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“Players Only” meeting follows worst loss of Suns season

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The Phoenix Suns are reeling, and no one is sure of what’s going on.

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NBA: Phoenix Suns at Denver Nuggets Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Following a terribly disappointing loss to the Nuggets — the largest loss margin in a season of large loss margins — the Phoenix Suns players did something that was probably a long time coming.

“I feel like we shouldn’t have to wait for after any game (to talk amongst ourselves),” second-year wing Josh Jackson said. “I feel like we’ve seen problems that we’ve had for long enough. I feel like, at any moment, each guy here, we all like each other enough, are comfortable enough with each other that any one guy can call somebody out or just say what they think and how they feel.”

Beat reporters Gina Mizell (The Athletic) and Duane Rankin (Arizona Republic) travel with the team all year and were there firsthand to ask questions about the 30-minute closed door locker room talk among players.

The players weren’t sharing much, to be sure.

The editor of our brother site, Denver Stiffs, shared some uncut video of Jamal Crawford being coy about the meeting.

Mizell and Rankin got quotes from Devin Booker and Josh Jackson as well (Jackson’s shared above), and gave context of the room and the point in time where this impromptu meeting happened.

Key things they noticed: the meeting was players-only.

  • Coach Igor Kokoskov at one point left the locker area to talk to a fellow Serbian assistant on the Nuggets team, indicating coaches were not part of the conversation
  • Injured small forward T.J. Warren had already left the locker room for the flight to L.A., and eventually made it back to the locker room to hear the end of the talk.

Let’s put all this into the most brutal facts here, folks:

  1. Three starters and the top bench player are missing (two of them rookies) with day-to-day issues: Deandre Ayton, T.J. Warren, De’Anthony Melton and Richaun Holmes
  2. Those four players are their second- and third-leading scorers, their top three-point shooter, their top two rebounders, their second- and third-leading shot blockers, their top thief (steals) and second-leading assist man.
  3. Those players have been replaced in the starting lineup by three underperforming 21 year olds (Dragan Bender, Josh Jackson and rookie Elie Okobo) with a total of three NBA seasons under their belts and a journeyman (Quincy Acy) playing on a pair of 10-day contracts.
  4. The Suns starting lineup on Friday night: two 22-year-olds and three 21-year-olds.
  5. Rookie Mikal Bridges was the oldest player in the starting lineup on Friday night by two months over Booker.
  6. The Suns bench right now is older for sure, with Kelly Oubre Jr., Jamal Crawford, Troy Daniels and Acy, but that’s really only one player among them who deserves big minutes
  7. Devin Booker is healthy-ish, but spends almost as much time angry with his teammates (he really really doesn’t like Dragan Bender’s decision-making) as he does playing the game
  8. They quit very easily.

“Once we got down 15, 20 points, it was a domino effect after that,” Booker said.

That’s an all-too-common refrain, but also not to be unexpected.

Here’s Duane Rankin’s recap and thoughts as well. Both Duane and Gina did excellent jobs explaining how it all went down.

More to come later today, with Brendon Kleen diving into this conundrum of bad attitudes, and Evan Sidery previewing the trade deadline possibilities.