Phoenix Suns still without Chriss, expected to welcome back Warren

Jan 18, 2018, 5:21 PM | Updated: Jan 19, 2018, 12:39 pm
Phoenix Suns forward Marquese Chriss, left, keeps the ball away from Sacramento Kings forward Skal ...

Phoenix Suns forward Marquese Chriss, left, keeps the ball away from Sacramento Kings forward Skal Labissiere during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

PHOENIX – It’s been 11 days. And with each passing day, Phoenix Suns forward Marquese Chriss grows more and more frustrated.

Actually, Chriss is more than frustrated.

“I’m pissed off. It sucks,” he said Thursday. “That’s something that I don’t want to have to do. But, it’s happening for a reason, I think. I’m just trying to get myself better and just try to get healthy.”

Chriss has not played since Jan. 7 against Oklahoma City. Three minutes into the second quarter, he hurt his right hip. It was diagnosed as a strain, and it’s kept him off the court each of the last three games.

Chriss did not practice on Thursday, and he’s expected to miss a fourth straight game when the Suns visit Denver on Friday.

Addressing reporters for the first time since the injury, Chriss said the hip is still giving him trouble, especially running, which “is probably the hardest thing to do right now.” It’s come to the point where Chriss is considering a second MRI to see if there may be more damage to the area.

“Honestly, I’m surprised that he’s not back, so I’m a little concerned but honestly I haven’t had the chance to even talk to the trainers about what’s going on there,” interim head coach Jay Triano said.

Without Chriss, the Suns are 0-3.

“I would hope I could help,” he said.

The Suns clearly miss Chriss’ energy. Plus, his absence, along with that of fellow starting forward T.J. Warren, has meant the Suns are playing different combinations and using different rotations than they have in the past.

Bench players Dragan Bender and Josh Jackson both have been forced into the starting lineup, severely hampering the team’s second unit.

Chriss has had an up-and-down season, though he had been playing some of his best basketball before the injury. In the seven games prior, Chriss was averaging 11.3 points on 48.3 percent shooting from the field and 7.1 rebounds.

“It’s annoying having to sit here and then do all the treatment when I want to just play,” he said, adding about his recent play, “I’m just going to continue doing what I was doing; just try to come back as strong as I was playing.”

These three games, and likely a fourth, are the first games Chriss has missed in his NBA career. He had played 124 consecutive games. On top of that, Chriss never missed a game in college, playing all 34 games at the University of Washington.

“I played through a lot of stuff. That’s something that I pride myself on doing,” he said. “I mean I don’t plan on missing a lot more games in my career.”

Welcome back Warren

While Chriss remains sidelined, Warren is expected to be back in the lineup to face the Nuggets.

The Suns have been minus their second-leading scorer for two games as Warren dealt with low back soreness.

“A lot. At both ends of the floor,” Triano answered when asked what Warren’s return means. “Just stability at the defensive end, being familiar with what we’re trying to do and his ability just to find points.”

Forward Danuel House will also be available after he skipped the trip to Portland due to illness.

Defense optional

In the last three games, the Suns have allowed 112, 120 and 118 points.

According to Triano, the players aren’t doing the “things that we’ve installed since the beginning” like being in the proper defensive stance, not turning your back on your man, not turning your back on the ball, ready to close out and going over instead of under screens.

“Whether it’s mental fatigue—we’re just not as precise as we need to be,” he said. “It’s four plays in a row (and) it’s four different guys. ‘My bad, my bad, my bad.’ Well, four ‘my bads’ is eight points going the other way. Just as a team, we have to be completely solid. Our margin for error is very, very slim when our roster is depleted.

“My ability to take somebody out of the game because they miss something defensively is limited with a smaller roster. I can’t really penalize them other than taking timeouts and addressing it.”

A road warrior

Guard Devin Booker’s 43-point performance on Tuesday marked his third-highest scoring game of his career. That it happened on the road should not come as a surprise. Booker has had some of his best games away from Talking Stick Resort Arena.

“He’s the type of person that nothing really fazes him,” Triano said. “A raucous crowd cheering against him or having the ability to make them ooh and ahh with some of the things that he does on the road is something that he relishes. It seems like he’s been on the road a lot when he gets on those rolls where he becomes unstoppable.”

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Phoenix Suns still without Chriss, expected to welcome back Warren