PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. – Yes the Phoenix Suns lost by 32 to the Utah Jazz. Yes the team is 18-35 on the year and yes, no one is celebrating this game in the Valley of the Sun.
Scratch that. One person is celebrating this game.
“I’m grateful. I’m thankful just to be here even though we lost. I’m so happy right now,” Phoenix Suns guard Josh Gray said after his new team lost 129-97 Friday night. “It probably don’t sound right since we lost but I’m just happy to be here and I’m going to do everything I can to contribute to this team.”
The Phoenix Suns called up Gray and signed him to a 10-day contract earlier Friday. Coming from a background full of hardships, the 24-year-old never gave up on his dream.
Not after transferring to Odessa College (a junior college) in Texas after one year at Texas Tech. Not after posting mediocre averages his junior and senior year at Louisiana State University. And not even when there was virtually no interest at the NBA level for the 6-foot 1-inch, 180-pound guard from Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Gray never gave up on his dream, but more on that later.
Gray subbed in for Phoenix Suns’ star Devin Booker with 8:53 left in the game on Friday. Just over 20 seconds later, he got a steal.
That was quick.
With 5:07 remaining, he drove to the rack and earned his first NBA points with a layup.
— NBA G League (@nbagleague) February 3, 2018
Just over a minute later, he nailed a three-pointer. Gray finished with seven points on 2-of-3 shooting, 1-of-1 from deep, 2-of-3 from the free throw line, one rebound, one assist, one steal and even one block.
“It felt great, I was kind of nervous from the time I got the phone call that I was getting called up,” Gray said. “Like I said, I’m just glad I got the first one of the way.”
The Phoenix Suns next play on Sunday, so Gray may get a chance to impress yet again. That’s all he’s done since flying out from Atlanta to Phoenix for a tryout with a brand new team in the NBA G League, the Northern Arizona Suns. Having to pay $150 just to get looked at, Gray impressed and earned a training camp invite. There, he impressed again. So he was kept on the team’s opening night roster.
Then Gray started doing his thing. He recorded the NAZ Suns’ only triple-double in team history on Nov. 27, and was a consistent contributor for the Phoenix Suns’ NBA G League affiliate. He averaged 13.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists his rookie year, playing in all 50 games (nine starts). That was enough to get him an invite to the NBA G League Elite Mini Camp in Chicago. The Orlando Magic brought him onto their Summer League team too.
Gray came back to Northern Arizona for a second season. Midway through the year, he said he had a dream of being the starting point guard, leading the team to the playoffs and being THE reason why. The team had other ideas, deciding to bring him off the bench at the start of the year. When the opportunity to start arose after Christmas, Gray took advantage. He had a month for the ages, winning a player of the week award, leading the league in steals and was one of just two to average 20.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists.
Before you know it, Gray was the team’s career leader in points, assists, steals, minutes played and games played. Oh, and he was getting a call from Phoenix Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough, who was interested in bringing Gray to the NBA.
Although 10 days might not seem like a long time, when someone has been waiting years for a dream to be realized, the 10 days (or more) are going to be enjoyed like no other.
“I’m ready to go. Ready to bring a lot of energy, ready to play hard and ready to show these guys what I can do,” Gray said.