Suns’ Earl Watson doesn’t see recent veteran shutdowns as tanking

Mar 21, 2017, 11:49 AM | Updated: 1:14 pm
Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe, left, center Tyson Chandler, middle, and guard Brandon Knight, rig...

Phoenix Suns guard Eric Bledsoe, left, center Tyson Chandler, middle, and guard Brandon Knight, right, sit on the bench in the closing moments during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016, in Phoenix. The Spurs defeated the Suns 107-92. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
LISTEN: Earl Watson, Suns head coach

For all Phoenix Suns players of legal drinking age in the United States, playing time might be hard to come by.

Well, that’s a slight exaggeration, but if you’re over 25, the Suns’ recent youth movement could force you to the bench for the remainder of the year.

Suns point guard Eric Bledsoe’s season ending was called a “management decision” by head coach Earl Watson, who described his role on the origin of the decision with Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday morning.

“If it’s not my decision you’re asking the wrong person,” Watson said. “I can’t speak for anyone but myself.”

So, it’s still unclear how exactly the decision was made, but one thing is certain: for the final 12 games remaining on the Suns’ schedule, Bledsoe will be out.

Bledsoe isn’t the only veteran to be sent to the bench. Center Tyson Chandler was shut down after the All-Star break. While older players like Jared Dudley, Leandro Barbosa and Ronnie Price haven’t been shut down, Brandon Knight is another player who won’t see any more minutes this season, although some of it was his choice.

It’s easy to see why people think Phoenix is purposefully trying to lose. Chandler, 34, and Bledsoe, 27, were two of the Suns most productive players this season with Chandler averaging 11.5 rebounds per game and Bledsoe leading the team in scoring (21.1 per game) and in assists (6.3 per game).

“No 37-year-old, first-year coach wants to sit any one of his players no matter what the record is, because my belief is still big, my canvas is still blank,” Watson said. “I haven’t been jaded with being a head coach and the business of basketball.”

But Watson doesn’t see their absences as tanking. He sees the newer lineups as an opportunity for young players to grow.

“If I have young players, I have to create value in every player especially our young core,” Watson said. “The value not only benefits the program but it benefits the player, such as Alan Williams, Tyler Ulis and Derrick Jones Jr.”

Even with a 22-48 record, which is currently the third-worst in the NBA, there have been some bright spots. Devin Booker is averaging 20.9 points per game in his second season, Marquese Chriss has been one of the better rookies with 8.5 points per game (eighth among rookies), T.J. Warren is a solid player with 13.8 points per game, and Williams, Ulis and Jones have all had their moments.

It would be a convenient year for the Suns to be bad, with one of the better NBA draft classes on the horizon, but Watson is more focused on the young players that are already in Phoenix.

“I only see things for the positive,” Watson said. “No matter what the obstacle is, it’s up to our young players to get better.”

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