Torrey Craig

Suns Notes: Booker, CP3, Durant, Craig, Ayton

Suns guard Devin Booker was a human torch in Games 3 and 4 of the team’s second round series vs. Denver, pouring in a total of 83 points on 34-of-43 (79.1%) shooting in a pair of home victories. But he looked human in Game 5 on Tuesday, writes Doug Haller of The Athletic, making just 8-of-19 shots en route to 28 points.

Booker, who has played at least 40 minutes in every one of the Suns’ 10 playoff games so far, dismissed the idea that the workload – and the Denver altitude – was negatively impacting him, per Haller. He also shrugged off an awkward-looking fall where he seemed to roll his ankle.

While head coach Monty Williams has expressed a desire to manage Booker’s minutes to some extent, he suggested on Tuesday that the Nuggets’ defense was probably more to blame than fatigue for his star guard’s dip in shooting efficiency.

“They ran two or three guys at Kevin (Durant) and Book tonight,” Williams said. “That means other guys got to be able to knock down shots. I thought Terrence (Ross) hit a few, but we just didn’t get enough production on the back side of our offense to help Kevin and Book.”

Here’s more on the Suns:

  • Facing a 3-2 deficit, Phoenix would love to have starting point guard Chris Paul (groin) back for an elimination game on Thursday. Asked last night by Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link) about the possibility of returning for Game 6, Paul replied, “We’ll see. I’m trying to.”
  • As MacMahon details at, Durant downplayed a brief on-court altercation that occurred during the third quarter of Tuesday’s game when Nikola Jokic and Bruce Brown approached the Suns’ huddle. Brown and Durant, who shoved Jokic away from Phoenix’s bench (video link), received double technicals for the incident, which didn’t escalate any further. “It wasn’t anything serious,” Durant said. “They were excited. They was up big, and we were trying to draw some stuff up. And you know how that goes. I don’t think it was nothing.”
  • Suns forward Torrey Craig published a cryptic tweet after Tuesday’s loss, posting a graphic that reads, “Understand that not everything is meant to be understood.” It’s probably safe to assume that Craig’s tweet has something to do with his declining role — after starting all five games of Phoenix’s first-round series, he has fallen out of the rotation in round two, playing fewer than eight total minutes in the last three contests.
  • Deandre Ayton took a hard hit to his ribs during the first quarter of Tuesday’s loss (video link) and was clearly in pain later in the night, wearing a bandage over his lower right rib cage as he spoke to reporters, writes Dana Scott of The Arizona Republic. However, Ayton remained in the game and is confident the injury won’t be an issue on Thursday. “I won’t feel this at all. The adrenaline will definitely carry me,” he said. “We’re very confident. At the end of the day, our fans are gonna make sure that we do the right thing and just make sure that we handle business at home.”

Pistons Notes: Coaching Search, Free Agency, Cunningham

First named as the frontrunners for the Pistons‘ head coaching job back on April 21, former UConn and Overtime Elite head coach Kevin Ollie, Bucks assistant Charles Lee, and Pelicans assistant Jarron Collins are still considered the finalists for the position, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

A previous report indicated that the top candidates for the Pistons’ coaching vacancy would meet with the organization’s top decision-makers, including owner Tom Gores. Charania confirms that those meetings are happening this week and that they’ll involve Ollie, Lee, and Collins.

Interviews with ownership typically represent the final stage of a head coaching search, so barring a new candidate entering the mix at the 11th hour, it seems possible that the Pistons could make a decision by the end of the week.

Here’s more out of Detroit:

Pacific Notes: Craig, Murray, Vanderbilt, Curry, Warriors

Suns swingman Torrey Craig unpacked how his team has been approaching its defense of his former Nuggets teammate Jamal Murray in the two teams’ ongoing playoff series, Dana Scott of The Arizona Republic writes.

“Jamal’s a skilled player, man,” Craig remarked. “He’s really crafty with different finishes, and his jumpshot and his ability to get to the rim and mid-range and 3s… Just be physical with him. Crowd him. Don’t let him get to his spots easy because he’s one of those guys if let him get in the groove, he can get it going.”

