Jay Triano

Suns Getting Head Start On Coaching Search

Rather than waiting until the end of the regular season to begin their head coaching search in earnest, the Suns are doing so now, general Ryan McDonough tells ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. As Wojnarowski details, the Suns recognize that there may be several teams looking to hire new coaches this spring, so they want to start exploring their options before the season ends.

“This is going to be a competitive marketplace,” McDonough said. “There are three of us (Phoenix, Milwaukee and Memphis) with interim coaches in place, and we want to be able to hit the ground running. We don’t want to have to wait until the end of the regular season for candidates who aren’t with teams now. At the end of the regular season, we’ll be able to talk with coaches on non-playoff teams and we’ll need to work with playoff teams on what their approach will be on contacting (assistant) coaches still in the postseason.”

Interim head coach Jay Triano will receive consideration for the permanent job, McDonough confirmed. According to Wojnarowski, Triano wants to give his undivided attention to his players down the stretch, but his agent – Warren LeGarie – requested that Triano be able to prepare a “formal presentation” to the team after the season ends.

As for outside candidates, Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link) hears from prominent coaching agents that the Suns will have to offer “real money” over four or five years in order to attract anyone credible. Mannix suggests (via Twitter) that Phoenix would be wise to pony up that sort of money if necessary, since the club could badly use some coaching stability. Since their last playoff appearance in 2010, the Suns have had four different coaches, and the franchise hasn’t won more than 24 games in a season since the 2014/15 campaign.

Still, as Wojnarowski observes, the Suns appear better positioned heading into the 2018 offseason than they have been for the past few years. With building blocks like Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, and T.J. Warren already in place, Phoenix could have three first-round picks this summer, and will have the cap flexibility to be aggressive in free agency and on the trade market. That flexibility could appeal to potential head coaching candidates.

Stein’s Latest: Pistons, Knicks, Bucks, Magic, Suns

Earlier today, Marc Stein of The New York Times reported that the Pistons have expressed interest in Chauncey Billups for a potential front office role, with an eye on possibly pairing him with Arn Tellem in their basketball operations department. The report quickly drew responses from multiple sides — Billups stated that he would “never push for a job with any NBA franchise that is not open,” while a Pistons ownership spokesman simply called the report “false.”

Rod Beard of The Detroit News (Twitter link) also hears from a source that there’s “nothing whatsoever” to the idea of a Billups/Tellem team-up in the Pistons’ front office, but Stein doubled down on the report in his latest newsletter for The New York Times, citing league sources who say that Detroit has “great interest” in hiring Billups. According to Stein, the Pistons believe they have a real shot to convince Billups to leave his TV job for an executive role.

Stein’s newsletter includes a few more tidbits on coaching and front office situations around the NBA. Let’s dive in and round up the highlights…

  • There’s a growing belief that Knicks GM Scott Perry will want to hire his own hand-picked head coach at season’s end, says Stein. According to Stein, if the club replaces Jeff Hornacek and makes a high-profile hire, Mark Jackson and David Blatt would be among the candidates to watch.
  • With a move to a new arena around the corner, the Bucks may want to make a big splash with their next head coaching hire. League sources tell Stein that Jeff Van Gundy and Kevin McHale are among the names on the Bucks’ list of potential candidates, while Monty Williams and David Fizdale have also been mentioned. Rick Pitino could even get an “exploratory look,” says Stein.
  • There’s a “widely held assumption” in coaching circles that the Magic will replace Frank Vogel, according to Stein, who identifies Nick Nurse, Rex Kalamian, and Jerry Stackhouse as possible targets for Orlando. All three of those coaches are in the Raptors organization, which is where Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman previously worked.
  • While Jay Triano will receive an interview as part of the Suns‘ head coaching search, Stein is hearing buzz that Triano is more likely to be asked to stay on as an assistant. Phoenix wants to explore the college ranks, and Villanova’s Jay Wright is one name that figures to come up during that search, per Stein.

Pacific Notes: Casspi, Green, Suns’ Coach, Carter

Veteran forward Omri Casspi is the latest addition to the Warriors‘ growing disabled list, according to Mark Medina of The San Jose Mercury News. Casspi underwent an MRI today after spraining his right ankle Friday. Doctors are still evaluating the results, but initial reports indicate that he will be out of action for about a week.

Medina notes that Casspi’s production and playing time have been inconsistent since signing with Golden State over the summer. He has appeared in 53 games, but is averaging just 14 minutes and 5.7 points per night.

