Phoenix Suns

Ronnie Price Hopes To Return, Stresses Importance Of Team Chemistry

  • Suns point guard Ronnie Price, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, said he wants to remain in Phoenix and that he and his teammates need to stay close over the summer to improve team chemistry, Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic writes. “It’s a mutual responsibility for all of us to stay linked in and just stay connected,” said Price. “We talk about being a family and we’ve made great strides. We can’t make those strides and then, in the summer, be like, ‘See you next August.’ We have to stay connected and continue to build so then, when the season gets here, we’re ahead of the game.”

Community Shootaround: Earl Watson

On Tuesday, the Suns removed the interim tag from Earl Watson‘s title and formally named him head coach. “Earl did a very good job with our team last season after taking over as interim head coach during a challenging time for the organization,” Suns GM Ryan McDonough said during the team’s official press conference. “Earl’s natural leadership qualities and his ability to connect with and motivate our players have stood out throughout his time here in Phoenix. We are excited to see what he can do with a healthy roster after having a full offseason to prepare.”

The news of Watson’s hiring came as no shock, seeing as people in the Suns organization and around the league considered him the front-runner for the job as the team prepared to begin its search in earnest last week, according to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic. The Suns were reportedly poised to pursue Mike D’Antoni even before they fired Jeff Hornacek, but a reunion with D’Antoni, who won Coach of the Year honors with the Suns in 2005, never came to pass. The team eyed Steve Nash, but the former MVP wasn’t interested. Conflicting reports emerged about Phoenix’s interest in Villanova coach Jay Wright, while the team was also apparently fond of Dan Majerle and Luke Walton.

Watson has a reputation for having a strong influence on free agents, and that helped build his case for the job, along with his work to rehabilitate the trade value of Markieff Morris, Phoenix’s defensive improvements down the stretch and perhaps his ties to the Klutch Sports Group, the agency that also represents Eric Bledsoe, according to Coro. Soon-to-be free agent power forward Mirza Teletovic cited Watson as he spoke about why he wants to re-sign with the team. The Suns only went 9-24 under Watson, though Bledsoe was already out for the season by the time of the coaching change, and Brandon Knight missed most of the games that Watson coached.

This brings me to the topic for today: Did the Suns make the right call by naming Earl Watson head coach?

Are you a fan of the hire? Then take to the comments section to tell us why. Think Phoenix could have done better? Tell us why you believe so and whom the team should have hired instead. We look forward to what you have to say on the matter.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

Watson Will Help Team Lure Free Agents

Earl Watson possesses all the qualities the Suns were seeking in their next head coach, and he firmly won over the front office with his preparedness during the interview process, writes Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic. “The more and more we discussed it, Earl continued to emerge from the front of the pack and really had everything we were looking for at the top of our list in terms of ability to connect with and motivate players, ability to communicate effectively and directly and the ability to teach and inspire while also being direct with players and holding them accountable,” GM Ryan McDonough said.

Suns Didn't Interview Any Candidates Besides Watson

  • Suns GM Ryan McDonough said the team didn’t formally interview anyone aside from Earl Watson but instead took two and a half months to examine coaching candidates, tweets Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic. Phoenix officially named Watson head coach earlier today, removing his interim tag.

Suns Formally Name Earl Watson Head Coach

Troy Taormina / USA TODAY Sports Images

Troy Taormina / USA TODAY Sports Images

The Suns have removed the interim tag from Earl Watson‘s title and formally named him head coach, the team announced. Jude LaCava of KSAZ-TV in Phoenix first reported the news, citing team sources, and Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated confirmed it (Twitter links). Watson and the Suns have a deal on a three-year contract, according to John Gambadoro of KMVP-FM in Phoenix (on Twitter), and all three years are guaranteed, as Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group and the Cleveland Plain Dealer hears (Twitter link).

“Earl did a very good job with our team last season after taking over as interim head coach during a challenging time for the organization,” Suns GM Ryan McDonough said. “Earl’s natural leadership qualities and his ability to connect with and motivate our players have stood out throughout his time here in Phoenix. We are excited to see what he can do with a healthy roster after having a full offseason to prepare.”

The news is no shock, as people in the Suns organization and around the league considered him the front-runner for the job as the team prepared to begin its search in earnest last week, according to Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic. Gambadoro reported Monday that the Suns had interviewed Watson but no one else.

The Suns were reportedly poised to pursue Mike D’Antoni even before they fired Jeff Hornacek, but a reunion with D’Antoni, who won Coach of the Year honors with the Suns in 2005, never materialized. The team eyed Steve Nash, but the former MVP wasn’t interested. Conflicting reports emerged about Phoenix’s interest in Villanova coach Jay Wright, while the team was apparently fond of Dan Majerle and Luke Walton.

