The right deal wasn’t out there for the Phoenix Suns, and by them that’s OK.
Coming out of the trade deadline tied for the third-best winning percentage in the NBA, general manager James Jones’ team did nothing other than filling an open roster spot with wing Torrey Craig last week. It was expected with the Suns having no expiring contracts to slash pay or odd men out who haven’t contributed in any degree this year.
Thursday, it was crickets.
“We’re a tight group from the beginning. We’ve been a tight group since Day 1,” forward Cam Johnson said Friday after shootaround. “There’s been a lot of adverse circumstances this year that we’ve had to fight through and we’ve done it together.
“To know that we’ve stayed pat, added Torrey, who’s been great for us these past couple games, kind of gives us a lot of confidence and lets us continue the momentum we’ve built.”
Phoenix (29-14) steps back onto the court Friday against a stumbling Toronto Raptors team that a day earlier was busy firing off trades — though veteran point guard Kyle Lowry remains a Raptor — and a day before the deadline ended a 10-game losing streak.
Should the Suns beat Toronto, they will have gone two whole months without losing back-to-back games.
The players see that as growth, and it’s why the front office didn’t see a fitting trade despite a busy deadline across the NBA.
Atop the standings, there wasn’t a ton of movement, either.
The Utah Jazz (32-11) added reserve shooting guard Matt Thomas in a trade with the Raptors.
The Philadelphia 76ers (32-13) finally got a true point guard by dealing for the Oklahoma City Thunder’s George Hill.
The Milwaukee Bucks (29-14) already added Houston defensive ace P.J. Tucker the same day they traded Craig to Phoenix.
The Los Angeles Clippers (30-16) made a weird swap of microwave scorer Lou Williams for aging point guard Rajon Rondo, while the Lakers (28-17) did zip.
Maybe the biggest move out in the Western Conference was the 26-18 Denver Nuggets adding power forward Aaron Gordon without giving up a key rotation piece.
The 26-18 Portland Trail Blazers also tried to make a leap, trading quantity (Gary Trent Jr. and Rodney Hood) for quality by acquiring the hot-shooting Norman Powell, who adds some defensive juice to their backcourt.
By the end of Thursday, oddsmakers didn’t see the busy deadline doing much to shift title favorites. Most of the top-10 teams remained the same, though the Miami Heat got a decent boost to swap places with the Boston Celtics after Miami nabbed Victor Oladipo from the Houston Rockets.
Phoenix’s odd have hovered around +2500 to +3000 to win the title before and after the deadline.
The Suns ultimately picked self improvement and continuity.
“The comfort level for myself personally, I think that applies to everybody,” said Johnson, who is in the middle of his second NBA season. “It applies to everybody as they grow in their careers and as they get used to playing with a certain set of guys. Earlier in the season, there was a lot of, ‘We’re gelling, we’re figuring it out,’ all that stuff.
“I think over time we’ve picked it up and kind of hit strides in areas we want to hit strides in — and we got so much left to go. It’s a building process … we want to hit our peak and stay up there.”
Johnson took preventative measures with COVID-19
Johnson confirmed on Friday that he tested positive for COVID-19 in early March, putting him on the health and protocols list for six games.
He returned Sunday against the Los Angeles Lakers and has appeared in the past three games for Phoenix.
Because he has asthma, Johnson said he was serious about taking preventative measures to ensure the virus would not impact him more seriously.
“I just tried to stay on top of my vitamin intake and keep it at bay,” he said, adding his illness was enough to worry his parents.
They made sure to call him often as he recovered, Johnson said.
“I had been taking every step I was capable of to not suffer those severe respiratory symptoms, and by the grace of God I never was hit hard on that end,” he added.
“All the steps I needed to take to prevent that from worsening and hurting me on my return, I did, and my parents were with me through that. That’s how they supported me.”
The Suns’ injury report on Thursday had a new listing of forward Mikal Bridges as probable to play against the Raptors with heel soreness.
Wing Abdel Nader is out with knee soreness. He’s missed the past three games.