Suns coach Watson: ‘We’re not afraid to play anyone’
It has been tough sledding for the Phoenix Suns to start the 2016-17 campaign, as they are 0-4, losing their first game on Wednesday, but there has been no confidence lost.
The Suns have been handily beaten in their games against the Sacramento Kings (19-point loss) and the Los Angeles Clippers (18-point loss). They have also shown promise though, forcing overtime against the Oklahoma City Thunder on the road and battling the Golden State Warriors — losing both games by just nine points combined.
Suns head coach Earl Watson knows the team has some learning to do, but when the coach joined Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM on Tuesday, he expressed confidence that his young squad will progress. Watson watched the game tape of the Suns’ 116-98 defeat to the Clippers on the flight home on Monday night, and despite the lopsided loss, he liked the resolve of his team.
“I saw a team that fights, man we fight. We understand and recognize, as a former player in this league, (when) you come into this league you have to realize that you have to pay your dues so to speak,” Watson said. “You’re not going to get the calls, you don’t have the identity, you don’t have the character other teams, veteran teams do, and everyone tends to know that. So we’re a team right now (in) the early part of the season just playing as hard as we can. We understand that the best basketball for us is yet to come post all-star break, that’s when we have to be the team that’s gelling and making a move.”
The young players have received an extensive amount of minutes so far, as their energy has sparked a couple big runs. Marquese Chriss has played at least 11 minutes every game, and had a season high 22 in the opener against the Kings. Tyler Ulis played 18 minutes against the Clippers and Dragan Bender played 12 minutes against the Kings.
When Watson puts his young guys in, he doesn’t view it as resting his starters because of an insurmountable lead. He sees the rookies and second-year players as actual contributors, and they get valuable experience along the way.
“I wouldn’t say experimentation; I would say getting them minutes when you see opportunities for those guys,” Watson said. “I remember being in OKC my first couple of years, and it was all about creating that culture, creating a foundation, a style of play and a mindset. So these guys are going to help us, and throughout the season, we know their minutes are going to go up, we know things are going to change and opportunities are going to be there for the young guys to have a major imprint on what we do.”
The Suns are going through a learning process and Watson believes their best basketball is ahead of them, but for now, he likes the passion and the no-quit attitude his players bring on a nightly basis.
“You know what, I feel like we have a lot more games left, and I’ve done this before as a player, and you never really change or turn until you get an opportunity to roll and that’s coming up soon,” Watson said. “We started out with the toughest part of our schedule, we realized that, we embraced it, but we also believe we can win, and I think we’ve shown that belief. Now moving forward we’re only going to get better playing teams who are not title contenders, we understand that, but we’re not afraid to play anyone.”