The timing of the injury is especially unfortunate for Casspi, whose spot on the Warriors’ roster could be in jeopardy. Golden State may decide to give two-way player Quinn Cook an NBA contract before the playoffs, but first must open a roster spot. With an expiring, minimum-salary deal, the Warriors could get rid of Casspi at minimal cost.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • With three All-Star teammates sidelined by injuries, Draymond Green is taking responsibility for holding the Warriors together, writes Logan Murdock of The San Jose Mercury NewsStephen Curry and Klay Thompson are out until at least next week and Kevin Durant will be sitting until April, leaving Green as a leader in lineups where he is surrounded by role players. “I just try to still play my game and not think I’m going to be Stephen, Kevin or Klay,” he said. “I am who I am and bring to this team what I bring so just continue to play my game. It may mean a few more shots here or there. It’s just not my goal to say, ‘I need to jack up my scoring.’ If it happens, it happens – if not, I’m going to try and lead the guys and play the best that we can.”
  • Suns GM Ryan McDonough says the team will conduct a “wide-ranging” search for its next coach once the season ends, relays Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic. Interim coach Jay Triano will be included in that process, along with former NBA head coaches, current assistants and maybe some college coaches. McDonough indicated the team plans to talk to several candidates before the list is trimmed to ‘two or three” who will receive second interviews.
  • Vince Carter has become a mentor with the Kings in his 20th NBA season and is offering his younger teammates advice on how to lengthen their careers, according to Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee. Carter, who has a one-year deal with the Kings, may be on the move again this summer as he searches for more playing time. “I’m not going to sit here and deny that I want to play more,” he said. “Things changed. We aren’t winning and the younger guys need to get better. I get that, but at the same time, I try to make the best of it. That way if it doesn’t work out here, I can still play on another team, maybe a contending team, in a lesser role.”

Suns Owner Discusses Coach, Offseason, Roster

Early in the 2017/18 season, the Suns made a coaching change, installing Jay Triano as the interim head coach in place of Earl Watson. Speaking to Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic, team owner Robert Sarver praised the job that Triano has done with the club this season, suggesting that his interim role has been “a tough job that wasn’t what he signed up for.”

Despite his appreciation for Triano, Sarver doesn’t want to repeat a past mistake — in 2016, after Watson stepped in for Jeff Hornacek as the Suns’ interim coach, the team hired Watson to the full-time position at season’s end without interviewing other candidates. This time around, Sarver says, the club plans to “cast a much wider net.”

Sarver’s conversation with Bordow about the state of the franchise is worth checking out in full, particularly for Suns fans. The discussion includes a few more interesting comments from the club’s owner, so we’ll relay some of those highlights right here:

On the Suns’ offseason outlook as the 2017/18 season nears an end:

“We’re going to add another really good young player. I think we’re in a position where we can turn the corner, but if we don’t execute properly in terms of free agency and we don’t develop the players and we don’t execute in terms of our draft, then it’s going to be another tough year. So I think it’s a year of opportunity, but a year for us to step up and make some good decisions.”

On adding more veteran leadership without compromising the development of young players:

“Our younger players need confidence. I think there’s a fine line between coming in a game feeling confident you can win and not feeling confident you can win. I think maybe we can add a piece or two next season with some leadership and some experience and some winning and some grit that can help turn that confidence level with some of our younger players. So this offseason is going to be about adding some of that confidence and leadership, and at the same time to get some of our younger players to take a meaningful step forward.”

On what sort of player(s) the Suns will be targeting this summer:

“I think two things. Balance in terms of shooting. The league has been changing. What’s very important is the ability to shoot the three and defend the three. And getting back to this winning attitude that someone can bring to us. Someone who has won and someone who plays a meaningful role on our team. Someone who probably is a starter or first guy off the bench who can bring some swagger and a winning attitude. Obviously I’m biased, but I do think the talent on our roster is a little bit better than our win-loss record, and I think we need some of that winning attitude and swagger. I don’t think we have that right now.”

On expectations for 2018/19:

“I think with a piece or two and a solid year of development, I think we can flip the switch and end up being a team that can have a winning record. But looking at where we stand right now, there’s a long way to go to get to that.”

Suns Rumors: Head Coach, Draft Picks, Roster

Suns general manager Ryan McDonough participated in a Facebook Live interview on the Suns’ official Facebook page today, addressing several topics of note during that Q&A with fans. Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic rounded up some highlights from the discussion, which we’ll relay below. Let’s dive in…

  • The Suns intend to interview several candidates for their permanent head coaching job, per McDonough, who suggested that the team will consider college coaches (Twitter link). Interim head coach Jay Triano will receive an interview for the full-time job too.
  • McDonough referenced the possibility of using extra first-round picks from Milwaukee and Miami for “asset consolidation” purposes, per Bordow (Twitter link). In other words, the Suns would be open to packaging one or more of those picks to trade up in the draft or to make a move for an established star.
  • According to McDonough, a center is a “slightly higher” priority than a point guard for the Suns this offseason. As Bordow notes (via Twitter), that preference could be good news for fans hoping that Phoenix can land a high lottery pick and draft Arizona center Deandre Ayton.
  • The Suns would like to add more veteran players to balance out the age of their roster, says McDonough (Twitter link). Bordow observes that it makes sense to have some veteran depth on the bench so that Phoenix’s head coach has some options if the club’s young players struggle. The Suns entered the 2017/18 campaign with a bit more balance in terms of NBA experience, but Brandon Knight has missed the season with an ACL injury and Eric Bledsoe was traded.

