It took a lot of prodding and every bit of the team’s remaining $1.54 million mid-level exception, but the Suns were able to finally land veteran Jalen Rose Friday, adding another shooter, ball-handler and interchangeable part to a very deep team.
Turning down more money from Miami — and the plaintive pleas from Heat stars like Shaquille O’Neal and Dwyane Wade who made a last-ditch effort to sway him Thursday night — Rose opted for Phoenix’s quicker pace and the idea that they were one 6-foot-8, 225-pound piece away from a championship.
"Being waived by the New York Knicks (and agreeing to a $14.5 million buyout earlier this week) has created an opportunity for me to find a team to play on that will hopefully get me back into the playoffs with a realistic opportunity to win an NBA championship," Rose wrote in his personal blog on JalenRose.com, where he announced the deal himself.
“Choosing the next chapter in my career has been difficult but I am proud to announce that I am now a member of the … PHOENIX SUNS. I look forward to getting this season started and hope to see you at the Larry (O’Brien) championship trophy presentation in June."
Suns coach and general manager Mike D’Antoni said he sees Rose as a small forward who can also play both backcourt positions. “But he’s the same height as Boris Diaw, so he could probably play center if we needed it,” he said.
“He’s a guy who shot 48 percent from 3-point range last year and is about 35 percent for his career. We just got better offensively. He’s a $14-16 million player who can play a lot of positions and the downside financially and basketball-wise was very minimal.”
Rose, who starred at the University of Michigan, will join the Suns today in Los Angeles, where Phoenix faces the Clippers, or when the team returns to Phoenix on Sunday. He will make his Suns debut Wednesday in San Antonio against the Spurs, then play before the home fans Thursday against Dallas.
Rose would likely play 20-25 minutes at the start, with reserve James Jones the likely candidate to lose his spot in the current nine-man rotation. The addition will also impact the futures of Jumaine Jones and Eric Piatkowski, who have yet to play this season.
“We’ve talked to those guys and let them know that this was an opportunity we couldn’t pass on, and it was for the good of the team,” D’Antoni said.
One thing is for sure, the Suns won’t be adding any more pieces. The team has about $20,000 left under the league’s $65.4 million luxury tax threshold — or as one front office member put it “enough to have a really nice end-of-the-season party.”