On Friday night, the Suns held their annual State of the Suns event. As you can imagine, the event is designed to give Suns fans some insight into where things stand with the team heading into a new season. This year, Tom Leander hosted as head coach Monty Williams and general manager James Jones shared their thoughts on the future of the team.
First, I will get this out of the way now. No, Jones did not address the status of Deandre Ayton’s contract extension. But Champ and Coach Monty did share some of their thoughts on a few of the newest members of the Phoenix Suns.
Landry Shamet and JaVale McGee garnered the most praise from the GM and the coach. While the conversation about Landry started with his smooth three-point stroke, it quickly became apparent that Jones and Williams both see a lot more in Shamet than just a shooter. Monty specifically mentioned that his ability to put the ball on the floor and create for himself is underrated. In that vein, he compared Shamet to another member of the Phoenix Suns who is often misconstrued as simply a shooter: Cameron Johnson — referring to Landry as a shorter version of Cam.
When it came to McGee, Monty complimented his basketball IQ (I know, I know) and spent a good amount of time emphasizing JaVale’s professionalism. Williams indicated that his positive influence on the squad can be seen through things like the new energy McGee brings to the big man group and the fact that he is often the first one in the gym and the last one to leave. Monty being the honest guy that he is, though, admitted (with a laugh) that JaVale will sometimes do things that leave him scratching his head.
The duo was also asked what fans could expect to see out of the returning players. In addition to the continued growth and improvement from the Suns’ young core, both of them stressed how important it is for guys like Chris Paul and Cam Payne to have a year in the system under their belts.
They touched on the challenges of coming to a new franchise (something both are very familiar with from their days in the NBA), such as not being familiar with all the team processes, terminology, and even what a practice day might look like. From Monty’s perspective, those guys now being familiar with the team’s system (not just in-game) will allow them to play even more freely than last season.
After the session with the Suns’ brain trust ended, the fans were treated to an open practice where we had a chance to see some of the new (and old) guys in action. Some observations/takeaways I had from the open session:
The team went through a rebounding drill and a defensive drill before any player even took a shot. Perhaps this should not be surprising in light of the leaps and bounds we’ve seen the Suns take in those departments over the past couple of years. But Monty starting practice out this way shows that these tenets are now the foundation of Suns basketball.
Practice 1 (0:26)
Practice 2 (0:31)
Remember that 10-pass sequence in Game 2 of the NBA Finals? Well, so do the Suns. They ran a number of drills that required 10 passes before taking a shot. The 0.5 offense is alive and well:
10 pass (0:40)
I left the end of the above clip in because I think it speaks to another very important aspect of this team. A lot of people will agree that the team’s chemistry last year was just as important as the talent on the floor. The end of that clip is a microcosm of the energy and spirit that was present throughout the practice. I think it is clear that the chemistry this year - even with some new guys in the fold - is not going to take a step back.
They closed out the practice with some (well, A LOT) of three-point shooting. From what I saw, the most consistent shooter - at least on this day - was Landry Shamet. He regularly knocked down multiple shots without a miss. Like here, where he dropped 6 in a row:
By my count, however, the longest streak of the night went to Cam Payne, who drained 11 in a row at one point (sorry, no video).
Stix wants to make sure we all remember he’s still here, too:
Remember the head scratchers from JaVale that Monty mentioned? I think he means things like this:
But don’t worry, he can make them, too:
JaVale 3 (0:03)
Appropriately, the night ended with the Suns and their fans serenading Monty Williams for his 50th birthday:
Happy Bday (0:42)
So, what can we take away from all of this? The season is right around the corner and our Phoenix Suns are focused and ready to run it back. Only this time, they’re coming to finish the job.
LET’S. *******. GO!!!!