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Suns’ Frank Kaminsky took on veteran role with C Deandre Ayton

(Photo by Kim Klement - Pool/Getty Images)

Suns center/power forward Frank Kaminksy finished his fifth NBA season in 2020.

Over those five years, the center has played in 300-plus games and has spent time with both the Charlotte Hornets and Suns.

So while he doesn’t see himself “as a vet yet,” that hasn’t stopped Kaminsky for using the knowledge he’s picked up over his five NBA seasons to improve the young guys around him. Especially fellow big man Deandre Ayton.

“I feel like I’m one of the older guys on the team, which is really weird because we have a really young team,” the 27-year-old Kaminsky told Arizona Sports’ Doug & Wolf on Wednesday. “As far as Deandre, I just try to keep his head in the right place. I try to give him advice. Things that I learned, things that I know.

“When you’ve been in the league for five years you’re able to start to see things from a different perspective. When you’re young and all you think about is basketball, basketball, basketball. … He’s learning so much and I feel like I have an opportunity to pass on some of my advice to him and hopefully keep him on the right path.”

The advice seems to be rubbing off on the young center.

In the Suns’ impressive 8-0 bubble run to end the COVID-19-impacted regular season, Ayton and All-Star guard Devin Booker provided the one-two punch.

The center averaged 15 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.9 assists. He played an average of 30 minutes per contest, knocked down 53.4% (55-of-103) of his shots and was 30% (3-of-10) from beyond the arc. That paired well with Booker’s 30.5 points, 6.0 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game. He was also a force on the defensive end, recording seven blocks over the final eight games.

As much as Kaminsky can aid in Ayton’s growth, the center/power forward understands the former Arizona Wildcat is the only person who can elevate his own game. But from the sound of it, Ayton’s taken that to heart as he prepares for his third year in the NBA.

“You can see it in the summer workouts, he’s already taken big steps forward,” Kaminsky said. “He’s working on getting stronger, he’s working on expanding his range, but he already does so many good things as a basketball player. He’s so good defensively, he can change so many shots. He always gives a lot of effort. He’s got a high motor, he does a lot of great things.

“It’s just kinda up to him to see how far he can expand it. I believe in him and I think he’s going to be an All-Star for a lot of years. He’s going to be the guy that can potentially be the Defensive Player of the Year multiple times. When you have that potential when you’re 22 years old it’s kinda on him to see where he can take it but I see how hard he works and I see how much effort he puts into it and I know he’s going to get himself there.”

The bubble put Ayton, Booker and the Suns in the national spotlight more than ever this season. An undefeated record will do that to a team.

The recognition of Phoenix and its stars is appreciated, but it’s what Kaminsky saw from the team, both the young guns and the vets, that really has him giddy to see what the future holds.

“A lot of it has to do with a lot of the young guys taking big steps forward,” Kaminsky said of the team’s success in the bubble. “You can learn a lot in your first season of the NBA when you finally have that time to sit down and decompress and kinda go right back into the season. It’s a good learning opportunity and obviously being in the bubble was just about basketball.

“Every day was learning, preparation, practice, getting back on the courts. I think a lot of people progressed and spent a lot of time together so we were pretty much forced to learn each other better. That just gives you a heightened sense of excitement going into next season, knowing what we know now and what we can do when we really prepare like we did in the bubble and play the way we did in the bubble.”


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