Torrey Craig among Suns role players hitting stride ahead of playoffs

Mar 25, 2022, 4:26 PM | Updated: 4:38 pm
Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon, left, pulls in a pass as Phoenix Suns forward Torrey Craig def...

Denver Nuggets forward Aaron Gordon, left, pulls in a pass as Phoenix Suns forward Torrey Craig defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 24, 2022, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

It’s been like a pre-playoff checklist for the Phoenix Suns over the past few weeks.

Revive Landry Shamet’s confidence. Check.

Return Chris Paul to the court. Check.

Find Torrey Craig’s rhythm from a year ago. Check.

A trade-deadline move returned Craig to the team that he helped to the NBA Finals a year ago. After leaving Phoenix for the Indiana Pacers in the offseason, the 31-year-old’s first stint with a scuffling squad in his five-year NBA career perhaps gave him a perspective about what made the Suns a title contender a year ago and now.

“It’s been refreshing,” he said Friday while joining Arizona Sports’ Wolf & Luke. “It’s been refreshing, to say the least. Coming from Indiana and that situation back with the guys I played with last season … it’s just good to be back and picking up where we left off.”

But playing with the struggling Pacers compared to operating with a Suns team where roles are well-known was nonetheless a change.

Craig re-joined the Suns in mid-February, dealing with a shooting slump. In the past two weeks, he’s shot himself out of it thanks to a stretch that included two starts in place of power forward Jae Crowder.

Craig put together a two-game run against the Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls last week that included a 13-of-13 shooting performance.

He gave Phoenix that offensive boost in addition to his usual defensive energy that the forward self-deprecatingly points out as related to the frequency in which he’s “falling all over the court.”

“My role is to really do anything this team needs to do for us to be successful and win,” Craig told Wolf & Luke. “I wouldn’t say I have one specific role because our team is so unique that it can be a different role any given night.

“One night I might get 10 rebounds and two points and next night I might have 17 points and two rebounds.”

Helping the Suns secure the top seed throughout the playoffs on Thursday with a win against the Denver Nuggets, Craig knows to appreciate the locker room energy for a team that has gelled on the job and can enjoy one another off it.

The Suns have broadcasted their postgame shenanigans all year and have recently been posting Instagram live videos of their plane-boarding camaraderie.

“It’s a unique group man,” Craig said. “Bunch of guys that like to have fun off the court. On the court, we just come together. Some of the things we do pregame, running out, it’s organic, and it’s just funny and it’s fun.

“Everything that we run out and everybody kind of acts crazy and Mikal is running around making noises and Book is barking and the crowd is kind of like, the opposing crowd is kind of like booing and guys on other teams are looking down on us like, ‘What are you guys doing?’ It’s just having fun.”

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