Point guard Ronnie Price ‘back home’ with the Phoenix Suns
PHOENIX, Ariz. – Welcome back, Ronnie Price.
For the third time in his career, the 11-year veteran point guard finds himself on a Phoenix Suns roster. His latest stint was made official when Price signed a 10-day contract on Friday.
“We can’t get away from each other,” he said, laughing.
Price, 33, had been training at home in Utah ever since Oklahoma City waived him two days before the start of the season. Over the summer, the Thunder signed Price to a two-year guaranteed contract worth $5 million.
“It was a weird deal. I don’t know the logistics of everything roster-wise, but I was the odd man out,” he said. “Moving my family down there, signing a 19-month lease (on a house), preparing to be there for two years and then getting a surprise call. Of course, I wasn’t expecting that at all.”
Price, though, is a firm believer in things happen for a reason. And when that door closed in Oklahoma City, one opened back up for him in Phoenix, albeit a few months later.
Price enjoyed one of his better seasons last year with the Suns, averaging a career-high 5.3 points while appearing in a career-high 62 games.
“I’m back home. Back with all my ex-teammates and coaching staff. A lot of these coaches I’ve played for on different teams,” he said, mentioning Suns assistants Jay Triano and Ty Corbin as well as player development coach Mehmet Okur. “God has a funny thing of working things out. I’m just happy to be back.”
With Price’s addition, the Suns’ roster stands at 15, the maximum allowed per NBA rules.
Backcourt help would not seem to be a pressing need for the Suns, not with Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, Brandon Knight and Tyler Ulis taking up most, if not all, of those minutes. No, Price is needed elsewhere, according to head coach Earl Watson.
“A coach in the locker room. Strong veteran presence. He knows how to win. He pushes every teammate,” said Watson, himself a former teammate of Price during the 2010-11 season in Utah.
It’s why Price has survived as long as he has in the league.
In his first go-round with the Suns in 2011-12, Price competed with Sebastian Telfair for backup minutes to Steve Nash. They battled each other hard in practice, neither wanting to relent to the other, yet at the same time working to help one another improve their game.
The Suns hope Price continues to bring that same level of intensity and physicality four years later.
“Just be here, practice hard, work hard every day and try to help the young guys out,” Price said. “They’ve got some talented guys on this team, and I just want to be able to help them mature and have great futures in this league. If my name is called to play, I’ll be ready to play, that’s not an issue. But there’s other things that need to be done as well and I accept that role with open hands.”
For Watson, it makes perfect sense to have Price join the Suns veterans already established in the locker room.
“You can never have enough older guys who’ve done it the right way, played the right way, carries themselves the right way on and off the court; just teaching young guys how to be professionals every time we touch foot on the court.. You got to have guys who’ve been there done that…just to show them and continue to stay on them,” he said. “For Tyson (Chandler) and LB (Leandro Barbosa) and Jared (Dudley), it’s like having a bunch of little brothers you have to baby-sit after school all the time. You need all the help you can get.”
— It’s been five weeks since the Suns last played back-to-back games at home. They begin a three-game homestand Saturday with a visit by the Denver Nuggets to complete the rare road-home set.
“I forgot we were at home,” Watson deadpanned. “It’s been tough, but our guys, we fight hard. We kind of hit a wall. We’re excited to be back home, take advantage of this homestand, get back into our own beds and just try to adapt back to being back in Phoenix.”
Rookie forward Dragan Bender is officially listed as questionable for the game against the Nuggets. He hurt his right ankle in Toronto and has not seen the court since; missing each of the past two games. Bender, though, was spotted shooting jumpers after practice on Friday.
— Immediately after the loss in Denver, Watson pointed to his team being outrebounded 46-28 and posting a minus-18 in second-chance points. A day later, those numbers still bothered him, as did getting outscored 30-14 from the foul line.
“As far as us not taking a free throw in the third quarter, I’m not sure if that’s analytically possible to not get to the free throw line. So, I don’t know. I paid for a PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) surgery. It’s like LASEK, so maybe, I don’t know, I need my money back. I need a refund on my LASEK surgery,” he said, laughing.
“Just got to make sure we get in there, be overaggressive and convert on our lay-ups and not depend on getting to the free throw line.”
— Though his name has been mentioned as a possible slam dunk participant in this year’s All-Star Weekend, rookie Derrick Jones, Jr. said following practice he had not yet been asked. Of course, if an invitation was extended, then he’d be “more than happy to do it. More than happy. I’ll never turn down an opportunity like that.”
Jones, Jr., who has received a lot of attention for his high-flying dunks when playing for the Northern Arizona Suns of the NBA D-League, grew up watching the dunk contest, and one dunker in particular.
“One of the greatest dunkers, Vince Carter, that’s one person that I loved his dunks. If they let me do it, I mean, they’re going to see a 2.0,” he said. “If they’re willing to put me in it, I’ll cancel all plans that I have for All-Star Weekend. I’ll be in New Orleans, and they’ll see me out there if they have me out there.”