Pacers fall to red-hot Suns, who have won four straight games

The Suns are hot. And not just because their team name is “the Suns.” And not because they’re in Florida in the summertime. But because they’re winning a lot lately. Here’s the Indianapolis Star reporting on Pacers play today in the Disney NBA bubble:

[The Indiana Pacers are] 3-1 and were held well under their 119.3 scoring average in their first three games, 114-99.

T.J. Warren (16 points, 11 rebounds) couldn’t keep up his torrid scoring pace against the team that traded him to Indiana last summer for cash considerations. He missed his first 4 shots and then went 6-for-8 before foul trouble cooled him off in the third quarter. He had been averaging 39+ points per game in the “bubble.”

Devin Booker (20 points, 10 assists) and DeAndre Ayton (23 points, 10 rebounds, 4 blocks) were the primary threats, though the Pacers took a 75-72 lead on Justin Holiday’s 3. Cameron Payne (15 points) did them in during a 21-0 run.

It wasted a strong effort from Malcolm Brogdon (game-high 25 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists) for Indiana.

In the win for the Suns, center Deandre Ayton had 23 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks, Devin Booker had 20 points and 10 assists, Dario Saric had 16 points and eight rebounds off the bench, Cameron Payne scored 15 off the bench, and starting forward Cameron Johnson had 14 points and 12 rebounds.

Pistons buy Northern Arizona Suns G League team from Phoenix Suns

The Detroit Pistons, the Phoenix Suns and the NBA G League today announced that the Pistons have agreed to purchase the Northern Arizona Suns from the Phoenix Suns. The rebranded team is expected to play in a new arena currently being constructed on the campus of Wayne State University beginning in the 2021-22 season.

“I’m excited to welcome Tom Gores and the Detroit Pistons as NBA G League owners,” said NBA G League President Shareef Abdur-Rahim. “It’s always bittersweet for a team to relocate, and I thank Robert Sarver and the Phoenix Suns for their time in this league and the fans in Northern Arizona for their ongoing commitment to the team. I’m sure the fans in Detroit will welcome the team with open arms and I look forward to watching NBA G League basketball at Wayne State for seasons to come.”

Pistons owner Tom Gores said the NBA G League will be good for the Pistons organization and the community.

“This is another important investment in our franchise and in the city of Detroit,” said Mr. Gores. “Having an NBA G League team near our new performance center will be an advantage for our front office, our coaching staff and our young players. It will also generate more economic activity in the area and serve as a catalyst for additional development.”

The Pistons current “hybrid” affiliation with the Grand Rapids Drive will continue through the 2020-21 NBA G League season. The Phoenix Suns will continue to operate the Northern Arizona Suns for the 2020-21 season.

In May 2019, the Pistons announced a multi-faceted partnership with Wayne State University, including an NBA G League team to play in a new arena that the school is constructing for its men’s and women’s basketball programs less than two miles from both Little Caesars Arena and the Henry Ford Detroit Pistons Performance Center.

In addition to playing games on the school’s campus, a move that will generate revenue and usage of the new facility, the organization will work with Wayne State administrators to create programs and internship opportunities for students in fields like sports marketing, community relations, physical therapy, rehabilitation and sports and entertainment business operations.

The NBA G League serves as the NBA’s developmental league preparing players, coaches, officials, trainers and front- office staff for NBA positions while acting as the league’s research and development laboratory. Playing with 28 teams for the 2019-20 season, the NBA G League is a proven developer of talent. A record 42 percent of NBA players to start the 2019-20 season had NBA G League experience, a number that rose to 57 percent when the season concluded on March 11.

Suns sign guard Cameron Payne

The Phoenix Suns today signed guard Cameron Payne.

Payne has played four NBA seasons with Oklahoma City, Chicago and Cleveland since being selected 14th overall in the 2015 NBA Draft. The 6-3, 190-pound guard has spent the 2019-20 season with the Texas Legends of the NBA G League, averaging 23.2 points on 48.3% shooting, 8.1 assists, 4.9 rebounds and 2.3 steals in 15 games since making his season debut on Jan. 26. Payne was named NBA G League Player of the Week on March 2 after guiding the Legends to a 3-0 week including career highs of 19 assists and 10 rebounds plus 18 points to record a triple-double in a win over the NAZ Suns. Payne scored a career-high 43 points in a win over Iowa on Feb. 8.

