New Phoenix Suns big Jock Landale making early impression on Devin Booker

Jock Landale will not only play his first preseason game Sunday with the Phoenix Suns against a familiar team — the Adelaide 36ers, but also reunite with one of Australia’s greatest players in Andrew Gaze.

“I care a lot about the NBL and all its success,” said Landale, who led Melbourne to the 2021 NBL Championship and was named NBL Grand Final MVP.

“To be able to bring them out here on the world stage and give those guys a taste, first and foremost, of what it’s like to be in this league and playing in front of these crowds is fantastic.”

Gaze planned to travel with the 36ers to America as he’s representing Australian Made, a promoter of products made in Australia.

Sep 27, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns center Jock Landale during practice at the Verizon 5G Performance Center.
Sep 27, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns center Jock Landale during practice at the Verizon 5G Performance Center.

An NBA champion with the San Antonio Spurs in 1999, Gaze said he coached Landale before Landale went to play college ball at St. Mary’s in California.

“I’ll be honest, I’m astounded with the way he’s progressed,” Gaze said. “I think at the time, he was at a stage of his life where he had great DNA. Really good size, was a decent athlete, but perhaps wasn’t taking care of his body like he should. He wasn’t working as hard as he could, but then when he went to St. Mary’s things really clicked for him. He had this level of dedication and commitment.”

The 6-11 Landale was named WCC Player of the Year his senior season in 2017-18.

After playing overseas in Serbia, Lithuania, Australia and Japan, Landale signed a two-way deal with the Spurs in 2020-21.

“I saw Jock a little bit last year before the Olympics just to catch and see how things were going,” continued Gaze as Landale won a bronze medal representing Australia in the Tokyo Olympics.

“He’s trying to forge a career and he’s under no illusions that he’s got a lot of work to do to establish himself and get with the right team with the right set of circumstances where he can get an opportunity.”

Landale averaged 4.9 points in 54 games as an NBA rookie, but San Antonio traded him to Atlanta as part of the Dejounte Murray deal at the start of free agency.

Then Phoenix acquired Landale in a trade with Atlanta for cash considerations.

Landale saw this as an even greater opportunity to play. So far in training camp, things are going even better than he planned in Phoenix.

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“It’s a hell of an organization,” Landale said. “The people in here are high character people and as far as finding enjoyment, I always go home and talk with my fiancée and my parents and mates about the level of passion and commitment and joy I’m getting out of the game right now is beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before.”

Maybe Phoenix is that right team.

“Hopefully he can find a role,” Gaze said.

He’s already got an early endorsement from Suns All-Star Devin Booker.

“I’ve enjoyed playing with Jock,” Booker said. “He’s making the right plays out there. He’s one of the few players on the team I haven’t seen the most of. He’s been very impressive.”

Initiate offense

Chris Paul plays point guard as if he was born with the ball in his hands, but the 12-time All-Star is more than open to others initiating the offense.

“I’m excited about it,” Paul said. “It’s something that we’ve been talking about actually for a couple of years. The only way you get better at something like that is actually incorporating it. Mikal (Bridges) has been bringing it up. Book. Obviously, it’s going to be situations I still play point guard, but ways to get off the ball and just change things up a little bit.”

Paul played off the ball a bit last season, but may do it even more with Booker, Bridges and even Cam Johnson handling the ball more.

Related: With Jae Crowder on way out, Cam Johnson starter for Phoenix Suns

Williams has called for Johnson and Bridges to get familiar with three to four plays to avoid thinking as much.

“We talk to our guys a ton about making plays and not running plays,” Williams said. “When you’re bringing the ball down the floor, you want to be able to make plays, especially when the defense is pressuring you.”

Williams said these on-ball experiences in camp have made Johnson and Bridges likely more appreciative of how Paul handles running the show.

“I think this is the most I’ve had the ball in my hands,” Bridges said. “I can’t have it too much because we got guys like C and Book, but it’s been good.”

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On the mend

Williams comparing Josh Okogie to arguably the greatest athlete that ever lived – Bo Jackson – sounded crazy at first.

Then Williams said Okogie ran 20 miles per hour during team testing.

OK. That’s comparable.

However, Okogie has been dealing with a left hamstring strain and will be re-evaluated in two weeks, according to team officials.

Phoenix Suns Josh Okogie (2) at media day in Phoenix on Sept. 26, 2022.
Phoenix Suns Josh Okogie (2) at media day in Phoenix on Sept. 26, 2022.

“It’s hard,” Williams said. “When you’re new, some of our guys have been in our system and still look at me kind of funny when I call out a play that we haven’t run in a while or a concept. So, when you haven’t had reps, it can put you way behind. From that standpoint, we’ve got to be aware of that, but also keep feeding him as much as we can on the side so when he does step out there, he’s somewhat prepared.”

The Suns have an open practice Saturday at Footprint Center before opening their four-game preseason schedule Sunday against the 36ers.

They play their final preseason game on Oct. 12 against Sacramento and open the regular season a week later versus Dallas. Both games are at Footprint Center.

Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at dmrankin@gannett.com or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Jock Landale looks forward to playing against homeland Adelaide 36ers