Jon Leuer a slamming success in Phoenix Suns preseason debut
PHOENIX — Two hours prior to the Phoenix Suns’ preseason home opener, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on the main plaza officially opening the doors to the renamed Talking Stick Resort Arena.
A short time later, Jon Leuer christened the building with a thunderous one-handed slam dunk over Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins.
Never mind that the Suns won, 102-98, or Leuer had 17 points, sharing team-high scoring honors with T.J. Warren, the play of the game occurred at 3:17 of the second quarter, electrifying the 12,033 in attendance and bringing the entire Suns bench to their feet.
Catching the long outlet pass from Ronnie Price, Leuer took one dribble at the foul line, elevated off his left foot and in one motion with his right hand brought the ball high above his head and down through the basket giving no regard for the outstretched arm of Cousins, setting off an ovation normally reserved for regular season play.
“I saw DeMarcus coming and I just tried to go up as hard as I could because I know he’s a big guy and a good athlete,” Leuer said. “Just fortunate I came out on the right end of it.”
Leuer, acquired from Memphis on draft night, made quite the first impression.
His dunk highlighted an 11-4 run to give the Suns a 44-42 lead.
“I haven’t seen that since I’ve been here. It was aggressive,” Tyson Chandler said. “I was surprised he was able to do that.”
Leuer shot 6-of-8 from the field, including one three-pointer, and 4-of-5 from the foul line. He also grabbed 13 rebounds, seven in the second quarter.
“That’s what I feel like I can bring to this team is just versatility and shooting the ball, putting the ball on the floor, making plays for myself, my teammates; rebounding, defense, just try to do a little bit of everything,” Leuer said.
Added head coach Jeff Hornacek, “Jon has played well all training camp. He’s out there trying to earn minutes. That’s how Jon plays. He’s just solid. He does the right things.”
Leuer and Warren plus fellow reserves Alex Len (six points and seven rebounds), Devin Booker (six points), Mirza Teletovic (five points) and Sonny Weems (two points) helped pull the Suns out of an early 16-point deficit.
“They need to get some work,” Hornacek said, referring to starters Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, P.J. Tucker, Markieff Morris and Chandler. “We stressed pressure defense — get after guys. We started off the game, gave them four 3-pointers that were half-contested. The first group, they’ll get better, but the bench guys came in and really played hard. We’re going to need that all year.”
Bledsoe and Knight combined for 16 points; Morris had six points on 2-of-13 shooting, six rebounds and two blocks; Chandler four points and four rebounds; Tucker did not score but filled the stat sheet with three rebounds, two assists and two steals.
Hornacek used a 15-man rotation with only Kyle Casey and Cory Jefferson not seeing any action.