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Lecque flashes, Okobo stays aggressive in Suns’ summer league opener

Phoenix Suns guard Elie Okobo (2) in the first half during an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

LAS VEGAS — The Phoenix Suns’ summer league roster already took a hit when the team announced Saturday that rookies Cam Johnson and Ty Jerome would not participate.

That made it even worse when second-year player Ray Spalding didn’t play and Elie Okobo sat for the first half.

With former Texas Tech big Tariq Owens also out due to injury, that left the Suns with only former Auburn guard Jared Harper and undrafted free agent signing Jalen Lecque as notable names playing all four quarters.

Luckily for Suns fans, Lecque had his moments flashing his tantalizing potential while Okobo was aggressive in the time he played for a 105-100 win against the New York Knicks.

For those unfamiliar, Lecque is one of the bounciest players in this class.

Naturally, this will lead you to thinking of his leaping ability as a finisher at the rim.

Which, rightfully so.

But as Lecque showed on Sunday, that translates to his handle and explosion as a driver.

On this drive, there’s 1) the spin move, 2) the inside-out dribble combined with a hop step to get the angle and 3) the one-dribble finish from that spot.

“I just liked his aggressiveness,” Suns summer league head coach Willie Green said after the game.

In simpler terms, Lecque can blow past guys. And that’s only important if he’s willing to take on contact around the rim. Luckily, that willingness appears to be one of the defining traits of his game.

This is No. 3 overall pick R.J. Barrett defending Lecque, a two-guard with size and strength that Lecque still manages to finish through.

You can see it here defensively too.

“I’m just a physical player and passionate and aggressive,” Lecque said. “I just felt I needed to get the NBA feel and just getting the feel of being a pro.”

The Suns didn’t have Lecque bring the ball up, playing him with another ball-handler on most instances, a nod to how far he has to go as a point guard and the team’s depth at the position on the roster.

Some of the raw aspects of his game showed in decision-making but the Suns aren’t worried about that right now.

“He made some mistakes but we know those things are going to happen,” Green said of Lecque. “I want him to continue to be aggressive.”

“I think when he puts it all together it’s gonna be scary,” Green said.

Lecque finished with six points, four rebounds, two assists and a block in 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, Okobo returned in the second half after sitting for the first half. Green said after the game it was to get other players more opportunities.

For what it’s worth, Okobo was aggressive in the 12 minutes he played.

That’s a telling change for a player who, often times as a rookie, hesitated and looked more than willing to defer to others as he learned the point guard position.

That’s troubling for Okobo because of the skill he has as a scorer. He finished with seven points on seven shots.

Even though it wasn’t a positive result, it was good to see Okobo use the potential last possession of the game with the score tied by attacking the basket and not settling.

“I thought he was great,” Green said of Okobo. “He’s a floor general. We want him to be able to make the right passes on offense and play solid defense and he did that for the most part.”

The victory was in the team’s first game of summer league after Friday’s opener against the Denver Nuggets was canceled due to an earthquake.

LOOSE BALLS

— On a night where no players under contract played significant minutes for the Suns, an actual game broke out, going to overtime before the Suns pulled away. James Palmer Jr. had 23 points for Phoenix while Harper added 19 points with four assists.

For the Knicks, rookie second-round pick Ignas Brazdeikis scored a game-high 30 points while Barrett struggled for the second straight game, shooting 3-for-15 from the field. Brazdeikis was one of the 36 players known to have worked out for the Suns before the draft.

— Green said that Spalding, who was on the Suns’ roster at the end of last year, is expected to play at some point in Vegas after missing Sunday’s game.

Owens, on the other hand, he was more skeptical about.

The Suns are back in action on Tuesday against the Memphis Grizzlies at 4:30 p.m.

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