PHOENIX SUNS

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 NBA.com 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.”

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