Tagged in: Suns

Phoenix Suns, coach Monty Williams agree to long-term extension

The Phoenix Suns and Monty Williams, the NBA’s reigning coach of the year, have agreed on a long-term contract extension, sources told ESPN on Saturday.

Williams, who was voted the National Basketball Coach’s Association’s coach of the year in consecutive seasons, had two years left on his original five-year deal, and now moves under contract for several more years.

Williams’ impact on the Suns’ organization has been deep, including a trip to the 2021 NBA Finals and a franchise-record 64 regular-season victories last season.

Williams has gone 149-78 (.656) in his three seasons and delivered accountability and purpose to a wayward Suns’ program, transforming a team that had won 19 matches prior to his arrival into one of the league’s best teams.

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The Suns last season joined the 1969-70 New York Knicks as the only teams to finish with a better road victory percentage than every other team’s home victory percentage in a season.

The Suns were 47-0 when leading after three quarters — the best in the shot-clock era.

The only two other teams that went undefeated in that scenario in the regular season both included LeBron James — the 2017-18 Cleveland Cavaliers and the 2019-20 Los Angeles Lakers.

Among the Suns’ regular-season dominance last season: a franchise-record 18-game winning streak and three separate winning streaks of nine-plus games in a season when the rest of the NBA had a combined four streaks of nine or more victories.

The Suns were the only team to rank in the top five in offensive and defensive efficiency and went 33-9 in clutch-time games — the best record in such situations in the NBA since the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors.

Despite the league-best and franchise-record 64 victories, the Suns were blown out in a Game 7 at home to the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals.

Phoenix reached the NBA Finals in 2021, losing in six games to the Milwaukee Bucks. Through the past season, Williams’ leadership was tested by the distractions of an NBA investigation into owner Robert Sarver’s behavior, stemming from an ESPN investigation.

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Dallas Mavericks land free-agent center JaVale McGee for 3 years

The Dallas Mavericks and center JaVale McGee have agreed to a three-year deal worth $20.1 million, sources told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.

The deal includes a player option for the third season, sources said.

McGee enjoyed arguably the best season of his career as the backup center and stopgap starter on a dominant Phoenix Suns team last season, averaging near career highs in points and rebounds on a per-minute basis.

He proved to be a key depth piece for Phoenix after the Suns lost Frank Kaminsky for the season with a knee injury and saw Deandre Ayton miss several matches.

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McGee gives Dallas some much-needed rim protection and a big lob-threat target for Luka Doncic.

McGee joins Christian Wood as the second frontcourt addition Dallas made this offseason after getting crushed on the boards by Golden State in the Western Conference finals.

McGee told ESPN he expects to be the Mavs’ starting center. “I saw some opportunities out there where I was like, ‘Oh yeah, if they had a rolling big, they could dominate in a different aspect,'” McGee said of choosing Dallas and playing with Doncic.

Entering his 15th campaign in the NBA, McGee has been a part of three championship teams — two with the Golden State Warriors (2017, 2018) and one with the Los Angeles Lakers (2020).

He is also reuniting with Mavs head coach Jason Kidd, who was on Frank Vogel’s staff during L.A.’s run to the title. A pure rim-rolling center, McGee has averaged 1.5 blocks while shooting 57.6% from the field for his career.

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Booker scores 28, Suns rout Mavericks 110-80 for 3-2 lead

Devin Booker scored 28 points, Deandre Ayton added 20 and the Phoenix Suns defeated the Dallas Mavericks 110-80 on Tuesday night to take a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference semifinals.

The Suns used a huge third quarter to turn a tight game into a comfortable victory. Phoenix opened up the second half on an 11-4 run, highlighted by Booker’s two 3-pointers, for a 61-50 lead.

Mavs coach Jason Kidd called for a timeout, but it did little to stop the onslaught. The Suns led 82-60 going into the fourth with Booker pouring in 12 points during the third.

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While the Suns were finally finding some offensive continuity, the Mavs completely lost theirs, scoring just four points in the first six minutes of the third.