Originally the 14th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Payne was selected directly between his now teammates Devin Booker and Kelly Oubre Jr. He holds career averages of 6.0 points and 2.5 assists over 16.0 minutes in 153 career regular-season games, also making 11 postseason appearances with the Thunder and Bulls.

A 25-year-old from Memphis, Tennessee, Payne played two seasons at Murray State University and was recipient of the 2014-15 Lute Olson National Player of the Year Award after leading the Racers to a 29-6 record. Murray State won the Ohio Valley Conference regular season title in both of Payne’s seasons as he was the OVC Player of the Year as a sophomore in 2014-15 and the OVC Freshman of the Year in 2013-14.

Phoenix Suns ‘seeding games’ schedule at Disney begins July 31

The NBA recently announced the schedule for the league’s 22-team restart to the 2019-20 season, to be held on a single-site campus at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. The Phoenix Suns will play eight “seeding games” at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, opening on July 31 against the Washington Wizards.

The Suns’ complete schedule for their final eight seeding games, selected from their remaining regular-season matchups, is listed below. All of the Suns’ first seven games will be televised on FOX Sports Arizona networks with the last game to be determined:

2019-20 NBA SEASON RESTART SEEDING GAMES (ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex)

Friday, July 31: Washington
Sunday, August 2: Dallas
Tuesday, August 4: LA Clippers
Thursday, August 6: Indiana
Saturday, August 8: Miami
Monday, August 10: Oklahoma City
Tuesday, August 11: Philadelphia
Thursday, August 13: Dallas

The Suns enter the restart 13th in the Western Conference standings with a 26-39 record, though they sit just 2 ½ games behind ninth place. At the conclusion of the seeding games, the seven teams in each conference with the highest combined winning percentages across regular-season games and seeding games will be the first through seventh seeds for the NBA Playoffs for that conference. If the team with the eighth-best combined winning percentage in a conference is four games or fewer ahead of the team with the ninth-best combined winning percentage in the same conference, then those two teams would compete in a play-in tournament to determine the eighth playoff seed in the conference. The play-in tournament will be double elimination for the eighth seed and single elimination for the ninth seed.

If the team with the eighth-best combined winning percentage (regular-season games and seeding games) in a conference is more than four games ahead of the team with the ninth-best combined winning percentage in the same conference, then the team with the eighth-best winning percentage would be the eighth playoff seed in that conference.

Once the NBA’s 16-team playoff field is set, the NBA Playoffs will proceed in a traditional conference-based format with four rounds of best-of-seven series. The 2020 NBA Finals will end no later than October 13.

Knicks add Jared Harper off waivers, and waive Kadeem Allen

The New York Knicks today claimed guard Jared Harper and his two-way contract off waivers from Phoenix.

The Knicks also waived guard Kadeem Allen.

Harper, 5-11, 175-pounds, appeared in three games for Phoenix and 33 games (33 starts) for Northern Arizona as a two-way player for the Suns this season. He averaged 20.8 points (seventh in G League), 5.7 assists and 2.8 rebounds over 29.8 minutes for Northern Arizona, ranking second in the league in usage percentage (30%) and third in free throws made (111).

The Mableton, GA-native was originally signed to a two-way contract by Phoenix on Jul. 18, 2019 after going undrafted out of Auburn University in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Allen, 6-1, 200-pounds, averaged 5.0 points and 2.1 assists over 11.7 minutes in 10 games this season for New York. He was originally signed by the Knicks on Jul. 25, 2018 and then again to a two-way contract on Jan. 14, 2019.

Nets sign guard Tyler Johnson, who last played for Suns

The Brooklyn Nets, who yesterday waived guard/forward Theo Pinson, signed guard Tyler Johnson today.

Johnson (6’4, 190) is a six-year NBA veteran who appeared in 31 games (three starts) this season with the Phoenix Suns, recording averages of 5.7 points, 1.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 16.6 minutes per game. In 301 career games (71 starts) split between Miami (2014-19) and Phoenix (2019-20), the 28-year-old has registered averages of 10.5 points on 43.0 percent shooting from the field and 35.8 percent shooting from 3-point range, 3.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 25.7 minutes per contest.

