed how much the Suns miss Beal when he’s not available, Rankin adds in a separate piece. Durant and Booker both shot below 50% on the night, and there was no one else to provide a consistent shooting threat or create opportunities for Grayson Allen and Eric Gordon.