Suns close camp, Jackson earns praise in Prescott Valley scrimmage
PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. – A week of two-a-days, the last of which included a drive from Flagstaff’s training camp to Prescott Valley that was extended 90 minutes by a bus breakdown, left the Phoenix Suns tired.
They arrived late to the Prescott Valley Event Center on Friday and rolled through a scrimmage of winding clocks and eight-minute quarters that came down to two made Alex Len free throws and a missed T.J. Warren three at the buzzer as the Black Team came away with a 52-51 win over the White Team.
And finally, the long week away from the Valley was over.
Derrick Jones Jr. earned coach Earl Watson’s vote for the most improved player throughout camp, but the man of the night was Josh Jackson. Thanks to the transportation delay earlier, Jackson came prepared.
“I slept the whole way,” Jackson said. “I woke up and we were here.”
Jackson scored 14 points and thrived in a game with lots of early offense and fastbreaking despite the tired legs.
“He’s a gamer,” Watson said. “We always knew workouts and practices he’ll play hard, but something about a game, he’ll take it to another level.”
Warren, who earlier in the week earned a four-year, $50 million extension, led both teams with 17 points. Devin Booker scored 15, and Len showed aggression on the boards while scoring 10 points.
“I think Alex Len has taken a major step forward,” Watson said. “(How) he’s been playing, it’s been everything we wanted.”
A ho-hum game in which the Black team led throughout grew into a back-and-forth affair late.
Tyler Ulis drew a backcourt charge on Eric Bledsoe, who disagreed with the call as the White team went on a 11-2 run to cut it to a 43-42 Black lead halfway through the fourth quarter. Booker attempted to take over, hitting a jumper for a go-ahead bucket late and later hitting two free throws to put White ahead again before Len’s game-winning free throws with 2.3 seconds left — Len was fouled on an elbow jumper by Marquese Chriss.
On Booker’s drawn foul, the Black team was hoping the officials would change the shot attempt to a pass as Booker drove to the hoop, to which Booker said, “I don’t pass the ball.”
Booker made the first free throw before Jackson attempted to force overtime.
“I was just asking him to miss the free throw,” Jackson said afterward.
Here were the rosters.
Tyson is the only heathy guy not playing. He and Dudley are warming up though. pic.twitter.com/WAwL8Ppwaw
— Kevin Zimmerman (@KZimmermanAZ) September 30, 2017
WOULD JACKSON ACCEPT A DUNK CONTEST INVITE?
Josh Jackson found himself in a bit of controversy when a quote taken out of a Vice Sports interview about Stephen Curry was plastered as a headline as if he’d taken a shot at the Warriors’ MVP. Watson referenced the misconstrued message in discussing Jackson’s own athleticism afterward.
“I think Josh Jackson should be in the dunk contest,” Watson said. “He is really athletic. I don’t know what he said earlier today, but I’ma say he’s pretty athletic.”
Jackson was quoted in a Bleacher Report article as saying Curry was “small and unathletic.”
Man y'all make a story out of anything 🤦🏾♂️😂 my definition of athletic is a guy who flies through the lane and plays above the rim 🤷🏾♂️
— Josh Jackson (@j_josh11) September 29, 2017
And y'all wonder why we don't like the media. Stop twisting people's words.
— Josh Jackson (@j_josh11) September 29, 2017
Watson’s suggestion that Jackson has the tools to end up in an NBA dunk contest didn’t land well with Jackson.
“No, I do not think I should be in the dunk contest this year,” Jackson said when told of Watson’s comments, suggesting he wouldn’t even accept an invite.
“I would say, ‘no.’ I think I’m a game dunker. I don’t think I got too many tricks up my sleeve.”
Jones Jr. wasn’t so sure.
“Josh is lying to y’all,” Jones Jr. said. “Don’t believe that.”
– Booker earned a stint at the beginning of the second half at point guard, but it wasn’t long enough to get more than a glimpse of his abilities there. He did, however, show well on defense. On defense, he was locked in and attempting to jump passing lanes and for one stretch was hounding Eric Bledsoe in the backcourt.
– Bender found himself in foul trouble for it being a running, eight-minute quarter clock. He crashed the boards, played his usual solid defense with strong backside communication but struggled to find shot opportunities when he found himself open. He passed on an open jumper, and when setting a screen, had to be reminded to roll to the rim. He did post up and finish with Jones. Jr. on his back.
– The rotation on Chriss’ jumper looked better than the shot-put-looking spin that came off his shot during summer league. He hit a jumper straightaway just inside the arc, hit a corner three and caught a lob from Booker.
– Jackson was first to reach double-digits, regularly getting to the basket early in shot-clocks and also doing a good job drawing fouls off the bounce. On one specific play, he powered his way through Warren for a dunk through contact.
First quarter score: Black 17, White 12
Second quarter score: Black 26, White 17
Third quarter score: Black 40, White 33