The 36-year-old Watson was an active NBA player just two years ago for the 2013/14 Trail Blazers, and he connected with the players in Phoenix, garnering unanimous support. His ability to command respect in the locker room and develop the team’s young talent convinced the Suns to keep him in the head coaching position, The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski writes. McDonough said to Wojnarowski that the Suns came to view him as “the perfect guy for the job.”

“One of the things that stood out was this: Every single player on the roster came to us at the end of the season and said that this is the guy we want as head coach,” McDonough told Wojnarowski. “They said that you’d be making a mistake if you hire a different head coach. That’s not something we expected to hear from [our players] back when we promoted him to interim coach in February, but Earl has shown an ability to connect and motivate our players as well as discipline and hold them accountable.”

Watson has a reputation for having a strong influence on free agents, and that helped build his case for the job, along with his work to rehabilitate the trade value of Markieff Morris, Phoenix’s defensive improvements down the stretch and perhaps his ties to the Klutch Sports Group, the agency that also represents Eric Bledsoe, according to Coro. Soon-to-be free agent power forward Mirza Teletovic cited Watson as he spoke about why he wants to re-sign with the team. The Suns only went 9-24 under Watson, though Bledsoe was already out for the season by the time of the coaching change, and Brandon Knight missed most of the games that Watson coached.

Was Earl Watson the right choice for the Suns? Leave a comment to share your thoughts.

Mirza Teletovic, Jon Leuer Want To Re-Sign

  • Soon-to-be free agent power forwards Jon Leuer and Mirza Teletovic want to re-sign with the Suns, and Teletovic expressed particular enthusiasm as the season ended last week, observes Craig Grialou of ArizonaSports.com. Teletovic also gave a verbal boost to interim coach Earl Watson, reportedly the front-runner as Phoenix searches for a head coach. “Coach Earl put a lot of trust in me. He kind of gave me the energy, gave me the boost. He talked to me through the whole period that he’s been here: how we’re supposed to play, how we’re supposed to get better,” Teletovic said. “I understood the role that I have on this team.”

Earl Watson In Front As Suns Begin Coaching Search

MONDAY, 5:19pm: The Suns have interviewed Watson but haven’t done so with anyone else yet, according to John Gambadoro of KMVP-FM in Phoenix (Twitter link).

THURSDAY, 2:19pm: People in the Suns organization and around the league believe Suns interim head coach Earl Watson is the front-runner among the candidates the Suns will consider as they search to formally fill the head coaching position, reports Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic. The team’s search begins in earnest today, Coro writes.

Kevin McHale and Scott Brooks have drawn mention, according to Coro, though it’s unclear if the team is indeed considering them. Some hear that Jason Kidd is a possibility, Coro writes, though Kidd appears poised for an extension with the Bucks. Previous reports have indicated the team will consider Sixers assistant and former Suns head coach Mike D’Antoni, Warriors assistant Luke Walton, Grand Canyon University coach Dan Majerle and Villanova coach Jay Wright, as Coro discusses.

Watson appeals to the Suns because he helped rehabilitate Markieff Morris‘ trade value, improved the team defensively down the stretch, and has a reputation as a skilled free agent recruiter, as Coro details, pointing out that he and star Eric Bledsoe are both clients of Klutch Sports. The interim coach has earned the support of Suns players, who appear to be unanimously behind him, Coro tweets.

“I think he’s done an incredible job,” Suns center Tyson Chandler said. “I try to stay out of the way of management decisions, but he’s done an incredible job with the team he inherited with all the injuries and everything else like that. He’s done an excellent job coming in and helping the young players, as well as helping guys like myself get adapted here. He’s added structure. Everything he has done has been positive. He came in and took over this team in a tough position. I thought he has done an excellent job. Nobody could’ve asked for anything better.”

The Suns were only 9-24 under Watson, though he was mostly without Bledsoe and Brandon Knight because of injury. A recent Hoops Rumors Community Shootaround invites your discussion on the Suns coaching situation.

McDonough Vows To Improve Depth

Suns GM Ryan McDonough feels a sense of disbelief when looking back at the team’s 2015/16 season, Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic writes. “I still can’t believe that happened,” McDonough said. “I don’t think any of us could’ve envisioned this, especially when we started out 7-5 and were playing pretty good basketball. Everything went wrong for us this year. The good news is one of the main reasons we have 23 wins is a lot of our best players were injured and missed significant portions or the majority of the season.”

