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NBA Daily: Isaiah Canaan Making Most of Opportunity in Phoenix

Isaiah Canaan spoke with Basketball Insiders about making the most of his opportunity with the Phoenix Suns.

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Isaiah Canaan has bounced around the NBA and G-League since first being drafted 34th overall by the Houston Rockets in 2013. In the years since being drafted, Canaan has played for the Rockets, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the Philadelphia 76ers, the Chicago Bulls, the Oklahoma City Thunder (three preseason games only), the Northern Arizona Suns and was most recently called up to play for the Phoenix Suns. At some of these stops, Canaan had an opportunity to contribute and display his talents. As for the other stops, Canaan passed through quickly to his next opportunity.

On this most recent stop, Canaan hasn’t wasted any time showing the Suns that he can be a valuable contributor and is worth keeping around. Through four games with the Suns this season, Canaan is averaging 13 points, five assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game while shooting 41.2 percent from the field and 42.9 percent from three-point range. Canaan is taking advantage of the fact that other Suns players have been sidelined with injuries, which is what opened up his path to Phoenix in the first place.

Basketball Insiders spoke with Canaan recently about his impressive play and fit with his new teammates.

“It’s all coming,” said Canaan when asked about acclimating to his new situation. “Keep watching film, keep getting familiar with everybody and the more practice we have together the better the chemistry will be. We just kinda been catching it on the fly right now and we just gotta continue to get better each day.”

Canaan was coming off a less than stellar performance against the Clippers but he remained positive.

“Obviously it wasn’t one of my best games,” Canaan said about his performance against the Clippers. “I mean I just missed a lot of chippies here and there and there’s gonna be games like that. Just gotta shake it off. I mean we got a back to back so put this one behind us, watch some film and get ready to go tomorrow.”

When asked whether he is holding back his own individual talents in order to fit in with his new teammates, Canaan focused again on building more chemistry with his teammates.

“Just continue to get better… continue to get familiar with everybody’s game and where they like to have the ball at and just continue to grow together,” Canaan said. The more practice time we have, the more we can learn each other and understand each other and I mean it’s a long season. Like I said, you just gotta put games like this behind us and just continue to get better and move on.”

Canaan quickly bounced back with a solid performance in Phoenix’s narrow victory against the struggling Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday. He logged 10 points, four assists, three rebounds and two steals and the Suns were a net +16 points with him on the floor. Though Canaan has only been with the Suns for a short period of time, it looks as though he may stick around for the remainder of the season and perhaps even beyond that.

Suns general manager Ryan McDonough did an interview with Arizona Sports 98.7 FM recently and strongly endorsed Canaan.

“I think Isaiah has certainly played well enough to find a home and be a guy we want to keep,” McDonough said.

“I think with what Isaiah’s done, we should plan on having him in Phoenix for the rest of the year, if not longer.”

We still need to wait for the return of some of the Suns injured players before we know where exactly Canaan fits on this roster. He has shown flashes of potential in the past but has been derailed by untimely injuries and roster overlap. While there is reason to be optimistic about his recent play, Canaan has been around the league enough in his short career to know that the NBA is a business and things can change quickly.

One of the difficulties for Canaan is his height. At just 6-foot-0, he is a bit undersized. However, while growing up, Canaan looked to Allen Iverson as a player to model his game around. Iverson was undersized but managed to be one of best pound-for-pound scorers in NBA history through unrelenting tenacity and confidence in his abilities.

“Just Allen Iverson…just competitive nature,” Canaan responded when asked about which player he was inspired by and why. “He always wasn’t the tallest but he had one of the biggest hearts. That’s what I try to do, try to go out there and just compete and just will my team to victory and just do whatever I can to help my team win.”

With a team-first attitude and a run of solid outings, it’s not hard to understand why McDonough is high on Canaan and is considering keeping him around for the rest of the season.

Jesse Blancarte is a Deputy Editor for Basketball Insiders. He is also an Attorney and a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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