EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Mikal Bridges, Kelly Oubre Jr. out for Suns’ preseason opener

Oct 7, 2019, 4:00 PM | Updated: Oct 8, 2019, 7:20 am
Kelly Oubre Jr. #3 and Mikal Bridges #25 of the Phoenix Suns look on against the Miami Heat during ...
Kelly Oubre Jr. #3 and Mikal Bridges #25 of the Phoenix Suns look on against the Miami Heat during the first half at American Airlines Arena on February 25, 2019 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns will be without their two best wings Mikal Bridges (knee) and Kelly Oubre Jr. (wrist) in Tuesday’s preseason opener against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the team announced Monday after practice.

Bridges and Oubre both did not fully practice at training camp in Flagstaff last week and both were limited on Monday back in Phoenix.

Oubre had a wrap on his injured right wrist in Flagstaff but that was no longer present at Sunday’s open practice and on Monday as well. The 23-year-old wing said his wrist started bothering him the day before team physicals and had it checked out then.

“My energy on media day was ‘I’m ready to get out here and hoop’ and then I had to kinda take a step back,” he said. “I feel like an animal locked in a cage kind of. I can’t wait till the regular season starts. We’re gonna break out for sure.”

While no information was given at training camp beyond discomfort for the two, the Suns released an injury update on Saturday, noting there was no timeline for either’s return and they would be re-evaluated in 7-10 days. Going on the longer timetable, that would be the 15th of October, the day after the Suns’ last preseason game at home against Denver. So, that means they could miss the whole preseason.

That likely elevates rookie Cam Johnson from a role where it wasn’t clear if he would get minutes right away to the starting lineup while Bridges and Oubre miss time.

Bridges and Oubre have both been present at practices, getting down Williams’ systems, and at least Oubre has been able to stay in full game shape because it’s not a lower-body injury like Bridges’. But as two of the five players figuring to play the most minutes on the team, it’s a definite speed bump for the start of the Suns’ season.

Johnson ran with the first unit in Flagstaff and is the only healthy wing on the roster, so get ready to see a lot of guard play in the preseason.

Phoenix has Tyler Johnson, Jevon Carter, Elie Okobo and Jalen Lecque all in the guard rotation behind Devin Booker and Ricky Rubio. Overextending the rotation to three guards seems more logical than stretching out Cheick Diallo, Frank Kaminsky or Dario Saric to small forward.

That presents a clunky dynamic for any part of the preseason the Suns are using to tinker and finetune rotations. That could carry over to the regular season and figuring those out quickly in-season last year plagued Igor Kokoskov. To be fair to Williams, he has a much more clear-cut group in terms of who should get minutes where and prior NBA head coaching experience.

Williams said his offense has a style that welcomes that, though, allowing players to play the same position as others at once.

“We could have three guards at the same time, and sometimes four, depending on the situation,” he said.

Again, it’s important to separate from the Suns from most teams that might not need these three weeks or so to get some things straightened out. Over half their roster is new and they’ve got a new head coach.

The good news from that is that Johnson sounds ready for the opportunity.

“Cam’s done a really good job in the first group,” Williams said. “We didn’t know that that was going to be a possibility before training camp but he’s done a great job with the first team. More than anything, his ability to guard and be in the right spot on defense has been surprisingly [good] for us. He’s done a good job.”

NOTES

– It sounded like Baynes is likely out on Tuesday but he is listed as questionable. He broke his nose in Thursday’s practice and had a procedure done on it Friday. His status is day-to-day.

– Lecque was listed on the same timeline as Oubre on the injury report but he was not listed on the Suns’ injury report for Tuesday.

– Guard David Kramer remains out due to a broken left leg. He is not on the Suns’ main roster.

– Former NBA head coach Avery Johnson was in attendance for practice. Johnson will surely be one of the many former and recognizable coaches to spend some time with Williams at Suns practices given Williams’ connections across the game. Johnson’s son played at Alabama under his dad and is friends with Booker.

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