The Suns are rolling out the traditional pre-training camp media blitz in a way that’s so 2020 via Zoom calls one little bite at a time.
Forgive my brevity here, and please allow for some potentially slightly inexact quotes from coach Monty Williams and forward Mikal Bridges, but I absolutely promise you that I will take nothing out of context nor will I put words in the coach/player mouth that would change their message in any way.
I just want to get this out to you as quickly and cleanly as possible for your consumption.
On adding Chris Paul at the expense of beloved teammates Ricky Rubio, Kelly Oubre Jr., Ty Jerome and Jalen Lecque
Monty Williams: “We added a first ballot Hall of Fame point guard to our team. We felt like the reward for trading for a guy like Chris, and for me reuniting with him, was worth it. We are grateful for Chris but also have a great deal of gratitude to Ricky and Kelly (for what they did for us).”
Mikal Bridges: “It was really tough. It was a weird mix of emotions (when the trade happened). Knowing you’re not going to be around them no more. Just knowing at the end of the day, they’re still in the league, it’s a business. Chris Paul is an unbelievable player and unbelievable person. It’s a really weird mix of emotions.”
Both coach and player went on to say they had close relationships with the departing players, that it would be hard not seeing them this year, but that they know the team is better with Chris Paul on board.
Monty on CP: “He may be the best point guard of this era.”
Mikal on CP: “He’s been around so long, he just makes guys better. Everybody’s gonna learn a lot of things.”
Monty on CP, who he coached in 2010 in New Orleans: “Chris has an ability to make everything around him better. I witnessed it as a rookie head coach. After that year, people thought I could coach (chuckle). After that, people left and the plays didn’t work as well. I want to be a sponge (on learning from Chris Paul after 10 years apart).
On not being the same old (losing culture) Suns
Monty: “Players drive culture. Our guys have adopted the direction of our team, but I’ve said to all of our guys its a partnership. It was basically to destroy the narrative that Phoenix wasn’t a good place to play. That was my message. It’s changed because of what our guys have done. It’s the players who drive culture.”
On Chris Paul being demanding, in players faces
Monty: “I think all great players, in one way or another, demand from your team. I think as we all grow in these roles we learn how to demand. I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I think it’s probably bad when you don’t care enough to demand. Chris is one of the most competitive players to ever ever be around. I’d rather have this than the opposite.”
On expecting more than just squeaking into the playoffs, wanting a championship and those expectations
Monty on handling the pressure: “Why would you want to play without pressure? What you can control is your preparation. If you put the work in you can go to sleep at night. As long as we’re doing the right things, the wins will come. The expectations are what you work for. Pressure is something that you should want. It shows you what you are. If you ask all of our guys, they would tell you to a man this (a ring) is what they want.”
Mikal on high expectations: “My expectation is always to win. Whats the highest thing you can do for winning, is to win a championship. That’s what we all want. Us winning games and making the playoffs is the next step, but us as players… CP is dying to win a championship, he was thisclose. We definitely have a lot of expectations to win, and win at a high level. I know everybody is saying slow your roll, but what else do you want us to say? I think everybody wants to get a ring on their finger.”
Mikal on getting everyone’s best game now: “College is the same way. Always be another team wanting to take you down. As a competitor, who doesn’t want to be at that highest level and get everybody’s best? We would love to get everybody’s best fight. Nobody’s gonna take us lightly.”
Mikal on how they loved their self-imposed pressure in the Bubble to win every game: “How connected we got. How we knew every game mattered. It’s gonna take everybody. We’re out there playing as a team. We just came together as a team. To at least have a shot, we had to win all eight. It showed when our backs are against the wall, we showed (we could). Being mentally tough up there (points at his noggin), not worried about that 8th game, just taking it day by day.”
On which returning players to watch
Monty on Devin Booker: “I want Devin to be an All-NBA player. I want Devin to be an MVP candidate. That requires a lot. I want him to be recognized defensively. (Talks about Book not ducking any matchup). I want to see his ability to play both sides of the ball. But more than anything, I want him to be seen as a guy on a winning team.”
Mikal on Cameron Payne being the biggest surprise this year: “Cam Payne might be one person you look at and you might be like ‘all right’ (nodding). What he did in the offseason (on his game and his body), he’s not messing around. He’s devoted and he’s not going anywhere.”
Cam Payne was signed off the street in July to fill in at point guard because Elie Okobo and Ricky Rubio were late arrivals to Orlando for personal reasons. Payne surprised everyone with his attitude and appreciation for another chance in the league, as well as his great backup point guard play, and helped the Suns go 8-0 in the Bubble.
Here’s ACTUAL interviews with Monty and Mikal, thanks to Suns on YouTube. They said so much more than I shared above...
The first real practices start on Friday. We will get more interviews with players as the week goes along. Stay tuned!