On his first day with local media, new Phoenix Suns backup center Aron Baynes brought the same kind of hard-nosed energy to the speaking podium that he brings to an NBA court.
Media Day lasted about two-and-a-half hours, but Baynes’ 14 minutes of speaking time were efficient and impactful.
His words were all about team, all about effort. He spoke about how the quality of the second unit is what separates the good teams from the rest, and all the local media couldn’t help but agree with him after watching the Suns lose three-fourths of their games the last few seasons.
“It’s not just the top six, seven guys they’ve had here the last few years that impact the game,” Baynes said. “First unit, everyone knows how talented they are, but the second unit that’s where good teams have been able to separate themselves. You need more than the first 6-7 guys.”
Baynes has been a remarkably consistent backup center throughout his NBA career, which spans three teams over seven seasons where Baynes contributed 13-18 minutes, 5-7 points, 4-5 rebounds per game. In that time, his teams made the playoffs six out of seven years, including a pair of NBA Finals (one championship in 2014).
He knows that’s why he and many of the other guys were targeted by the Suns.
“I’ve had the luxury that I’ve seen what it takes to win an NBA championship,” Baynes said. “And I’ve seen what it is when you’re in a rebuilding phase (Detroit) and what it can lead to. Just, how important it is to play team basketball throughout the season as well.”
Baynes has made his mark on opposing guards by setting vicious screens, and on opposing big men for rooting them out of rebound position.
“I’m not afraid to take a hit,” he said of what he learned from his early rugby days. “On the defensive end, verticality, taking charges. It’s all fun, and it’s not near as hard as I used to get hit anyway.”
Baynes wants to help Ayton understand why defense is important.
“He’s so gifted athletically that he can also be a massive impact on the defensive end,” Baynes said. “I kind of take pride in starting on the defensive end. If we can really get him to key in on that and help us on that end even more, it’s going to fuel our offense.”
Baynes’ greatest gift to your favorite team might just be in setting those hard screens, which he figuratively did with one of my questions today.
First, here was my question.
Dave: It seems like the water line has risen for the team in that it’s a higher floor than in years past. Like you were talking about, a much more competitive roster and a good feeling around the team. And they’re really going to go as far as Devin Booker carries the team, I believe, this year. Do you feel the same? Or do you—
“Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion,” Baynes responded. “Everyone’s gonna have an opportunity for us to go out there and do the right thing.
“But at the same time, no one guy is gonna go out there and win an NBA game. It’s got to be a team effort. And I think that’s what Monty’s gonna be really good at instilling in us, is everyone playing the right way. When we have every single guy that steps on the court know what they need to do to contribute to the team, that’s when you’re going to be able to go out there and get Devin his space. And he’s gonna be able to do the things that make him such a great player. So, you’re entitled to your own opinion but at the same time I’ve never seen one person win an NBA game.”
That answer wins for best of the day!
Devin Booker would have been ecstatic to hear Baynes talk this way, and it just proves why Baynes was a target of the Suns.
In recent years, we have all been aware that the team goes as far as Booker takes them, simply because there were not enough impactful players to take them any farther. The Suns weren’t winning games collectively. They were trying to win individually, with everyone deferring to Booker to save the day.
Baynes’ answer is perfect because he’s right. Baynes has learned from Gregg Popovich, Stan Van Gundy and Brad Stevens, not to mention Brett Brown from his earlier Australian National Team days as the Boomers’ head coach.
The Suns bringing in a young but playoff-tested roster that includes Ricky Rubio, Dario Saric, Frank Kaminsky, Tyler Johnson, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Baynes can only help Booker, Ayton and Bridges experience more success.
Here’s the whole Baynes video. I recommend you check it out.