EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Suns sit Paul, Booker, Crowder in preseason loss to Kings

Oct 4, 2021, 10:17 PM | Updated: Oct 5, 2021, 9:43 am

It’s easy to forget preseason results because, well, they’re preseason results. The Phoenix Suns went 0-4 in the preseason last year before a run to the NBA Finals, a valuable lesson in not taking much stock in those outings.

Monday marked the start of the 2021-22 preseason for Phoenix, and it was another loss, 117-106 to the Sacramento Kings.

With the league instituting its second straight short offseason and the Suns coming off the deepest playoff run in the West, there is certainly a possibility that head coach Monty Williams will have to manage his team a little differently this year.

It was no surprise to see 36-year-old Chris Paul or 31-year-old Jae Crowder sit out Monday’s loss, and ditto for Devin Booker, who just got to training camp on Thursday after coming down with COVID-19.

The other two traditional starters, Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton, played the entire first quarter but did not return.

Williams gave about the answer you’d expect and want when asked how he thought the night went for his team.

“I did like how hard we played,” he said. “I think we have to get better in our conditioning for sure and that’s what these games are about. Getting that kind of rhythm, getting a level of conditioning that gets you ready to play 82 games and I did like the way the ball moved at times.”

New guard Landry Shamet was one of the main standouts. While he’s mostly been a shooter through three years in the NBA, Shamet showed in Sacramento that his on-ball prowess from college could help the Suns out this season.

Shamet was not just a two-guard on the floor starting opposite point guard Cam Payne, as he ran a handful of the Suns’ actions, including a few successful ones headed by his dribble penetration and interior passing.

Williams said that type of versatility could have Shamet playing alongside Paul, Booker or Payne

“We were just talking in the back, we may be able to play Chris, Landry and Book at times because they all know how to play without the ball and they know how to play with the ball,” the coach said. “My hope for Landry is that we can utilize more of his game … We saw him tonight play off the dribble, his passing in the paint was really good tonight and then defensively he has an understanding of what we’re trying to do.”

And, you know, he can shoot it still too.

Shamet had 13 points, two rebounds, three assists and two steals in 21 minutes.

Second-year big Jalen Smith was unsurprisingly the leader in minutes played at 32 and was able to have a productive night with 13 points and 11 rebounds.

“He played extremely hard tonight,” Williams said. “He didn’t make a number of shots that were open but I like the fact that he wasn’t afraid to take those shots.”

Williams interestingly said that Smith looked more comfortable at center than power forward. That’s the position Smith has played his whole life, and the Suns picked him at 10th overall in the 2020 NBA Draft as a project of sorts to mold into a 4.

On top of that process for Smith, Williams mentioned how difficult it can be to defend on the perimeter with more screens, switching and so on. Williams had Smith on the floor with Frank Kaminsky, who would normally be the 5, but put Smith at center after he spent some time earlier in the game playing the 4.

“When he’s at the 5, he’s pretty effective,” Williams said of Smith, complimenting his rim running, rebounding and pick-and-roll coverage.

McGee had a nice showing, making himself a nice lob target while also completing a nice dribble-drive and also finding Cam Johnson with a sweet bounce pass.

He finished with 10 points and two rebounds in 11 minutes.

It was your ho-hum preseason affair with the Suns not looking like themselves all that much offensively. They had 16 turnovers, and Payne, in particular, was struggling with getting a bit too sped up. In the fourth quarter once the game was wrapped up, Phoenix was able to get up to 24 assists, but the quick ball movement and fluid motion of Williams’ 0.5 offense weren’t there all that much. As to be expected in the preseason with new bodies in.

The Kings played just about all their key guys and had a good night, holding a double-digit lead for the majority of the game. Harrison Barnes led the way with 18 points and Marvin Bagley III added 15 points.

It’s a quick turnaround for the Suns, as they’ll come back home and face the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday afternoon. That’s a 3 p.m. tip-off due to the doubleheader of the Phoenix Mercury’s playoff game happening afterward.

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