Winning in the NBA starts with playing team ball and having chemistry on the court and some times off the court. Individuals will have their motives to win and going along with what their team has drawn up as a game plan for victory. There are also the incentives of certain milestones and the clear goals to reach the triple-doubles to pay for the high-priced bubbly.
The mental and physical motive is the newish lingo in the NBA since the mid-to-late 2010’s to keep an eye on your diet and also live and die basketball. If you want to be great, learn from the old-man’s game before you and what he taught you.
The focus from the young entering the NBA is to build their own brand and prove they are a winner. On a team of 13+ players, the chance of them gelling and having the focus on one goal, and that is team-ball, it is ok to pull away and focus on what you can do better to help you.
Forging your own path in the NBA is getting easier and easier as time goes on. We are seeing it now and it will only continue to be more prompted every year after the next with players moving to where they want. But before a player can arrive in that type of situation, there is a lot of work, personally, that needs to happen.
This year’s Suns team is learning as they go, at a fast pace. What young players like Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, and Dario Saric can learn from Chris Paul and the playoffs experience this year is important to getting better and furthering their careers as individuals.
Keeping the playoffs alive in an almost selfish way can be very motivating in helping themselves as well as their team in the same process. Even if you trust your teammates, players need their own reasons to winning.
Mikal Bridges and Deandre Ayton
Side by side since the beginning of their rookie season, both Bridges and Ayton will eventually take a big role in ESPN’s 30-for-30 2018 NBA Draft night recap. A future television event that we can relive in 20 years after the stars from this draft finish out their careers. Right now you can count seven (Ayton, Bridges, Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Jaren Jackson Jr, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Micheal Porter Jr.) out of the top-14 picks in that draft who now can be seen becoming a star, or are currently a star.
Their story started on draft night, but for Bridges and Ayton and the on-the-court chemistry really began this past season. A full season with both players only missing a combined three games (Bridges-0, Ayton-3) this year, you can see a one-two combo on defense, and late in the season, on the offensive end.
Twenty years from now, when they are both asked in the interview leading into the 30-for-30 doc, when did things start to really click on the court between the two? I can imagine they would both say “the first Chris Paul season, our third year in the league. Especially the first round matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers.”
Bridges, who is already in talks of earning an all-defensive team nod, either on the first or second team, is beginning to creep towards becoming noticed to the more regular NBA fan.
With a matchup against two of the top three players in the NBA in LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the insight that Paul will have on the two Laker superstars will help Bridges and Ayton. Shrugging of the shoulders would probably be the best response when it comes to stopping James and Davis, but Paul, like his Suns teammates have stated before, points out the little things that will help Bridges and Ayton gain the slightest edge in their matchups.
The matchups will not always be Bridges vs. James or Ayton vs. Davis, but paths will be crossed on court. The off-ball defense will be crucial in defending against what Paul will feel and see happening as each Lakers possession begins. Knowing where to be on the court defensively against the Lakers “Titans” is the first step in slowing them down.
Win or lose this series, the amount of experience from not only playing against James and Davis, but also what they can learn on the court beside a hall-of-fame point guard, will fuel both Bridges and Ayton into each game and hopefully a second round matchup.
Their reason for winning?
To continue to soak up knowledge from Paul. In case he does not stay in Phoenix next season, do not let a wasted minute go by on and off the court. Well, that should go for every player on this Suns team right? Yes, but who else on this team is a two-way player and an efficient scorer? That has been Paul’s career and Bridges and Ayton are on the top of that list on this current Suns roster to lead the same path.
You can compare it to Happy Gilmore with Chubbs being Paul and both Bridges and Ayton as Happy. Listen to the pro who loses his hand, by having it taken off by an alligator, and who also falls out an open window. Absorb the information before he is gone.
Saric believed himself to be a starter in the NBA, and no dream is too big for any man. But now the goal is to show that he can be the Suns best 6th man. A role that he didn’t seem to care for since joining the Suns, Saric really came around earlier this year and was a legit contender for the 6th man of the year award. During the last couple of weeks in the regular season, it was difficult for him to find big minutes in the Suns rotation.
“SIZE MATTERS!” is being thrown around a lot by anyone paying attention to the NBA and this first round matchup between the Laker and the Suns.
We all know that, and against the Lakers it truly matters… So what can Saric do to change the narrative? Not a whole lot, but he can decide to be the connector again that coach Monty Williams knows he can be.
A tradable contract entering the off-season, Saric is now searching for the game that got him the sixth man mentions in the beginning of the season.
The further Saric can help win games these playoffs, the further his role, like a Montrezl Harrell of the Lakers or Jordan Clarkson of the Utah Jazz, as a 6th man to help a team advance in the playoffs year to year.
His reason for winning?
Avoiding to be a throw-in piece in the off-season with any trade talk. The advantage of helping the Suns advance to the next round and maybe even further, helps Saric stay in Phoenix and become that sixth-man like a Harrell or a Clarkson.
If Saric can get going again, from afar, people will say, “look at the young talent this Suns team has with Bridges and Ayton... oh, and Saric as their sixth man is solid.”
That is what Saric will be searching for.
These are just a few players who can gain more than just wins in a playoff series against the Lakers.
No matter what, this Suns-Lakers series will be a learning experience for all of us.