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As Suns players reconnect, Monty Williams wants to ‘listen and learn’ in new Orlando reality

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Williams spoke with media after the Suns’ first practice in Orlando on Thursday evening.

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Basketball is a “get-to, not a got-to,” Monty Williams said as he addressed media for the first time from the NBA’s Orlando bubble on Thursday evening. It’s his way of looking at the relative risk and reward of what is certainly a strange endeavor on the part of the league at the Wide World of Sports complex.

The pleasure of competing as one of 400 or 500 of the best basketball players in the world can tether NBAers back to reality, and Williams saw the thrill of getting to be a team again and reconnect, even in the team’s first practice.

“It’s not weird when we get into the gym,” Williams said. “The guys were talking to each other, we’re probably just a bit more aware than we were before as it relates to the virus, but everybody is doing everything they can to stay safe.

“It’s going to take some time to get used to being together again.”

To that end, Williams said he was a bit more tentative in terms of what he asked of his players physically and mentally to start off this makeshift training camp. As usual, Williams and his staff have scheduled out a general structure for the next few weeks. There will be contact days, pure shooting sessions, and continued homework assignments for players such as film segments and Zoom meetings from their secluded hotel rooms.

“I’m probably more cautious than I’ve ever been because we have so much time off,” he said. “I want to listen and learn as much as I can because it’s basically a new season, a new universe for all of us that are playing.”

Teams get access to the gym for practices on a daily basis, and Williams said players also get time for what amounts to an open gym later in the evening as well. This will give players freedom to acclimate to the rigor and routine of the NBA schedule again, while also providing the first hands-on coaching time Williams and his staff have had since March. While players were allowed in team facilities starting last month, that was simply for one-on-one work. This is a chance to hit the ground running and rebuild chemistry.

As far as the start of what Williams called “a different kind of different,” the coach was pleased to see high energy and excitement. For a young team, one can understand the buzz of getting to even work with your teammates again, let alone chat and catch up in-person for the first time in a while.

Team personnel are still in the early quarantine phases of the transition to Orlando, and after everyone arrives without a hitch in the “clean site,” players will get to move more freely about the Wide World of Sports campus (no doubles ping-pong though!). At that time, the real value of getting to participate in this restart will materialize for the Suns. They are simply getting game and practice reps that few other young teams in the league will get.

In that way, Williams and his players seem to be on the same page: The situation is a bit uncertain, but it’s nevertheless a real opportunity. A get-to, not a got-to.