Official: Phoenix Suns buy out Tyson Chandler’s contract

Nov 2, 2018: Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) reacts in the fourth quarter against the Toronto Raptors at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

Tyson Chandler didn’t play one second Friday night in his last game as a member of the Phoenix Suns. 

The Suns announced Sunday morning they’re buying out the last year of the veteran center’s contract. Chandler is in the final year of a four-year deal in which he is guaranteed to make $13.6 million. 

“I am grateful for my time in Phoenix and want to thank my teammates, my coaches, the front office and the fans for an amazing experience.” said Chandler in a news release. “I wish them the best and I am excited for the next stage in my career.”

The New York Times first tweeted the news Saturday as the Suns (1-7) look to snap a seven-game skid Sunday evening against Memphis at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

“We want to thank Tyson for his contributions to the Suns over the past three-plus seasons,” said Suns interim general manager James Jones in a news release. “With respect for Tyson’s accomplished career, today’s move gives him the chance to pursue a new opportunity while allowing our younger players to continue developing. Tyson is a consummate professional and we wish him all the best.”

ESPN is reporting Chandler plans to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers after clearing waivers with the Suns. The 7-footer is from Compton, Calif.

In his 18th season, Chandler, 36, practiced Saturday morning with the Suns. He’s averaging 3.7 points and 5.6 rebounds, been a mentor to rookie 7-footer Deandre Ayton, but didn’t see any action in Friday’s 107-98 loss to the Raptors.

Richaun Holmes played the role of Phoenix’s backup big to Ayton on Friday. Acquired in an offseason trade with Philadelphia for cash considerations, Holmes saw his first real action Friday as he had two points and five rebounds in 12 minutes, 41 seconds of play.

“It felt good,” Holmes said after Saturday’s practice. “Wanted it to contribute to a win. Wanted to do whatever I can to help the team win. We competed a little bit better yesterday, but still got some things to clean up so we can get that W.”

When asked after the game why Chandler didn’t play, Phoenix first-year coach Igor Kokoskov said the decision was based on matchups against the Raptors.

“We needed an active, live body so I decided to go with Richaun and that was the only reason,” Kokoskov said. “Tyson was engaged. He was there. He was with the team.”

With Chandler reportedly on his way out, Holmes will see even more minutes as Phoenix still didn’t play 7-footer Dragan Bender despite sitting Chandler all game.

Chandler missed several games last season with various injuries, but sounded energized and optimistic going into this season.  

“It’s the most talent that’s been here since I’ve been here by far,” said Chandler back in September at Suns media day. “It’s not even close. The depth of this team through each position. It’s going to create a competitive atmosphere that’s going to make Coach’s job easier, but ultimately, a competitive atmosphere should translate into wins.”

Now, Phoenix is moving on without him.

Melton to G League

Phoenix has assigned rookie De’Anthony Melton to its G League affiliate, the Northern Arizona Suns.

The 6-foot, 4-inch guard out of USC has played in just two of Phoenix’s eight games. He scored a total of seven points on 3-of-12 shooting.

“I think it’s great,” Kokoskov said. “It’s a great opportunity for a young guy to play all those minutes. It’s hard to get better and grow in just practice.”

Melton put up 16 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals in his debut with the Northern Arizona Suns as they lost, 118-108, in their season opener Saturday to the Santa Cruz Warriors in Prescott Valley. 

Kokoskov planned to dress either Melton or fellow rookie point guard Elie Okobo every game, but said both could see time in the G League. Okobo has made his way into the rotation early while Melton hasn’t played nearly as much.

So combining that with a schedule that isn’t allowing the Suns much practice time, Kokoskov felt it was best for Melton to get minutes with Northern Arizona.

“That’s what strong organizations do,” Kokoskov said. “The G League is part of the team. We don’t send him back. We assign him. It’s a reward, in my mind, and a lot of good teams, a lot of good programs, they do the same thing because you go over there to play, to work on your confidence. Work on your game.” 

Rookie forward George King is Phoenix’s two-way player. 

Pain in the back

TJ Warren experienced back spasms/pain during Saturday’s practice, but Kokoskov said he expects Warren to play Sunday against Memphis.

Starting the past two games, Warren is averaging 15.3 points a game, shooting 49.5 percent from the field. He scored 10 in Friday’s loss to the Raptors, during which he took some hard falls to the floor after absorbing contact in the air on drives.

“He felt a little tightness and pain in the lower back,” Kokoskov said. “We’re going to reevaluate his situation. I’m certain it’s not much.”

Sunday’s game

Grizzlies at Suns

When: 6 p.m.

Where: Talking Stick Resort Arena.

TV: FSAZ.

Outlook: Phoenix (1-7) lost its sixth straight game Friday night, 107-98, to Toronto at Talking Stick Resort Arena while Memphis (5-2) won its third straight, 110-100, at Utah. … Devin Booker scored 18 points against the Raptors in his return from missing three games with a hamstring injury while Isaiah Canaan scored 19 points in his return from an ankle injury suffered at Oklahoma City last weekend. …. The Grizzlies beat Phoenix by 21 points at home last weekend as they had five players score in double figures. … Rookie 7-footer Deandre Ayton, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft, posted his fifth double-double in eight games with 17 points and a career-high 18 boards against Toronto. He’s averaging 16.9 points and 11 rebounds this season. … Memphis will be the first opponent Phoenix has played for a second time this season as this is the third of a five-game homestand for the Suns. They play Brooklyn on Tuesday and Boston on Thursday before returning to the road to face New Orleans and Oklahoma City.

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