Of more immediate concern, the Suns had big problems at point guard even before they waived Isaiah Canaan on Wednesday morning. Canaan had started 15 games for Phoenix this season, averaging 7.5 points and 3.3 assists while shooting 39.5 percent from the field.
“It’s just a pure business decision,” Kokoskov said before Wednesday’s game, “and we wish him nothing but the best.”
Losing is clearly hard on Kokoskov, a longtime assistant, most recently with the Utah Jazz. After Wednesday’s loss, he looked as if he had walked miles through a desert. He wants to keep the big picture in mind — the long-term development of players like Booker and Ayton, for example — but he is not merely trying to win every game, he said. He wants to win every quarter, which is completely unreasonable given his roster but also admirable in a masochistic, no-pain, no-gain sort of way.
“That’s how we coach the team,” Kokoskov said. “We can talk about Ayton, and we can talk about Booker — the young guys who are 20, 21 years old, and where they’re going to be in three years, five years. But it’s one game at a time, one quarter at a time, and we’re trying to win every single game.”
If there was a bright spot for the Suns against the Clippers, it was the play of Elie Okobo, a 21-year-old point guard who came off the bench to score 19 points while shooting 8 of 12 from the field. It was his first appearance since Nov. 12, and he took advantage of Canaan’s absence. The question, of course, is whether Okobo, an untested rookie from France, can sustain a high enough level of play that would allow Booker to operate at shooting guard, his more natural position.
“We’re looking for any answer we can get right now,” Booker said.
Kokoskov, meanwhile, who is the Suns’ fourth coach in four seasons, does not seem to be the most patient man by nature. He wants to win, and he does not want to wait for it to happen. But some things cannot be helped. The odds are stacked against him, everyone knows that, but he has his lists and he has his pride, and he appears determined to keep moving forward.
“Searching for a lot of things,” he said. “A lot of things. Nothing happens overnight.”