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Marquese Chriss’ summer focus: To get in shape, mid-season shape

Phoenix Suns forward Marquese Chriss (0) dunks over Charlotte Hornets center Frank Kaminsky III in the third quarter during an NBA basketball game, Thursday, March 2, 2017, in Phoenix. Phoenix defeated Charlotte 120-103. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

PHOENIX, Ariz. – Four days.

That’s how much time Phoenix Suns forward Marquese Chriss allowed himself to take off at the end of the season before he was back in the gym.

“I got bored,” he said, smiling.

Chriss had a very good first season in the NBA, validated by his inclusion on the all-rookie second team. He never missed a game—the only Suns player with perfect attendance—and spent the better part of 2016-17 in the starting lineup.

In other words, Chriss deserved a break, yet there he was, either back home in Sacramento or in Seattle or lately on the practice court at Talking Stick Resort Arena working on his game, specifically his offensive game.

Chriss mentioned ball handling and shooting when asked about his offseason focus.

“Just trying to score out of the offense and not just 1-on-1,” he said.

Chriss ranked sixth among rookies shooting 44.9 percent from the field, a number that jumped to nearly 50 percent after the All-Star break. Most of his offense came from inside the paint, but he did show the ability to hit the 3, making 72.

It’s a mid-range and post-up game that now has Chriss’ attention.

“I think I’m comfortable and I’m confident when I shoot the ball. I think every one of my shots is going to go in,” he said. “I’ve just been working on my mid-range game. Instead of shooting such a set-shot, (I’m) elevating and getting off the ground and being able to put the ball off the glass, being able to shoot it with somebody contesting it and things like that.”

Chriss’ shooting will be on display later this week in Las Vegas at NBA Summer League 2017.

Chriss and the Suns play Sacramento on Friday before games against Dallas and Houston on Sunday and Monday, respectively.

It’s unclear how much Chriss will play in Las Vegas. He played the fourth-most minutes on the team last season, while his 75 starts were the third-most of any Suns rookie in franchise history behind only Walter Davis (81) and Alvan Adams (79).

Following Summer League, Chriss plans to spend some time with center Tyson Chandler. There’s an expectation that Chriss will be asked to play center next season, or at least be the ‘5’ when the Suns choose to go small.

“I’ve been talking to Tyson, texting him back-and-forth,” Chriss said. “We were supposed to meet earlier in the summer but then I came back down here and when I came here, he left so I’ve been here just working out with the coaches. Me and him just set it up that we’re going to meet after Summer League when the teams kind of go (their) separate (ways). I’m just going to stay down in L.A. with him for a couple of weeks and workout out and just train.”

The opportunity to pick the brain of a 16-year NBA veteran is something Chriss is looking forward to.

“It means a lot to me, honestly, as a person more than a player,” he said. “Just that he cares that much about me and how I’m going to succeed in the NBA; and he cares about my growth as a person and as a player; and that he’s willing to take the time out of his summer with his family, with his kids inviting me into his home and train me and help me work out just to get better.”

The business of basketball is also expected to be discussed, according to Chriss, who leading up to the draft found himself the subject of trade rumors.

“I can’t control that. It happens,” he said. “While I’m here—and I hope I’m here for a long time. I love being here, I love Phoenix, I love the team—I’m just going to give it my all.”

Chriss turned 20 last Sunday, but he’s still growing into his body. His early summer work is already paying dividends. After weighing in at 230 pounds as a rookie, Chriss is “almost 250. I’m looking to tone my body up more; just get more in shape. I don’t feel out of shape, but I want to get in mid-season shape right now,” he said.

Chriss was one of only two first-year players along with Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid to finish in the top-10 on the rookie leaderboard in scoring average, field goal percentage, rebounds per game, blocks per game and steals per game, despite not ranking in the top 10 in minutes per game.

Chriss became the 14th player in Suns history to be named All-Rookie.

No rookie, however, committed more fouls or received more technical fouls than Chriss. Of course, those were issues the entire Suns team dealt with in 2016-17.

“I think that’s who we are. I think that we have an edge to us. We really don’t want to take any crap from anybody. Even if it’s an official,” Chriss said. “We have to learn to reel it in sometimes. I just think we have a competitive attitude and the emotions of the game get ahead of us. It’s something that we need to learn to control and channel it in the right way. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. I just think it needs to be at a minimum.”

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