At times, the Dallas offense regressed to mostly watching Luka Doncic try and work magic, but he couldn’t do it all by himself.

The Mavs had 12 turnovers during the third quarter.

The top-seeded Suns bounced back after dropping the previous two matches and can win the series in Game 6 on Thursday in Dallas.

Doncic finished with 28 points and 11 rebounds. Jalen Brunson added 21 points. The Mavs shot just 38% from the field.

The Suns took a hard-fought 49-46 lead into halftime. Booker scored 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field. Doncic countered with 18 points, though it was a little less efficient after making 7 of 16 shots.

The Mavericks led for a majority of the first half before Booker’s baseline jam tied it at 40-all with 3:47 before halftime. Mikal Bridges had a nifty steal and then scored on a fast-break layup for a 44-42 lead.

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Paul has triple-double, NBA-leading Suns top Clippers 106-89

Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns have turned into some of the league’s best closers. It’s a big reason they’ve reached 30 victories before any other team in the NBA this season.

Paul had a triple-double with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, and the Suns improved to 25-0 when leading after three quarters by defeating the Los Angeles Clippers 106-89 on Thursday night.

As usual, the 36-year-old Paul was the maestro making big plays in the final minutes to close out the Clippers. He hit a crucial 3-pointer and had five assists in the fourth quarter.

“Some teams’ biggest issue is that they don’t know what they want to run or who they want to go to down the stretch,” Paul said. “I think we have a good sense of that. We know what our go-to plays are.”

The Suns moved a game ahead of Golden State for the best record in the league. They’ve won three consecutive and four of five. That’s despite several players missing considerable time this season, including All-Star guard Devin Booker.

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“I just think the players have done a really good job of driving our culture,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “We have unreal guard play, which really helps.”

Paul continues to look 26 years old instead of 36, doing a little of everything to keep the Suns among the league’s elite.

His 13 rebounds were a career high in his 1,128th regular-season NBA game.

Cam Johnson added a career-high 24 points, and Jalen Smith — the second-year forward whose playing time has drastically increased recently because of the Suns’ COVID-19 issues — had another good game with 19 points and 14 rebounds.

“We’re having a lot of fun playing together,” Johnson said. “Things are starting to click.”

Those performances helped offset a tough night for Booker, who shot just 5 of 22 from the field and finished with 11 points. He was 0 of 7 on 3-pointers.

Williams stated center Deandre Ayton, forward Jae Crowder and JaVale McGee have all cleared the league’s COVID-19 protocols, but were held out of the game as they work their way back into shape. Guard Landry Shamet is still in the protocol.

The Clippers dropped below .500 at 19-20 despite a season-high 26 points from former Suns forward Marcus Morris Sr. Reggie Jackson added 16. The Clippers were missing guards Luke Kennard and Xavier Moon, along with center Ivica Zubac, because of COVID-19 protocols.

“We scraped and competed,” Clippers coach Ty Lue said. “That is a good ball club over there and they played well. Their stars took over down the stretch and took over the game.”

The Suns led by 17 points midway through the third quarter, but the Clippers cut it to 73-66 in the next few minutes. The Suns took a 75-66 lead into the final quarter.

The Clippers pulled to 79-76 with 8:36 left when Amir Coffey converted a three-point play after making a layup while being fouled. But the Suns responded with the next six points and slowly pulled away.

The Suns jumped out to a 56-40 halftime lead after outscoring the Clippers by 15 in the second quarter. Johnson led the Suns with 17 points before the break. Morris had 13 for the Clippers.

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Curry scores 46, Warriors hold off pesky Grizzlies 113-104

Stephen Curry scored 46 points and made eight 3-pointers, Gary Payton Jr. added a clutch 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter and the Golden State Warriors held off the Mempihs Grizzlies 113-104 on Thursday night.

Payton concluded with 22 points and Draymond Green had nine assists to help the Warriors improve an NBA-best 16-2 record at home. The Warriors (26-6) remain one-half game behind the Suns (26-5) for the best record in the NBA, with the teams set to meet on Christmas in Phoenix.

