EMPIRE OF THE SUNS
Paris Bass’ NBA journey with Suns one of many to come to fruition this season
PHOENIX — During a Phoenix Suns loss to the Celtics in Boston, a few fans were heckling Suns forward Emanuel Terry, a story retold by TNT’s Chris Haynes.
Terry is one of a few signings by the Suns this year through the 10-day hardship exemption and among the dozens that have helped the league maintain healthy enough rosters during a December in which the NBA had a COVID-19 outbreak. Suns point guard Chris Paul addressed the fans and told them to respect Terry because guys like him are the reason the league is able to get through this season.
Stories like that are an example of how fans should not only be grateful for these players but also a reminder that a lot of these names are guys getting a chance to live out their NBA dreams. There’s a story of resiliency behind every name, which is where we arrive at forward/center Paris Bass.
Bass, 26, spent three years at Detroit-Mercy in the Horizon League before going undrafted and having a year in the G League. From there, he played professionally in Italy, Taiwan, the Dominican Republic, and most recently, Puerto Rico the last two seasons. In October, he came back to the United States and wanted to go the G League route again.
“Not getting any younger,” Bass said Friday of the decision.
Bass tried out for the South Bay Lakers, the Lakers’ G League affiliate, six days after coming home and was one of three players to make the team via tryout. He went on to impress with 17.9 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, making the All-Showcase team for the G League’s Winter Showcase in December.
That helped earn him a 10-day with the Suns on Dec. 31, a landing spot in the league after quite the road to get there.
“This journey, hard work … Look at where we are now,” Bass said.
That week, Bass got a heads up from his agent that an NBA move was a possibility and then went to South Bay’s practice. It got cut short, and the Lakers’ head coach told the team Bass wouldn’t be with them for a while.
“Everybody was like [gasps]. Like, what happened? What did he do? I was like, ‘Yo, what did I do!?'” Bass said with a laugh. “He was like, ‘Nah, he got called up to the Phoenix Suns.’ That was a moment I will never forget.”
Bass’ moment closed out a difficult year for him in which he lost his father, with the anniversary of his death on Feb. 1, not far off from when Bass made his NBA debut on Jan. 2.
“This is right around the time where he died, so life is crazy,” Bass said.
“It’s just a blessing. God works in mysterious ways,” he added.
Bass has got game. At 6-foot-8, he possesses some size and is active around the basket but what makes him unique is his handle. He will have a go at defenders off the dribble and can finish while also being able to stretch the floor as a shooter.
Paris Bass has a fun and unique game. Does some energy big stuff but really likes to handle it and drive. Nice catch-and-shoot 3 w/ space too. pic.twitter.com/YmK0faNeRo
— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) December 31, 2021
That scoring package had Bass lead Puerto Rico’s Baloncesto Superior Nacional (BSN) league in scoring for both of his seasons there. As we’ve seen in Phoenix with Frank Kaminsky and Dario Saric, a player with size that is a playmaker off the bounce can be a huge benefit to an offense.
Bass was born and raised in Birmingham, Michigan, a northern suburb of Detroit. Take about a two-hour drive west and that’s where Suns All-Star guard Devin Booker was born and raised, Grand Rapids.
Booker grew up there until moving to Moss Point, Mississippi, in high school. There’s only a one-year age difference between the two, and they actually nearly played against one another in a basketball camp when Bass was around 17 years old.
Bass’ team was playing on one court and Booker’s the other, with the winners of those two courts facing off in the next round. Bass’ team came up short while Booker’s advanced, so Bass never got to play against Booker, but had seen him from afar. Nearly a decade later, they are NBA teammates.
When the Suns were heading out from New Orleans after a win over the Pelicans on Tuesday, Booker noticed that Bass had a pair of “Buffs” on, a moniker the locals have for a Cartier line of sunglasses that are popular in the Detroit hip-hop scene.
“I did see him with his Buffs on … I figured he was from the Detroit area and we spoke about it briefly,” Booker said Friday.
Booker said that he’s been impressed by Bass opening up more throughout the process and taking what he can get in his court time at the end of two different games.
In the closing minutes of Thursday’s victory in Phoenix against the Los Angeles Clippers, Bass was fouled with 1:07 left and knocked down two free throws for his first NBA points.
When the game was over, Paul, one of the greatest players of his generation and best point guards of all-time, made sure in the postgame locker room to get the game ball for Bass to commemorate the moment.
You can imagine how much that means to someone like Bass.
“It was amazing, man. I didn’t even see it coming,” Bass said of getting the ball. “We were about to huddle up and say everything and he was like, ‘Hold on, wait, wait! Here’s the game ball, here’s your first point.’ I was like, ‘Wow, appreciate you, boss.’
“This is all surreal stuff that’s going on, man. For this to happen in almost a year’s span since my dad died, it’s crazy.”
As Booker mentioned, Bass has been trying to pick up everything he can from his teammates during this time.
“It’s a learning experience. You learn something new every day from basketball,” Bass said. “I try to pick brains, pick the veterans’ brains anytime I can, asking questions if I need help.”
Bass’ mindset throughout this whole journey comes back to the respect Paul demanded for Terry and others. Bass wants to prove he deserves to play at this level.
“I’m just trying to make people believe,” he said. “Make sure that they know I belong here.”