Suns’ Yuta Watanabe working to ‘be ready no matter what’ amid minutes drought

Jan 5, 2024, 11:08 AM | Updated: 11:12 am

Yuta Watanabe...

Yuta Watanabe is focusing on getting his mind right amid minutes drought. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Phoenix Suns wing Yuta Watanabe has played more than 10 minutes just once since Dec. 12, but he knows what his approach has to be in order to find his way back.

“I’m not shooting well this year, and in practice I’ve been shooting well, so I know it’s mental stuff,” Watanabe told reporters after practice on Thursday.

The 6-foot-9 wing’s 3-point percentage is down to 32.9%, the lowest since his rookie season with the Memphis Grizzlies. His numbers are even worse when taking wide open looks — 29.4% — which classifies as not having a defender within six feet or more.

So how does he fix it?

“Come in the gym every day, work on my game, that’s all I gotta do, you know? Maybe I can try some meditation or stuff like that … but I feel like being here everyday, working on my game, that’s the most important thing for me,” Watanabe said.

Chimezie Metu and Bol Bol have emerged from the bench to give solid minutes in recent games, and Watanabe knows the best thing he can do is be supportive. Both of them began the season outside of coach Frank Vogel’s rotation looking in.

“I feel like he’s been doing a great job, he’s there he’s cheering us on, he’s not bringing the morale of the team down or anything,” Metu added after the same practice. “And at the end of the day, it always swings back around so if you work hard and keep your head up, it’s gonna come back around.”

Watanabe also pointed to one-on-one defense as an area he needs to improve upon, noting that there’s “no scheme” as a team if the Suns don’t defend well on an individual basis.

It can be tough as an end-of-the-bench shooter who doesn’t know what the role will look like from night to night, especially when Watanabe isn’t one of the players who can point to defense as their calling card in the way that Josh Okogie or Jordan Goodwin can.

So he’ll keep his head up and keep working, waiting for his opportunity to come back around, as Metu alluded to.

“Just be ready no matter what. I’m a guy who’s OK with not taking a lot of shots. Like, I know my role, I know how I got here, and we have guys like KD, Brad, Book,” Watanabe said.

“Those guys can score every day, every night, so even if I don’t get touches, I’m fine with it. But they are great passers too, so they’re gonna find me. I just have to be ready no matter what, and if they pass me the ball, let it fly, and if they don’t, swing back.”

Phoenix Suns

Kevin Durant #35 of the Phoenix Suns reacts during the second half of the NBA game at Footprint Cen...

Dan Bickley

Bickley: ‘It’s time to discard expectations of championship-or-bust’ for Phoenix Suns

It’s not over yet for the Suns, but the first that has to change is our luck as a basketball city, and that’s completely out of our control.

5 hours ago

Ish Wainright Suns...

Arizona Sports

Suns bringing back Ish Wainright on 2-way contract, waive Theo Maledon

Forward Ish Wainright is re-joining the Phoenix Suns on a two-way contract after a stint with the Portland Trail Blazers this season.

9 hours ago


Arizona Sports Video

Video: What are the Phoenix Suns’ biggest issues right now?

Wolf & Luke discuss the Suns' biggest issues after losing to Houston and Oklahoma City over the weekend.

11 hours ago


Arizona Sports Video

Video: We were all booing the Phoenix Suns after a sloppy weekend

After a weekend where the Suns lost two games, Dan Bickley does his Bickley Blast on the turnovers and what the team needs to do moving forward.

12 hours ago

Kevin Durant faces a Thunder double-team...

Kevin Zimmerman

It’s on the Suns’ players to clean up their turnover rate

Kevin Durant, Jusuf Nurkic, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal all have their individual turnover problems to grapple with for the Phoenix Suns.

13 hours ago

Devin Booker...

Arizona Sports

Report: Suns expect Devin Booker ankle injury to keep him out for week or more

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker sprained his right ankle Saturday and could miss more than a week, reports Shams Charania in an injury update.

15 hours ago

Suns’ Yuta Watanabe working to ‘be ready no matter what’ amid minutes drought