“Even with all that in the past, I was always self-motivated,” Warren told ESPN by phone Wednesday. “Never allowed nobody to put a limit on my talent. No matter what the political stuff was or anything from high school, college to the NBA, you always face adversity, but I feel like it’s how you respond, how you rise to the occasion and I feel like me, personally, I just always feel like I’m able to adapt and respond in a positive way with my game.
7 hours ago via ESPN
Booker nailed a buzzer-beating, turnaround jumper over Paul George to cap a 35-point performance in a 117-115 win over the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday. Even as impressive as he has been, Booker still finds the time to chat regularly with his old teammate as they’re looking forward to the clash. “We still communicate. We still talk a lot,” Booker said of Warren. “This relationship, that’s for life. It’s a respectful relationship. I’m happy the situation that he’s in and the opportunity that he’s getting and the way he’s performing.”
7 hours ago via ESPN
Duane Rankin: Still wow. Absolutely wow. #Suns 117, #Mavs 115 F Luka Doncic 40. Kristaps Porzingis 30. Led by as many as 15. 33-of-37 FTs. 6-31 on 3s. Devin Booker 30 (Fouled out) Ricky Rubio 20 points, 9 boards, 7 dimes. Cam Johnson 19 and 12. 29 fouls. 37 bench points. Up next? LAC 8/4. pic.twitter.com/XJuO2gTjaz
Since the Pacers returned to Indianapolis and then headed down to the bubble, teammates have been talking up Warren, how focused and prepared he seemed to be after the long layoff, but this … well, this was out of this world. This was Harden-esque. Or LeBron-esque. T.J. Warren? Really nice player, an amazing acquisition from the clueless Phoenix Suns, who gave him away for “cash considerations,” but you could have gotten a trillion-to-1 odds on Warren going for 50-plus on the very first regular-season game in the bubble. Or in any game. Anywhere. “We fed the dragon,” Oladipo said, smiling. “A guy that hot, you try to get him the ball, and I thought all our guys were trying to do that,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said. “T.J. was as hot as I’ve ever seen him. And I thought his teammates did a good job of sacrificing, of screening and getting him the ball and giving him proper spacing. You’ve got to milk him. I thought our point guards (Aaron Holiday and T.J. McConnell), they combined for 18 assists, we had 44 assists in the game, so our ball movement was good, and a lot of that was ending up in T.J.’s hands.”
He surveyed his overseas options, choosing the Shanxi Loongs of the Chinese Basketball Association because it was a successful team that would pay him a solid salary, brother Tony said. Payne focused on “reinventing” his habits, from eating right to spending extra time in the gym to ensuring he stayed injury-free. “It gave him that drive,” Tony said. “Like, all this talk … it just made him want to shut everybody up, honestly.”
While lounging in the pool a few weeks ago, Payne unexpectedly received a call from Williams. “I jumped out of that pool so fast,” Payne recently recalled with a smile. They spoke about their time together in Oklahoma City, and about how much Williams values consistency, maturity and practicing gratitude. The Suns offered Payne a two-year contract, which covers the Orlando restart and includes a $2 million team option for the 2020-21 season (per HoopsHype’s database). “It was almost like a weight lifted off my back,” Payne said, “because the only thing I wanted to do is be back in the NBA. … “I don’t know what it is, but (Williams) always has the right things to say to me. And for whatever reason, it triggers me to just turn into a different mode. I appreciate that (phone call) from him.”