Suns’ Ayton on not getting extension: ‘I’m disappointed, but I’m still trying to get us back to the Finals’

Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton got off to a great start on Wednesday night in the season opener against the Nuggets. He was 5/7 from the field and scored 13 of his 15 points tonight in the opening half, including 8 in the first quarter. Ayton added six rebounds for the Suns, and he knocked down one three-pointer on three attempts, tying his career-high for three-point attempts in a game.

However, Ayton would take only three shots the rest of the way as the Suns fell to Denver 110-98.

After the game, Ayton discussed why he did not get many touches in the second half.

“I just believe the ball stopped moving,” Ayton said. “We lost a little bit of rhythm because of our missed shots. Defense is what creates our offense on this team. Fatigue kicks in and not that second effort of getting back on defense and playing the right way. It tends to not come your way sometimes, and just trying to find it, guys on our team trying to find it. It just didn’t happen the way we wanted to make it happen.”

The 23-year-old Ayton was hoping to get a contract extension before Monday’s deadline. The number one overall pick in 2018 was reportedly hoping to get a max contract. However, the two sides could not find common ground, and now, he will be a restricted free agent at the season’s end. 

According to Ayton, he’s disappointed that he did not get the extension.

“One thing about me, throughout my whole life, I’ve always learned to control what I can control,” he said. “At the same time, obviously, I’m disappointed, but I’m still trying to get us back to the Finals. I still have to represent the team and myself as well. I’m just a competitor, man. I just like to compete to the best. Every time I’m in between the lines, that’s what you’re going to see out of me, nothing else.”

Ayton will have to go out and prove he’s a max guy this season. In the end, if he balls out, he will get paid, whether with the Suns or elsewhere. 

Suns’ Bridges on contract extension: ‘I’m happy we got it done’

The Phoenix Suns have signed forward Mikal Bridges to a multi-year contract extension, the team announced on Monday.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, it’s a four-year, $90 million deal.

“Like I been preaching for a long time, I always wanted to be here, and I always want to be here,” Bridges said after shootaround on Monday. “So, just for that happening, I take nothing for granted. Just blessed and grateful for the position I’m in. The people I have around me, my family and friends. it’s just great, and I’m happy we got it done.”

Last season, Bridges averaged career-highs of 13.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 0.88 blocks while shooting career highs of 54.3% from the field and 42.5% from three-point range. The Philadelphia native recorded one of just four qualified seasons in NBA history of a player shooting at least 54% from the field and 42% from three-point range, joining John Stockton, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Michael Porter Jr.

In addition, he received the 11th-most votes for the 2020-21 NBA All-Defensive teams, just missing selection. During the Suns’ run to the NBA Finals, Bridges started all 22 playoff games, averaging 11.1 points on 48.4% shooting from the field plus 4.3 rebounds and 1.00 steals.

In three NBA seasons, the 25-year-old Bridges has appeared in all 227 of the Suns’ regular-season games. He’s the only player in the NBA to have played in every regular-season game during the past three seasons.

The Suns acquired Bridges in a draft-night trade in 2018 as he was the 10th overall pick following a decorated career at Villanova University, where he helped the Wildcats win two national titles.

Suns extend Shamet:

Phoenix also agreed to a contract with Landry Shamet. According to Wojnarowski, it’s a four-year, $43 million deal. Shamet, 24, was acquired by Phoenix in a trade with Brooklyn on August 6 and he averaged 11.0 points on 48.4% from the field and 44.4% from three-point range in four games this preseason. Shamet has completed three NBA seasons, appearing in the playoffs three times, and averaged a career-best 9.3 points for the Nets in 2020-21.

No deal for Deandre Ayton:

The Suns and Deandre Ayton reportedly could not come together on an extension before Monday’s 6 p.m. ET deadline. According to Wojnarowski, the number one overall pick in the 2018 draft wanted a  max contract, but Suns owner Robert Sarver did not offer it.

