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Suns Watson on Price: “Ronnie knows when he’s ready to coach he has a spot here”

Suns coach Earl Watson sees a lot of himself in Ronnie Price, and is willing to give him a coaching job when Price is ready to retire.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Ronnie Price might not be playing for the Phoenix Suns in 2016-17, but that doesn’t mean his future is Phoenix is over.

“If Ronnie Price moves on, which it looks like he has or will,” Suns coach Earl Watson told Bright Side. “Ronnie knows when he’s ready to coach he has a spot here.”

Watson and Price have had somewhat similar career tracks. Both point guards, Watson played for six teams in 13 years, while Price is moving onto his 7th team in 12 years. Watson had two seasons where he started more than 50 games, while Price reached his apex last season the last two seasons with 38 starts combined.

Though Watson’s role was a bit larger than Price’s throughout, they both figured out how to contribute positively to teams and stay in the league for more than a decade in a backup point guard role for multiple teams.

Their paths crossed in Utah during the 2010-11 season, where they both came off the bench for first Jerry Sloan and then Tyrone Corbin (Watson’s assistant now with the Suns). Sloan retired mid-year and Corbin took over in the same year Deron Williams was traded to New Jersey for Devin Harris and Derrick Favors, primarily. Raja Bell was also a member of that team.

“For me personally I love and appreciate him as a brother,” Watson said. “I know his entire family, I remember when the kids were babies, I know his wife, so for me it’s a lifelong relationship.”

We have heard this and that about former Suns backup PG Ronnie Price signing with the Oklahoma City Thunder on a two-year deal, but nothing has materialized officially as of yet.

The Suns are just letting it play out.

“We support each other, we love each other,” Suns coach Watson said. “It’s a business decision for Ronnie. Of course he really appreciated everything here and he wished it could have worked out here, but for Ronnie moving forward it’s a great opportunity for his family financially.”

The key is getting that second guaranteed year. With money flowing rich this summer, Price early on got an opportunity for a two-year contract - something a 33-year old backup point guard with a long history of one-year minimum contracts was unlikely to see again.

“Ronnie Price as my former teammate and a guy I’ve known for almost ten years now,” Watson said, “Is at the point of his career where job security ‘plus one’ is important.”

The Suns, meanwhile, lucked into picking Tyler Ulis in the second round and appear to have confidence that Brandon Knight and Devin Booker will be able to support each other in complementary roles next year alongside Eric Bledsoe.

With Knight, Booker, Ulis and Bledsoe all locked up for three-plus years, there’s no need to give a two-year guaranteed contract to Price. The Suns wanted Price back at one year.

“Management has to do their job and they execute it,” he said. “They feel what’s best financially and for the vision of the team, and we all trust and believe in that.”

Make no mistake, Watson will miss Price. He spoke often last year that Ronnie was best suited as a third point guard off the bench but showed ultimate professionalism and moxie by instead having his best year as pro at the old age of 33 - just three years younger than Watson, and one year short of Watson’s own retirement age.

Watson even hinted last year that he’d love to see Price become a coach some day.

Now Watson will gladly make a spot available on his staff for Price, whenever he’s ready.

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