Suns Notes: Tanking, Triano, Len, Harrison

Suns GM Ryan McDonough promises there won’t be a repeat of the “strategic resting” that saw Eric Bledsoe and Tyson Chandler held out of the lineup late last season, relays Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic. Phoenix reached the All-Star break tied with the Hawks for the top spot in our Reverse Standings, but McDonough said the team won’t make any changes to try to improve its odds for the No. 1 pick.

“We’re planning on doing what we have been doing, that’s playing our young players. For us, that’s not a change,” he said. “… We want to continue to have them improve and get minutes and try to win as many games as we can.”

Interim coach Jay Triano echoed those sentiments and recalled that Bledsoe was angry about being forced to sit out the final 15 games last season, which played a part in his request to be traded. “I think we learned from last year with guys sitting out,” Triano said. “I don’t think that was real productive for us.”

There’s more tonight out of Phoenix:

  • Triano, who has served as interim coach since Earl Watson was fired in October, would like to be considered for the full-time job after the season ends, Bordow adds in the same story. “Listen, I love coaching, I love it here, I love the relationship I’m starting to develop with these players, so I’d like to keep it going and be a part of their development because I see a lot of positives,” Triano said. … “So there’s no reason I would not want to be [the coach].”
  • Fifth-year center Alex Len no longer seems to be in the Suns’ plans for the future, Bordow notes in a separate story. The plan for the final 23 games of the season is to start Chandler at center with Dragan Bender as the primary backup as Marquese Chriss gets another shot at the starting lineup. Len will be an unrestricted free agent this summer after agreeing to the Suns’ qualifying offer last year. He is averaging 8.4 points and 7.7 rebounds in 49 games, but the organization doesn’t seem to think his future will be in Phoenix.
  • Shaquille Harrison is thrilled to make his NBA debut after spending two seasons with the Suns’ G League affiliate in Northern Arizona, relays Craig Grialou of ArizonaSports“I’m just trying to seize the opportunity,” said Harrison, whose 10-day deal became official today. “I’m very grateful to be here. It’s a great organization, that’s why I stuck with them the past year-and-a-half, two years. I’m loving it and enjoying the process.”

Pacific Notes: Jackson, Jordan, Clippers

A difficult string of games in which the Suns were noticeably better without Josh Jackson than with him precipitated a change in his relationship with head coach Jay Triano. Now, Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic writes, the first-year forward has started to regain the coaching staff’s trust.

When Triano told Jackson that he was losing his confidence in him, he asked the player what he might suggest to repair the situation. Since then, the two have watched film of Suns games.

[Jackson suggested they watch film of Suns games] just to see what [Triano] sees,” Jackson said. “Sometimes, two people look at the same play and see two totally different things. He has a basketball mind and he’s really smart, so just trying to see what he sees and trying to pick his brain a little bit.

In the three games since, Jackson has averaged 14 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Suns, shooting an impressive .486 from the field and .556 from three.

There’s more from the Pacific Division this afternoon:

  • The Clippers were treated to some good news on Thursday when it was revealed that Blake Griffin could return to action following a concussion and Milos Teodosic after another bout of plantar fascia issues (NBA.com report). Of course, in true Clippers fashion, DeAndre Jordan sprained his ankle hours later and had to leave the match (ESPN report).
  • The NBA fined Warriors forward Draymond Green $25K for comments critical of officials on Saturday, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. The Dubs took down the Clippers that night.
  • Clippers head coach Doc Rivers thinks that NBA players seem to get injured more often than they used to because they’re not playing basketball enough. Per Elliott Teaford of the Orange County Register, Rivers posits that players do more things outside of the sport these days and that consistently reliable Jamal Crawford is one example of a guy that is constantly playing the game outside of his professional commitment.

Booker, Len Want Suns To Retain Jay Triano

The Suns have gone just 11-18 since Jay Triano took over as the club’s interim head coach in October, but his performance on the sidelines has impressed multiple Suns players, including standout guard Devin Booker. As Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic details, Booker says he’d like to see Triano assume the job on a permanent basis.

“Me and Triano have that relationship. He’s somebody I’m comfortable with and somebody I’ve been around for a long time,” Booker said. “I love Triano. I don’t make those calls, but he’s been doing a wonderful job since he’s been here and I would vouch for him. He’s been really good.”

