There are many reasons Chris Paul wanted to come to the Phoenix Suns, and so far, his expectations have been met.
Though Wednesday marked his first day in Phoenix in the gym with all of his teammates, Paul was excited when he spoke with reporters for the first time since he was traded to the Suns.
As president of the executive committee of the NBA Players’ Association, Paul already has his hands full sketching out the plans for the season in conjunction with the league office and charting a course forward for players engaged in activism around social justice. At the same time, the curiosity and excitement was clear from his mood on Wednesday that he is ready to get to work with his new Suns teammates.
“Everyone always talks about like what I can teach Book or what I can teach some of these other guys, but they’re teaching me at the same time, too,” Paul said. “I’m not James Naismith by no means.
“It’s fun for me because first thing’s first, I’m not just coming in here trying to teach. I’m (their) teammate, too. We here to hoop, we here to compete, and that’s the way I approach this.”
Paul then highlighted how he came to know Devin Booker, back when Booker was prepping for the draft in 2015, and saw how Booker was a “dog” in addition to loving the game and being good at it. There’s also Monty Williams, who coached Paul in New Orleans, as well as Willie Green, a former teammate of Paul’s with the Hornets. And of course Jeff Bower, the general manager back then who serves in the Suns’ front office.
Despite all the camaraderie there figures to be in Phoenix, the expectation to win changes teams. Add in the reputation Paul has built up of being a demanding competitor and teammate and there will likely be a feeling-out period.
When asked about his approach with his new teammates, Paul said it was about balance.
“When you’re a point guard, I always say I’ve always been somewhat vertically challenged so I ain’t never played any other position, and you learn over the years who you can get on and who you sorta gotta be a little easier with,” Paul said.
“The one thing about my approach, and I’m not saying that it’s always right and it’s not for everybody, but I’ll never ask you to do something that I wouldn’t do myself.”
While Paul had always been on proven winning teams in his career prior to last season, being in Oklahoma City was an adjustment for him. That’s something he’s been open about all along, but expanded upon Wednesday as it relates to coming to Phoenix.
“The biggest thing I learned last year is you can write your own story,” he said. “We didn’t care about none of y’all’s predictions. We’re the one’s that’s gotta do the work. As long as we’re very honest with each other on a daily basis of what we expect from each other, that’s all that matters.
“Sometimes it’s nice to have a young team because they don’t know nothing else but to hoop and to play hard. They’re not thinking about when can happen here or what can happen there, and we’re just going to roll.”
Part of building trust with his new young teammates will be Paul developing a relationship with head coach Monty Williams, who Paul emphasized isn extraordinarily dedicated worker who is a hands-on teacher.
Williams said that the one year he coached Paul in New Orleans he “walked around like a dictator,” but the self-deprecating coach clearly earned the respect of his star player. Paul seems to love guys who love basketball and the grind of the NBA, and that described Williams perfectly.
The weeks ahead of abbreviated training camp are sure to be a challenge, but with the trio of Paul, Booker and Williams at the helm, the Suns look off to a good start.