Who says there is no loyalty left in sports?
While the NBA world talks about seismic roster shifts and superstars looking to move faster than an 18-year-old leaving home for the first time, Phoenix got a pleasant surprise. Small forward T.J. Warren signed a reported 4 year $50 million dollar extension to avoid restricted free agency next season.
The signing is significant for a few reasons. First, the Suns keep a guy who has proven he can score with more ease than Leonardo DiCaprio at a Victoria’s Secret fashion show, and kept him at a reasonable price. Just look at his offensive stats from the second half of last season: 17.6 PPG and 7.7 RPG on 56% shooting. Head injury derailed a breakout year. . His offensive game continued to grow after returning from a mysterious head injury and his ability on the boards surprised. Both are the kind of skill set perfectly suited for being the focal point of a second team offense.
The second reason it’s significant is that it shows Warren believes in #TheTimeline and trusts the Suns front office. These are two things that you couldn’t necessarily say over the last six years. The vision of where the team was headed hadn’t exactly been clear and players distrust for the people making the decisions had been more than well documented. (SEE: Dragic, Goran and The Morri)
By forgoing the opportunity to hit the open market and potentially earning more, Warren is proving that someone on the inside, and not just the fans, truly sees the vision for the team and believes in where they are headed. Sure, $50 million dollars would make it easier to understand any vision — outside of the Lindsey Hunter era. No amount of money makes that understandable — but Tony Buckets has plenty of reasons to question the plan.
First and foremost, the fact that the Suns invested the No. 4 pick in the draft in a guy who plays, in theory, the same exact position as him. Many people, present company included, believe the Matrix Reloaded aka Josh Jackson is destined to start at small forward for the Suns, maybe even by opening night. That means Warren will likely become the sixth man and No. 1 scoring option off the bench. Something not every young NBA player, including a certain guard and teammate of Warren’s, would happily accept.
Signing an extension means Warren has heard the Suns vision for his and the team’s future and has fully bought in regardless of the role he’ll play. It’s one of the biggest votes of confidence the organization has had in years.
On the flip side, it’s also a vote of confidence in Warren. He hasn’t exactly had the cleanest bill of health over the last few years after foot and head injuries. This means the Suns’ training staff, one of the best in all of sports, gave him the green light. That’s significant because if the Suns’ long term plan is to work, health will be a large factor.
Loyalty in the NBA may be more rare than 80 degree days in Phoenix in September but when either comes around, you have to take advantage of it. The Suns and T.J. Warren did just that.