  • McDonough also noted that the Suns would prioritize finding a power forward this offseason, but added that the increase in the salary cap would make the competition much tougher, Coro relays. “We realize it may be tough for us this year to get in the mix like we have the previous two summers,” McDonough said. “Since I’ve been here, with the elite free agents, it’s easier when you win 87 combined games over two years than when you win 23. It’s a hard sell. We’ll be aggressive, creative. We value our young core. By young, I mean 26 and under with guys who have a chance to be really good players. Our last three lottery picks [Devin Booker, Alex Len and T.J. Warren], in particular, showed nice flashes this year of what they can do for guys who are still college age.

Kings Eye McMillan, Ewing, McHale, Blatt, Others

1:27pm: McHale appears unlikely to take the Kings job, and Del Negro is the most realistic candidate, Mannix suggests.

THURSDAY, 1:02pm: Nate McMillan is also in the mix, sources told Stein (Twitter link).

10:15pm: The possibility of hiring McHale is gaining traction within the Kings organization, Chris Mannix of The Vertical tweets. Sacramento is intrigued by the possibility of McHale working with DeMarcus Cousins, Mannix adds.

3:09pm: The Kings are also considering Patrick Ewing, league sources tell Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee.

12:40pm: Kevin McHale and Mark Jackson are also under consideration, sources tell Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter links). The Kings do have strong interest in Thibodeau and Brooks but acknowledge they’ll be tough gets, Stein adds. McHale is just a few months removed from having been fired by the Rockets, while Jackson last coached in 2013/14 with the Warriors.

WEDNESDAY, 11:53am: The Kings, poised to fire George Karl, will consider a group of candidates that includes David Blatt, Vinny Del Negro, Jeff Hornacek, Celtics assistant Jay Larranaga and Hawks assistant Kenny Atkinson, sources told Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. Jeff Van Gundy, Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks, who frequently draw mention as top NBA coaching candidates, are uninterested in the job, as Wojnarowski hears from league sources.

Blatt, whom the Cavs fired as their head coach in January, is also reportedly under consideration from the Knicks, though he’s reportedly a long shot for that job. The Nets have reportedly been eyeing him as well, and he has ties to the Brooklyn organization, having coached the Russian national team, which received significant financial backing from Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

Sacramento reportedly contacted Del Negro about its head coaching job in December 2014, when the team fired Michael Malone. Del Negro, a former Kings player, hasn’t coached in the NBA since the 2012/13 season with the Clippers, but Wojnarowski reported that he interviewed for the Pelicans job last summer.

Chatter about Hornacek has been quiet since the Suns fired him in February, though he earned respect around the league when he led Phoenix to a 48-34 record in what was supposed to be a rebuilding season during his first year as an NBA head coach. The Suns have regressed since then, and Hornacek wound up 101-112 overall in Phoenix. He was an assistant under former Kings coach Tyrone Corbin on the Jazz.

Wojnarowski wrote in February that Larranaga and Atkinson weren’t particularly eager to land the Kings job if it were to open. The assistants both reportedly interviewed for the Sixers job three years ago and have drawn frequent mention as a possible NBA head coaching candidate since. Larranaga was reportedly a contender for the recent opening at Georgia Tech that Josh Pastner ultimately filled.

Community Shootaround: Suns Coaching Search

The Suns are reportedly planning on casting a wide net this offseason in the search for their next head coach. Interim coach Earl Watson will be among the candidates in the running, with Phoenix also considering Sixers assistant and former Suns head coach Mike D’Antoni, former Suns player and current Grand Canyon University coach Dan Majerle and Warriors assistant Luke Walton. Villanova coach Jay Wright is also reportedly in the mix, though there have been conflicting reports about the Suns’ level of interest in the 2016 NCAA National Championship winner.

GM Ryan McDonough had said that Watson would be a candidate for the job shortly after he replaced former coach Jeff Hornacek, and Watson has the support of at least some of the players. Phoenix is just 7-23 since Watson took over, though injuries have limited Brandon Knight to 10 games and Eric Bledsoe to none during that stretch. While the team hasn’t climbed in the standings under Watson, he has improved the Suns’ defense, with Phoenix notching a defensive rating that is good for 12th-best in the league over its past 10 contests. Before Watson arrived, the Suns were a lowly 29th in that category.

Team owner Robert Sarver was reportedly interested in hiring former MVP Steve Nash to coach the team back in February, but Nash remains uninterested in going into coaching on a full-time basis, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Nash currently wants to focus on fatherhood, his various off-court interests, the part-time consulting role with the Warriors that he took on at the start of this season, and his duties as GM of Team Canada, according to Stein.

This brings me to the topic for today: Who should coach the Suns next season?

Has Watson done enough to have the interim tag removed from his job title, or do you feel the team needs to bring in some fresh blood? Out of the reported candidates, who would be the best fit in Phoenix? Take to the comments section to share your thoughts and opinions on the subject. We look forward to what you have to say.

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