“That’s about as good as it gets against a very physical defense with great size,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said. “Over the last 10-12 games, Memphis had the best defensive rating in the league. For Steph to go out and get 46, he showed every bit of his talent tonight. This was his most efficient game in a couple weeks, for sure.”

The Warriors led comfortably most of the second half before the Grizzlies made a late push and tied it at 102-all on De’Anthony Melton’s layup. But Juan Tosco-Anderson scored on a reverse, Payton made his fourth 3 and Curry scurried past three defenders in the key for a layup to help Golden State pull away.

Curry and Green both noted the significance of the win, citing the Grizzlies triumph over the Warriors in the play-in game last season.

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“Definitely wanted this one,” said Curry, who twisted his ankle in the fourth quarter but noted he was OK. “Definitely felt like it was one (we) cant let slip by because of the history but also because knowing what it’s going to take to win a game like this. You carry that chip on your shoulder and understand this is our home court.”

Ja Morant had 21 points for Memphis, which had won its previous six road matches.

“We got a ton of good looks in the paint, missed 30 shots, couldn’t get our 3-ball going,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said. “They’re a hard team to beat. They played really well tonight.

With MVP chants ringing throughout the night, Curry made 13 of 22 shots (8 of 14 beyond the arc) and was 12 for 12 on free throws to top the 30-point mark for the 12th time this season and the 225th of his career.

“He had a great offensive night,” Green said. “He found space tonight. Guys did a good job of trying to get him the ball and not forcing it. You let a guy like that get clean looks, it starts an avalanche.”

The Grizzlies got off to a fast start, connecting on 13 of their first 19 shots to take a 10-point lead.

Golden State, which blew a 19-point lead when the two teams played in October, came back to tie it at 51 following Tosco-Anderson’s one-handed dunk and two free throws from Curry.

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Booker, Ayton push Suns past Lakers 108-90

Devin Booker continued to distance himself from a hamstring injury that cost him seven games, scoring 24 points with nine rebounds and seven assists as the Phoenix Suns earned a 108-90 victory Tuesday night over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Booker played 32 minutes and went 8 of 16 from the field one game after he was on the court for 26 minutes in his return Sunday during a blowout triumph over the Charlotte Hornets.

“I feel great, man, and I think every game it’s going to feel better,” Booker said. “I’m just getting some runs up under me but we have a good team that makes it easy to mesh with and get back with. When you have the support of all 15 guys, plus the coaching staff, it gives you a lot more confidence when you’re out there.”

Deandre Ayton had 19 points and 11 rebounds, and Mikal Bridges scored 14 as the Suns won their fourth straight game and improved to 2-2 on the road since the end of their 18-game winning streak Dec. 3.

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LeBron James scored 34 points for the Lakers, who lost their third game in a row as coach Frank Vogel remained in health and safety protocols for the second straight.

Four Lakers players also are in protocols, including starting guard Avery Bradley.

“Obviously, we are in a rough patch right now with guys in and out of protocol, guys who are injured,” James said. “We just have to stay together until we become whole, or as whole as possible. But I love our fight. I thought we had a good fight tonight, we just couldn’t make enough plays.”

Russell Westbrook had 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers, who were without star Anthony Davis for the second consecutive game. Davis is expected to miss at least four weeks with an MCL sprain in his left knee.

James injured his left ankle with 6:05 left in the third quarter when he came down on the right foot of the Suns’ Jae Crowder. He remained in the game but looked hobbled the rest of the way.

“Yeah, I’ll be ready for next game,” James said.

Losing Booker for 2 1/2 weeks could have sent the Suns spiraling backward, but they found success and still hold the best record in the NBA as Christmas approaches.

“I think a big part of it comes down to our team culture, how guys step into situations and we remain ourselves,” said Cameron Johnson, who also had 14 points.

“You can see our identity on the court when we have everybody. It’s a group of guys that likes playing together and we play for each other.”

After a slow start and a 54-52 lead at halftime, the Suns led by as many as 13 in the third quarter on two occasions and carried an 85-73 lead into the fourth. The Lakers’ Carmelo Anthony was ejected in the third period when he argued a non-call after a shot attempt and received his second technical.

