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Phoenix Suns staring down roster, contract decisions

PHOENIX, Ariz. — The clock is ticking.

The Phoenix Suns are nine days away from opening the 2013-14 season, meaning they have a week to decide whom to invest in this season as well as a week and a half to decide whom to invest in for the future.

With 18 players currently in uniform, the Suns must make at least three cuts before finalizing the roster, which needs to be submitted to the NBA by 2 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29.

“This is always a difficult time of year for players, coaches, management,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said. “These guys have put their hearts out there and have worked hard for a long time. Tough decisions will have to be made, but that’s just part of the business.”

The Suns are allowed to carry a maximum of 15 and a minimum of 12 players.

Malcolm Lee, James Nunnally and Ish Smith did not play at Sacramento, which was the team’s first real dress rehearsal of the preseason. Lee, who played in Minnesota last season, has yet to suit up for Phoenix as he continues to rehab from right knee and right hip surgeries back in January.

No other player has played fewer minutes in preseason than Nunnally, though he did start against the Los Angeles Clippers. Smith, meanwhile, could be the odd man out on a team overloaded at the point guard position.

The center spot is also crowded, meaning Viacheslav “Slava” Kravtsov’s time with the Suns could be short.

Aside from the roster decisions, there are contract decisions to be made.

Eric Bledsoe, going into his fourth season, is eligible for an extension.

“I’m doing my part on the court. I’m going to let my agent do his job. He’s got (my) best interest at heart. Right now, I’m focused on trying to lead our team and help us go in the right direction. Right now, I’m focused on that,” said Bledsoe, who becomes a restricted free agent next summer if not re-signed by October 31.

General manager Ryan McDonough must also determine whether or not to exercise rookie-scale contract options on Kendall Marshall, Marcus and Markieff Morris and Miles Plumlee by the end of the month. Marshall and Plumlee have third-year options — Marshall at $2.1 million dollars and Plumlee at $1.2 million dollars. The Morris twins have fourth-year options, each worth $3.1 million dollars.

All four are likely to have their contracts picked up for next season, though if there is doubt on any of the players, it would be Marshall. He underperformed as a lottery pick a year ago, averaging 3.0 points and 3.0 assists in 48 games.

“One thing I’m just trying to focus on is just staying the course — just continue to do the things that I do well and improve the things that I need to get better at,” said Marshall, who not only dropped weight but dropped his body fat percentage in the offseason to become quicker, especially on the defensive end. “I feel like if I stay the course, be a great teammate and focus on winning, everything will take care of itself.”