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Monty Williams ‘unbelievably grateful’ for advancing to NBA Finals with Suns

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Phoenix’s coach explained just how much this accomplishment means for him and his players

NBA: Playoffs-Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Clippers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Here is what Phoenix Suns coach Monty Williams and assistant Randy Ayers said after their team’s 130-103 win over the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals on Wednesday night. The Suns won the series, four games to two, and advanced to their third NBA Finals appearance in their history and first since 1992-93.

On his feelings about winning the Western Conference:

“I couldn’t do it justice right now. I’m just unbelievably grateful for the blessings that I’ve received as a coach, working with people like Randy, getting to coach the players, moments like this. Just out there on the floor talking to a few of the guys, they were like, trying to figure out the feelings we were all having. I remember being in those moments when I was in San Antonio — it’s hard to describe. You’re just grateful for it. We know we have more work to do, but it’s hard to describe it in the moment. You’re just grateful for being in these moments with people you’re with every single day, and thankful for your family, thankful for the people you work with, thankful for the fans that travel. And to be able to win a game like that is huge for the organization, city, all of that stuff. So that’s what I have on my heart right now, is just a lot of gratitude. I’m just so thankful God has given me the job I have, and I get to work with the people I work with.”

On starting point guard Chris Paul’s 30-point second half, including his takeover late in the third quarter and early in the fourth:

“I’ve told you guys from the jump — I wanted to stay out of his way. There was questions about his production before tonight, and in my heart, I felt like it was a matter of time. I didn’t know it was going to be like that. That’s who Chris is, he was tired and he was still making those kinds of plays. Getting to the basket, threes, orchestrating everything. I’m grateful that I get to coach him again. When I first had him in 2010 (in New Orleans) and he went on actually to come here. In your wildest dreams, you couldn’t have put it together in this way, So to watch him out there tonight, I was so grateful to be on his side. And then I really enjoyed watching him and his emotions after the game. I was like, ‘I must be getting old now, because I’m enjoying watching other people.’ It used to be about me. Now, I’m looking at everybody else having a good time, I’m like, ‘Man, I’m getting old.’”

On embracing Paul after the game:

“That’s just authentic. That’s what I felt like doing. I’m not into cool, I just felt like hugging him. And I think his parents were right behind us. He was emotional, I felt for him. I had my emotional time right before the game. That’s why Randy’s sitting here with me. Today at about 2:30 (p.m.), we were sitting in the locker room and it was just Randy and I was like, ‘Man, Randy. We’re so close.’ And then Randy starts telling me what he felt about me, because he’s been with me since Day 1 in New Orleans. And I broke down before the game. So I understood the emotions that Chris was dealing with — I just ran out of tears. I just used all mine up about 2:30, 3 o’clock today. So when Chris started crying, I told (Suns starting forward) Jae (Crowder), I said — Jae was laughing, he’s like, ‘Chris is going to start crying.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I had mine earlier.’ I said, ‘Dude, I broke down about 2:30, 3 o’clock today. I was gone.’ Because Randy had just spoke from the heart to me about some things that we’ve been through. He’s been with me every step of the way, since New Orleans and now. So just grateful for those moments.”

On the emotions for Booker, given all he has been through with the franchise:

“I’m happy for him because I’ve been with him every day now athletically for two years. So I’ve seen the work, I’ve seen the passion and I’ve seen his family and how they — not just him — but they want it. They love Phoenix, they don’t want to go anywhere. They wanted to do it there. So for us to be in this position to go forward and have a chance to win a championship, it takes me back to my first conversation with him at a restaurant in Scottsdale. He looked me right in the eyes and he said, ‘Coach, whatever you need me to do, I’ll do it. And that was the beginning. So to see him in this position is gratifying, but he’d be the first one to tell you: We enjoy this, but we know we have more work to do. He’s deadset on competing for a championship, and that’s been his focus. And I’m glad to be a part of it.”

Randy Ayers

On what this moment feels like for him and how his conversation with Williams unfolded:

“Well, it’s been great to be alongside this gentleman for what’s it now, seven years? Five in New Orleans and two here. He respects the position, and that’s really gratifying for me to see, how much work he puts into it. I told him today, like, we’ll have a situation that we want to talk about at the end of the day before we all go home. I know the next day, he’s put in the time to come with a solution for that situation. And you respect that, and I’ve seen that for seven years. I’ve seen the growth for seven years, so that’s really special for me to see. And it’s been 20 years for me to get back to this point (when he was an assistant with the Philadelphia 76ers in 2000-01). So you got to put in the time, I guess. It’s a grind but I’m happy to be here.”

Williams

On how special the opportunity was for Paul in making the NBA Finals for the first itme while beating his former team and playing against his former coach:

“I wouldn’t do it justice — it’d be really hard to do that. But you just never think that you’re going to have those opportunities. It’s a bit of a sweet spot, you know? We haven’t won the championship that we want to win, but to see it come together like this, for Chris to be able to come back here, Randy and I and (Suns assistant) Willie Green were with him in New Orleans. He left and we stayed in contact, Randy and Chris stayed in contact. We were all still tight, and for us to get back together again and do this, how do you put that into words? You’re just watching it from afar, you know what I’m saying? Even though you’re in it, you’re just kind of watching it like, ‘Wow, this is pretty cool.’ And I’m really happy for Chris because again, I see the work that he puts in. I see the care, you saw the tears after the game. You never know if you’re going to be in these positions, and you watch guys get their three, four, five times. Some people get there more than that and you’re like, ‘Man, I work my tail off.’ And then you just realize it’s a blessing. Because everybody works at it. So if you get a chance to be a part of it, you realize you’ve been unbelievably blessed. So to see it come together the way that you described is pretty cool.”