Thus far in the series, Murray is averaging 25.3 PPG on .426/.280/.917 shooting splits, along with 7.3 APG, 5.0 RPG, and 1.0 SPG. Denver leads 2-1.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • Versatile Lakers power forward Jarred Vanderbilt has thus far seemed up for the challenge of defending Warriors All-Star point guard Stephen Curry in their playoff series matchup, writes Marc J. Spears of Andscape. “He’s a tough cover,” Vanderbilt said of Curry. “We have a lot of bodies to throw at him. Starting with me, Dennis (Schröder), I think everyone did a great job of chasing him around kind of wearing him down and making it hard for him… That is my calling on the team. I like those matchups. Those challenges. That is what I’m here to do,”
  • The Warriors, trailing the lower-seeded Lakers 2-1 in their second-round playoff series, are striving to figure out how to improve, writes Kendra Andrews of ESPN. “You got to be more poised than we were,” head coach Steve Kerr said. “It’s easier in a regular season to respond to a tough stretch. Everything is magnified in the playoffs. So a tough stretch can turn into a longer stretch … we let our foot off the gas and the Lakers took advantage of that.”
  • Following a 127-97 blowout loss to Los Angeles on Saturday, Tim Kawakami of The Athletic wonders if the Warriors‘ inconsistency this season could be coming back to haunt them in these playoffs for good. Kawakami believes that Golden State is still capable of greatness, but points the team’s lackluster 11-30 road record as an indicator that it has had its struggles this year.

Suns Notes: Durant, Bench, Paul, Payne, Shamet

Kevin Durant‘s playoff résumé – including 29.4 PPG in 155 games and a pair of Finals MVP trophies – was a major part of why the Suns traded for him in February. Durant performed at his usual postseason level in the first round against the Clippers, but has been a minus-24 in Phoenix’s first two games vs. Denver, making just 3-of-15 three-pointers (20.%) and committing nine turnovers.

As Gerald Bourguet of writes, the Suns need more from Durant if they hope to erase their 2-0 deficit and knock off the top-seeded Nuggets. Still, head coach Monty Williams isn’t concerned about his star forward’s production, chalking up Durant’s 10-of-27 showing on Monday to an off night.

“He just missed a ton of shots, but we got a lot of the shots we wanted,” Williams said. “He and Book took most of the shots, we just didn’t shoot a great percentage tonight. And that kind of stuff happens. They only scored 97 points. Our defense was much better tonight, we just couldn’t put the ball in the hole.”

Here’s more out of Phoenix ahead of Friday’s Game 3:

  • The Suns’ bench production was dismal in Game 2, as Damion Lee, Cameron Payne, Torrey Craig, Bismack Biyombo, Jock Landale, and Ish Wainright combined for just four points on 2-of-16 shooting (0-of-9 on threes). While the team would presumably like to see those numbers improve going forward, Dana Scott of The Arizona Republic notes that Phoenix ranked last in the regular season among playoff teams in bench points, and Williams has said the roster is designed for the starters to do most of the scoring while the reserves contribute in other ways.
  • After Shams Charania reported on Tuesday that Chris Paul is expected to miss at least one week of action, the Suns officially listed their point guard as day-to-day due to his left groin strain (Twitter link). Although the team’s designation leaves the door open for a quicker return, I’d still be surprised if Paul makes it back before the one-week mark.
  • Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic, who also hears that Paul will miss at least a week, examines how the Suns can cope with the veteran’s absence. As Rankin observes, if Phoenix doesn’t want to move Payne into the starting lineup, the club could opt to shift Devin Booker to the point and start a player like Landry Shamet alongside him. Shamet was a DNP-CD in Game 2 after logging 14 minutes in Game 1.

Pacific Notes: Barnes, Booker, Craig, D. Green, Myers

Kings forward Harrison Barnes will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and head coach Mike Brown is among those hoping the 30-year-old doesn’t go anywhere, according to Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee.

Brown made it clear that he’ll leave the roster decisions to general manager Monte McNair and assistant GM Wes Wilcox, but made it clear he’d love for the Kings to re-sign Barnes, referring to him as “irreplaceable” and praising his “championship pedigree” and veteran leadership.

“I’m not trying to be funny, but that’s what irreplaceable means. He’s irreplaceable,” Brown said. “Having said that, that’s Monte and Wes’ area. … There’s nobody, at the end of the day, who’s going to be forever and ever in this league and this organization, but HB definitely is a guy who has been a big, big part of what we’ve got going here, and I hope he’s a big, big, big part of what our future looks like.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Devin Booker was an All-Star before the Suns acquired Kevin Durant, but Durant’s arrival has helped Booker take his game to another level, writes Ramona Shelburne of “You can’t leave (Durant), obviously. He draws a lot of attention,” Booker said after scoring 45 points in a Game 3 victory on Thursday. “A lot of the buckets I scored, I went right to him right after and said, ‘You opened that up.'”
  • Reinserted into the Suns‘ starting lineup when the playoffs began in order to match up defensively against Kawhi Leonard, Torrey Craig has had a monster series so far, averaging 18.0 PPG and making 10-of-16 three-pointers (62.5%) through three games. As Doug Haller of The Athletic details, Craig’s performance is all the more impressive given the path he took to get here — he went undrafted in 2014 and spent the first three years of his professional career playing in Australia and New Zealand.
  • Tim Kawakami of The Athletic explores the bond between Warriors forward Draymond Green and president of basketball operations Bob Myers and muses about what it would mean for the franchise to lose one or both of them as free agents this offseason. Elsewhere at The Athletic, Anthony Slater explores how a big game from veteran center Kevon Looney helped nullify Green’s absence in Game 3.

