Who is that masked man in the Suns’ lineup? Phoenix certainly hopes it’s not the Dragan Bender it sees the rest of the season because in the past seven games Bender has become the invisible man. The numbers: 12 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in the seven games combined, and Bender is shooting 20 percent from the field and 25 percent from 3-point range. Bender has not played in the second half in either of Phoenix’s past two games – he played a total of 12 minutes against the Wizards and Spurs – as interim coach Jay Triano has gone to veteran Jared Dudley. After Bender played just five minutes and 37 seconds in the 104-101 loss to San Antonio Saturday, Triano said Bender has been bothered by the mask he’s worn since breaking his nose against Chicago in mid-November. “He can’t see peripherally so that makes it tough to rebound when you can’t see sideways,” Triano said. Bender said Monday that the mask is “definitely uncomfortable.” But he also acknowledged he didn’t play well against San Antonio and understood why Triano went with Dudley and Marquese Chriss at power forward. “JD and Marquese had real good games on both ends so as long as we keep winning the games I don’t really care if I play five minutes or 35 minutes,” said Bender, adding he should be able to play without the mask by the end of the week. “At the end of the day it’s all about winning.” Except the Suns aren’t winning – they’ve lost three straight and five of six – and Bender’s regression has caused Triano to play the 32-year-old Dudley, who might help Phoenix now but certainly doesn’t fit into the organization’s long-term plans. Meanwhile, Bender, who needs the playing time to grow, finds himself stuck to the bench.
Phoenix Suns coach Jay Triano says Dragan Bender has to earn more playing time
Arizona Central | Dec 12