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Suns coach Jay Triano candid about heart-to-heart with Marquese Chriss

Phoenix Suns forward Marquese Chriss, front left, reaches out to pull in a loose ball as guard Devin Booker, front right, and Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, of Serbia, look on 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

Marquese Chriss is often times his own worst enemy. The Phoenix Suns know that Chriss’ emotions often times run wild and take him out of playing effective basketball.

They also still believe in the player they wanted so badly that, to draft him in 2016, they sent two first-round picks and the rights to Bogdan Bogdanovic to Sacramento.

Interim coach Jay Triano is candid about his relationship and his personal talks with Chriss because he believes the second-year pro “accepts and acknowledges” his flaws.

“I think he’s come a long way,” Triano told Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

Triano was the one who didn’t duck the truth early on this season: Chriss’ poor conditioning and added weight hampered him. Now, the Suns coach is attempting to keep Chriss accountable in dealing with his emotional style that often times leads him to sulk or lash out.

“I want him to have that anger, and I want it to be funneled in the right direction,” Triano said.

Sometime in the past two weeks, Triano said he sat down with Chriss, who is averaging 6.9 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.0 block per game this season.

“If you sit down with him and talk to him, he’s one of nicest kids, he’s one of the polite kids, one of the well-educated kids,” Triano said. “I asked him — I probably shouldn’t share this — but I asked him if he loved the game. I said, ‘When you sit down on the airplane and we sit and chat, it’s a great conversation and you are full of life. I said, ‘When you get on the basketball court, you start pouting. You’re mad at your teammates, you’re mad at the officials, you’re mad at the opponent.’

“I said, ‘Do you love the game?’ He said, ‘Yeah,'” Triano added. “And so I said, ‘You got to show that you love the game. Let’s eliminate all the distractions, let’s eliminate all the people you hate. We’ve got to keep the focus. I think that was the biggest thing that we got out of the conversation.”

The results of that talk might only show in flashes.

Chriss scored 17 points, grabbed five rebounds and blocked four shots in 18 minutes Sunday against the Atlanta Hawks. He followed that Monday by scoring 12 points and grabbing six boards to go with an assist and a block in 27 minutes against the Miami Heat.

It was the longest outing and the only time Chriss played more than 19 minutes since Feb. 7.

“I think our relationship is in a good place right now,” Triano said. “It might not have been two weeks ago when we had the heart-to-heart, but I think that’s a sign that he’s really starting to come along.”

QUOTABLE

Triano on Devin Booker’s growth as a leader: “The biggest part of it is his start to demand excellence from those around him rather than himself. Even in the game last night, he turned and said, ‘You got to know this.’ The things he says, like, to his teammates subtly are signs that, oh, this kid is starting to step up. He’s starting to figure out that he can’t do this alone — he needs people to come with him.”

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