If trading Markieff Morris was a breath of fresh air, don’t mistake it for a threat to the Phoenix Suns’ future collection of ping pong balls.
The Suns fell 116-100 to the Houston Rockets in their post-All-Star break debut Friday, and the bad run of injury luck continued.
Backup center Alex Len missed the game with a sprained ankle suffered during practice earlier this week, while starting center Tyson Chandler suffered a first-half shoulder sprain against the Rockets. He didn’t return.
Interim coach Earl Watson didn’t have an update on Chandler’s status after the game.
“It didn’t look good, so who knows,” Watson said.
With six minutes to play in the first half, Chandler injured his right shoulder chasing after a loose ball and colliding with the Rockets’ Patrick Beverley.
Combine the injuries at the center position with the trade that shipped off Morris, and the Suns’ frontcourt rotation looked quite different for interim coach Earl Watson. Jon Leuer earned his first start since Jan. 12 and scored 16 points in 21 minutes. He played alongside Mirza Teletovic, who led Phoenix with 25 points on 7-of-12 shooting.
Newcomer Kris Humphries, who came to Phoenix in the Morris trade, also played a significant role off the bench with the lack of center depth making it necessity. He finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
“I’ve known Kris a long time and this is what he do,” Watson said. “He’s a double-double machine.”
The Suns did get a solid outing from point guard Ronnie Price, who hadn’t played since Jan. 6 due to a foot injury.
“His impact defensively and on the ball and his presence calmed us,” said Watson. “It just shows we need a point guard on the court constantly. Until we get Brandon Knight back, we need to find ways to stay in the game.”
That was hardly enough to keep up with the Rockets, who smothered one of the Suns’ few healthy bodies. Houston made sure rookie guard Devin Booker couldn’t get his shots off, let alone have the chance to do so.
“They made sure he didn’t touch the ball,” Watson said of his 19-year-old rookie, who didn’t take his second shot until late in the second quarter.
Booker went on to finish 3-of-11 from the field for 10 points, and backcourt mate Archie Goodwin likewise struggled by going 3-of-13 for 10 points himself.
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