EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Suns wrap up Summer League play in Las Vegas with loss to Cavaliers

Aug 16, 2021, 5:57 PM | Updated: 6:09 pm
The Toronto Raptors and the New York Knicks play during the 2021 NBA Summer League at the Thomas &a...
The Toronto Raptors and the New York Knicks play during the 2021 NBA Summer League at the Thomas & Mack Center on August 8, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Phoenix Suns basketball will now be on hiatus. The team’s Summer League squad played its finale in Las Vegas on Monday, falling to the Cleveland Cavaliers 88-85.

As has been the story since the Suns’ third game, assistant coach Brian Randle’s team showed a sizable improvement after Phoenix’s initial two games. Monday didn’t mark three wins in a row to close the proceedings, but the style of play getting through to the players was there.

The team was moving through the system with more fluidity, particularly on offense, where there was a clearer understanding of the way the Suns like to play with quick decisions and plenty of movement.

Randle was not one to take credit, giving all of it to the players and the decision-makers beyond him.

“They came in here with a great mentality, and it’s a testament to (general manager) James Jones and (head coach) Monty (Williams),” Randle said. “What they’ve done and shown people I think how basketball can be played in a selfless way, in a way that everybody cares about the next guy and wants everybody to succeed. That’s what these guys did, they came in here and embodied that from day one. Really, it made my job easy. They were awesome.”

Forward/center Jalen Smith did not play in the game. It is typical for teams in Summer League to have their top talents sit out the last game or two, giving those guys enough run before others on the team have an opportunity to play more. No. 3 overall pick Evan Mobley did not play for Cleveland as well.

Center Kyle Alexander had arguably the best performance of any Summer Sun in Vegas, finishing with 18 points, 14 rebounds and three blocks on 8-of-12 shooting. He said after Saturday’s win that the Suns’ style of basketball is the most fun way to play, and you could see that rubbing off on him in a positive way.

“He just cares,” Randle said of Alexander’s play in Vegas. “There are guys that just care about the game. Everybody has a different reason for playing, a different need for playing, and I think Kyle just loves the game and he gives up himself.”

Alexander sounded like a guy who enjoyed his time being a member of the Suns when asked if he would welcome the opportunity to join them next season.

“Absolutely. If I got that opportunity it would be a blessing. Definitely,” he said. “I love this organization, I love what they represent and I love the style of play and this coaching staff. If this is any reflection of the coaching staff that continues into the organization, it would be an amazing place to thrive and to grow as a player, for sure.”

Guard Michael Frazier II added 17 points, as he and Alexander continued to separate themselves as the standouts on the Summer Suns beyond the two rostered players: Smith and Ty-Shon Alexander.

Phoenix still has an open two-way spot, and either guy showed enough to earn consideration for it. Even with the flaws that have them nearly in the league like many others, there’s clear potential in both to be NBA players.

The 24-year-old Kyle Alexander is undersized and has a bit of rigidness to his movement, but he’s also explosive, long and knows how to get to the basketball on both ends. Frazier, 27, has a good shooting stroke and the quickness to hang defensively, even though his dribble creation and size could be seen as a detriment. For both guys, another big or a wing fills a need on the back-end of the depth chart.

To go back to Smith and Ty-Shon Alexander, Williams said a few times last season how difficult the immediate transition was for those two without a Summer League and time to get acclimated before training camp. Since then, those two have had a full NBA season that took them all the way to the Finals, a Summer League and now get around six weeks before Year 2 kicks off.

Ty-Shon Alexander spoke on where they’re at headed into next season.

“Now, since we got a chance to learn, being able to have a feel for the game, I think we’re gonna come in and it’s just gonna be natural,” he said.

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