Interim head coach Jay Triano begins to put his imprint on the Phoenix Suns
PHOENIX – With Eric Bledsoe not with the team, the Phoenix Suns were already going to look different in game No. 1 under interim head coach Jay Triano. The question was how different.
Earlier on Monday, Triano told reporters he planned to play a more traditional starting lineup when the Suns hosted the Sacramento Kings. When pressed, he explained either Dragan Bender or Marquese Chriss would start at power forward.
As it turned out, it would be Chriss, who after starting 75 games as a rookie, began the 2017-18 season as a reserve, a role he admitted later would take some getting used to. Chriss no longer has to worry about that.
And with Bledsoe unavailable, Triano chose to start Mike James rather than Tyler Ulis for a lineup of James, Devin Booker, T.J. Warren, Chriss and Tyson Chandler.
Rookie Josh Jackson will now come off the bench.
“I think Mike has played very well,” Triano said pregame. “We’re concerned about rebounding and I also want to play a traditional style of basketball to start, so Marquese will matchup at the ‘4’. I think Josh playing the ‘4’ sometimes is doing him a little bit of a disservice some three games into his career. It’s something I do want to do and we will do when we decide to go small, but I want him to pay his natural position. We think he’s going to be a great ‘3’ man in this league and so let’s get him used to that. I think he’ll bring a great energy for us off the bench if we start off slow.”
Triano added he considered bringing Warren off the bench in an effort to help the production of the second unit.
“I just think right now we’re going to go with getting off to a good start, hopefully. Like I said I don’t have a real pattern as far as substitutions go. It’ll be based on play,” he said.
With Chriss back in the starting lineup, the Suns want him to concentrate on rebounding, an area that’s been lacking early in the season. Against the Clippers on Saturday, the Suns were outrebounded by 16 with Chriss only grabbing one board in 16 minutes.
Overall, Chriss has eight rebounds — one offensive rebound — in 46 minutes, which ranks sixth-best on the team.
At 6-foot-10, Chriss needs to be better.
“He has to be. His athleticism and his ability, that’s going to be one of the things that determines who he is as a player,” Triano said. “Obviously learning how to get stronger and where to be and how to react to the ball is something we have to work on. He’s a great athlete who’s got a great future ahead of him. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be the first guy to go get the ball.”
A FAN OF TRIANO
Count Kings head coach Dave Joerger among the many admirers of Triano, who’s called the NBA home as either an assistant or head coach since 2002.
Joerger, meanwhile, entered the league in 2007 as an assistant with Memphis, meaning the two have crossed paths many, many times.
“It’s a small world. He’s an incredible basketball mind. Terrific. I’ve stolen a lot of things from him over the course of the years, especially offensively, so we’ll see how tonight goes,” Joerger said, before pausing and then adding about the night’s matchup, “Glad he didn’t have a lot of time.”
WELCOME BACK, SORT OF
Once upon a time, the Suns selected a young Serbian professional basketball player by the name of Bogdan Bogdanovic with the 27th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. Two years later, despite being high on Bogdanovic, the Suns traded him as part of a package to acquire the draft rights of Chriss from the Kings.
Bogdanovic was expected to make his Sacramento and NBA debut against the Suns on Monday.
“He gives us some playmaking, the ability to make some shots. He’s got poise, he’s got a high IQ,” Joerger said. “He can pass and cut and play with the ball on the move, which a lot of our American guys can’t do. They can’t make three decisions in a hurry on the move with the ball. I’ve enjoyed being around him and look forward to a lot of years together.”
— Joining Triano on staff is Ty Ellis, who was about to enter his second season as head coach of the Suns’ NBA G League affiliate, the Northern Arizona Suns. Tyrone Corbin becomes the lead assistant, while Marlon Garnett moves to a full-time assistant coach after spending last season as assistant coach/player development coordinator.
— On Tuesday, the Suns will give back to the community when team employees volunteer their time to aid underserved local families by packaging emergency food boxes at St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance. The volunteers will also sort food and repack bulk produce, with a goal of building enough food boxes to provide more than 17,000 meals for those in need throughout Arizona.
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