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Suns Summer League notes: Tyler Ulis going through withdrawals

Phoenix Suns guard Tyler Ulis, left, shoots as Los Angeles Clippers forward Wesley Johnson defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Oct. 31, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

PHOENIX — Nothing beats playing, and that’s what makes this so hard for Phoenix Suns point guard Tyler Ulis. He can’t play. And won’t for several more weeks.

Ulis is two months removed from right ankle surgery.

“I miss it a lot. We’ve been doing this all our lives. This is all we’ve done or wanted to do,” he said, then adding about the absence of basketball since the season ended, “I haven’t sat out from basketball this long. It’s been about three months now, so I’m having withdrawals.”

Ulis is expected to return to full basketball activity well ahead of training camp, but in the meantime, he’s sidelined, which means no NBA Summer League 2017.

Ulis will be with the team in Las Vegas, as he has been all week during their three-day mini-camp.

“Just having him around, his commitment to being around has been great,” Suns Summer League head coach Marlon Garnett said. “He’s going to be able to help the point guards out because, I mean, that’s what he plays. He knows a little about the game.”

Point guards act as the coach on the floor. Now, Ulis finds himself as a coach off the floor.

“Since we played last year, me, Dragan (Bender) and ‘Quese (Marquese Chriss), I could just be of help to some of the people who haven’t played; some of the rookies,” he said. “Just try to lead off the court because I’m not playing, so just try to talk from the sidelines and show what I can see.”

It’s about all Ulis is allowed to do at the moment. Doctors have yet to clear him for any running or jumping. He can shoot, but only standing still.

“So basically nothing,” he said, laughing.

Ulis began feeling pain in his foot late in the season — “Pretty substantial pain,” he said — but played through it.

“I felt like I needed to,” he said.

And Ulis played very well, earning NBA Western Conference Rookie of the Month honors for April after leading all rookies with 20.7 points and 6.8 assists per game.

Overall, Ulis averaged 7.3 points and 3.7 assists in 61 games, including 15 starts.

“I’m feeling great. Everything’s fine. I think everything healed well and I just can’t wait to get back,” he said.

Still, Ulis can’t help but think, ‘what if’, especially with first-round draft pick Josh Jackson joining high-flyers Chriss and Derrick Jones Jr. running the floor.

“If I got to play (in Summer League), we’d have a lot of fun. A lot of lobs. A lot of showtime,” he said.

FREE THROWS

— Among the more vocal voices on the floor during the recent three-day mini-camp was second-round draft pick Davon Reed.

“I’m impressed. I was impressed from his workouts before we even took him in the draft. He hasn’t disappointed. I think he’s really going to be big for us,” Garnett said. “Right now, just in the practices, he’s playing with the quote-unquote second unit, and he’s taken on the scoring load there. He’s going to be big for us. He’s a gamer.”

Reed signed a four-year contract (only the first year is fully guaranteed) on Thursday.

“I feel like I belong here, I feel like I deserve to be here,” he said, adding about his impending pro debut, “I’m just going to go out and just play my game and it should speak for itself.”

— Like Ulis, forward Alec Peters will be a spectator during Summer League.

Drafted 54th overall, the second of the Suns’ two second-round draft picks, Peters is recovering from a stress fracture in his right foot that prevented him from working out for teams prior to the draft.

“It’s going to be tough, but I’m not going to let it get to me, I’m not going to let it get to my head. I’m going to be a good cheerleader; I’m going to be there for those guys this week in Vegas,” he said.

Peters stayed after practice on Thursday, working with coaches on his footwork, lateral movement and shooting, ramping up his rehab, which he hopes will include full-court drills in two weeks.

— First Orlando, now Las Vegas. Forward Christian Wood is on his second Summer League roster, joining the Suns after a three-game stint with Dallas.

“They like to get up-and-down in transition, which is a good style of play for me,” he said, referring to the Suns. “I like to run the floor. They shoot. They let the bigs take the ball down the floor, so it’s a great opportunity for me. I think it’s a great fit.”

Wood, who didn’t have his player option picked up by Charlotte making him a free agent, totaled 30 points on 10-of-16 shooting and 13 rebounds in helping lead the Mavericks to three wins.

— For the second straight day, guard Devin Booker practiced with the Suns Summer League team on Thursday.

“That’s a good thing to see,” Garnett said. “When you got one of the core guys in the gym with the Summer League guys wanting to get in and play and show his leadership role, he’s really embracing that. It’s great to see, and I’m sure it’s good for the other guys to see; gives a little bit of motivation. I was happy to have him out there.”

— Later this summer, Northern Arizona Suns head coach Ty Ellis will be spending some time in South America. USA Basketball announced this week that Ellis will help lead the men’s national team in the FIBA AmeriCup 2017.

“Any time you put USA on your chest and you represent your country, it’s an absolute honor,” he said, making sure to thank Suns GM Ryan McDonough and NAZ Suns GM Bubba Barrage for signing off on the opportunity.

Ellis will assist head coach Jeff Van Gundy with a team that is expected to primarily consist of NBA G League players.

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