‘Excited’ to back Devin Booker, Troy Daniels brings shooting to Suns
PHOENIX — A rash of injuries to Phoenix Suns shooting guards left the team with no choice but to pursue reinforcements.
Brandon Knight’s torn ACL effectively ended his 2017-18 season. Then, rookie Davon Reed injured his knee and required surgery that puts his timeline for a return at 3-5 months as of the start of camp.
So three days before Phoenix gathered for Media Day on Monday, general manager Ryan McDonough pulled the trigger on a deal to acquire 26-year-old shooting guard Troy Daniels and a 2018 second-round pick from the Memphis Grizzlies for the Suns’ conditional 2018 second-rounder.
“I was sitting at home with my daughter and, you know, I got that phone call,” Daniels said Monday. “I’ve been there before. Just went from there and went into survival mode, is what I call it. ‘How are we going to get the movers and all that?’ Immediately went and checked the roster in Phoenix to see what I was up against.”
The thing he likely already knew: Devin Booker has a lock on the starting job.
Daniels knew because he and Booker had gotten into an on-court spat following a Suns loss at Memphis in February. Booker brought the words into the postgame media session, wondering why Daniels would trash talk him considering he’d been on “five teams in three years.”
More accurately, the Suns become Daniels’ fifth team in five NBA seasons.
He burst onto the scene in 2014, playing five late regular season games after a D-League call-up with the Houston Rockets before appearing in four playoff games to average 7.8 points while hitting 53-percent of his threes.
Since, he’s been on Minnesota and Charlotte before inking a deal with the Grizzlies. Still on that three-year contract, Daniels will make $3.4 million this season and $3.3 million next.
“I think about it all the time,” Daniels said of his journey. “I think that’s one of the reasons that helps me be strong in this moment. Obviously I wasn’t drafted, came through the back door of the NBA and end up signing — I call it a big deal with Memphis.”
Daniels played his biggest role of his career in Memphis last year, averaging 8.2 points per game in 18 minutes while shooting 37 percent overall and 39 percent from three-point range.
The 6-foot-4, 205 pound guard said he’s worked the last few summers on improving his off-the-dribble game, and McDonough expects he will prove as a perfect fit alongside backup point guard Tyler Ulis’ play-making.
“Troy is an elite three-point shooter,” the general manager said. “When Brandon got injured, we said, OK, it stinks, but we think we had enough depth. And then when Davon got injured, we said, ‘We need to bring in somebody else. We’re too light. We don’t want to put that burden on Eric Bledsoe, or Devin Booker or Tyler Ulis.'”
And if you were wondering about the beef between Daniels and Booker, well, there’s not one.
“It’s the heat of the moment and then it’s just basketball,” Daniels said. “Every player that’s played in the NBA has gone through that. You talk trash and stuff like that. I’m excited to be here, excited to get to know him as a person and get to play with him.
Added Booker: “We just crossed paths for the first time. Said ‘What’s up?’ to him, ‘Congrats on being here.’ He’s a competitor, we said what was said. At the end of the day as a man, you move on, you’re on the same team — he’s on the good side now. I think he’s a special player that will be a big help to our team.”
— Knight addressed his ACL injury: “Definitely not frustrated. It’s part of the process. Nobody wants to be injured but I always try to keep a positive mindset no matter what’s going on, whether it be injuries or not. Just try to take it day-by-day, control what I can control.
“For me it’s been a transition, trying to deal with different things,” he added. “Last year was, like I said, was a transition, something different (coming off the bench); this year being hurt with an ACL. For me, it’s about trying to make the best of the situation.”
— Ulis, who also underwent ankle surgery, is full-go in pickup games and said he is just working to get his wind back into shape.
— Forward Jared Dudley began running last week after undergoing toe surgery in June and said he’s not pressing to rush back with second-year pros Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss ready to go.
“I’m glad it happened now, so if I miss five to seven games we’ll be fine,” Dudley said.
— Alan Williams underwent surgery on Monday to repair a torn meniscus suffered last week. The team put his recovery timeline at six months.
— Reed on his knee injury. “When it happened, it was obviously a tough blow for me. I’m a firm believer in everything happens for a reason. A little over a month in, just making a lot of progress. So feeling good. I’m just going to go off when I feel 100-percent healthy, 100-percent ready.”