Last season, the 23-year-old Ayton averaged 14.5 points and 10.3 rebounds per contest. Ayton can become a restricted free agent at season’s end.

Listen below as Bridges talks contract extension:

 

Suns officially sign C JaVale McGee

The Phoenix Suns have officially signed free agent center JaVale McGee, the team announced on Monday.

According to reports, it’s a one-year deal worth $5 million.

McGee, 33, is a three-time NBA champion who won an Olympic gold medal earlier this month as a member of the U.S. men’s national team. In Tokyo, he teamed with Suns guard Devin Booker for the U.S., totaling 25 points on 10-of-13 shooting in 20 minutes played over four games.

The 13-year veteran began last season with Cleveland before being acquired by Denver, where he faced the Suns in the Western Conference Semifinals. He averaged 7.3 points on 51.1% shooting, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks in 14.7 minutes in 46 appearances during the 2020-21 season. 

McGee has won league titles with Golden State in 2017 and 2018 and the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020. He holds 7.8 points on 57.1% shooting, 5.2 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in 747 games (319 starts) with Washington, Denver, Philadelphia, Dallas, Golden State, the L.A. Lakers, and Cleveland.

He has also appeared in 62 career playoff games (23 starts), averaging 5.4 points on 59.9% shooting, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks in 12.6 minutes.

McGee is a winner and contributes to winning, and the Suns can use a solid backup like him next season.

Suns name Kevin Young associate head coach, added Jarrett Jack, two others to coaching staff

The Phoenix Suns announced some changes to their coaching staff on Saturday after assistant Willie Green became the head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans.

Assistant Kevin Young was promoted to associate head coach. Phoenix also added Bryan Gates, Jarrett Jack, and Steve Scalzi as assistant coaches.

Young served as an assistant coach in his first season with the Suns in 2020-21, helping the team win the Western Conference and advance to the NBA Finals. He joined the Suns following four seasons as an assistant coach with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Before his time on the Sixers’ coaching staff, Young spent nine seasons as a coach in the NBA G League.

Gates joins the Suns following two seasons as an assistant coach with the Minnesota Timberwolves. 

Before beginning his career as an NBA assistant coach, Gates spent three seasons as head coach of the NBA G League’s Idaho Stampede from 2006-2009

Jack joins the coaching ranks after a 13-year NBA career as a player from 2005-2018. He averaged 10.8 points and 4.6 assists over 867 career regular-season games with Portland, Indiana, Toronto, New Orleans, Golden State, Cleveland, Brooklyn, and New York. Jack played two seasons with Williams as his head coach in New Orleans, teaming with Chris Paul to make the playoffs in 2010-11. Most recently, Jack averaged 8.9 points in 15 appearances for the NBA G League Ignite during the 2021 NBA G League season

Scalzi joins the Suns following seven seasons on the coaching staff of the Oklahoma City Thunder. He served as a player development coach for the Thunder the past two seasons.

Suns re-sign Chris Paul, Cam Payne

The Phoenix Suns re-signed point guards Chris Paul and Cameron Payne, the team announced on Friday. 

Paul, 36, reportedly signed a four-year, $120 million deal, while Payne, 26, inked a reported three-year deal worth $19 million.

In his first season with the Suns in 2020-21, the 16-year veteran finished fifth in NBA MVP voting and was an All-NBA Second Team selection, helping the Suns win the Western Conference title. In 70 regular-season games, he averaged 16.4 points, 8.9 assists (3rd in the NBA).

In 20 playoff games during the Suns’ run to the NBA Finals, Paul averaged 19.2 points and 8.6 assists, shooting 49.7% from the field and 44.6% from three-point range.

Paul ranks fifth in NBA history in career assists (10,275) and career steals (2,332), with both marks being the highest among all active players, and he is 22 points shy of becoming the first player in NBA history with at least 20,000 points and 10,000 assists.

