EMPIRE OF THE SUNS
On Draymond Green blaming the Suns for Marquese Chriss’ development
The NBA preseason turned out to matter a little bit on Wednesday night.
The Lakers’ blowout of a Warriors team without Steph Curry led to a soundbite from Golden State’s Draymond Green that the Phoenix Suns and their fans might not want to hear.
The topic was Marquese Chriss, the 22-year-old power forward who was traded from the Suns to the Houston Rockets before last season began — just before Phoenix fired Ryan McDonough, the general manager who drafted and then gave up on Chriss.
“I don’t think there was ever a doubt he was a legit NBA player,” Green told reporters. “I think he’s been in some pretty tough situations. No one ever blames the situation, it’s always the kid. Nobody ever blames these (expletive) franchises.
“It’s not always the kid’s fault. He’s getting older now so he’s not a kid anymore but he came into the league as a kid.”
Why wouldn’t anyone blame the Suns for Chriss’ development?
Green turned the question on reporters, and those specifically in Phoenix.
“Because (reporters are) friends with them and you want all the access from them, so the way you guys can come out and bash players, y’all don’t do that to organizations,” Green said. “Because it’s all about access and protecting your future. No one really protects these younger guys’ future because it’s always about, ‘What can I do for myself?’ … That’s what I think it is.
“No Phoenix writer is going to bash the Phoenix Suns, but let’s be frank about it, when he was there, the organization was terrible. Everything was going wrong. But he gets blamed like he’s the problem. When he left nothing got right.”
For the record, this here Phoenix writer has often times blamed the Earl Watson hire for failure to develop Chriss.
That is on Watson a little. It’s more on general manager Ryan McDonough and owner Robert Sarver, who didn’t interview other coaching candidates before hiring Watson and then fired him three games into the 2017-18 season.
In 2016-17, Chriss was handed a starting role early on despite being one of the most raw prospects in his draft class. He showed up the next season out of shape. Watson was fired, and interim Jay Triano was left to help Chriss improve his conditioning and his on-court attitude that showed in bad body language and technical fouls.
But Triano didn’t stick in Phoenix, and Chriss didn’t make it to his third year in a Suns uniform.
While Watson failed to hold Chriss accountable and McDonough’s sudden decision-making didn’t give the forward a chance, we all know that none of these aforementioned folks were put in the best situations. Former Suns forward Jared Dudley, who was Chriss’ teammate and lost his starting role to the then-rookie, said it well.
“You can def see the game slowing down for @quese,” Dudley tweeted. “His Shot selection is night and day from now now vs in Phx, use to shoot 5 threes a game (was told too) his behavior much improved.. But team culture is key! Can’t give young kids PT they have to earn it. Happy for him!
“Blame all the around! Love what James Jones is doing over there now esp with the Hire of Monty Williams. Head coach or Superstar player sets the culture 90% of the time.”
Let the record show that most Suns reporters and writers haven’t been light on the franchise’s massive struggles.
Most of the problems for coaches, players and GMs can be traced back to organizational instability that starts at the top with owner Robert Sarver. There’s no other way to slice it when he has been the only constant.
For all that he has to prove, the owner has admitted that he has tried to grow, too.
Back to Chriss. He and Dragan Bender, the 2016 draft’s No. 4 overall pick, were raw players drafted into a difficult situation. They are still intriguing prospects.
After Chriss struggled to find a role on the Rockets last year and entered another unstable situation in Cleveland following a midseason trade, he landed with the Warriors this offseason and is fighting for a roster spot.
He averaged 9.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 20 minutes per four preseason games. He started in three of them for a Golden State team that, while a shell of its dynasty, still should challenge for a playoff spot.
Wednesday night, his team got blown out. Green, one of the few veterans playing for Golden State, could be seen talking to Chriss and encouraging him often.
At one point, with Chriss guarding a center who was wandering on the weak side of the court and not a threat, Green ordered Chriss to jump to the other side of the lane — to avoid a three-second call but also to be in better position if the ball handler beat his man and drove. Chriss did so, the Warriors deflected the ball and it went out of bounds.
Green gave Chriss a high-five. That is the ideal situation for a young player to learn.
Meanwhile, Bender is now with the Milwaukee Bucks, a heavy title contender. He is averaging 13 points and 6.0 rebounds per game while shooting 60% from the field in just 18.4 minutes this preseason.
Their chances for making leaps forward appear good if they are retained by their current teams. But those two players failed to develop in Phoenix.
You could argue part of it is on them. But a lot of it is on the Suns, which still have to prove things have changed. There. A Phoenix writer said it again.