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Greg Monroe open to working out best options for his future, Suns

Milwaukee Bucks' Greg Monroe drives on Boston Celtics' Aron Baynes during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)

PHOENIX — Greg Monroe rolled into the tail end of the Phoenix Suns’ practice on Thursday, went through about a half-hour of individual workouts, and had to answer questions about his future. Did it include suiting up for the Suns?

The short answer, and one that could be undetermined for the time being, is that he doesn’t know.

Monroe, whose $17.8 million deal expires after this season, had yet to talk in depth with Phoenix management.

That said, he was open and willing to talk to the Suns’ front office about finding the best outcome for both parties. The 6-foot-11 vet, who is on the mend from a calf strain, just wants to take advantage of whatever opportunities are provided.

“I talked to (general manager Ryan McDonough) quickly. I just told him I understand the plan they have in place, how they want to approach the season,” Monroe said Thursday at Talking Stick Resort Arena. “I told him, ‘If you want me to play, I’ll always play.’ I’ll never be one not to want to play.

“I’m more than happy to play here. We’ll just continue to talk and see what happens.”

Since Phoenix acquired Monroe and two draft picks from the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for the disgruntled Eric Bledsoe, it was unclear whether the team would buy him out, throw him into action or search for a trade. Finding playing time for Monroe along with centers Tyson Chandler and Alex Len isn’t a worry at the moment.

But it could be when Monroe’s calf is cleared. Instead of a player on an expiring contract playing for a team focused on a youth movement, the more appealing options — for both sides — involve Monroe finding his third team in the first month of the season.

Monroe is still about a week from attempting to play.

“I’m not one to give timetables, but I’m definitely pretty close,” he said Thursday at Talking Stick Resort Arena. “Shouldn’t be no more than a week, tops. I’m feeling good, feel comfortable. Just want to make sure I’m fully healthy.”

Due to the calf injury, the 27-year-old big man played in just five games this season, averaging 6.8 points and 5.0 rebounds in 15.8 minutes.

He called the trade from Milwaukee a surprise.

“It’s what we signed up for. It could happen to anyone, any moment,” Monroe said. “My job is to play, that’s what I always focus on. Like I said, I was surprised.

“I was trying to get healthy, get back on the floor and help that team — now that I’m here, I’ll do the same here. And if it’s somewhere else, I’ll do the same there.”

FINALLY, TIME TO IMPROVE

Head coach Jay Triano had to count how many practices he’s coached the Suns, not because the number was huge, but because he’d hardly had anything to count.

More than two weeks since being named interim coach in place of Earl Watson, Triano said Thursday’s practice was the third he’s conducted. The culprit for the lack of practice opportunities: a five-game road trip ending with a back-to-back that crossed into the current homestand.

“I don’t think the really, really good teams are practicing hard like we did today with a back-to-back coming up,” Triano said of the Suns’ weekend against the Orlando Magic and Minnesota Timberwolves. “We need to put a lot of things in. We need to develop a lot of these players.”

Second-year forward Dragan Bender said the Suns put in new offenses and repeated old lessons previously discussed only in film sessions.

“Just change(d) a couple details,” the forward said. “Put our main players in different positions to be able to play more with the ball, put them in position where they can score more. Put them in positions on the court they’re comfortable with.”

Triano admits that finding the best opportunities for guard Devin Booker and forward T.J. Warren, the team’s best scorers, is one of the challenges at hand.

Phoenix has proven it’s at its best when both are getting their shots. While Booker has found his opportunities of late, it’s on the coach to get Warren in a rhythm as well.

“If they lean on Book, T.J. can come off a pin-down and score,” Triano said. “That’s for me to figure out how to manipulate both of them getting equal touches and get one guy going when the other guy’s going, just so that we know that if they stop Book that T.J.’s got a little bit of a rhythm going. That’s on me.”

FREE THROWS

— Center Tyson Chandler, who sat out Wednesday against the Miami Heat, did not practice and is questionable Friday against the Magic. Triano said the Suns will reevaluate him Friday.

— Asked why backup guard Tyler Ulis has struggled this season — he’s shooting 35 percent and 13 percent from three — Triano cited a change outside of his own control. “Probably Big Al,” the coach said of center Alan Williams, who will miss a good portion of the season after suffering a knee injury in the preseason. “Big Al just has a real good knack of sliding and knowing where to go and a familiarity with him that maybe the other guys don’t have yet.”

Ulis has studied film with the other Suns to help them understand how they can best position themselves to receive passes from him.

—  Bender on his one-handed shooting routine prior to games: “It’s kind of part of my routine, just to get the shot a little more arc on it, get a feeling for it before shooting, get in my routine of shooting. It’s definitely helping me.

“Kind of got into it into the summer, trying to get more and more arc in it, try to get more feeling. Kind of put it in the pregame routine to get that little feeling, little routine before I start shooting.”

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