Phoenix Suns wrap up final tune-up before NBA summer league run

Toumani Camara said he’s excited to put on the Phoenix Suns jersey for NBA Summer League. The team plays its first game Saturday in Las Vegas. (Photo by Joey Plishka/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – Nike and Jordan shoes squeaked against the court as Phoenix Suns players echoed “switch” and “box out” inside the Verizon 5G Performance Center in the summer league team’s final practice before heading to Las Vegas.

The energy was high with players eager to show their worth in preparation to campaign for a spot on a star-studded roster that will feature Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal next season.

“We are all excited and have a lot of experience on this team,” Suns rookie Toumani Camara said. “We have a lot of players who have played professionally and in the summer league before.”

Among those players are Jordan Goodwin, who was part of the Beal trade, and NBA journeymen Juwan Evans and Gabe Brown. But all eyes will be on Camara, the organization’s lone selection in this year’s NBA draft who recently signed a four-year contract worth over $7 million dollars.

“Toumani has all the ability to be a great perimeter defender or roller for us,” Suns summer league coach Quinton Crawford said. “He can also space the floor and my job is to put him in the right position to be successful.”

Other undrafted rookies such as Marcus Carr and Grant Sherfield could make their presence known in Vegas. Carr, the former Texas Longhorn guard, was a five-year player who finished his college career averaging 14.3 points per game, 4.6 assists and 3.3 rebounds.

Sherfield played at Wichita State, Nevada and Oklahoma, where the guard averaged 15.2 points per game, 4.6 assists, 3.3 rebounds and finished his senior season shooting an impressive 39.4% from three.

The guard position will be hard to crack on the Suns’ 2023-24 roster, which is loaded with Booker, Beal, Cameron Payne, Damion Lee, Terrance Ross and the recent addition of 15-year veteran Eric Gordon.

“Eric is a winning player who will make our team more dynamic and help us in our pursuit of an NBA championship,” said James Jones, the general manager of the Suns.

Crawford, 32, has made his way up the coaching ranks and coached in the summer league before with the Los Angeles Lakers. After his college career with the Arizona Wildcats, he became a grad assistant at Pepperdine University before making it to the NBA as an assistant video coordinator for the Sacramento Kings. He eventually became an assistant coach for the Orlando Magic under new Suns coach Frank Vogel.

“Anytime you get head coaching opportunities in this league you take them,” Crawford said. “It’s all about reps, especially if you’re not in the G-League getting those reps, so the summer league is a great chance for me to grow as a coach. ”

Crawford’s goal is to implement the Suns’ schemes to evaluate the best fits around Durant, Booker and Beal.

“I can relate to these players as I also wanted to get to this level,” Crawford said. “I have never been an NBA player but I have been in their shoes and I know how bad they want it.”

While a trip to Las Vegas may seem like a vacation for some, Crawford has echoed to the team that this is a business trip and should be treated as such.

“This isn’t a trip to have fun, this is a job interview for all of us,” Crawford said.

Josh Amick jaw-sh ey-mick (he/ him)
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Josh Amick expects to graduate in May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Amick has written and interned for AZPreps365 and is working toward a job as a beat writer or sideline reporter.

Joseph Plishka joh-sif pl-ih-sh-ka
Sports Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Joey Plishka expects to graduate in December 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in December of 2023. Plishka is a multimedia journalist who has interned in communications at New City Church, as a photo director for WCSN and as a photo editor for the Arizona Coyotes.