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Former Suns HC Earl Watson claims Sarver halted pursuit of Jayson Tatum

Phoenix Suns coach Earl Watson yells to his team during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City, Friday, Oct. 28, 2016. Oklahoma City won 113-110. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

A random blip from an unexpected source brought the Phoenix Suns back into the news cycle on Monday.

Boston Celtics All-Star wing Jayson Tatum said on Matt Barnes’ and Stephen Jackson’s All the Smoke podcast that he originally wanted to go to Phoenix in the 2017 NBA Draft.

Tatum wound up going third to the Celtics and the Suns selected Josh Jackson fourth overall.

After the video of Tatum’s inside info circulated on Twitter, Watson himself chimed in.

Now, it’s hard to understand what exactly Watson means. There’s clearly a ton of context missing, because Phoenix didn’t even have a chance to select Tatum fourth overall. Did Watson want to trade up for Tatum and Suns owner Robert Sarver shut it down?

Watson wasn’t busy and provided some.

As Watson mentions, the story goes of Celtics GM Danny Ainge flying from Boston to Sacramento to scout Jackson, who canceled his workout with the Celtics mid-flight. Ainge, who comedically complained that “there’s nothing to do in Sacramento,” had to return home after his pointless cross-country flight.

What we can safely interpret from Watson’s tweet is that Sarver was all-in on Jackson, which he confirmed later to The Athletic’s Jay King.

“I was pushing Tatum,” Watson said. “Like, we had to move up for Tatum, we had to get Tatum. And ownership chose Josh Jackson. … I knew the two players were dynamically different, but my vision was what’s the best fit for Devin Booker. Booker and Tatum, I think a combination like that right now would have been completely different than anything in the NBA at that age.”

Watson also confirmed it was Sarver that stopped Tatum’s workout with Phoenix.

He remembers Sarver saying of the Suns, “We do not need another Devin Booker.” The owner believed Tatum’s skills might too closely shadow Booker’s.”

“So the owner stops the drill and says, ‘That’s nice. What else can you do?’ I’m like, ‘What? What? The workout should be over. This is our guy.’”

Jackson flamed out in two seasons, with the Suns needing to attach assets to him in order to offload him last offseason.

Tatum, meanwhile, is one of the league’s bright young stars. In a post-Kyrie Irving era with the Celtics that many assumed would be led by star free agent signing Kemba Walker, it turned out the 22-year-old Tatum was ready to take the wheel.

He averaged 23.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.4 steals a game in his third season, all while being one of the NBA’s top defensive wings to boot.


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