New coach in, Bledsoe out as Suns seek first win (Oct 23, 2017)
PHOENIX -- Phoenix point guard Eric Bledsoe will not play Monday night game against the Sacramento Kings and likely has played his final game for the team, general manager Ryan McDonough said Monday.
The Suns met with the 27-year-old Bledsoe before a shootaround Monday morning and he was sent home at the end of the discussion.
McDonough is actively engaged with several teams in trade talks for Bledsoe, according to multiple reports.
Monday's meeting occurred a day after the Suns fired coach Earl Watson following a floundering 0-3 start, the last straw being a 130-88 loss at the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday.
It was the Suns' second loss by 40-plus points this season, and afterward Watson questioned the team's unity, fight and leadership.
The team announced Sunday night that associate head coach Jay Triano is taking over for Watson as interim head coach.
Bledsoe summed up his frustration in a tweet before Sunday's announcement of the coaching change surfaced.
"I Dont wanna be here," it read.
Triano spent parts of four seasons (2008-11) as head coach of the Toronto Raptors. He is in his second season with the Suns after spending four years as an assistant with the Portland Trail Blazers, one when Watson was a player there.
Watson was beginning his second full year on the job after being promoted from assistant coach to interim coach when Jeff Hornacek was fired on Feb. 1, 2016. Watson signed a three-year contract as head coach on April 19, 2016. The Suns went 33-85 on his watch.
"The whole team is embarrassed," Bledsoe said after the loss to the Clippers, then shouldered some of the blame. "I think I have to do a better job of being a leader and a floor general out there.
He added about the woeful start, "It happens, but not to this point."
The Suns will play their third home game against Sacramento. They lost the season opener to Portland by an embarrassing 124-76, the largest margin ever in an NBA season opener. Phoenix then fell to the Los Angeles Lakers 132-130 on Friday when rookie Lonzo Ball was one assist short of becoming the youngest player in NBA history to post a triple-double.
Sacramento (1-2) is coming off a 17-point loss at Denver and will play its third road game in four nights.
The Suns are the second-youngest team in the league in terms of average age, with four players still 20 and another 19. Watson tinkered with the lineup this season, putting power forward Marquese Chriss on the bench and starting two small forwards, TJ Warren and rookie Josh Jackson.
Phoenix is shooting 39.7 percent from the floor and is getting outrebounded by 10.7 per game. The Suns shot 38 percent from the field and were outrebounded 52-36 by the Clippers. Opponents are shooting 51.5 percent.
Sacramento, which traded DeMarcus Cousins last February, remade its roster around veteran newcomers George Hill and Zach Randolph and top draft pick De'Aaron Fox.
The Kings had similar woes in their 96-79 defeat at Denver. Though Fox had 18 points off the bench, the Kings shot 36.5 percent from the floor and were outrebounded 58-39.
"We settled on first shots that were somewhat contested and somewhat open instead of driving the basketball," Kings coach Dave Joerger said. "I thought they pushed us around with their physicality. We were undersized at just about every position.
"We have to hit first. We have to have that mindset. We have to cut hard and create plays and help teammates score. Our guys have great hearts and they are trying to do the right thing. It's a good learning tool."
Fox, the fifth player taken in the 2017 draft immediately after the Suns selected Jackson, has entered off the bench in all three games and is averaging 13.7 points, 5.3 assists and 5.0 rebounds in just more than 26 minutes per game. He plays behind Hill, who is also averaging 13.7 points.
Kings third-year center Willie Cauley-Stein has averaged 11 points and 9.7 rebounds in his first three games as the full-time starter. Guard Bogdan Bogdanovic (ankle) has missed all three games and is considered questionable for Monday.
Bogdanovic was part of the package the Suns sent to Sacramento in order to move up in the first round of the 2016 draft and select Chriss. Bogdanovic has not played in an NBA game.