Suns Notes: Durant, Craig, Paul, Foster

Kevin Durant believes the playoffs are presenting the Suns with their first real test since he was acquired from Brooklyn at the trade deadline, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. An MCL sprain and a sprained left ankle limited Durant to eight regular season games with Phoenix. They were all victories, which made a lot of observers believe the new-look Suns might steamroll their way through the postseason.

It was somewhat surprising to see the Clippers win Game 1 in Phoenix and then stay competitive for much of Game 2 before the Suns pulled away. Durant expected the series to be challenging, but he’s happy with his team’s position after two games.

“Towards the end of the season, we played some solid ball, but that’s not much you can take from that,” he said. “A lot of teams weren’t playing their guys. This is kind of like the first real look at us as a team against some great competition. I like where we are. Unfortunately, we lost Game 1, but it’s always good to get a W. I’m looking forward to the next game.”

There’s more from Phoenix:

  • The Suns have been looking for someone to give them consistent playoff minutes alongside their four stars, and Torrey Craig has filled that role so far, Rankin adds. In addition to guarding Kawhi Leonard, Craig posted a personal playoff high of 22 points in the series opener and followed that with 17 points in Game 2. “We need him to continue to be confident to shoot the ball,” Durant said. “He understands that teams are going to play a little gimmicky and throw a big on him or just leave him wide open and give him the 3. He’s got to make them pay and I think he’s been doing a great job of it so far.”
  • Chris Paul addressed his 13-game losing streak in playoff games officiated by Scott Foster, which came to an end with the Suns’ victory Tuesday night, Rankin states in another Arizona Republic story. “The league knows what it is,” Paul said. “Can’t control it. Haven’t been able to control all the other ones so it’s not going to change now.”
  • X-rays taken on Paul’s right hand after Game 2 came back negative, tweets Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report.

Suns Notes: Durant, Irving, Booker, Roster Depth

Playing his first close game since joining the Suns, Kevin Durant provided a reminder of what a dangerous clutch-time scorer he can be, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Durant had 37 points in Sunday’s win at Dallas and hit a tough jumper over Tim Hardaway Jr. with 12.4 seconds remaining that proved to be the game-winner.

“Once I had him on my hip, I felt like I was in good position to just stop on a dime,” Durant said. “Glad I made it.”

In just his third game since returning from an MCL sprain, Durant was supposed to be on a minutes restriction. However, coach Monty Williams allowed him to stay on the court for 40 minutes as the game remained close throughout.

“I was out there for a while,” Durant said. “I didn’t look over to (Williams) on purpose. I wanted to keep playing, but I’m glad he trusted me out there. Glad the training staff trusted me. Hopefully we can build on this from here.”

There’s more on the Suns:

  • There was drama surrounding Sunday’s game because it marked the first meeting between Durant and Kyrie Irving since they both asked the Nets for a trade last month. But Durant said afterward that he had “no emotions at all,” noting that he played against Irving many times before they teamed up in Brooklyn, Rankin adds. In an appearance on ESPN’s “Get Up” Monday morning (video link), Brian Windhorst observed that Durant and Irving didn’t interact at all during the game, adding, “The only relationship they have right now is zero relationship.”
  • The Suns’ rivalry with the Mavericks was punctuated by a verbal altercation between Devin Booker and Luka Doncic late in Sunday’s game, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN. After Doncic missed a floater in the final seconds that would have tied the score, he took exception to a comment from Booker and they went nose to nose before being separated. “You guys say you don’t want everybody to be friendly-friendly,” Booker told reporters. “Here you go. We got some smoke.”
  • The Suns are considered to be among the favorites in the West after adding Durant, but they’ll need to overcome a lack of depth after giving up important rotation pieces in the trade with Brooklyn, Windhorst writes in an ESPN story. He notes that Josh Okogie, who has been inserted into the starting lineup, missed all eight of his three-point attempts Sunday, while Torrey Craig was just 1-of-4 from beyond the arc.

Suns Notes: Durant, Okogie, Craig, Ross, Sarver

Suns forward Kevin Durant is nearing a return from his MCL sprain, but it may not happen on Friday in his new team’s first game after the All-Star break, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said during a TV appearance (Twitter video link).

