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Monty Williams: ‘I don’t want to be the doofus coach’ to deny Chris Paul a chance to play in Game 4

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Williams, Paul and Suns general manager James Jones had a pregame conversation about Paul’s status on Sunday

NBA: Phoenix Suns at New Orleans Pelicans Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Here is what Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams said after his team’s 100-92 win in Game 4 of its first-round series of the Western Conference playoffs against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday afternoon.

On Suns’ starting point guard Chris Paul’s comments about meeting with him before the game, when he told Paul that he planned to sit him with his lingering right shoulder contusion:

“We had a long talk before the game and the focus was on, ‘Can he be himself and be effective?’ And we were all concerned for him and how, if he couldn’t play the way he wants to, how it would affect the team. And so my initial reaction was to sit him today because I was just worried about how he looked last game and we met again and he was just like, ‘Coach, look. Let me start, and if I look a certain way and you don’t feel I’m looking like I normally do, then take me out and we’ll have to go a different direction.’ So myself, him and James, I don’t know, we talked for about 20 minutes I guess before our team meeting and we just had a meeting of the minds and just decided to trust the player in this situation. For me, as long as he’s not going to hurt himself further and it won’t hurt the team, then we can come to a decision like we did today. And this is one of those situations that I had to trust the player, trust our relationship from over the years. And it was an emotional conversation. To have to sit out in a game like this, you can imagine how we both felt. And it was something that I had been thinking about for the past 48-whatever hours and it came down to him looking me in the eyes and saying, ‘Just trust me on this one, coach. If I don’t look the way you want me to, then take me out.’”

If he was surprised at how Paul played during the game:

“That was the one thing that gave me a bit of confidence that he could do it, when he came in and he showed me what he could do with his arm pregame. And this was stuff that he couldn’t do the last couple of days and especially, in our last game. So when I saw him do some things with his arm, (Suns assistant) coach Willie Green took him out before the game and they worked out. That gave me more confidence and with that being said, I had no idea he was going to be able to do what he did today. To be able to come off screens and knock down shots, his passing was there, the instincts were there. The burst that we’ve seen this year wasn’t as dynamic, but you could see it’s coming back. So I think that gave us and the team a lot of confidence.”

On the Suns’ defensive and transition efforts in the game:

“I mean, that’s who we are. That’s who we’ve been for our two years (he has coached the team). We try to defend and we try to play with a great deal of pace and play in point-five. And when we can get stops and can get down the floor and the ball is just moving around the gym, don’t know if it favors us, but that’s how we like to play. And then we had guys step up and make shots today and the other side of it is (Suns’ starting center) [Deandre Ayton] had 17 rebounds. That was a relentless attitude. We lost that battle (in total rebounding) by one, but for him to have 17 boards in a game like this was huge for us.”

On the Suns’ emotions when seeing Paul closer to full strength and how he noticed the Lakers’ energy change once forward Anthony Davis left the game with a left groin strain:

“It’s a roller coaster. When you’re in the playoffs and you have time in between games, you can’t even imagine the thought processes that go into, ‘What’s your rotation going to be like? How’s it going to affect the team?’ Making the right decision on who to fill those minutes for that particular player. There’s a lot that goes on, and we just don’t take health for granted. We don’t take the efforts that our guys put on the floor for granted. I just think that the playoffs bring you to your limits in a lot of ways, and that’s how you grow. You’re watching our young team grow on the fly.”

On starting forward Jae Crowder’s 17-point, seven-rebound game while making three 3-pointers after making just two of 20 triples in the previous three games:

“We just made a decision to just have a, ‘Let it fly,’ mentality. That was one of the things we talked about in pregame, we listed four things. We didn’t even touch the film. We talked about how we want to play, and one of those categories was, ‘Let it fly.’ When you have that mentality, you put up with some shots you may not want in certain environments but I think guys have to play free. We can’t get to this moment, start to change our game, get tight, worry about the consequences. I wanted our guys to play free, that was my message in one of the categories that they might not even remember, knowing our guys. But that’s what we told them and Jae took it to heart. He had a really good session yesterday shooting the ball. The day before that, he was a little down. Yesterday, he came in and he had a better spirit and today, he let it fly and it helped us win the game.”

On the performance of the Suns’ bench, led by backup point guard Cameron Payne with 13 points on 5-of-12 shooting:

“Well, I think offensively, you don’t necessarily see a huge number but defensively, I thought they were sound. I just thought the abandon we played with on defense, I thought the ability to get back into the paint and get hands on balls and get rebounds helped us, and that group was pretty good. In a game like this playing against that kind of team with a championship pedigree, you’re going to make mistakes. But I thought even when the bench made mistakes tonight, they stayed with it and it’s huge for us to be able to bring those guys in and not have a drop-off in our juice and our energy.”

On the Suns’ poise in Sunday’s game compared to others in the series:

“One of the things we said before the game, another category we talked about, being relentless. But it wasn’t the type of relentless that you would think of, it was relentless with our energy and focus on the game and not all the extracurricular stuff that had been taking our attention and energy. And we just say we’re going to have relentless focus, relentless poise and even at the end where we had the game won, our guys were talking about the game. Don’t say anything crazy, don’t get caught up in any of the shenanigans because we don’t want to mess with the game. We respect our opponent, they deserve our attention and focus and we have to give all of our energies to winning the game. And all of the other stuff, we just have to leave it alone.”

On some viewers of this series developing an opinion that the Suns are a dirty team and if he feels like he needs to defend the team from it:

“I don’t, and I’ll never respond to narratives because that’s what they are. We know the kinds of guys that we brought in, we know the kind of people and the integrity of our players and our organization. And we’re not going to field any questions or even give it any attention when people say (that) kind of stuff, those kinds of things about us. I’ll go with these guys anywhere and defend who they are as people and who they are as players, and we’re not going to let any narrative take our focus off of trying to win games.”

On how Paul’s perseverance has inspired his team:

“His diligence in how he goes about his work every day has inspired our guys. A lot of guys have changed how they work out, how they eat just being around Chris. But then when you see him in a situation like this where we were close to sitting him down and to be in that conversation. If our guys could have seen that conversation and seen the intention and the emotion that went into that conversation, it would have given us even more juice tonight. I looked him in the eyes, he looked me in the eyes and we had to come to a decision and James was right there and we all just agreed to trust the player. I have to trust his will and his experience and the things he’s done over the course of his career. He’s trained to be in these moments. And my final thought was, ‘I don’t want to be the one that takes that away from him.’ That was the lasting thing that I was thinking about, like, ‘Who am I to take that away from him?’ He’s worked his tail off for years to be in this moment, and I don’t want to be the doofus coach to take that away.”