PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns’ young players are learning the NBA style through experience.
Because of that, it’s not always going to be pretty. It’s not always going to be smooth.
Some nights will be better, however, giving glimpses into what they hope will be a better future — such as Wednesday’s 118-115 win over the Portland Trail Blazers, capped by a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Eric Bledsoe.
During all those experiences, the Suns learn.
“Our guys are just growing,” Phoenix coach Earl Watson said. “We play three of the top teams in the NBA — we’re right there in two of those games. The first game, we have a big lead, our bench isn’t in chemistry yet. So we’re building every game. And to be in two overtime games against playoff teams, there’s no better experience for such a young group.”
Take second-year guard Devin Booker’s personal maturation process as an example of growing through learning. He already has had ups and downs this season, and he’s only five games in.
Booker scored 21 and 18 points, respectively, in the first two games of the season. Then, he was held to just seven against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday and missed Monday’s game against the Los Angeles Clippers due to a sprained toe.
He was questionable Wednesday, but Watson seemed optimistic Booker would play — which he did, scoring 15 points and hitting some key shots down the stretch.
“He just turned 20, he’s not that old yet,” Watson said. “He heals quickly.”
Booker was healthy on Wednesday, however, when again the Suns played a game that was close late in the fourth quarter — and ended with a much better result.
Despite not having the best start to the year, Watson, Phoenix players and opposing coaches aren’t questioning Booker’s raw talent and abilities.
“We watched the game against Oklahoma City,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “He really got to the basket so I think we have a healthy respect of how he can score.”
The Suns have been close to where they want to be in this early stretch of the season, according to Watson. It just hasn’t always been panning out in their favor.
Phoenix lost by six to the Warriors on Sunday and by three to the Oklahoma City Thunder last Friday.
“We have to learn how to win in the last two minutes and that’s not easily done in this league,” Watson said. “With a young team, you have to find out who is the guy that can close it for you, what is the play he is most comfortable with, and with one of our best players being injured in those games, it’s really hard to go to him.”
Wednesday was obviously better in that aspect.
After so many tough losses, with four consecutive defeats to open the year, it’d be easy to think Watson could feel a sigh of relief after notching the team’s first win.
“I’m not worried about one win,” Watson said. “I really want to come here and be a part of something great, build a family, build a program, and win our first championship. And it’s not for us, I just want to see the people celebrate. I don’t really care, if you want to see me celebrate, take me to Disneyland. That’s my thing, I really love Disneyland. So I really don’t care, this is for the people.”