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Suns coach Earl Watson attempting to kickstart defense

Phoenix Suns coach Earl Watson makes a point during the second half of the team's NBA preseason basketball game against the Utah Jazz on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016, in Salt Lake City. The Suns won 111-110. (AP Photo/Kim Raff)
LISTEN: Earl Watson, Suns head coach

Gone are the days where the run-and-gun Phoenix Suns are able to lean on their offense for their success.

In 2016, the Suns have a plethora of young players who are still learning the NBA, and it’s going to take a whole lot more than below-average defense to get them back to relevance. Giving up 114.3 points per game, most in NBA, is something that head coach Earl Watson knows the team has to improve on.

“We had a 70-minute practice, all defense,” Watson said Tuesday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s Doug and Wolf show after Phoenix lost a 106-101 game to the Wizards. “Those tend to work out for us, so we should get one in before the next game.”

The Suns are sixth in the NBA in defensive rebounding, averaging 34.8 rebounds per game. They are fourth in forcing turnovers, as opponents average 15.5 per contest. But Phoenix is sixth-worst in defensive rating by allowing 106.3 points per 100 possessions.

“It’s mostly setting the tone. The mindset we have to play with and understand how to win in this league, a lot of it is defensive,” Watson said. “There are great offensive teams, but the defense carries you throughout the season.”

The Suns are admittedly in a development year, and if there was any doubt, their 4-11 record proves it. Watson understands the importance of defense, and he is trying to instill it into the minds of his players.

“(Defense) is a lesson taught and is as fluid as a journey,” Watson said. “Offense gets you opportunity, and defensive characteristics will keep you in the league for years. So the learning concept of that is a constant growth for us.”

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