Per the New York Daily News, “he should give the Nets some additional depth at the point guard position as the Nets attempt to make a playoff run without Kyrie Irving. The Nets nearly signed Johnson to a four-year, $50 million contract when he was a restricted free agent in 2016, but the Heat ultimately matched the offer sheet.”

Johnson averaged double figures in points in three straight seasons (2016-19), with his most productive season coming in 2016-17 with Miami, when he saw action in a career-high 73 games and averaged career bests in points (13.7), rebounds (4.0), assists (3.2), steals (1.2) and minutes (29.8). Johnson also made two postseason appearances with Miami (2016 and 2018), appearing in 10 playoff contests.

The Grand Forks, N.D., native went undrafted in the 2014 NBA Draft, beginning his first professional season with the NBA G League’s Sioux Falls Skyforce. Johnson played in 15 games with the Skyforce before signing two 10-day contracts and a multi-year deal with Miami in early 2015. Prior to beginning his professional career, Johnson spent four years (2010-14) at Fresno State, earning All-Mountain West Conference Second Team honors as a senior.

Brooklyn’s roster now stands at 17 players.

Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver likes to use a flip phone

Here’s the Arizona Republic reporting on Phoenix Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver’s regular use of a flip phone, as opposed to something a bit more technical and modern:

Sarver recently revealed why he chooses to use a flip phone in an interview with the Suns’ Lindsey Smith in a recent entry of the team’s video production: The Outlet.

“I know, people make fun of that,” Sarver said during the interview. “Here’s the honest reason. The honest reason is I don’t want to have a device on me that I can get on the internet and I can look at emails, because it is too distracting. And for someone like me who has a little ADD, if I am with people, I need to be with people. I can’t be constantly looking at my phone. Listen, the technology of these phones and everything are great, they do a lot of stuff, but they also sometimes can interfere with your ability to have one-on-one conversation in meetings.”

The larger point here is worth considering. Whatever your prime focus is during a given moment, whether something fun like watching basketball or serious like a business deal, it’s always effective to eliminate additional distractions.

Dan Majerle reportedly files lawsuit against Grand Canyon University

Here’s Arizona Sports reporting on former NBA player turned college coach Dan Majerle:

Former Grand Canyon University men’s basketball coach Dan Majerle is suing the school that fired him, according to court documents obtained by Arizona Sports.

Majerle is suing under three causes for action, including breach of contract.

The court documents detail Majerle’s firing and the wrongdoing he alleges, including not providing a severance provision.

On the NBA career of Josh Jackson

Here’s the Arizona Republic on young Josh Jackson, who had just started to put up some real numbers when the NBA season was put on hold in mid March:

Josh Jackson never reached his full potential in his two seasons in Phoenix, but he showed signs of doing so for the Memphis Grizzlies this season.

After a lengthy process of having to prove himself by playing in the G-League, the fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft got the call up in January and found himself on the floor when the game was on the line for the Grizzlies (32-33)…

Jackson, 23, averaged a career-low 10.4 points in 18 games, but the 6-8 wing shot a career-best 43.9% from the field. In March, he averaged 16.6 points on 47.5% shooting (38.2% from 3) in five games before the NBA season was put on hold March 11 after Utah Jazz all-star Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus.

Listed at 6-foot-8, 207 pounds, Jackson, when NBA play eventually resumes, definitely needs to continue showing growth if he wants to solidify his place in the league.

Some Suns players may soon begin working out at team facility

Actual pro basketball games aren’t returning just yet. Neither is any total team activity. But as for some individiual players making use of team facilities, that could happen soon. In limited fashion. Here’s the Arizona Republic:

The Phoenix Suns are looking to take advantage of the NBA allowing teams to use their practice facilities and arenas to train as the 2019-20 season remains on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Team officials said they’re prepared to have controlled, voluntary workouts May 16 at the earliest at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum as Gov. Doug Ducey announced last week the stay-at-home order would, with some modifications, be in place until May 15.

Talking Stick Resort Arena is under renovations as part of a $230-million project and the new state-of-the-art indoor practice facility on 44th and just north of Camelback Road has been under construction…

The NBA informed teams last week that as numerous state and local governments make “modifications of stay-at-home orders and other restrictions on non-essential business activity beginning”, the league plans to “modify its guidance regarding the use of team practice facilities and player training.”

This mainly means that the individual players will be better able to train. We’re still nowhere near games resuming. But it’s a positive step.