Chase Budinger: I always wanted to be a Phoenix Sun

Mar 8, 2016, 4:23 PM | Updated: Mar 9, 2016, 12:52 pm
Indiana Pacers forward Chase Budinger dribbles the basketball against the Charlotte Hornets in the ...
Indiana Pacers forward Chase Budinger dribbles the basketball against the Charlotte Hornets in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Feb. 26, 2016, in Indianapolis. Charlotte won 96-95. (AP Photo/R Brent Smith)
(AP Photo/R Brent Smith)
LISTEN: Chase Budinger, Suns' Forward

For Chase Budinger, joining the Phoenix Suns is a bit of a homecoming.

Though he grew up in California, the forward played his college basketball in Tucson at the University of Arizona before embarking on a professional career that took him to Houston, Minnesota and Indiana before his latest stop.

The 27-year-old was waived by the Pacers on March 5, and after going unclaimed, chose to sign with the Suns.

“It feels great to be back in Arizona and it feels great to be back around these fans that I thoroughly enjoyed when I was down at UofA,” he told Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday.

Budinger comes to Phoenix after averaging 4.4 points and 2.5 rebounds in 15 minutes per game for the Pacers this season. For his career, he has averaged 8.1 points and 3.1 rebounds in 20 minutes per night.

Three times he has averaged more than nine points per game, and he’s connected on 35 percent of his 3-point attempts.

While not a star, the former second-round pick has been serviceable throughout his career and had some options when it came to his next stop.

So, why Phoenix?

“I just felt that it was the best opportunity for me and I just always wanted to be a Phoenix Sun, pretty much,” he said. “I’ve always said in my career that this is a place that I would love to play, and this was the opportunity for me.”

As a junior in Tucson for a team that reached the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16, Budinger averaged 18 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. The 6-foot-7, 209-pound player has excellent athleticism, as was evidenced by his participation in the 2012 NBA All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk Contest.

How he fits in with the Suns, who are 17-46, remains to be seen, but Budinger believes he’s at his best working from the 3-point line-in.

“I definitely feel that getting 3-point shots is one of my strengths,” he said. “But also getting out in transition, getting some easy dunks and some layups. And also coming off of pin-down curls and making plays that way.”

Budinger seemingly ran out of chances to display his talents in Indiana, so there’s an understandable excitement about a new environment that will bring opportunity.

Given the Suns’ record, it would not be a shock if Budinger — who is signed for the rest of the season — gets a long look from the organization as it tries to figure out if the veteran can be part of the team’s future.

At the same time, Budinger will have a chance to learn more about the organization as he looks to continue his career.

“There’s no promises or anything like that, but I definitely feel that that’s what both sides are looking at,” he said. “Like I said, this is somewhere where I’d love to play for and become a home base, and this is a chance for them to get a look at me and see how I fit within their style and their offense and their chemistry with the players.

“That’s what the rest of this season is going to be.”

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Chase Budinger: I always wanted to be a Phoenix Sun