Payne averaged 8.4 points and 3.6 assists in a career-high 60 games with the Suns this past season, shooting 48% from the field, 44% from three-point range (ranking 10th in the NBA), and 89% from the free-throw line.

The six-year veteran averaged 9.3 points and 3.2 assists in 22 games during the Suns’ playoff run to the NBA Finals. In a Game 2 win over the LA Clippers in the Western Conference Finals, he scored a career-best 29 points in addition to nine assists and zero turnovers.

Payne initially joined the Suns before the ‘Bubble’ in 2020 as he averaged 10.9 points during the team’s 8-0 run to close out the 2019-20 season in Florida.

He has appeared in 221 career regular-season games with Oklahoma City, Chicago, Cleveland, and the Suns, holding career averages of 6.8 points and 2.8 assists.

The Suns also re-signed Abdel Nader to a reported two-year. $4 million deal, which they also announced on Friday.

The Suns are hoping to get back to the NBA Finals, which won’t be easy considering how tough the Western Conference will be next season. However, bringing Paul and Payne back will help their cause.

Suns acquire Landry Shamet from Nets

The Phoenix Suns acquired guard Landry Shamet from the Brooklyn Nets in exchange for guard Jevon Carter and the draft rights to Day’Ron Sharpe(29th overall pick in the 2021 draft), the team announced on Friday.

Shamet has played three NBA seasons, appearing in the playoffs three times, and averaged a career-best 9.3 points for the Nets in 2020-21.

The 24-year-old has averaged 9.2 points per game on 41.6% shooting from the field, 39.7% from three-point range, and 83.4% from the free-throw line in 193 career regular-season games (69 starts) with Philadelphia, the LA Clippers, and Brooklyn.

 Shamet has totaled 407 career three-point makes as his 39.7% career mark from beyond the arc ranks 17th among all active players (min. 300 3PM).

The 26th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft should give the Suns decent scoring off the bench next season. Phoenix is trying to win now, and bringing in a guy like Shamet should help that cause.

Green officially named head coach of New Orleans Pelicans

The New Orleans Pelicans have hired Willie Green to be the team’s new head coach.

Green and Pelicans were rumored to be close to a deal last week, and it became official on Thursday.

The 39-year-old Green joins the Pelicans after spending the previous two seasons (2019-21) as an assistant coach for the Phoenix Suns. As a part of head coach Monty Williams’ staff, Green helped guide the 2021 Western Conference Champions to their first NBA Finals appearance since 1993. As the Suns’ defensive coordinator, Phoenix finished the regular season with the NBA’s sixth-best defensive rating. 

“I want to thank Mrs. Benson, David Griffin, and the entire Pelicans organization for having faith in me to lead this talented group of players moving forward,” said Green via a press release from the team. “It’s a blessing and an honor to get this opportunity in a special place like New Orleans. I look forward to getting to work and immersing myself and my family into the local community.”

Before joining Phoenix, Green spent three seasons (2016-19) as assistant coach/player development for the Golden State Warriors. While on head coach Steve Kerr’s staff, Green helped the Warriors win back-to-back NBA Championships in 2017 and 2018 before returning to the NBA Finals in 2019. He also served as the Warriors’ head coach for NBA Summer League in 2018, leading Golden State to the California Classic’s only 3-0 record.

The Detroit native, who spent 12 seasons in the NBA as a player, was selected with the 41st overall pick by Seattle in the 2003 NBA Draft. He appeared in 731 regular-season games (297 starts) with Philadelphia, New Orleans, Atlanta, the LA Clippers, and Orlando from 2003-15 and qualified for the playoffs seven times in his 12 seasons.

 

Giannis on block on Ayton: ‘I thought I was going to get dunked on’

If the Phoenix Suns fall short in the NBA Finals, they might look back at Game 4. Phoenix built a nine-point lead early in the fourth quarter, but Devin Booker, who had a bounce-back game with 42 points after scoring 10 points on Sunday, had to leave with his fifth foul with over 11 minutes left in the fourth.

