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Suns’ Jared Dudley embracing the role of player-coach

Phoenix Suns forward Jared Dudley reacts after hitting a 3-point basket against the Denver Nuggets during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
LISTEN: Jared Dudley, Suns Forward

As the Phoenix Suns prepare to speed up The Timeline, young players are receiving more minutes, setting the maturation process to warp speed.

With that comes growing pains and it falls on veterans to help with bridging the gap. But Jared Dudley has accepted the challenges that come with his role.

Now in his second stint with the Suns, the 32-year old plays a career-low 14 minutes per game and has not scored more than 13 points this season. However, he leads the team in plus/minus (+52) and serves as a role model to the team’s youth.

“When you’re younger you’re searching for a contract, searching to take care of your family,” Dudley told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “I’ve now transitioned more into player-coach in a sense of helping young guys become better players. For me, I’ve always been a team-first guy, but it’s different, it’s more of a mentor role.”

Aging Gracefully

The Suns fiddled with more adjustments to the lineup on Wednesday, continuing the Devin Booker project at point guard while T.J. Warren, Josh Jackson, Marquese Chriss and Tyson Chandler filled out the rest of the starting five.

While starting four players 24 years old or younger is not an ideal championship formula, it gives the Suns a chance to analyze when they will be able to compete. More importantly, the extra playing time instills confidence and provides an opportunity to showcase growth.

“It’s very difficult but also, a challenge, a good challenge since they have their good moments and bad. It’s difficult because when you’re on the floor, a lot of the times you’re on with three, if not four other guys that are young that are trying to learn the game,” Dudley told Doug & Wolf. “Usually, you have three or four vets and it’s one, maybe two young guys.”

Phoenix snapped a five-game skid with a 102-88 win over Dallas, highlighted by strong performances from Jackson and Chriss. Jackson tied a career-high with 21 points and shot the ball efficiently. For Chriss, his 15-point, 12 rebound double-double was a positive sign after missing seven of the past nine games due to hip and ankle injuries.

You Kant(er) do that

In the Suns’ Jan. 26 game the New York Knicks, Devin Booker collected his second technical foul of the game and was ejected following an altercation with Knicks center Enes Kanter. Following the game, Kanter took to Twitter to instigate Booker but Dudley quickly became the first line of defense.

“He [Kanter] went overboard … That’s something you say to your kids,” Dudley told Doug & Wolf. “This is a guy who was very quiet, never did any of this social media stuff when he was on the bench in OKC. Now he’s in New York with the hype. It was for me to do, I always stand up for our franchise guy.”

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