Jay Triano on his future with Suns: ‘I’d like to see this through’
Things are looking up as much as they could for a Phoenix Suns team that will get a chance to win for the first time in 23 days on Friday.
Devin Booker, one would hope, is rested up after the NBA All-Star break and one game back from a hip pointer injury. Point guard Elfrid Payton is broken in after three games averaging 20.3 points and 8.7 assists since being acquired from the Orlando Magic.
Rookie Josh Jackson recorded double-digit scoring nights in nine of his past 11 games, and 20-year-old Dragan Bender showed flashes of playing with a quicker shooting trigger with four double-digit scoring nights in his first five February outings.
Add it together, and the doom and gloom of 12 losses in the last 13 games comes with signs of hope.
It leads into what will be a make-or-break offseason for general manager Ryan McDonough’s regime in charge.
And with that, here’s another question: Who will be leading those young Suns after this season?
Interim coach Jay Triano would like to be considered.
“I hope so,” he told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “I love this area, I love this team, I love the players here. When you work with them everyday like I do, I think you want to start to build that relationship. I want to see them do well, I want to see them excel.
“I came here with that purpose in mind — not necessarily to be the head coach — but now that I’ve had the opportunity, I’d like to see this through and see where we go. There’s not one thing I dislike about what’s happened so far except the losing, but I want to be part of that as we try to fix that moving forward.”
Lineup changes afoot?
Remaining competitive and keeping Jackson’s and Bender’s momentum moving forward are a few of Triano’s goals heading into the final 23 games.
Ushering in a more prepared and oriented Payton could help in that regard, too, but Triano suggested there’s more lineup iterations Phoenix could take a look at down the stretch. Specifically, he said Bender could get more time at center to see “how versatile he can be as a player moving forward.”
Bender has played sparingly as a center and usually has been saddled next to Tyson Chandler, Alex Len or even Greg Monroe.
His time alongside fellow power forward Marquese Chriss against the Warriors last week deflated their plus-minus rating in an ugly blowout loss, but Bender did play with a competitive unit alongside T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson a game before that, a 123-113 loss to the Denver Nuggets.
Bender scored 23 points to go with eight rebounds, four assists and two blocks in that game with a team-best +10 plus-minus.
NBA changes affect The Timeline, too
Phoenix Suns vice president of basketball operations James Jones said as much last week.
Booker’s steps toward becoming an All-Star caliber player have much to do with that, but the shifting of the NBA plays a part as well.
“The young core pieces are all getting better and that’s a real positive,” Triano said. “I think that now with the assets that we have and listening to the front office — more when they talk to you guys than when they talk to me — but things have sped up a little bit and I think a lot of that has to do with the NBA.”
A reformed NBA Draft Lottery intends to widen the odds of landing top picks to a broader selection of non-playoff teams. Even more, the possibility that the playoff format could be reseeded might give borderline contenders more incentive to continue postseason pushes.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver continued fielding questions at the NBA All-Star weekend about such changes, and that caught the ear of Triano.
“Even coming out of this All-Star weekend, the talk of new lottery system, the talk of new playoff system that might involve more teams or might involve different ways to reseed teams, I think that is something that kind of make every team maybe look at not rebuilding as much as they have in the past,” Triano said.
“He is one of the quickest to go from the ball down lower, in his lower hands, up to release point that I’ve seen in a long time. He was never up against the clock and he can find a way get a shot off in games as we’ve seen. The arc and the rotation on the ball never deviates. It’s exactly the same.”
— Triano on Booker’s three-point contest win