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Despite record, Suns’ Earl Watson loves what he sees from his young players

Phoenix Suns' Eric Bledsoe (2) dribbles around Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry (30) on a screen set by Alex Len (21) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
LISTEN: Earl Watson, Suns head coach

There’s no getting around the fact that the Phoenix Suns are young.

During veteran center Tyson Chandler’s recent absence due to the passing of his mother, Earl Watson has marched out the youngest starting five in the history of the NBA. Point guard Eric Bledsoe, at the ripe old age of 26, has been the team’s oldest starter in the last three games.

Growing pains are to be expected. The Suns currently own a 3-8 record, which has them in 13th place in the Western Conference. But there are plenty of things to be optimistic about, several of which were on display Sunday night in a 133-120 loss to the Golden State Warriors.

“That our team has resilience. They bounce back from an obstacle every single time,” Watson told Doug and Wolf Tuesday morning on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM when asked what he learned in the loss in Oakland. “In back-to-backs, which is rare for a young team, they come out to win and they play with a lot of energy.”

Last Saturday night, the Suns struggled in a 122-104 home loss to the Brooklyn Nets in which they shot 37 percent from the floor. Phoenix trailed 102-100 with just over four minutes remaining, but allowed Brooklyn to close on a 20-4 run to earn their first road win of the year.

It didn’t get easier the next night on the road against the two-time defending Western Conference champions. The Suns hung with the Warriors despite a signature Golden State sequence in the third quarter that culminated in a Steph Curry 30-foot three-pointer that stretched their lead to nine points. With the crowd at Oracle Arena going nuts, most teams — young or experienced — would fold in that scenario. The Suns didn’t.

Phoenix fought back, and Jared Dudley’s three-pointer with 5:49 left in the fourth gave them a 114-109 lead. They just didn’t have enough gas left in the tank as Golden State finished the contest on a 21-6 run.

Watson chuckled as he recalled answering a question about what happened in the late stages of Sunday’s loss.

“I said ‘the difference was Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry,'” he said. “I said ‘but in the future, people will say Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, T.J. Warren, Marquese Chriss, Alex Len, Dragan Bender.’

“I said I was with Kevin Durant and (Russell Westbrook) when they could not close games because of lack of experience. You can’t rush that.”

Watson reminisced about the 2008-09 season with the Thunder as they limped to a 23-59 record despite the presence of Durant and Westbrook. General manager Sam Presti’s message to the talented youngsters was to continue to work and improve despite the losses piling up.

“I didn’t understand it as a player, I was too young,” Watson said. “And now I look back on those players — Durant, Russell and James (Harden) — you see how the dominate down the stretch. It’s only because of the experiences they had as young players in OKC.”

The Suns continue a six-game road trip Wednesday night in Denver against the Nuggets. The game can be heard on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, with pregame coverage starting at 6:30 p.m.

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