Kelly Oubre Jr.’s wave of good vibes, Valley Boyz movement return to Suns
PHOENIX — Kelly Oubre Jr. was not at his re-introduction press conference Tuesday to talk about the negotiations that got him back with the Phoenix Suns.
With two sides that sounded like they’d reach an agreement quickly leading up to Oubre’s restricted free agency, it was moderately surprising to see Oubre not signed to a new contract with the Suns until mid-July.
Oubre described the process as “great” but also “a little prolonged.”
Even with his short time in the Valley, we’ve all come to know Oubre for his unique, positive outlook and it was no different with this situation.
“I was blessed enough to be able to watch it happen,” he said. “Everything works out for the people who put the right energy into the world so everything worked out. I can’t complain — it’s been a great two weeks.”
A two-year deal worth $30 million suggests, as 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s John Gambadoro has reported, compromise from the two sides. Oubre’s side wanted a high dollar amount while the Suns weren’t willing to go there for more than two years.
Oubre got the bag and Phoenix avoided much risk by not “overpaying” Oubre on a long-term deal.
It’s a fascinating signing to judge from those optics, as Oubre is getting paid more than any other player for the intangibles and overall energy he provides. For a franchise in desperate need of a vibes change, players like Oubre become immensely more valuable.
General manager James Jones called Oubre a “big reason” for the team’s turnaround in the second half of the season during two different stretches when the Suns won five of seven games.
But that’s not being kind enough to the talent Oubre has as a player.
“He’s one of the reasons that I was excited about the job,” new head coach Monty Williams said of Oubre. “I loved his versatility from afar.”
Williams said the team will play fast with point guard Ricky Rubio and use their switchability defensively, somewhere the team can make the most of Oubre and Mikal Bridges playing the same position to use them together on the floor. Both of those things look to maximize a player like Oubre.
Williams said they will open training camp with everyone at their default position, and when Oubre was asked if he’s expecting to start, he said he’s ready to compete for the job.
It’s often overlooked how Oubre managed to not only change the locker room but also how quickly he adapted on the court. Now he has a full offseason and gets to gel more with the likes of Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Rubio and Bridges from the jump.
“Now we can really get to work because we can start from day one, working on good habits and continue those and buy in to what coach is saying,” he said. “That’s really the challenge. We’re all talented individually, but collectively together we can be something special.”
The playstyle of Oubre will naturally garner the adoration of fans but he’s gone a step further in Phoenix, building up the brand for the Suns’ restart and rebuild through youth with the Valley Boyz.
What started as a name Oubre workshopped with Ayton that he later put as his location on one Instagram post quickly exploded into the go-to hashtag and secondary name for the team.
To no surprise, there’s a message behind it for Oubre.
“It’s just been a beautiful thing to see because that’s the whole city of Phoenix — we’re all Valley Boyz and Girlz. It’s not just the team, it’s a community of people riding behind us at the end of the day,” he said. “And we’ll feel that support and the Valley Boyz will continue to grow because we will continue to get better.”
Call it a cheap gimmick if you hate fun but even the snobbiest of snobs can’t deny there’s an undeniable wave Oubre brings with him through his personality and it’s only strengthened by the relentless way he goes about playing basketball.
That, more than his career-best numbers with Phoenix, was why it was a no-brainer to have Oubre back in Phoenix.
“I’m a Valley Boy, though,” he said. “That’s all I gottta say.”