NEW YORK — The Phoenix Suns are spiraling, having lost eight of their past 10 contests.
Injuries to Chris Paul (hip), Devin Booker (groin), Cameron Johnson (meniscus), and Cameron Payne (foot sprain) have derailed any opportunity for momentum and prompted the team to plummet in the standings.
Defensive star Mikal Bridges told Bleacher Report the injuries are certainly to blame, but he also added that they sorely miss the presence of Jae Crowder, who has been away all season while the team explores avenues to trade him.
Bridges stated he supports Crowder's decision to be away.
"That's one of our leaders," Bridges told B/R. "I texted him not too long ago and told him how much I miss him. That's my guy. It's the NBA. It happens. I know he wants to be here, but it's the league. That's just how it is sometimes. This is my fifth year in the league, and I understand how it could be. You've got to protect yourself sometimes. We'll love to have him here, but we get it."
Crowder has been spending most of his time in Atlanta working out at Georgia Tech. The 32-year-old three-and-D specialist tells B/R he's in great shape and working out daily.
He also extended his appreciation to his teammates for their discernment of the situation and expressed frustration with how the matter got to this point.
"I've spoken to every player that I've played with on that team and they all have stressed how much they miss [me] and respect my decision, and I'm thankful for their understanding," Crowder told B/R via text message. "This move of pushing me out the door was a blindsided hit to not only me but my teammates, as you can see from speaking to them and myself and the conversations we've had behind closed doors.
"I will continue to prepare myself daily for battle once the call is made and continue to be a leader on the court, locker room, as well as off the court. I am thankful my teammates appreciated my leadership. I'm confused and hurt my coaches didn't appreciate the things I brought to our team and organization. And this has nothing to do with financial or contract differences."
The trade deadline is Feb. 9.
The Suns did not respond to a request for comment. Phoenix is currently 21-22, positioned seventh in the Western Conference standings.
Rivals Interested in Will Barton?
The Washington Wizards have been receiving calls on the availability of guard Will Barton ahead of the Feb. 9 trade deadline, league sources tell B/R.
Barton has fallen out of coach Wes Unseld Jr.'s rotation in recent weeks and collected multiple DNP-coach's decision.
The Wizards aren't said to be actively shopping Barton as of yet, but things could change if the team continues to struggle. The 32-year-old is on an expiring $14.4 million deal.
Washington is 18-24 and 12th in the Eastern Conference standings.
Cameron Johnson Eyeing Return
Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson has been sidelined since Nov. 4 as he recovers from a torn meniscus. He recently began participating fully in practices.
He told B/R he expects to make his return shortly after the Suns conclude their four-game road trip. Their next home game is Jan. 19 against the Brooklyn Nets, which represents the earliest time Johnson could rejoin the team.
Jayson Tatum in the 3-Point Contest?
Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum has been invited to participate in the 3-Point Contest during All-Star Weekend in Salt Lake City, league sources tell B/R.
When reached by text, Tatum confirmed the invite but said he hadn't yet made a decision.