Phoenix’s lead reached 20 points for the first time at 100-80 with 5:17 remaining on Johnson’s 3-pointer.

Chris Paul had 11 points and nine assists for the Suns, who face the Oklahoma City Thunder at home Thursday before their Christmas showdown in Phoenix versus the Golden State Warriors. JaVale McGee had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Veteran guard Isaiah Thomas scored three points on 1-of-11 shooting in his third game since signing with the Lakers on Friday. Talen Horton-Tucker had three points on 1-of-13 shooting for Los Angeles in his first game back from health and safety protocols.

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Coach Mike Budenholzer signs 3-year extension with Milwaukee Bucks

After leading the Milwaukee Bucks to the franchise’s first NBA championship in 50 years, coach Mike Budenholzer has signed a multiyear contract extension with the team.

The deal, revealed Tuesday night, is for three years, sources told ESPN.

Budenholzer — who was entering the final year of his deal — now ties himself to the Bucks through the 2024-25 season. His extension punctuates three seasons that include a trip to the Eastern Conference finals and the championship victory over the Phoenix Suns in July.

“The appreciation I have for being a part of the Bucks organization is hard to express,” Budenholzer said in a statement. “The players make the success happen on and off the court.

We have the best players and to them I am grateful. They’ve grown and we’ve grown together during the last three campaigns.

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“We all can’t wait to get back to work and face the great challenge of competing again for an NBA Championship. … Let’s keep getting better and building great teams and doing great work on and off the court.”

A two-time NBA coach of the year, Budenholzer is 31-17 in the playoffs as Bucks coach, including the 2021 NBA title and trips to the conference finals and semifinals.

He’s 172-65 as Bucks coach in the regular season.

“Bud is a great coach and a fantastic partner to work with every day as we build a team that consistently competes for championships,” said Bucks general manager Jon Horst.

“We’re extremely grateful for the leadership Bud provides and we look forward to building on the success we’ve had over the last three years and congratulate Bud on this well-deserved extension.”

Before arriving in Milwaukee in 2018, Budenholzer led the Hawks to the playoffs in four of his five seasons in Atlanta. He had a 213-197 record with the Hawks.

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Booker has first triple-double, Suns beat Clippers 120-114

Devin Booker’s first exposure to playoff basketball continues to be a revelation.

Not necessarily for him, but for the rest of the NBA.

Booker had 40 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists for his first career triple-double and the Phoenix Suns overcame Chris Paul’s absence to defeat the Los Angeles Clippers 120-114 on Sunday in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.

“I don’t understand why everyone’s acting surprised at this point,” Suns forward Jae Crowder said about Booker’s big day. “This is his first time on this stage but he’s capable. He’s more than capable. He’re more than ready. He prepares like no other.”

Paul sat out because of COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

Clippers star Kawhi Leonard missed his third consecutive game because of a sprained right knee.

Tied at 93 to start the fourth, the Suns went on a 12-2 run and pulled ahead 105-95 on Cam Johnson’s dunk with 8:08 left. The Clippers wouldn’t go away, though, cutting a 10-point deficit in the final two minutes to 116-114 when Terance Mann hit a 3-pointer with 22 seconds left.

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But that’s where the rally stopped for Los Angeles.

“I have no excuse,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said. “I thought we played hard and competed. A little credit — they were making shots and we didn’t. But I loved our fight. I loved what I saw.”

Booker scored on a dunk on the next possession to seal Phoenix’s eighth straight triumph, getting a free lane to the basket on the blown defensive coverage.

The sixth-year guard was a surprising omission from the All-NBA teams released a few days ago but he certainly looked the part on Sunday.

He wasn’t worried about where this game ranks among his best performances.

Game 2 is on Tuesday night in Phoenix.

Booker continues to cement his superstar status and was productive and efficient in one of the best games of his career. He shot 15 of 29 from the field, carving apart a defense that had to play just 36 hours after closing out the Utah Jazz on Friday night.

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