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Suns’ Earl Watson: Brandon Knight and entire second unit need to play better

Phoenix Suns guard Brandon Knight dunks over Portland Trail Blazers guard Evan Turner (1) in the second half during an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016, in Phoenix. Phoenix defeated Portland 118-115 in overtime. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
LISTEN: Earl Watson, Suns head coach

One of the most scrutinized players on the Phoenix Suns’ roster has been guard Brandon Knight.

There was some question whether the sixth-year guard would gladly accept a role coming off of head coach Earl Watson’s bench after starting 96 percent of his career games leading into this season. Knight eventually accepted the assignment, but has struggled in it so far.

Through the season’s first seven games, Knight is shooting just 32.6 percent from the floor. Twice this year — losses to Sacramento to open the season and Sunday night against the Lakers — Knight has shot just 1-of-8 from the floor.

Watson acknowledges his reserve guard’s struggles, but says it’s not all on Knight.

“It could be a combination of it being a difficult adjustment and actually the second unit’s chemistry might not be to his advantage,” Watson told Doug and Wolf Tuesday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “But, our love here is unconditional. We understand that seven games in, it doesn’t determine the rest of your season. He’s played long enough to realize that.

“Last year, we start the first 15 one game above .500, and he played pretty well for us, so we don’t play too much into that.”

Watson’s point about second-unit chemistry is a valid one. There’s been a noticeable drop-off in intensity and production early this season when the first-year head coach goes to his bench. Knight ranks dead last in the NBA in +/-, averaging a -11.3 per night. Second-unit center Alex Len is also in the bottom ten in the category at -8.4.

“So Brandon Knight, love is unconditional. We have to continue to be there for him,” Watson said. “But love is also honest. So we realize that playing better has to be key for our second unit. It’s not just Brandon Knight — it has to be key for our entire second unit.”

In terms of Knight’s specific role, Watson knows his transformation from starter to bench player will have its rough patches.

“Also, it’s a part of growing up,” he said. “Change is going to be messy in the beginning. The middle is going to have its bumps. But in the end, it’s always beautiful. Basketball reflects life.”

Knight and the Suns (2-5) will have an opportunity to move past some of those bumps Tuesday night in Portland when they face the Trail Blazers (4-3) — a team they defeated last Wednesday in Phoenix for their first victory of the season.

Tip-off is at 8:00 p.m. You can hear the game with Hall of Famer Al McCoy and Tim Kempton on the call on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, beginning with pregame coverage at 7:30.

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