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Suns’ Triano on Jackson’s discipline: ‘I thought Josh had none early on’

Phoenix Suns guard Josh Jackson, left, shoots over Golden State Warriors center Jordan Bell during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Phoenix, Saturday, March 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
LISTEN: Jay Triano, Suns Interim Head Coach

It’s not always as easy as flipping a switch. Thankfully for the Phoenix Suns, it appears that’s the case when it comes to rookie Josh Jackson.

Was the turning point in his season that early-January talk with Jay Triano, where the interim coach told Jackson he didn’t have confidence in him?

It was more about how Jackson reacted to it and the habits he changed since that honest discussion with his coach.

“Number one, showing up on time,” Triano said Tuesday on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Doug & Wolf show. “I mean, we had major issues with him and that’s one of the reasons we sat down and talked. I’m a firm believer that the discipline off the court translates to discipline on the court. I thought Josh had none early in the season. That was a big part of it. ‘Who are you going to be as a professional? How are you going to approach this profession?’

“We’ve seen a huge change not only in that. His work ethic in the weight room, his work ethic everywhere from that day forward has been fantastic, and we’ve seen a translation. We don’t hold back in reminding him that, you know, ‘Ever since you kind of changed how you approached the game, the way you have played has changed as well.'”

The numbers bare out Jackson’s improvements.

He averaged 11.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game before the mid-February All-Star break, but those numbers since have ballooned to 16.6 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists in just four more minutes per outing.

The increase in minutes in itself is a sign of Triano’s trust in Jackson, who has slowed the game down and learned how to attack more efficiently.

He shot 40.6 percent before the All-Star break, even struggling to finish at the rim on rushed, forced attempts, but the small forward is now hitting 46.5 percent of his attempts.

“I challenged him last week, how great can you be the rest of the year?” Triano said. “His eyes light up. He’s looking forward to the challenge. That’s the one thing I really like about him. He needed to figure out what this league is about. Some people, it takes a lot longer. He figured it out real quick.

“What we’ve seen as the season has progressed here is a guy that’s on a steady incline,” Triano added. “I think everybody had doubts, us included. ‘How are we going to reach this kid? How are we going to get through to him?'”

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