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Triano: Chriss, Suns moving on after verbal confrontation

Phoenix Suns forward Marquese Chriss, front, looks to pass the ball as Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, of Serbia, defends in the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
LISTEN: Jay Triano, Suns Interim Head Coach

As the Phoenix Suns prepare to take on the Los Angeles Lakes, forward Marquese Chriss prepares to return from a one-game absence.

The second-year wing was inactive Sunday against the Hornets following a verbal altercation with the team’s strength coach a few days prior. The situation stemmed from Chriss’ postgame conditioning routine.

In spite of the missed game, head coach Jay Triano was pleased with Chriss’ composure in handling the situation.

“It’s a tough adjustment for these guys. Nobody likes losing games. There’s a frustration level but it’s also a sign that a young kid is maturing,” Triano told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “We have rules. He broke a rule, he missed a game. We move on. We’re excited to have him back on the court against the Lakers.”

After beginning the season out of shape, Chriss was finding his groove in late December, averaging almost 12.7 points per game over a seven-game stretch before a hip injury sidelined him. In the four games he’s played in his return from injury, he has only played more than 20 minutes once and is shooting under 30 percent from the floor.

While he battles injuries and emotions, Triano believes that Chriss could be turning a corner.

“I loved his attitude at practice yesterday. Even the day he missed the game, he was in first thing in the morning. He got work in before the rest of the team arrived at the arena,” Triano told Doug &Wolf. “It just shows that this kid cares, and he’s accepted what happened and we’re moving on.”

A second first impression

Phoenix selected Josh Jackson with the fourth overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft for his defensive prowess. However, since the turn of the new year, it has been Jackson’s presence on offense drawing the attention of Suns fans.

In 14 games, the rookie is averaging 15.5 points with steady improvements to his field goal, three point and free throw percentages. He has reached the 20-point mark six times during this span.

“I think right now he’s embracing scoring,” Triano told Doug & Wolf. “I want him to start to figure out the league.”

Jackson entered the league with questions surrounding his ability to score. During this stretch, Triano has seen the potential for him to have success on both ends of the floor.

“He was playing so fast before, now he slows it down, speeds it up. I think that’s what’s making him so elusive in getting to the basket. I still think in the future he’s going to be a great defensive player,” Triano told Doug & Wolf.

Overcoming the injury bug

In the past week the injury bug was targeting point guards for the Suns as both Devin Booker and Isaiah Canaan have gone down, the latter for the remainder of the season.

Booker suffered a hip injury in the fourth quarter on Sunday when Cody Zeller kneed him on a drive to the basket. The third-year guard did not play the final 6:26 and has been ruled out for Tuesday night’s game against the Lakers.

Booker has started the past five games for Phoenix at point guard.

“I was happy to see him walking yesterday a lot better than he walked out of the arena on Sunday,” Triano told Doug & Wolf. “It’s unfortunate. I think he’s starting to get a feel on how to run a team.

While the timetable for Booker’s recovery is short, the same can’t be said about Canaan. The Murray State product suffered a gruesome ankle injury on Jan. 31 and will not return until next season. Despite the gravity of his situation, Canaan has remained positive.

“Went to visit him at his home. Here I am thinking I’ve got to go in here and uplift this guy and he was the one who uplifted me. He has a great attitude,” Triano told Doug & Wolf. “He came down to the arena and was in the training room on Sunday. I love the fact that he feels he’s still a part of this team. It’s great that he still wants to be part of this, and he will be a part of this, we’re going to make sure.”

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