Phoenix was down 64-40 at halftime. That’s when Jamal Crawford happened, helping the Suns outscore the Thunder 31-20 in the third quarter. He set his teammates up for good shots with no look passes, drove to the basket and hit some three-pointers. He provided the spark off the bench that the Suns desperately needed.
“It was a group effort obviously,” Crawford said. “You’re never out there by yourself win or lose. I’ve done it my whole career. So at times, you got to be patient. So I just try to help when I can and whenever coach calls on me I try to provide the energy.”
Crawford hadn’t seen much playing time this season yet which is crazy considering he has been in the league for eighteen years now, has won 3 NBA Sixth Man of the Year Awards and was a contributing factor to the Minnesota Timberwolves making it to the playoffs for the first time since 2004 last season.
He isn’t sure what the answers are for this team but he knows something needs to change. More minutes for him, perhaps?
“I’m not sure but whatever it is we need to change it up,” Crawford said. “The definition of insanity is to do the same thing night after night and expect different results. So I think for us whatever it is we have to find it and find it fast.”
Crawford has been with eight different franchises. He said some had chemistry right away and some didn’t. As a veteran, he understands that most things take time.
“You’re not going to make every shot,” Crawford said. “You’re not going to play a perfect game. It’s a game of being imperfect.”
The uncertainty or confusion out there on the court at times can look like a lack of energy or effort. Crawford said he sees some hesitation from some guys but understands that the game is moving so fast and that can be challenging for some of the new players.
“I think whenever you play in thought you play a little bit slower because you’re thinking the game and the game happens so fast,” Crawford said. “You can’t think through every play. It’s a game of imperfect. In the game in real time, those decisions are split second decisions.”
Head coach Igor Kokoskov added that it’s easy to keep hiding behind ‘effort’ as the reasoning behind the Suns’ losses but the losses are much deeper than that.
“We have to play well too,” Kokoskov said. “A lot of times if you don’t play smart, if you don’t execute well then you have a lack of communication, you have a bad shot selection and everything looks awful.”
Rookie Mikal Bridges has seen an increase in minutes and has not only been executing well but also bringing good vibes.
“He always comes ready with the right mindset,” Kokoskov said. “He’s our good spirit guy. He’s always got something positive to say to touch every player in the locker room and on the bench and he’s unbelievable from that point of view. I think he’s doing a very good job at executing game plan and just keeping guys, not accountable necessarily but just to remind them of a coverage.”
Rookie Deandre Ayton is averaging 16 points and 11 rebounds this season yet critics continue to talk about his lack of effort and aggression. Kokoskov said we should have more realistic expectations for him.
“I think we all have to be more patient when it comes to expectations [for] Deandre,” Kokoskov said. “He’s going to be a hell of a player. He is extremely talented and he’s going through something that every young player goes through. He’s playing against elite big guys, elite centers in this league and it’s not easy.”
Kokoskov isn’t one to put too much pressure on his players if he doesn’t have to. He just wants Ayton to enjoy the process, be aggressive and learn from his mistakes.
“I don’t want him to basically paralyze himself being like ‘I have to, I have to,’” Kokoskov said. “Instead of saying ‘I have to’ you should say ‘I want to’ and that completely changes his mindset.”
With Ayton and the rest of this new look Suns squad, it’s going to take time for the chemistry to take shape so for now it’s about being patient with expectations and taking it game by game.