The Phoenix Suns had one of their more disappointing losses on Tuesday night, dropping a winnable game to the Portland Trail Blazers, 109-104. A result made all the worse by the fact the Suns had two of their top three players in Kevin Durant and Devin Booker available for the game.
Durant was at his absolute best, pouring in a game high 40 points and in doing so continuing to show the organization that they are at this point wasting an incredible season from the 35-year-old. To add further insult to injury, former Suns first overall pick Deandre Ayton played for the Trail Blazers, and although far from "domin-Ayton" the game, he still had his moments.
But it was another former Suns pick who never even played competitively for the franchise who Suns' head coach Frank Vogel couldn't wait to praise after the game.
Toumani Camara was selected 52nd by the franchise in this year's NBA Draft, and went on to have a couple of nice moments for the team in Summer League play. Plenty of players have had nice runs in exhibition games and never gone anywhere once the regular season got underway - but with Camara - it felt different.
He didn't have a big impact on the box score, but instead worked his tail off on every possession on both ends, and showed a willingness to cut hard and move without the ball that coaches love to see. Camara was sent to the Trail Blazers in the Ayton deal which netted the Suns Jusuf Nurkic and Grayson Allen, and Vogel had this to say about Camara after Tuesday's loss;
Vogel's comments coming after Trail Blazers' head coach Chauncey Billups had revealed that the team fought hard to get him in the Ayton deal. On the other side, Vogel seemed equally as keen to hold onto the rookie, but knew that in order to get what has become two of the top six players in their rotation, they would have to move on from Camara.
The 23-year-old Belgian has appeared in all 26 games the Trail Blazers have played this season -starting 17 of them - including the two games against the Suns so far. In both matchups he has done exactly what he showed the Suns he could do in Summer League, namely make better offensive opponents work hard for their scores.
Camara appeared to love every chance he got to match up with Booker, and there have been quite a few across the two games, and perhaps most impressively of all, he kept coming back even after being cooked by the superstar. Camara then is young, on a cheap deal and is defending in exactly the kind of way the Suns would love to have, which makes the fact he is doing so elsewhere more painful.
It is likely that the front office didn't think they'd have the time or minutes to work with Camara to help him reach his potential. Nice and all as he has been so far this season, the Trail Blazers are still 7-19, and it remains to be seen how much longer he will be a starter in this league if he ends up playing for a competitive team.
But at this point it is already fair to point out that Camara could have done for the Suns what they had hoped some combination of Eric Gordon and more specifically Keita Bates-Diop could for the rotation. He is a willing man-to-man defender - and although the 30.4 percent he is shooting from deep isn't good enough for the Suns - there's every reason to think that can improve in time.
Coach Vogel has worked with some great players during his time in the league, and it is clear he felt he could get the best out of Camara. Given how up and down the Suns have been so far this season - they sit at 14-13 and cling to the 10th spot in the West - a diligent rookie seems like the exact player to add to the mix. The Trail Blazers were adamant though, and appear to have been proven right.