Kelly Oubre bringing energy, defense _ and style _ to Suns
PHOENIX (AP) — In less than a month in Phoenix, Kelly Oubre Jr. is bringing energy, defense and scoring — not to mention style — to the perennial last-place Suns.
Teammate Devin Booker said there’s no use trying to top Oubre when it comes to the way he dresses away from the game.
“That’s the fashion king, man,” Booker said after the Suns practiced Monday. “I just stay out of the way.”
It’s an aspect of life that Oubre takes seriously. He even served as an intern at Esquire magazine two summers ago.
When did that sense of style begin?
“Out of the womb, man,” Oubre said. “I’m from New Orleans. Culture and just swag kind of runs in our blood out there.”
Oubre was 10 years old when Hurricane Katrina forced his family to make an abrupt move to the Houston area, even though they had nowhere to go.
“It was really tough,” he said. “It was the toughest thing I’ve ever had to deal with in my life. Homeless, having to sleep in your car, hotels, things like that. But my dad, he pushed us through. He was a real soldier.”
Once he was finally settled in Texas, Oubre developed into one of the top high school players in the country. He went to Kansas and chose to enter the NBA draft after just one college season. The Atlanta Hawks selected him 15th overall in 2015 and sent him to Washington in a draft-day trade.
Through three-plus seasons, Oubre brought his trademark energy to the Wizards.
“I’ve always brought that,” Oubre said. “Even in D.C., I was the youngest person on the team for three years, but I still brought that energy and that tenacity. I continue to do that and kind of make that my mark.”
The Suns were looking to trade Trevor Ariza, who was not working out as a veteran teammate on a very young team. When a three-team deal with Washington and Memphis fell apart, Phoenix wound up sending Ariza on Dec. 17 to the Wizards for Oubre and Austin Rivers. The Suns quickly released Rivers but had plans for Oubre, and he’s been more than they could have hoped for.
Defense always has been Oubre’s strength and he’s helped the Suns transform that part of their game.
“Defensively, he can help us with his length and size,” Phoenix coach Igor Kokoskov said. “He’s a competitor.”
While his offense has been inconsistent over the years, Oubre has had some of his best games scoring recently.
Phoenix is 2-1 in its last three — with homecourt wins over Sacramento and Denver — despite the absence of Booker with back spasms. Oubre matched his career high with 26 points in each of those victories.
He compares his playing style as “a dog-like mentality.”
“When I’m on the court I feel as if I can’t be stopped and can stop everybody who’s in my way, too,” Oubre said. “I think that kind of translates over to some of the guys on the court and we just go hard. We play well together.”
That constant energy has quickly made him a favorite of fans and teammates.
“His aggression, it’s really contagious,” rookie Deandre Ayton said.
Oubre is just 23 years old but because he came to the NBA at such a young age he will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season. He hopes to stay with the Suns as part of this young group that is showing positive signs, at last.
“I would love to stay here, man,” he said. “I don’t like to move around. I’ve been moving around enough in my life. I want a place to call home for a very long time. I’m here now and I’m trying to make the best out of this opportunity. The city loves me, management loves me and I just continue to show that love back.”
Notes: Booker went through an intense full practice Monday and expects to play when Phoenix opens a four-game road trip Tuesday night at Indiana.