When Booker returned midway through the fourth, the Suns still had a three-point lead, but Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton turned it on. He scored 14 of his 40 points in the final quarter, including the game-winner with just over a minute left in the contest as Milwaukee defeated Phoenix 109-103 at Fiserv Forum on Wednesday night to tie the series up at 2.

“As far as the fourth quarter, late in the fourth quarter, we just ran sets that allowed me to get to my spots,” Middleton said. “After that, I just got to make reads. Whether to shoot, whether to find an open guy, Giannis(Antetokounmpo) on a roll. It’s just reading the defense at that point. Just luckily, thankfully, I hit some shots.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo added on Middleton: “But that’s what he does down the stretch. We want him to have the ball. We want him to be the decision-maker. We know he’s going to take big shots, and tonight he was incredible.”

It was not all about Middleton in the fourth. With the Bucks up 101–99 late in the game, Antetokounmpo, who had 26 points, 14 rebounds, and eight assists in Game 4, made the defensive play of the game and maybe the series. Booker threw an alley-oop pass to Deandre Ayton, and the first-team all-defensive player made a fantastic block, which saved the game and maybe the series for the Bucks.

“Just a hustle play,” Antetokounmpo said on the block. “I thought I was going to get dunked on, to be honest with you. But you know, going down the stretch, do whatever it takes to win the game. Just put yourself in a position that can win the game. I saw the play coming. I saw that Chris(Devin Booker) was going to throw the lob, and I was just going to jump vertical toward the rim. Hopefully, I can be there in time, and I was there in time and was able to get a good block and go down and get two points. So it was a great hustle play.”

Watch below:

While Booker shined for Phoenix, Chris Paul struggled. He had 10 points(5/13 shooting), seven assists, and five turnovers. The most significant turnover was with 32.4 seconds left and the Suns trailing 101-99. Paul would lose the ball, and ultimately Middleton would put the game away with a layup in transition.

“It was me. I had five of them,” Paul said about the turnovers. “It was bad decision making. That time we were down two, and I tried to cross over right there, slipped, turned it over. I had some bad passes in the first half.”

Game 5 is Saturday night in Phoenix. It’s the best of three at this point. The Suns had an excellent opportunity to win Game 4 and wasted an outstanding performance by Booker, but now they go back to Phoenix and hope to get right. For the Bucks, they have been in an 0-2 hole before and know what it takes to get out of it.

Notes: 

-Antetokounmpo left the game at the 8:29 mark of the first quarter in Game 4. The reason why? He had to “tinkle.”

“How do you guys say politely? I wanted to take a tinkle. A tinkle,” he said. “I wanted to take a tinkle and came back (laughter). That’s polite, right?

-According to Elias Sports, Booker had the most points in Finals history by a player with 10 or fewer points in the previous game.

 

Bucks’ Middleton: When he’s(Antetokounmp) rolling sometimes like he was these last two games, you’ve just got to give him the ball’

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo had another big-time performance in the NBA Finals, and this time, it translated to a victory. The two-time MVP had his second straight 40-point game in this series and scored 41 points, including 13/17 from the free-throw line, to go along with a team-high 13 rebounds and six assists as the Bucks routed the Suns 120-100 in Game 3 of the NBA Finals at Fiserv Forum on Sunday night.

Antetokounmpo, who had 42 points and 12 rebounds in Game 2, and Shaquille O’Neal are the only two players in NBA history with 40-plus points and 10-plus rebounds in back-to-back Finals games.

“When he’s rolling sometimes like he was these last two games, you’ve just got to give him the ball, give him his space and allow him to go to work,” Khris Middleton, who had 21 points, seven assists, and six assists on Sunday, said about Antetokounmpo. 

Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer added on Antetokounmpo: “He’s just doing whatever it takes to help his team, to help us. He’s in an aggressive mindset. He always plays that way. But I thought he played with the pass well. He made some great reads, found guys, played against the zone. He just did a little bit of everything. Offensive boards, putbacks. We need a lot from him, and that’s what he does.”

Phoenix still leads the series 2-1, and Game 4 is on Wednesday night in Milwaukee.

Game 3 was a must-win situation for Milwaukee. The Bucks were down 0-2 against the Nets in the second-round, but won the series in 7.

Milwaukee did what they needed to do on Sunday night, which Antetokounmpo discussed postgame.

“We know what kind of game this was going to be,” Antetokounmpo said. “We knew that if we lose the game, you are in the hole, 3-0 or whatever the case might be. We knew that we had to come here and play great basketball, so I knew that.”

The Bucks shot ten more free throws(26-16) than Phoenix in Game 3, and Suns C Deandre Ayton, who had 12 of his 18 points in the first quarter and nine rebounds on Sunday night, was saddled with foul trouble. While he did not want to complain about the officiating, Suns head coach Monty Williams pointed out the free-throw disparity. 

“I’m not going to get into the complaining publicly about fouls. Just not going to do that,” Williams said. “But you can look — we had 16 free throws tonight. One person had 17.”

Devin Booker struggled with his shot in Game 3 and was 3/14 from the field with 10 points, but the two-time All-Star expects to bounce back in Game 4.

“It wasn’t well, obviously,” Booker said. “But there’s nights like that. The most important part to me is winning the game, and we didn’t do that, so I’m more frustrated about that. But we have a few days off here. We’re going to get back right and going to go over film and be ready Wednesday.”

This effort was expected out of Milwaukee in Game 3. It should be interesting to see Phoenix’s response in Game 4. However, the Bucks, who are 8-1 at home this postseason, are back in this series.

Notes:

-Jrue Holiday had his best performance of the series on Sunday night. Holiday had 21 points, nine assists, and five assists. 

-Chris Paul led the Suns with 19 points and nine assists in Game 3. With the loss on Sunday night, Paul is now 0-12 when Scott Foster officiates his games in the playoffs.

Suns’ Williams on Saric: ‘It’s just one of those situations that literally breaks your heart’

The Phoenix Suns won Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Bucks on Tuesday night, but it came with a price; forward/center Dario Saric sustained a torn ACL in his right knee, the team announced on Wednesday.

Saric, 27, will miss the rest of the series. The fourth-year player injured his right knee in the first quarter of Game 1.

“It’s just one of those situations that literally breaks your heart,” Suns head coach Monty Williams said on Wednesday. “Dario is a guy that I’ve been with twice. I coached him in Philly, and to get a chance to be with him here, he’s what Suns basketball is about. Hard worker, unbelievable guy, and he was so looking forward to playing in these Finals. And to play a few minutes and have that kind of injury, it was a tough thing to hear this morning when I talked to the staff, and they told me what was going on.

“I spoke with him, and obviously, he was shocked and just felt pretty bad. So I just told the team today to check on him and Karla. He’s got a road ahead of him, but he’s a diligent worker, and we know he’ll be back and better. But it was a shock to see him go down like that.”

Devin Booker added on Saric: “It hurts. It hurt our whole group. Dario is our guy. He’s our energy in the locker room that you guys don’t get to see, but we love him, and we are here with him. Obviously an unfortunate turn of events, but we’re going to reach out to him; we’re going to make sure he’s mentally right and that he’s in the right spirit, and we’re on the road to recovery. As far as the court goes, obviously, we’re going to be missing his presence and the things that he does out there, but everybody is going to have to give a little bit more.”

Saric averaged 8.7 points and 3.8 rebounds per contest in the regular season. 

Without Saric, Frank Kaminsky will get more time, but this is a blow for the Suns. Hopefully, for Saric, he can get himself right for next season.