Former Sonics guard Earl Watson is interim coach of the Phoenix Suns, who fired Jeff Hornacek after a 14-35 start to the season.
PHOENIX – The Phoenix Suns, mired in one of the worst stretches in their history, have fired coach Jeff Hornacek and promoted Earl Watson to interim coach.
Former Sonic Watson was selected after interviews were conducted Monday with all three Suns assistants.
Watson was an NBA point guard for 13 seasons and was in his first season as a Suns assistant after a year as an assistant coach of the Austin Spurs of the NBA Development League.
The 36-year-old Watson retired as a player in 2014 after appearing in 878 games for Portland, Seattle/Oklahoma City, Memphis, Denver, Indiana and Utah.
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The Suns’ season has been swirling rapidly down the drain for weeks and Hornacek must have known his days as coach were numbered. The Suns finally fired him after the team ran its road losing streak to 14 games with a setback at Dallas on Sunday night.
The team issued a brief news release Monday morning announcing Hornacek’s dismissal after 2½ seasons on the job.
Since the Suns fired Hornacek’s top two assistants — Jerry Sichting and Mike Longabardi — a month ago, there were only three assistants remaining on the Phoenix payroll — Watson, Corey Gaines and Nate Bjorkgren.
Watson inherits something of a mess of a roster and trades are a virtual certainty by the Feb. 18 deadline.
To say defense has been a problem is an understatement.
Phoenix ranks last in the league in opponents’ field-goal percentage and next-to-last in opponents’ three-point percentage.
No wonder the Suns are mired in one of the worst stretches in history. The team has lost 10 of 11 games and 19 of its last 21.
At 14-35, Phoenix’s record is tied for fourth worst in the league and the Suns are headed for a franchise-record sixth consecutive season without making the playoffs, all under owner Robert Sarver.
Phoenix plays its next five games, and nine of its next 10, at home.
This year’s team was expected to contend for the playoffs, but there were problems from the start when forward Markieff Morris said he wanted to be traded after the team dealt twin Marcus to Detroit in the offseason.
Hornacek said Markieff never came to terms with his brother’s absence and his playing time dwindled, although he has been on the court more often recently. Meanwhile, Marcus Morris repeatedly ripped the Suns’ organization from afar.
The Suns’ best player, Eric Bledsoe, tore knee cartilage in an embarrassing home loss to Philadelphia a month ago and is out for the season.
Phoenix’s main offseason acquisition, center Tyson Chandler, also has battled injuries and has not been the stabilizing defensive force the team envisioned.
Hornacek, 52, got off to a good start in his first coaching job. Phoenix won 48 games in 2013-14, 23 more than the previous season, and just missed making the postseason. But last season, the team slipped to 39-43.
Raptors’ win streak ends at 11 games
DENVER – Rookie Nikola Jokic had 27 points and 14 rebounds, and Denver beat Toronto 112-93, ending the Raptors’ winning streak at 11 games.
The Raptors entered with the league’s longest current winning streak but couldn’t duplicate the success they had in January.
DeMar DeRozan led Toronto with 24 points.
Cavaliers beat Pacers in OT
INDIANAPOLIS – Kyrie Irving scored 25 points and LeBron James had 24 points, 12 rebounds and six assists to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers past the Indiana Pacers 111-106 in overtime.
James had seven points after halftime, but it was enough to give the Cavaliers their fifth straight victory under new coach Tyronn Lue — and their first “W” in Indianapolis in six years.
George Hill matched his season high with 23 points.
The Pacers controlled most of the second half, but James’ layup with 1:16 left in regulation gave Cleveland a 94-93 lead.
• Russell Westbrook had 17 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists — his seventh triple-double of the season — and host Oklahoma City beat Washington 114-98.
Kevin Durant scored 28 points for the Thunder, which has won 11 of 12.
• Zach Randolph had 22 points and 12 rebounds and Memphis beat host New Orleans 110-95 for its 10th victory in 12 games.
• LaMarcus Aldridge scored a season-high 28 points and San Antonio beat Orlando 107-92 to improve to 26-0 at home.
• Jeff Teague scored a season-high 32 points on 12-for-15 shooting, Kyle Korver added 16 points and host Atlanta beat Dallas 112-97 to end a three-game losing streak.
• Gordon Hayward contributed 27 points and 12 rebounds and host Utah beat the Chicago Bulls 105-96 in overtime. The Jazz has won three straight.
• Rudy Gay had 32 points, nine rebounds and six assists and Sacramento snapped a five-game losing streak by beating visiting Milwaukee 111-104.