A lot of numbers have come to define this Suns season.
Here’s another: Under interim coach Jay Triano, the Suns are 13-17 when Tyson Chandler and Devin Booker both play. Phoenix’s record when one or both of them is sidelined: 5-25.
That obviously speaks to Booker’s place as the Suns’ best player and All-Star caliber talent. But it also says something about the leadership Chandler provides and the vacuum that’s created when he’s not in uniform.
There wasn’t a better example of that vacuum than in Friday’s loss to the Clippers. Triano told his players Saturday that Los Angeles center DeAndre Jordan called out the Suns’ first seven plays and told his teammates exactly where they should be on the floor.
Suns insider Scott Bordow on a blowout loss to the Clippers on Friday.
With Chandler out because of neck spasms, who does that for the Suns? Alex Len? Dragan Bender? Devin Booker?
Or, as too often has been the case this season, no one at all.
“We’re so young right now that it’s all about me,” Triano said. “How can I guard this guy? How can I guard my guy? I can guard this guy, but I’m not going to help you on Lou Williams. That’s where we have to trust the system and our guys are infants as far as doing it.”
Phoenix’s roster construction certainly plays a part in the leadership void. Chandler and Jared Dudley are the only true veterans – “our young players are gifted minutes because of our depth,” Triano said – and Dudley’s lack of playing time (12.3 minutes per game) makes it hard for him to have a significant impact on the floor.
Chandler, meanwhile, has played just once in the last five games because of his lingering neck pain. Phoenix’s starting lineup without him consists of the 24-year-old Len, the 20-year-old Bender, 24-year-old T.J. Warren, 21-year-old Booker, and point guard Elfrid Payton, who just turned 24.
Good luck winning NBA games that way.
“There’s a lot of growing pains with a young team,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said.
Which brings us back to how much Phoenix misses Chandler, more for his ability to stabilize the Suns than the 9.5 rebounds he grabs every game.
“He’s good for young kids coming on a team,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said earlier this month. “He gives everything he’s got every time he steps out on the floor. He’s a great guy and a great example as a professional player.
“When you’ve been in the league that long, you have some good nights and you have some bad nights, but they see how he conducts himself. That’s not just at practice, but on the bus, they see how he treats people, how he respects his job and the game. So it helps young kids get a better start in the league if they’ve got those kinds of guys on their team in the beginning.”
Having Chandler on the floor doesn’t guarantee success – or even the Suns playing competitive basketball. He played in the 46-point loss to Golden State on Feb. 12 and the 32-point loss to Utah on Feb. 2.
But the numbers don’t lie: The Suns are 13-17 when he and Booker suit up. Given the way Phoenix has played in this eight-game losing streak, 13-17 looks like 27-3.
“I know his advanced numbers are great, but I know we win a lot more when he plays,” Triano said. “A lot of that comes from just the experience. Talking to Marquese (Chriss) when he’s on the floor, talking to Dragan, letting him know where he is and where he can provide some help, just following the defensive system. He’s got years of experience.”
Experience – and leadership – the Suns are sorely missing these days.
Why he's here: Chandler says family played big role in staying with Suns
Triano said he wants to see better defensive play from Booker the final 22 games of the season.
“When I first took over, I thought he was outstanding on the defensive end. Not good. Outstanding,” Triano said. “He bought into everything. I think the injuries, the length of the season, he’s drifted a bit and I’ve challenged him to be better now.”
Triano said it was a coaching decision to use Shaq Harrison as the backup point guard Friday rather than Tyler Ulis. Harrison, who was signed to a 10-day contract Wednesday, had four steals in 14 minutes, the most by a Phoenix player in his debut since Alvan Adams had five steals on Oct. 25, 1975.
“I wanted to see what he could do and I thought he was really good,” Triano said. “I thought his defensive intensity was very good.”
College basketball scandal: Suns' Josh Jackson doesn't 'recall' being approached by agents
Should you block ads? Adblocker