Landale's crazy, hectic year has him better prepared for NBA

Australian big man Jock Landale has received the full NBA experience in his first 12 months in the league.

Since officially signing with the San Antonio Spurs in August 2021, Landale has battled for rotation minutes, been assigned to the G League, produced big performances when cracking the NBA rotation and in recent times has been traded. Twice.

The 25-year-old has landed with the Phoenix Suns, after initially being routed to the Atlanta Hawks in the blockbuster Dejounte Murray trade.

Speaking with ESPN, Landale admits his first full offseason in the league has been an eye opening and at times stressful initiation.

"The good thing about my offseason was the engagement party that we were looking forward to and that really dominated our thought process," Landale said. "I wasn't too concerned with the trade period at all but around 48 hours before it started, I was wondering what was going to happen.

"At that point you start seeing trades and I realised it wasn't looking great and I started to worry where I would be next year, it's brutal. If it was just me, I'd be fine wherever I ended up, but now I have a family, India my fiancée, our dog, we have to ship their lives around the world and that's where my mind went."

On the ground in Phoenix and settling into another new city, Landale is solo for now, with his partner to join him in the coming weeks as life shifts to another state.

"We are so thankful it's Phoenix. This city is amazing, I'm loving being here. The love and welcome has been sensational but I was pretty rattled, the time was full on and I definitely felt the pressure of the move and having a job that I was going to be comfortable with. When the Dejounte trade happened, it opened my eyes. When there's an all-star in a deal, everyone is up for grabs and you have no control over it."

Once the deal to Phoenix was made official, Landale's recent experiences reminded him anything could happen, with several mega trades rumoured to be in the works, specifically surrounding Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant.

"There was the Kevin Durant situation everyone was talking about and if they need to make up salary and I was the only one on a minimum deal I would be up for grabs."

Through it all, Landale - who has previously been open about mental health - has gained further awareness around the importance of escaping the basketball bubble, with the all-encompassing nature of the NBA calendar a threat to swallow up the steeliest of resolves.

"It's a work in progress but I've found things to distract myself. I have a couple of side ventures with mates back home that can take my mind off basketball. I've been messing around with photography which is a passion of mine that I enjoy doing, including travel photography.

"It's at the point now, where I'm weird enough that I'll be snapping shots of random stuff in the apartment, different spaces and things like that. I've gotten better at taking my mind away from the uncertainty of this sport, because it is complete uncertainty and that's right down the roster, you just don't know what the front office is thinking because they will always be looking for someone better at your position.

"It's been a learning curve and I'm definitely getting better at the things that really matter like honing my craft, working out and my family. It's been a crazy year to say the least, it's been pretty hectic but it's all part of the transition into the NBA and learning how this thing operates. I'll hopefully be dealing with it for another eight to ten years."

While it has been a head spinning 12 months, Landale described how his arrival in Phoenix has sparked a new wave of motivation, with the Suns once again expected to contend in a loaded Western Conference.

"My passion has been reignited to the Jock of old when I was first figuring out there was a chance of making it. Since coming the Phoenix, the passion is at that level.

"The transition into the space here, working with (Suns assistant coach) Mark Bryant, the strength and conditioning staff, the hunger to win is at an all-time high."

Alongside Deandre Ayton and veteran Bismack Biyombo, Landale could bring a different skillset to the five spot, with his ability to space the floor. With 54 NBA appearances under his belt, he has identified some key focus points after his opening initiation to the league.

"I started the season shooting it really well, but it got to a point where the consistency of those one or two threes a game tapered off a little bit to the point where I finished 34 percent on the year. 34 percent in the NBA is a decent percentage, you're respected as a shooter, but I want to get that thing back up to 40. That's been a huge emphasis this season, as has my body.

"I'm back to lean Jock, I got a little heavy at San Antonio which was a learning process. With multiple setbacks through the season with concussion and COVID, I got heavier than my desired playing weight, so I've gotten lean. I feel athletic and explosive, the big thing is that I've got three months in the bank before the season so I'm going to get stronger and continue to find ways that I can help this team win.

"That's my focus, it's around this time where I can check out tape and see how Phoenix play and how I can impact the game in their system. Those are the focal points of how I can improve."

No stranger to winning, Landale has added an NBL championship and an Olympic bronze medal to his trophy cabinet over the last 18 months, now his eyes are locked in on a deep postseason run in Phoenix.

"Phoenix is in title contention, and we have a real chance at winning which is what I want."