According to Windhorst, the tentative plan is to have Durant take part in a 5-on-5 contact workout on Thursday in Phoenix and to see how his knee reacts to that session. If all goes well, it’s possible Durant could make his Suns debut on Friday, but Windhorst believes that Sunday afternoon’s game in Milwaukee or Wednesday’s contest in Charlotte are more likely target dates for Durant and the team.

Here’s more on the Suns:

  • Once Durant is healthy, he’ll be one of four players locked into the starting lineup, along with Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and Deandre Ayton. With the fifth spot in the Suns’ starting group still up for grabs, Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports considers whether Josh Okogie, Torrey Craig, or Terrence Ross would be the most logical fit in that role.
  • Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic views Craig as the best candidate to fill out the starting five, but suggests Ross might be a better fit in the club’s closing lineup. Rankin also identifies a few other five-man groups that the Suns might utilize once Durant is available, including the club’s best “small” and “big” lineups.
  • Although Robert Sarver no longer owns the Suns or the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, his one-year suspension from the NBA remains in effect, sources tell Rankin. Certain terms of that suspension – such as a ban from attending the league’s Board of Governors meetings – are no longer relevant, but the suspension also barred Sarver from attending any NBA or WNBA games.

Pacific Notes: James, Vezenkov, Craig, Okogie

LeBron James has battled knee soreness recently but he vows to stay on the court for the remainder of the season, Joe Vardon of The Athletic writes. James doesn’t want the Lakers to miss the playoffs for a second consecutive year.

“These are 23 of the most important games of my career,” James said on Sunday. “I’m going to figure out ways to make sure I’m available and on the floor for every single one of these 23 (Lakers) games.”

The Lakers, who have the Western Conference’s 13th-best record, are two games behind the Thunder for the final play-in spot.

“I want to make a push to make the playoffs,” the Lakers superstar said. “I see myself not being kept out of the postseason two years straight. That’s not part of my DNA. We’re sitting here talking about the (scoring) record, things of that nature, but I’m more passionate about us trying to make the postseason and give us another chance to hold the Larry O’Brien Trophy. That’s what I am cut from.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • De’Aaron Fox believes Sasha Vezenkov would fit right in with the Kings, Sacramento radio reporter Sean Cunningham tweets. “Obviously, we would love for him to come over and just add to our team. I feel like you can never have a team that’s too deep,” Fox said. Kings assistant coach Jay Triano visited Europe this week to scout the EuroLeague star, whose NBA rights are held by Sacramento. Domantas Sabonis also endorses bringing in Vezenkov, who is having a stellar season in Greece for Olympiacos, according to “He’s a great player, very talented. He’s playing great in Europe with Olympiacos. They’re doing amazing in EuroLeague. I don’t know what he’s thinking, but we obviously would love to have him here,” Sabonis said.
  • Torrey Craig and Josh Okogie are vying for the final spot in the Suns starting lineup following the addition of Kevin Durant, Dana Scott of Arizona Republic notes. They’re not sure what coach Monty Williams will do. “I’m pretty sure the coaches will figure it out. The same with the second unit, don’t know how it’s going to look either. So I guess you’ll have to wait and see,” Craig said.
  • In case you missed it, the Clippers signed shooting guard Nate Darling to a two-way contract. Get the details here.

Chris Paul Set To Return For Suns

Suns point guard Chris Paul intends to make his return to the court on Wednesday night vs. Boston after missing the last month due to a heel injury, according to Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report, who says (via Twitter) that Paul is expected to suit up barring a last-minute setback.

Paul last played on November 7 in Philadelphia. He has missed 14 games as a result of what the team has referred to as right heel soreness and is officially listed as questionable for Wednesday’s contest.

The Suns, who began the season with seven wins in 10 games, haven’t missed a beat without Paul available, going 9-5 since he went down. The 16-8 squad holds the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, a half-game ahead of the 15-8 Pelicans. Incidentally, Phoenix will face New Orleans three times in the next 10 games, so Paul should be available for those showdowns against his old team.

In Paul’s absence, Cameron Payne has been the Suns’ starting point guard and has thrived, averaging 15.1 PPG and 7.3 APG with a .395 3PT% in his 14 starts. He figures to continue playing a major rotation role even with CP3 back in the lineup.

Landry Shamet and two-way player Duane Washington also picked up some ball-handling responsibilities while Paul was out, but Washington likely won’t be part of the rotation, while Shamet will return to an off-ball role.

Suns forward Torrey Craig, who has missed the last three games due to a right groin strain, is also listed as questionable and is a candidate to return vs. the Celtics, as Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic writes.