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Report: Former Hornets, Pelicans GM Jeff Bower may get “high ranking” job with Suns

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The Suns have a couple nice young players — Devin Booker is legit (don’t believe the haters), Deandre Ayton has potential, Kelly Oubre Jr. appears a good fit, guys like T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson might have roles — but the team needs a direction and a better-rounded roster. After firing GM Ryan McDonough at an odd time, then replacing him with an odder combo of people, Suns owner Robert Sarver is looking for the guy to give his team that direction.

Jeff Bower may be that guy, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver has become focused on the candidacy of former Detroit and New Orleans general manager Jeff Bower to assume a high-ranking front-office role with the Suns, league sources told ESPN on Saturday.

Sarver has begun to inform other serious candidates that he’s retreating from them and moving toward a hiring that could be complete early next week, league sources told ESPN.

The idea is to have Bower guide James Jones, the current GM, who would keep his position and have trade power. Officially Bower would be a consultant, although he would have leverage.

This could be a good hire.

Bower has been around NBA front offices for decades and is well respected. Most recently he was the GM and day-to-day guy in Detroit under Stan Van Gundy (but Van Gundy had the hammer on deals and team direction). Before that, he was the Hornets GM where he made some wise draft picks — Chris Paul, David West, Baron Davis — but was squeezed by the odd ownership transfer there.

The biggest challenge for Bower if he gets the job? Keeping Sarver out of basketball operations. Saver has a reputation as a meddling owner who steps in over the basketball people to make calls on players and personnel. This is the owner who unleashed a bunch of goats in McDonough’s office without telling him (and those goats did what goats do, ate everything and defecated). Among the interesting tidbits along those lines is this note from Wojnarowski’s story.

Jones had sat in on interviews, along with Arizona Cardinals All-Pro receiver Larry Fitzgerald, league sources said.

Fitzgerald? Well, it’s a Sarver team. Bower would have his hands full.

Three Things to Know: Devin Booker tells fan he’s going for 50, then does it

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Devin Booker tells a courtside fan he’s going for 50, then does it… just ignore how the Suns keep losing. Devin Booker had 30 points in the first half against Washington, and told a fan sitting courtside “I’m going for 50.”

Then he did.

At age 22, Phoenix’s Devin Booker has become the youngest player in NBA history with back-to-back 50 point games — after dropping 59 on the Jazz Monday, he turned around Wednesday night and had 50 more against the Wizards.

Only nine other players in NBA history have had consecutive 50-point games and it’s some impressive company: James Harden, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Bernard King, Antawn Jamison, Allen Iverson, Rick Barry, Wilt Chamberlain and Elgin Baylor.

Booker has three 50-point games in his career — and has become the first player in NBA history to lose his first three of those games.

The latest loss came because Washington’s Thomas Bryant hit the game-winner with 2.8 seconds left after taking the pass from a triple-teamed Bradley Beal.

The Suns are an objectively bad basketball team — even with Booker entertaining us — that has a bottom 10 offense and a defense that is even worse. There is some potential there with Booker, the addition of Kelly Oubre Jr. on the wing, plus Deandre Ayton putting up numbers in the paint and improving defensively. Other players such as T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson might fill roles on the team.

The Suns need more talent. And a direction/identity. The question is who is going to have the job of bringing in that talent and setting the course? Suns owner Robert Saver fired GM Ryan McDonough at an odd time in the calendar, then replaced him with the confusing duo of James Jones and Trevor Bukstein. The Suns are looking for a new GM — hopefully one that can manage the melding Sarver, although good luck with that — and what that ultimately means for the fate of coach Igor Kokoskov is unknown.

The only thing we know is Booker is putting on a heck of a show.

If he can average 35.2 points per game over the Suns’ final six (211 total points) he will pass Tom Chambers for the highest single-season scoring average in franchise history. It’s an entertaining thing for Suns fans to watch while ignoring the losses.

2) Thunder use a 24-0 third-quarter run to beat Pacers on a night Paul George drops 31. Indiana was the better team in this Wednesday night matchup, moving the ball, defending well, generally looking like more of a team…

Except for one 6:45 stretch of the third quarter. But that stretch was a 24-0 Oklahoma City run that defined the game.

The Pacers shot 0-of-14 in that stretch while the Thunder got 4-of-5 shooting inside from Steven Adams. Paul George had seven of his 31 on the night during the run.

The Thunder needed the win, having lost 4-of-5 coming in. The victory keeps them as the seven seed in the bunched-up West, just one game back of five-seed Utah. The Thunder are now three back of the four-seed Rockets and home court in the first round of the playoffs, but with seven games remaining OKC is not going to make up that ground.

What the Thunder need is to get some momentum and find their groove again — led by Paul George playing like an MVP again — heading into the playoffs. That third-quarter stretch helped with that.

3) Mike Conley makes history, becomes Grizzlies all-time leading scorer. Mike Conley is going to go down as the greatest Grizzly ever. Some day his jersey will hang in the rafters of the FedEx Forum.

On Wednesday night he made a little history. With a catch-and-shoot corner three in the second quarter, Conley scored his 11,687th point as a member of the Grizzlies moving him past Marc Gasol on Memphis’ all-time scoring list.

Conley is all over the Grizzlies’ record books. He is also the Memphis all-time leader in assists, three-pointers, steals, and games played. Only two other players lead a franchise in all those categories: LeBron James (Cavaliers) and Reggie Miller (Pacers).

Conley’s name is going to come up in a lot of trade discussion this summer and Memphis has gone all-in on a rebuild, but whatever happens he will forever be associated with the Grizzlies and that franchise.