On Paul’s performance, especially after he came out of the health and safety protocols:

“I mean, for him to put up 41 (points) and eight (assists) and control the game that he did, this is the second time we’ve closed a team out and I think he had 37 in the closeout game against Denver. It’s just who he is. But when we started the series, even before the first series started, I got the call that Chris might be out. And your heart sinks for a second because you’re like, ‘Man, not right now.’ But after talking to him and talking to the team and watching Jae and Book and those guys grow in their leadership roles and hold it down until Chris can get back, it’s an emotional ride for us, just in this series alone. But we’ve dealt with it the whole playoffs. I mean, the (Los Angeles) Lakers series, he gets a stinger, whatever that was in the shoulder. He was playing with half of his body basically. He was playing with one arm. So I told our guys, ‘Everything you want is on the other side of hard. You just have to continue to persevere as best you can and not give up and hopefully, something good is on the other side.’”

On what the world can learn from Paul making his first NBA Finals appearance:

“Will. You never quit. He has a number of contemporaries that have won championships and been in this position. And having been around him, that’s all he wants. He wants to be a part of winning, and he’s persevered through a lot, injuries, playoff heartbreak. Being as close as he was in Houston, and getting hurt (in Game 5 of the 2018 Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors), I know that burned him. So for me to be able to watch that and then be in a position with him to have a chance to go forward is pretty cool. If you can learn anything from Chris Paul, it’s to keep going. Don’t quit, serve others, because that’s what he does. He cares about his teammates, he spends a lot of time — you guys have no idea how much time he spends with these young guys on this team. And I think when you serve people like that, they follow you. And that’s why he’s such a good leader is because he serves the guys around him.”

On starting center Deandre Ayton recording his 11th double-double of the postseason and his growth:

“I think with DA, and Randy can attest to this because he and (Suns assistant) Mark Byant spend more time with him than I do,a actually. But he’s just learned how to embrace the grind. The day-in, day-out work. And then he’s starting to see it pay off on this level. It’s one thing to see it pay off in the regular season, it’s totally different to see a guy dominate series after series after series and see all the work that he’s put in and all the things that they do every single day, Randy and Mark and the group of bigs. I think that’s what I’ve seen from him — he’s embraced the work, he’s embraced being a part of the scouting report, he’s embraced coaching. He understands that we’re trying to call him up, not out and how much we care about him. He’s embraced it all, and at first it wasn’t as easy, because he didn’t know me and I didn’t really know him and there was a lot of new stuff coming at him. And then he had the pressure of being the No. 1 pick. Once he got all that out of his mind, I think he just embraced his role and embraced the grind of trying to be a really good NBA player.”

On Paul’s 3-pointer to snap the Clippers’ 10-0 run in the third quarter:

“It was a shot that helped me loosen up in a certain area of my body. That was the deal. It was getting to that point where I used the timeout on my challenge (on a foul that was assessed to starting forward Mikal Bridges early in the third quarter), so my timeouts were starting to get a little dicey. And for whatever reason, they didn’t guard him on the right wing and they just kind of stared at him and it was a moment. Chris loves those moments, but when he hit that shot, it was almost like symbolically like, ‘Coach, I got it.’ And he’s done that time and time again this season.”

On what Paul said during the Suns’ timeout after the 10-0 run:

“He and I were both talking about poise and execution. We knew that it could get a bit physical and every series we’ve had, it’s been emotional. Stuff’s happening in a closeout game, so he was talking about that. I reiterated it, I tried to give us some structure on offense and we’ve been talking about poise with this group for a long time. And it paid off tonight.”

On his takeaway of this series with Booker playing through physicality with a broken nose:

“For as young as Book is, he’s done an awful lot in his career. And I think people forget, even though he wasn’t winning as much, he was in a lot of situations and he was the target every night. So I don’t think this was new for him, it was just on a different stage. And I thought the world saw his fearlessness on the big stage. When we needed a bucket, he was the guy. Defensively, he was giving up his body. He got hit in his nose — I think it’s broken in three places. And he got cracked in that thing a couple times tonight. But he and Chris, that partnership, when you need a bucket and you’re able to give it to guys like that, it’s pretty cool. But Book has seen a lot, and last year in the Bubble, I talked to him and I talked to the team about all the stuff he’s been through and having a lot of people say things about you when they really don’t know how hard you’re working and how much you care. I think the world saw tonight how much he cares, the way he plays. He gives it up on every single play. That’s all you can ask from a player.”

If he believed his team would be in the NBA Finals before the season:

NBA: Playoffs-Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Clippers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

“I’m going to hold on to that, because there’s been some really cool stuff that’s happened on our team. But I may have been the only one that thought that we could or was crazy enough to challenge the team with that. But something pretty cool happened earlier this year. And to answer your question, I didn’t know we would be here, but that’s what we were working for behind the scenes. I’m not one to make predictions or anything like that, but when you have Chris and Book and then you add Jae and the growth and the leadership of our team, everything that (Suns owner) Robert (Sarver) has given us. I thought that if things go our way, we could have a shot at competing. But I certainly didn’t know we were going to get here, but I was crazy enough to think about it, for sure. Because I think that’s what everybody plays for, and you only get — if you’re blessed — you get one shot sometimes. I’ve been in an organization in San Antonio where they got a number of shots. I didn’t paint it this way, but I certainly thought about it.”