Booker isn’t the only young Sun who has become a bigger fan of Triano in recent weeks. Fifth-year center Alex Len, who re-signed with the club this past offseason, said that he loves playing for the team’s interim head coach.

“Jay is always putting in new things. He’s very creative offensively,” Len said. “It’s not that we’re even better from the first three games. We’re better than we were a couple of weeks ago. He’s doing a great job.”

Players’ opinions aren’t always weighed heavily by a team’s front office when it comes to head coaching decisions. However, as Bordow observes, Booker’s stance shouldn’t be understated. The 21-year-old will become extension-eligible in 2018 for the first time, at which point he and the Suns figure to reach a lucrative, long-term agreement. It will be important that the centerpiece of the club’s rebuild is on the same page as the new head coach.

When the Suns fired Earl Watson and installed Triano as the interim head coach in October, the assumption was that they’d survey their options at season’s end. Triano is expected to be among the candidates, but if he makes a strong enough impression this season, perhaps the club will forgo a full-fledged search in the spring.

Pacific Notes: Warriors, Booker, Jordan

When Stephen Curry and the Warriors brought Kevin Durant to the Bay Area they did so with situations like the one the team is going through right now in mind. Marcus Thompson of The Athletic writes that having Durant available to lead the way while Curry recovers from an ankle injury can be a game changer for the franchise.

Prior to Durant’s arrival, the Warriors struggled to win with Curry on the sidelines, let alone dominate. Having the two available to support each other – as Curry did when Durant was out toward the end of last season – could extend both of their primes.

As Thompson writes, we may not remember this particular stretch of games where Durant filled in for Curry but the fact that we’ve seen the two stars willingly share the offensive load at different times over the course of the past two seasons will benefit the team for years.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • While he’s still expected to miss two-to-three weeks with an abductor strain, Suns guard Devin Booker is already up and walking, Jose Romero of the Associated Press writes.
  • The Clippers may look to move DeAndre Jordan at the deadline if they’re not pleased with their chances of competing in the Western Conference. This ESPN Insider piece explores four possible trade scenarios, including one that would see Jordan land with the Bucks in exchange for Jabari Parker, Thon Maker and Matthew Dellavedova.
  • Former Raptors coach Jay Triano has the personality to develop young basketball players, something that will come in handy as he serves as the interim head coach of the Suns. DeMar DeRozan witnessed as much during the coach’s tenure in Toronto from 2002-11. “There’s a personality about Jay that’s so positive, it makes you want to be at work, makes you want to do all the things that he asks from you,” DeRozan told Doug Smith of the Toronto Star. “[He’s] kind of a player’s coach. The things he was doing, it was so long ago and I was so young, I didn’t understand. I thought the whole league was like that. Now looking back on it, Jay was definitely one of them guys.”

Pacific Notes: Griffin, Durant, Triano

The Clippers have struggled to get reliable production from the point this season, largely because Milos Teodosic and Patrick Beverley have been sidelined extensively and Austin Rivers is better suited to play the role of combo guard. Stepping up as a playmaker then, has been power forward Blake Griffin. Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times writes that Griffin has manned the point not unlike standout rookie Ben Simmons has to much fanfare.

Not only do guards on the roster consciously look to feed Griffin the ball to bring up the court, the 28-year-old has done well to create offense when he gets it. Through 18 games this season, Griffin leads the Clippers with 5.0 assists per game, all while posting his highest scoring average in five years and chipping in 7.7 rebounds per contest for good measure.

He’s always been able to handle the ball and he’s always been a real Mack truck coming down the floor in transition with the ball,” division rival Kings coach Dave Joerger said. “If he gets a rebound and he’s breaking out, he’s hard and it’s difficult to guard.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The young Suns are learning first-hand just how much head coaching matters in the NBA, Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic writes. After replacing Earl Watson following a disastrous first three games to start the season, Jay Triano has guided Phoenix to a 7-10 record.
  • The Warriors may have prematurely allowed Kevin Durant to suit up on an injured ankle, Monte Poole of NBC Sports writes. The forward sprained his ankle last weekend but played in Wednesday night’s marquee matchup with the Thunder, something head coach Steve Kerr now regrets. “I’m sure the league is happy with us because we played him on their ‘marquee’ game with and all that stuff. But he came out sore the next day. So we shouldn’t have played him,” Kerr said.
  • Well-suited for his elder statesmen role on the Warriors bench, David West has made an impact with his veteran leadership, Mark Medina of the Mercury News writes. “He’s one of those guys that doesn’t speak unless it’s necessary. He understands when it’s necessary,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He’s not doing it to hear himself talk. He’s not one of those guys. He’s doing it to impart some knowledge and wisdom. So he picks his spots wisely.”