Suns finally, mercifully, end 18-game losing streak to Warriors

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Devin Booker scored 13 straight Phoenix points during a decisive fourth-quarter stretch and finished with 37, and the Suns snapped the NBA’s longest active losing streak to one opponent at 18 games by beating the Golden State Warriors 115-111 on Sunday night.

The Suns beat Golden State for the first time since a 107-95 victory on Nov. 9, 2014, and earned their first road win in 20 tries against the Western Conference this season.

Klay Thompson‘s two free throws with 1:04 to go made it 111-108. Andre Iguodala secured a rebound after two missed Suns shots but Stephen Curry missed on a 3 with 23 seconds left. Booker then converted two free throws.

Booker’s jumper with 5:01 to play put the Suns ahead, then he made it 102-98 on a 3-pointer at 4:45. Booker hit a fadeaway at the 4:04 mark then scored on a driving one-handed dunk after Phoenix pushed in transition after Curry’s turnover.

Kevin Durant had 25 points before leaving with a bruised right ankle midway through the fourth on a night his teammates struggled from near and far. The cold-shooting Warriors couldn’t overcome Booker’s late onslaught in losing to lowly Phoenix.

Booker was 13 for 23, made all nine of his free throws and also dished out 11 assists for the Suns in a back-to-back and their fourth win in five games.

Splash Brothers Curry and Thompson were a combined 16 of 42 – 8 of 30 on 3s after a 4-for-22 start – and the Warriors went 10 of 43 from beyond the arc.

Curry started 0 for 5 and missed his initial four 3-point tries before connecting from deep 4:35 before halftime and finished with 18 points on 6-of-20 shooting.

Thompson made his first four shots and appeared poised for another shooting gem to follow up his 39-point, nine 3-pointer performance in Friday’s 122-105 win against Denver. He still scored 28 points, going 10 of 22.

Kelly Oubre Jr. added 22 points with four 3s for the Suns, who held a 49-47 rebounding advantage.

Phoenix coach Igor Kokoskov knew limiting turnovers would be a key to the Suns staying in the game. They committed just eight but had a three-game winning streak snapped Saturday at Portland.

The Suns played only 21 hours, 30 minutes later with the Daylight Saving Time change.

The Warriors jumped to a 12-3 lead, getting a pair of quick 3s and a baseline drive and dunk from Thompson before a Phoenix timeout at the 7:56 mark. But Golden State’s lead was just 57-56 at halftime.

TIP-INS

Suns: Booker received a technical with 1:27 left in the third out of frustration on a no-call. … F T.J. Warren missed his 19th consecutive game with right ankle soreness. … Phoenix is 6-29 on the road overall.

Warriors: Draymond Green contributed 11 rebounds and eight assists. … Thompson played his 600th career regular-season game – the 11th player in Warriors history to do so. His 102 postseason games are most ever for any Golden State player. … Thompson had six of his team’s 16 turnovers.

PRACTICE FACILITY

On Monday, the Warriors will announce their plans for continuing to utilize the current practice facility in downtown Oakland at team headquarters after the franchise moves its operation across the bay to San Francisco before next season.

Part of it will include expanded opportunities and activities for youth basketball camps and further community outreach.

UP NEXT

Suns: Host Jazz on Wednesday night.

Warriors: At Houston on Wednesday night.

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Suns and Magic combine to shoot 0-for-14 down the stretch (video)

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T.J. Warren hit a floater with to give the Suns a 122-120 lead over the Magic with 3:15 left in overtime last night.

Neither team scored again.

After Warren’s game-winner, Phoenix and Orlando combined to shoot 0-for-14 with three turnovers. It was the perfect combination of bad offense, good defense and luck.

With the Suns outscoring the Magic 4-2, this was the lowest-scoring overtime since Phoenix outscored the Spurs 5-1 in in 2013. Phoenix’s four points were the fewest by a team to win an overtime since the Celtics outscored the Hawks 4-2 in 2012.

Suns executive James Jones: Focus has shifted to NBA players, not draft

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The Suns are 7-24.

At least they’ll get a prime draft pick to add young talent to grow with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. That’s Phoenix best path toward meaningful success.

Or…

Suns front-office chief James Jones, via Arizona Sports 98.7:

“Yeah, we have to worry about what happens in the draft but our primary focus is on this team currently and what we can do,” he told 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Burns & Gambo on Wednesday. “We have a bunch of young players in this draft. We’ve been deep in the draft, we’ve drafted a lot of players over the years and our focus has shifted more to development of these players and looking at NBA players that we possibly can add to this team.”

“We shifted focus,” Jones said. “I think in the past our primary focus — a great amount of our time was spent turning over every stone as it relates to players and college players, but college players don’t win NBA games. NBA players do, so that’s where our focus is now.”

I get why the Suns want to be done with the draft. This will be Phoenix’s ninth straight season outside the playoffs. That should have provided enough lottery picks to stock the roster.

But since 2011, the Suns have gotten Markieff Morris, Kendall Marshall, Alex Len, T.J. Warren, Devin Booker, Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss, Josh Jackson, Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges from the lottery. That’s not good enough.

Phoenix is still multiple steps from winning. Trying to shortcut the process will only push the goal further away. That type of thinking is what led to misguided signings like Trevor Ariza, Tyson Chandler and Jared Dudley. The Suns should be realistic about where they are in team-building.

And maybe they are. Perhaps, Jones is just saying what he thinks should be said. The Suns are trying to sell tickets and secure taxpayer funding for arena upgrades, after all.

But this also might be Phoenix’s actual approach. Suns owner Robert Sarver is notoriously impatient. After Jones’ comments, the Suns traded Ariza to the Wizards without getting a draft pick (netting only Kelly Oubre).

The best thing the Suns can do is nail their upcoming high first-round pick. That should be their primary focus.

Jones saying otherwise ought to terrify Phoenix fans.