Josh Childress ‘dialed in’ for a bounceback year

PHOENIX — When Josh Childress signed with the Suns, he expected to “anchor the bench.”

Instead he was anchored to the bench.

Not much when right for J-Chill since he starred in last season’s training camp exhibition game.

First he fractured his finger going up for a dunk during a meaningless preseason game and thus wore a splint over his injured digit the first two months of the season.

Then right as the finger started to heal, the Suns pulled off their blockbuster trade with Orlando that left them with five wings for four spots, and Childress was the odd man out. By the time he returned to the rotation there were only a few weeks left in the season.

“Everything that happened to Josh last year wasn’t completely his fault,” said head coach Alvin Gentry. “We had an overload at that position and he didn’t have an opportunity to play consistent minutes, and he really did a good job when he was able to play, but unfortunately for him he was playing behind Grant and then there was Vince Carter and then there was some other things, so I look for him to bounce back. He’s playing well right now, so we’ll see where that takes us.”

Added Childress, “With that being said, it’s still a lot of responsibility placed on me and I take that responsibility just because I feel like I should have a certain standard that I like to set for myself and I didn’t meet that, but this is a new year and new goals and new opportunities.”

Part of the reason Childress spent so much time on the pine, though, was because he suffered through an underwhelming season when he did play.

As John Hollinger noted in his Suns player profiles, Childress amazingly ranked as the Suns’ worst defender in Synergy (yielding 1.05 points per play) and the Suns were actually 5.14 points per 100 possessions worse defensively with Childress on the floor.

Childress still was a superb rebounder for a wing (10.0 rebound rate), particularly on the offensive side of the ball (8.9 ORR), and his 56.5 percent shooting percentage was nothing to sneeze at. However, he lost all confidence whatsoever at the line (49.2 percent) and from three-point range (1-for-16).

Childress entered the season as an 80 percent free throw shooter who got to the line over 200 times in each of his first four NBA seasons with the Hawks. Diminished playing time certainly played a role but perhaps he shied away from the line a bit as well in getting there a mere 59 times last season.

In addition, Chilly has never been known as a three-point shooter, but he at least was a passable 36 percent shooter with 258 career attempts entering this year rather than the player who seemed to lack confidence altogether on his long ball attempts.

To that end, Childress said he worked on the “mental aspect” of shooting quite a bit this summer.

“I’m really trying to get that dialed in because people say playing basketball is 90 percent mental. I know it sounds cliché, but it really is true,” he said. “Having that strong mentality and being able to withstand the constant ups and downs of a season.”

When asked if there was a mental aspect to his struggles last season, Childress did not want to go there, saying, “I’m not trying to look back, I’m trying to look forward. I worked hard this summer to try to help myself.”

To that end not only does Childress feel more comfortable in the Suns’ system, or “at ease a little bit” as he put it, the Suns have a better understanding of his game as well and what he can and can’t do.

He’s not a guy who will launch threes all day like many previous Phoenix wings, he’s a slasher who can take the ball to the basket and then chip in on the offensive glass. It will be up to the coaching staff to put him into situations where he stands a better chance at success.

“He knows the system better but we also know him better,” Gentry said.

In the aftermath of his disappointing first year in Phoenix, Childress became a popular amnesty target among the national media because his play last season was not befitting of a player earning the full midlevel. His contract was seen as a mistake, and based on last year’s production that would be accurate.

But the Suns understand all the extenuating circumstances that led to Childress’ down year, which coincided with his mental game not being quite right.

With another underwhelming season Childress would surely be an amnesty possibility next summer as the Suns strive to clear as much cap space as possible, but that won’t happen if Chilly slashes for easy buckets, creates chaos in the passing lanes, and shoots a high percentage while being a menace on the boards, as he was signed to be.

Or as Childress put it, “Just to be Josh.”

And 1

Childress’ take on the Fiesta Bowl showdown between his alma mater Stanford and Oklahoma State: “Stanford all the way baby. We got robbed in the Heisman, but I think we’re going to pull out a victory.”

Tags: Josh Childress

  • James

    Josh is a utility man who is best at running lose to create havoc.

  • shawn

    When did john hollinginger become a basketball God with these stats. John said this and that, its annoying. If Josh is already at a disadvantage due to playing time how can you fairly call him the worse at anything.

  • Scott

    I hope his shooting has improved. I noticed in the tiny clip of him practice shooting ( he’s moving forward a couple inches with every shot, so I wonder if he’s aware of his movement issues. It seems to me that if he’s playing with adrenalin that he could start floating around again, throwing off his shot.

  • Evan

    He has too play way better or else he wont get paid, honestly if he does not score at least 10 ppg, can you say amnesty.

  • Brian

    It sounds like he would play better if he were on the floor the same time as a wing who can shoot threes, since he is more of a slasher, as is Shannon Brown. It makes sense not to have him and Shannon Brown on the floor at the same time though, since neither are very good outside shooters and both are good around the basket and finishing. However, since I feel Duds probably should start at the two and Hill at the three, I think it makes sense to have at least one good 3 pt shooting wing on the floor at all times, so I would probably shy away from using an entire second unit like we have done a bit more of the past two years, and always leave one of Grant and Duds out there while Brown and Childress alternate rotating in for those guys. I have a feeling that we will start out fairly strong because I think Childress and Dudley will be much improved from last year, and I hope Frye has improved as well. But with so many other teams making drastic changes from last year we should be able to take advantage early in the schedule since our players are more familiar with each other than those on some of the other teams that made the changes.

  • Scott

    @Evan –

    You still get your money if you are amnestied. It just doesn’t count against the cap for the team that releases you.

    So if Childress gets amnesty, the Suns still pay him, and he is free to get a second contract and play with another team.

    @Brian -

    I agree, but it seems logical to me to have Childress as starting SG followed by Brown, and Hill as starting SF followed by Dudley.

    The Suns can change it up too, playing Dudley and Hill together for a few minutes if they need more wing scoring.

    I think a recipe for disaster would be to put Price out there with Brown, Childress, Warrick, and Lopez. Since all of those players need to get to the basket to score, defenses could pack around the basket and it could get ugly.

    Probably Gentry would not do this, but he did something similar to Dragic, so I can’t put it past him.

  • Bostonian Suns Fan

    I think the bad defensive stats are not J-Chill’s fault. I imagine the game against the Knicks where Gentry started Chilly at the center position probably weighed heavily in that stat. Other times, Gentry tried to use him as a PF, and he is clearly not big enough to defend another team’s 4 or 5. I think this year he’ll be an above-average wing defender guarding the 3 spot.

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