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Phoenix Suns’ Marquese Chriss adjusting to bench role

Phoenix Suns forward Marquese Chriss, left, goes to the basket as Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors (15) defends during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game Friday, Oct. 6, 2017, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

PHOENIX – Inserting rookie Josh Jackson into the starting lineup had a trickle-down effect on opening night for the Phoenix Suns. And the one player affected most of all was forward Marquese Chriss.

Sure, Chriss had come off the bench before. But it had been more than a year since the Suns last started a game without Chriss on the floor.

“It was different. It was just a different feeling for the game,” he said Friday, after shootaround. “I think it’s going to take some time, but ultimately, it’s just basketball. Regardless, you’re going to end up probably getting the same amount of minutes as if you started the game so I just think, try to contribute as much as you can when you’re in the game is what I need to do.”

Chriss said he leaned on veteran Jared Dudley during Wednesday’s season-opening loss to Portland. Dudley has made that transition from starter to reserve several times in his career.

According to Chriss, Dudley told him to pay attention to the action “and look at what you can do when you get into the game instead of being in the game and kind of finding your flow because everybody else is already going so you have to kind of try to get in and jump up to their level of where they’re at. That’s the difference.”

Chriss added being physically ready is also important.

“Just trying to get warm, just keeping my body moving, just keeping myself active because you warm up (pregame) and then you sit down so, I think, just staying loose is probably the biggest thing,” he said.

Chriss didn’t adjust well to coming off the bench in the opener. He missed four of his five field goal attempts, didn’t get to the free throw line, grabbed one rebound, committed two turnovers and was called for five personal fouls; all in just 12 minutes.

Last season, Chriss played fewer than 13 minutes only 10 times in 82 games.

“It made sense to me because I didn’t look at where I would fit in in the game,” he said, referring to his lack of production. “I kind of just got in and was having the same mindset that I had when I started. You just got to take a different aspect on the game.”

As a rookie, Chriss played very well as a starter. Moved into the starting lineup eight games into the season, Chriss averaged 9.5 points and 4.4 rebounds in 22 minutes to earn All-Rookie Second Team honors.

The Suns are now hoping for that type of performance coming off the bench.

“It was honest, it was direct, it was truthful,” head coach Earl Watson said of his conversation with Chriss. “Quese know he’s a starter in this league and there’s things we want him to accomplish consistently so he can have a long, impactful NBA career. We’re protecting him. It’s no punishment at all. It’s just teaching, and once he gets to that level he knows he’s a starter.”

Added Chriss: “I mean I would love to start. Obviously, that’s a goal of mine. But, ultimately, I just want to win; whatever the team needs to win, whether I need to come and just get rebounds or come in and try to block shots, I’m just going to try to do whatever I can.”


— Center Alex Len returned to action after missing the opener because of a left ankle sprain. Point guard Tyler Ulis was also in uniform Friday against the Lakers.

“I got kneed in the thigh yesterday. It’s a normal injury when you’re a guard. It’s something over the years that you get used to,” he said. “I’m not hurt at all.”

The Suns had listed Ulis questionable with a left quad contusion.

— Suns postgame host and play-by-play voice of the Northern Arizona Suns Jon Bloom will fill-in for Al McCoy on Saturday when the Suns play at the L.A. Clippers. It’s a 7:30 tip-off on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. The Suns have lost seven straight and 10-of-11 to the Clippers at Staples Center.

— One day before the 2017 NBA G League draft, the Northern Arizona Suns made a trio of trades, including acquiring the first overall pick from the Iowa Wolves. The Suns now have three first-round picks, Nos. 1, 6 and 11, plus a second-round selection, No. 35 overall. The draft begins at 10 a.m. Saturday.

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