T.J. Warren Happy to Be Healthy, in Line to Start for Suns

by Tyler Emerick
Annexus Practice Report: Suns Finish Camp Practices Strong

It doesn’t take much digging to understand T.J. Warren was making all the strides an NBA team wants to see a young player make from Year 1 to Year 2.

Through the end of January last season, the NC State product was the Suns’ third-leading scorer with 11.0 points and 3.0 rebounds in 22.8 minutes per game, up from 15.4 minutes, 6.1 points and 2.1 boards per game as a rookie. Known primarily as a mid-range specialist coming out of college, he also improved his 3-point shooting from 24 percent to 40 percent.

Then came the injury.

A broken foot suffered on Jan. 27 against the Cleveland Cavaliers sidelined Warren for the remainder of the season and put a halt on his development.

“It was hard. I was really frustrated,” Warren said last week at Suns training camp. “I had never been hurt like that. It was my first time having surgery.”

Nine months later, Warren is fully healed and back on the court striving to resume his growth. And perhaps more importantly, the 23-year-old has the opportunity to show just how much he’s evolved.

With P.J. Tucker sidelined for at least another month with a back injury, Warren will get the first crack to start at small forward, per Head Coach Earl Watson's Monday announcement.

“I know there’s an opportunity ahead of me, but I have the same mindset,” Warren said. “I’m just coming in to work hard and show that I’m back 100 percent. I’m anxious to get started, but I know I have to take it one step at a time.”

While rehabbing his foot this offseason, Warren couldn’t go through live basketball drills with his teammates. Still, he found a way to make the most of his time.

He watched hours of film, practiced his form shooting and continued to improve his 3-point stroke.

“You have to get creative when you’re hurt,” Warren said. “It’s been on my mind since I got injured. I felt like last year was a step for me, getting consistent minutes and showing that I got better. I want to build on that. I want a full 82 games – that’s my goal.”

And according to the man with the final say on rotations, Warren is backing up his aspirations on the court.

“We’re seeing him getting better and getting his rhythm back – hitting his shots,” Watson said. “He had a great dunk going baseline over a player for an and-1. T.J. just has to be T.J.”

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