Suns to change leadership, style of play

Oct 25, 2017, 7:48 PM | Updated: 7:54 pm

(AP Photo/Matt York)...

(AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX – Life without Eric Bledsoe and Earl Watson has begun for the Phoenix Suns. The change brings both a change in leadership and a change in play.

Third-year guard Devin Booker looks to be one of the catalysts to help change the team’s fortune for the 2017-18 year.

Interim Coach Jay Triano said Booker’s basketball knowledge has helped with the process.

“I think the leadership role is his basketball IQ, and the fact that he committed at the defensive end the other night, is the first step,” Triano said. “If he’s your leader and he’s leading by example, that’s a big enough thing for me.”

The shooting guard has fully embraced that leadership role. The coaching transition has led to some changes in preparation, he said, but ultimately, it comes down to effort.

“Obviously, we needed a change after those three losses that we had, so we just came in with a whole new effort, a whole new pride for the end,” Booker said.

The Suns are the youngest team in the NBA and Triano realizes his young team must go through a learning process.

“It’s part of (what’s) going to be their growth, of how to run a team,” Triano said. “If I want to get something in, I’ll get it in, but I told them — north and south. Don’t look over at me, or I’ll slow it down.

“We don’t want to play that way. We don’t want to play where they look at me and then translate it to the players on the floor. Let’s just play.”

The Suns suffered a 48-point loss vs. Portland to start the season and were again blown out three days later when the Los Angeles Clippers routed the Purple gang by 42 points, in a 130-88 loss.   

Those outcomes aren’t ideal especially for a young team trying to find its way.  

Booker said his new coach gave them some words of advice to help get them back into the groove of things.

“(He told us), don’t worry about the score. Don’t worry about winning, or losing. We’re playing against ourselves, and that’s with pride and energy.”

That advice seemed to stick with the players, as the Suns defeated the Sacramento Kings 117-115 on Monday for their first win of the season.

“Coach has been stressing that … our youth is our advantage so we have to get into guys early,” guard Tyler Ulis said. “And our defense is our offense because he’s given me and Mike (James) the freedom … we’re just trying to get the ball and go. But if we don’t give that effort defensively, we can’t do that.”

The absence of Bledsoe has also resulted in other point guards having to raise their game, which means more playing time for the backup guards.

“With Eric not being here anymore, me and Mike have to step up vocally as point guards, and try to lead this team,” Ulis said. “And as a young group, we do a lot of things, we mess up a lot of plays, in the shootaround (and) things like that. And we just need to make sure we get things right, and make sure everything’s on point.”

While the team is coming off their first win of the season, there is still a lot of work to be done. Triano said he knows that, and the players do, too.

“I mean (it’s) the NBA; don’t get too high, don’t get too low,” Triano said. “It’s one game, and that’s gonna be the message to the players.

“We’ve got to play, we’ve got to do it every night. It wasn’t even like we were good.  We were OK compared to where we want to be. When we start playing consistently over 48 minutes, then we’ll be good.”

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