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Aftermath: "It's been a year" says Tyson Chandler of Phoenix Suns

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah Jazz might owe the Phoenix Suns their season, allowing the Jazz (39-38) to win the season series 4-0 to help keep them in the playoff hunt into the final week.

The Suns, playing without a starting caliber ball handler, are now on a 6-game losing streak with 5 games to go before summer vacation.

"It is what it is," Earl Watson said of the situation.


With Rudy Gobert getting into foul trouble, the Jazz did a lot of mixing and matching along their front line with Trey Lyles and Trevor Booker, along with Derrick Favors, to get more and more aggressive on the perimeter.

"Teams are being more aggressive," Devin Booker said of recent Suns opponents. "Their bigs are being more aggressive on pick-and-rolls, so a lot of teams are trapping us. So now every team obviously they do their homework, every team is doing it."

No point guards

Coach Earl Watson, only two seasons removed from a 13-year career as an NBA point guard put the Suns' injuries to both Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight into perspective.

"You don't create point guards overnight," Watson said. "Some guys have been playing point guard position since the second grade. They go to college, then they become the point guard in the NBA."

As a result, the Suns have been forced to shooting guards Archie Goodwin and Devin Booker at the point for long stretches of games since late January.

As he is wont to do, Watson expounded on his point for a minute.

"It's difficult for someone to play another position since the beginning of their basketball experience," he said. "And think now that you're in the NBA, you can just run the show and run a team and understand the different details of running the program, offense, and controlling the defense and talking, and being a therapist on the court, and knowing when and where to pass the ball and to who and how. It's not that easy.

"Which is why point guards can last 13, 15, 18 years."

Big lineup

So it's interesting that with such a problem of other team's bigs trapping Suns' on-the-job-trained point guards that Watson spent a lot of time playing four bigs with a single guard on Monday night.

Watson's big lineup had Tyson Chandler, Alex Len and Mirza Teletovic along the front line with P.J. Tucker at shooting guard and Devin Booker being the only ball handler on the floor.

The Suns were outscored 30-10 in the second quarter, much of that with this 4-big lineup.

Watson defended the lineup decision. He went down his list of options besides those five, given the injuries to Brandon Knight (groin) and Jon Leuer (ankle) as well as the continued absence of Eric Bledsoe and T.J. Warren. He looked at the box score, naming each bench option in turn.

"I don't think that's the lineup you want to put in to stop a run," he said of Jenkins, Goodwin and Budinger.

Still, bringing Price back while leaving Booker in the game would have been a more traditional, and statistically proven, pairing. But I guess you can't play Ronnie Price every minute, and frankly no coach in the NBA wants that.

Watson did admit that he's putting too much emphasis on the veterans. P.J. Tucker and Tyson Chandler played 38 minutes each. They had great games. Tyson Chandler had a season-high 21 points and 18 rebounds. Tucker came up just short of his third straight double-double (12 points, 9 rebounds).

"These minutes are too heavy," he said as he perused the box score. "It's not worth the risk of injury."

But you do have to wonder about Watson's other options.

Alex Len

Len is struggling mightily. After making only 1 of 10 baskets against the Wizards, he missed all eight shots against the Jazz. That's 1-18 the last two games. And his only make was a mid-range jumper.

One field goal in his last 18 attempts is really, really bad, no matter how you slice it. But Watson at least recognizes this is an important time for Len, who played 35 minutes and scored only 3 points (free throws) and grabbed only 6 rebounds.

"We have to find a way to engage and uplift Alex Len," Watson said. Len played small in this game, especially on offense. He had a tough time the last two games against the tall and long front lines of Gortat, Nene, Gobert and Favors.

Watson said that Favors had the luxury of learning behind Paul Millsap for a few years. Favors also had a tough first-year of starting before developing into one of the best power forwards in the game.

"I think Alex is out-experienced," Watson said. "We have to allow him room to gain experience and fail as well."

Mirza Teletovic

Mirza is about to set an NBA record that few people even know about. If he can make three more three-pointers in the next five games, Teletovic will set an all-time NBA record for three-pointers made off the bench in an NBA season.

Teletovic has 162 makes this year, topped only by Chuck Person in 1994-95. Mirza already has the Suns all-time franchise record, beating out Danny Ainge from the 1992-93 season.

Teletovic had his second consecutive 24-point game off the bench for the Suns against the Jazz.

"There's time," he said. "I'll shoot the shots I'm given."

Tyson Chandler

The Suns veteran center had a throw-back night to remind us all that he's still a quality NBA center. Chandler played like a beast all night, and finished with a season high 21 points along with 18 rebounds.

"I mean I know I can play," he said after the game. "Of course you put up good numbers and everybody feels like you're doing what you're capable of doing. I know I can play."

Tyson admitted it's been a long and winding road this year.

"For me this year," he said. "It's been a lot about trying to bring along guys and then trying to find my way with different lineups and injures and all that kind of stuff."

"It's been a year," he finished, with a chuckle.

Final Word

Suns young players Devin Booker and Alex Len are going through a tough stretch here lately. After being shining lights of hope for weeks, they have made only about 20% of their shots the last two games.

Coach Watson thinks that Booker is struggling because Len isn't being a force down low. He says that every good guard needs a post-up threat down low to keep the defense honest.

I dunno but I think there's been a few NBA coaches who've cooked up schemes to win games without a post-up threat on the team.

Still, Watson's biggest problem is that he doesn't have any other options. So Booker is going to get double-teamed every time he comes near the ball, and shadowed by a dedicated defender whenever he doesn't. Len is struggling with not knowing where his offense is going to come from, and not really being a big-time offensive threat.

But Watson has to make do.

His guard options are Booker and... Ronnie Price, John Jenkins, Archie Goodwin.

His big man options are Alex Len, Tyson Chandler, Mirza Teletovic and... Alan Williams?

His small forward options behind P.J. Tucker and his pulled groin are... Chase Budinger.

Sure you can cook up a lineup scheme that might work in the short term, but really anything Watson puts out there isn't going to the majority of possessions in any game.

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