The Phoenix Suns are making national news this week for all the wrong reasons. Whether it was losing two of their first three games by 40-plus points, Josh Jackson emptying a clip out on a Clippers fan Saturday walking to the bench, or Earl Watson getting fired right after, this is simply a worst-case scenario occurring this early on.
Now, add more fuel to the fire as we found out that Eric Bledsoe will no longer be with the Suns after leaving before Monday’s shootaround. After tweeting “I Don't wanna be here” Sunday, general manager Ryan McDonough promptly told him to leave.
Here’s what McDonough had to say about Bledsoe below, which began with a brief statement mentioning interim head coach Jay Triano would bring more development and basketball focus.
“We didn’t make these changes as a reaction or strictly based on the past three games. It was an evaluation of a year and a half period,” McDonough said after Monday’s practice. “We remember meeting going into the summer about some of the changes we would like to see, in terms of style of play and player development and accountability. All of those things go into winning and helping players develop. Unfortunately, we didn’t see those changes. You guys obviously saw what happened in those first three games. We realized we’re a young team, inexperienced team, but at the same time, we expect a baseline level of organization, effort, strategy, all of that.”
When pressed about how Watson could succeed while sitting players like Bledsoe and Tyson Chandler out the second half of last season, McDonough pointed to Watson’s 18-month performance. The first three games indicated it was time for management to make a swift move.
McDonough also alluded to how Phoenix’s offensive sets and overall ball movement weren’t great, as was displayed the first week of the season. An overall lack of ball movement and player development was what did Watson in only three games.
“That happened in March, we’re in October,” McDonough said of sitting veterans. “Our point differential has obviously been atrocious the first three games, so it was a culmination of things. There wasn’t one specific thing, one specific incident, one specific decision. Look, we thank coach Watson for his effort. This is a hard job. It’s hard coaching in the NBA, it’s hard coaching kids. We just didn't see the progress we were hoping for. Obviously, that translated to the court. It was time to make a change.”
After news broke early Monday morning about Phoenix sending Bledsoe home prior to shootaround, it related to the tweet he sent out. Bledsoe, who was counted upon to be a veteran leader this year with a nucleus that was rather young, told McDonough he was at his wife’s hair salon.
Unfortunately for Bledsoe, McDonough wasn’t buying it and neither was owner Robert Sarver. Including interim head coach Jay Triano, all three discussed it before McDonough told Bledsoe himself to leave the facility. Management believes it was in the team’s best intentions to do this now, and he even mentioned that he would hit the phones to discuss trades for Bledsoe right after speaking with the media.
Now, the Suns’ front office again sees this as an opportunity to hit the reset button. After ridding themselves of Bledsoe, with management confirming that he requested a trade before this season began, they want to focus solely on the development of their young core moving forward.
“We just met with Eric this morning. I met with him before shootaround, coach Triano and I met with him. You guys saw his tweet last night,” McDonough said. “I gave him a call last night and asked him about that tweet just to clarify what he meant by it and he said he was at a hair salon. It wasn’t about the Suns, he said he was at a hair salon with his girl and he didn’t want to be there anymore. So, I don’t believe that to be true. We thought about it. Talked about it with Robert and my staff, Coach Triano and his coaching staff and decided it’s what’s best for the organization so he won’t be with us going forward.”
Devin Booker, the current face of the Suns, was not a fan of this move, especially this early on, but he seemed to understand the move with their performance.
Just now entering his third season, Booker has had to witness two coaches fired and had to ordeal the Morris twins fiasco. Now, he has to sit through whatever this fiasco is involving management and Bledsoe.
When asked Monday if Watson should have focused more on X-and-O style coaching compared to just unity and brotherhood talk, Booker disagreed. He believes the process goes together.
Booker and Watson’s relationship was displayed as one of the closest on the team, and it showed when they spoke of each other throughout this summer. Now, Booker will have to work through this situation with him not even turning 21-years-old until the end of this month.
“No, because I think they go hand-in-hand,” Booker said. “Coach Earl, he stressed with us love, brotherhood and something I believe in. If you know the story between me and Earl, he started out as my player development (coach). I wouldn’t be in this situation without him. He’s helped me every step of the way. He’s been a mentor to me, a motivator that I can go to and talk about anything. So, that’s a relationship that lasts for life and me and him have talked about that. And we understand that. Earl is the type of guy I want around my kids. I want to be around his kids, that’s family to me. Family lasts. That’s way bigger than basketball to me.”
Phoenix will somehow look to rebound tonight against the Kings, but after this happened, is this season already lost? It sure seems like it, and hopefully, players are able to buy into Triano’s system or this season could get even uglier behind the scenes.