Fri, 01 Dec 2023

NBA notebook: Suns try to move on from Robert Sarver saga

Field Level Media
27 Sep 2022, 09:40 GMT+10

The Phoenix Suns enter the 2022-23 NBA season recovering from "a state of shock," general manager James Jones said, in the wake of the NBA's yearlong suspension of owner Robert Sarver and Sarver's subsequent decision to try to sell the team.

An NBA investigation revealed Sarver, a white man, repeatedly used the N-word and had a track record of sexist actions with employees.

"That's tough for me because that's not the Robert Sarver that I know, it's not the Robert that welcomed me to Phoenix with open arms," All-NBA guard Devin Booker said at the Suns' media day Monday. "But at the same time, I'm not insensitive to everybody that's involved in the situation. I understand everybody's personal experience with other people are always going to be different."

The Suns, one year removed from reaching the NBA Finals and losing to the Milwaukee Bucks, also confirmed over the weekend that Jae Crowder will not report to training camp as the team attempts to accommodate his trade request.

"Jae brought a number of intangibles to the team, I think all of our guys would speak in that way about him," coach Monty Williams said. "At the same time these things happen and you have to transition and move forward. I totally am behind James and how we are handling this."

--Boston Celtics interim coach Joe Mazzulla said he is focused on connecting with his players while adding that he will give people time to heal in the wake of predecessor Ime Udoka's season-long suspension for an inappropriate relationship with a woman in the organization.

"You can't rush trust. You can't rush healing," Mazzulla, 34, said at a packed Celtics media day. "You can't rush any of that. Regardless of what has happened, we have a great roster and we have a great opportunity. That's what I have to focus on."

All-Star Jayson Tatum said he first learned Udoka was on the verge of a suspension "on Twitter, like everybody else." Tatum and teammate Jaylen Brown said they were shocked. Neither has talked to Udoka, but both said they'll embrace Mazzulla in his new role.

"We're all in this together," Tatum said. "It's the same guy we know, (Mazzulla is) just in a different position."

--Kevin Durant plans to go all-in with the Brooklyn Nets, coming full circle from his request to be traded this summer.

"I only control my job," Durant said at the Nets' media day, the start of training camp for the Nets. "My job is to be a player."

Durant told the Nets on the eve of NBA free agency that he wanted out of Brooklyn, only days after point guard Kyrie Irving triggered his player option to come back to the Nets for the 2022-23 season, implying turmoil between the core players of the team. But Durant insisted all is well with Irving, with whom he met before signing with the Nets, despite confessing "doubts" about the general direction of the Nets and the leadership of coach Steve Nash.

"I voiced them to (owner Joe Tsai)," Durant said, adding that he also had meetings with Nash and general manager Sean Marks before agreeing to rescind his trade demand. "I'm getting older. I want to be in a place that's stable and try to build a championship culture. We came to a mutual agreement that we should keep moving forward."

--Hamstring injuries stalked James Harden through his tenure with the Nets and crept up following the February 2022 trade to the Philadelphia 76ers. Harden said Monday he focused on building muscle tone and muscle mass this summer, with significant results that were visible in the contrast of his physique at the dais.

Asked how much weight he shed, Harden said, "One hundred pounds. Tweet that."

Power forward P.J. Tucker, cleared from offseason knee surgery to begin on-court workouts, said the opportunity to join Harden in Philadelphia has been in the works for two years. He was glad to see it become reality when the defensive stopper signed with the Sixers in free agency.

"We want to win right now. I'm here with a bunch of vets that want to win right now," Tucker said.

--LeBron James has redemption and legacy on his mind after he signed a two-year contract extension worth $97.1 million to return to the Los Angeles Lakers.

James starts his 20th NBA season 1,325 points away from overtaking Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to become the league's leading scorer.

"I'm kind of in awe of it, like, 'Wow,'" James said at the Lakers' media day. "To sit here and to know that I'm on the verge of breaking probably the most sought-after record in the NBA -- it's super humbling."

First-year coach Darvin Ham said the Lakers won't be asking James to play "playoff minutes in October, November and December." James said it's not important when or where the scoring record falls.

--New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson is ready to resume his rise to NBA superstar status.

"I feel like I'm at my best right now," the 22-year-old told reporters at the team's media day. "I feel like I'm moving faster, jumping higher. I feel great."

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft and an All-Star in his second season in 2020-21, Williamson missed last season with a broken right foot.

Williamson resumed basketball activities on May 26 and will enter training camp fully healthy.

--Kawhi Leonard said he is ready to return to the court with his Los Angeles Clippers teammates as training camp opens for them Tuesday.

Leonard missed the entire 2021-22 season after requiring surgery to repair a torn right ACL.

"For me individually, I'll be participating in training camp," Leonard told reporters at Clippers media day. "Then from there, just seeing how my progression is, how I feel, what I'm not feeling, is it moving correctly, and just keep going from there, just gradually building up. But right now, I feel good, and the plan is to start camp and play."

The two-time NBA Finals MVP said he spent his time away from basketball "lifting weights and getting stronger." This will mark Leonard's third season with Los Angeles, which missed the playoffs without him available last season.

--Field Level Media

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