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Suns GM: With Watson in charge, goal is to see improved energy and effort

Phoenix Suns' interim head coach Earl Watson calls a play during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
LISTEN: Ryan McDonough, Suns' General Manager

As an NBA head coach, Earl Watson’s record stands at 0-1.

Of course, it would mightily unfair to judge his performance on just one game, and no doubt the Suns are going to view how he fares over the rest of the season when determining if the 36-year-old is a viable option to be the team’s head coach going forward.

But with the team in the midst of a free fall and injuries starting to pile up, it would seem like the odds of success for Watson over what could be a 33-game stint as the lead man are very slim. So, how will general manager Ryan McDonough judge Watson, in terms of his effectiveness as the head coach?

“I think what we’re looking for is improved energy and effort,” McDonough told Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Wednesday. “We’re undermanned right now — I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a team with so many injuries, especially at the same positions. They’ve really come in waves, particularly at the point guard slot where we’re down all three of our point guards with (Eric) Bledsoe, (Brandon) Knight and (Ronnie) Price being out, and the power forward spot, as you guys know, a couple weeks ago against San Antonio, on a 15-man roster, we finished the game with eight healthy players. All that’s been extremely frustrating for us.

“But what we’re looking for over the next 32 games is for guys to play hard and play the right way and establish a foundation that allows us to be successful going forward as we try to build a culture and build some good habits, especially with our young players.”

The third-year GM pointed out that if there is a silver lining to the injuries it is how some of the team’s younger players have had to play more, which in turn should help expedite their learning process.

“I think over the last couple weeks and months you’ve seen some good progress in guys like Archie Goodwin and Devin Booker, and that will only help us and help the team as we progress not only through the rest of this year, but in the future as well.”

If Tuesday night’s game is any indication of the kind of impact Watson will have, though the Suns lost 104-97, things may be looking up as embattled forward Markieff Morris had his best game of the season, scoring 30 points to go along with 11 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and one steal in 41 minutes.

“I think Earl was very clear about the players with their roles,” McDonough said. “He brings a unique approach. A few of the things he’s done that are a little different, in front of the team he went down the line and told, I think all 14 guys on the roster, how he views their roles and what he expects of them and what we’re going to look for them to do over the remainder of the season.

“He also let them know when they would be playing. Obviously we start five and then you have to be a little bit flexible due to foul trouble or injuries or what have you with the substitutions, but he gave the guys some idea of when they may go into the game and when they may come out of the game so they can mentally prepare for that.”

The other thing McDonough pointed to was how big into visualization Watson is, as the coach believes it will help the team if players know what is expected of them every night in terms of their role and when they will be asked to play.

“And I think, by and large, it did last night.”

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