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Phoenix Suns coaches beat Booker, Paul to 2022 All-Star nods

Monty Williams and his staff came up just short a year ago but this year clinched it a week early.

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

By securing the best record in the Western Conference at the All-Star break, the Phoenix Suns coaching staff will coach LeBron James’ All-Star team on February 10th in Cleveland.

This will be the first time Monty Williams will coach the All-Star game after coming close but getting it last year as the Suns finished the pre-All-Star portion of their schedule one game behind the Jazz.

“It’s a huge blessing to be in this position,” Monty Williams said of the honor. “Where you can be the caretaker of an organization and represent the organization, the city, the team, your family. I’m mindful of that. I’m also mindful of all the sacrifices people make so I can be in this position, you know what I’m saying. This is a team effort for sure.”

After coming up just short last year, the Suns were so good this time they clinched the best record a week early.

In January, the Suns slogged through an injury-laden month to go 13-1, capped by an active 10-game winning streak that Devin Booker and Chris Paul openly said last week has been partially fueled by their desire to get the Suns staff this honor.

“It blew me away,” Williams said of the players’ focus on this honor. “When I sat and thought about those guys thinking of me that way, it did make me somewhat emotional because it’s really my job to put them in a position to be successful. So, to have them want me to be in that position, want our staff to be in that position, says a lot about them. It’s a special group and I’m grateful to be a part of this team, this organization, this city, and this resurgence of basketball here in the valley.”

“I’m just happy for him. I’m happy for our staff,” Chris Paul said. “Some coaches gotta coach in this league a long time and never get that opportunity.”

Monty’s a real one.

Earlier this year, the Suns wanted a franchise-best winning streak and got it, with an 18-game streak crossing October/November/December. They also secured a franchise-best 16-win month, and secured the most wins in a no-loss month (16-0) in franchise history.

Now this.

“It’s good, it’s great,” Chris Paul said after the win on Sunday to clinch it. “Like we said over the course of this long season, it’s not wrong we’re having little benchmarks, little goals or whatnot. I’m just happy for Mont (Monty Williams), I’m happy for our staff. Yeah, everything, it’s cool.”

With this 10-straight win, they are now only the second team in franchise history with two 10+ game win streaks in a single season. If they can somehow nab a third 10-game streak over the last 32 games, they’d be the first Suns team ever to do it.

Williams and his staff become the first of hopefully many Suns representatives to sent to Cleveland for All-Star Weekend.

A starting five from each conference (two guards, three forwards) were named last week after tallying votes from fans, players and media, with LeBron James and Kevin Durant leading in all categories for their respective conference. No Suns were named in this exercise, despite having the best record in the league by a wide margin.

A total of twelve players from each conference will be named to play in the game, consisting of the five starters and an additional seven reserves.

Reserves* for the 2022 NBA All-Star Game will be announced on TNT on Thursday, Feb. 3 at 5:00 p.m. MT and the captains** will draft the team rosters from the pool of players voted as starters and reserves during the NBA All-Star Draft on TNT on Thursday, Feb. 10 at 4:30 p.m. MT.

*Fourteen reserves will be picked by the 30 NBA coaches this week, with seven coming from each conference. The Suns’ Devin Booker and Chris Paul are expected to be named as two of those reserves.

**The leading vote-getter in each conference is named a team captain. For the West, that’s LeBron James. Monty Williams and his staff will coach Team LeBron. James and Durant will draft their teams, playground style, from the pool of 22 other players by taking turns picking one player after another. This allows for mixing and matching across conferences. Monty Williams only gets to coach his Suns stars if LeBron picks them for Team LeBron.

The Suns have had the best record in the West by the All-Star break four other times in the 54-year franchise history.

  • 1981 — John MacLeod
  • 1993 — Paul Westphal
  • 1995 — Westphal
  • 2007 — Mike D’Antoni

The game will be the first All-Star coaching experience for all but two of the coaches on the Suns staff, as Randy Ayers (Philadelphia in 2001) and Mark Bryant (Oklahoma City in 2012 and 2014) have served on the staffs in previous All-Star Games.

After guiding the team to a Western Conference Championship and berth in the 2021 NBA Finals, Williams and his staff currently have the Suns at a league-best 40-9 record this season, the best start in franchise history through the first 49 games of a season. The Suns set a franchise record with an 18-game winning streak earlier this season and have currently won 10 straight, just the second time in Suns history the team has had multiple winning streaks of at least 10 games in a single season (2006-07). The Suns currently rank in the top three in the NBA in both offensive and defensive rating.

The 71st NBA All-Star Game is part of NBA All-Star 2022 from Feb. 18-20 in Cleveland. The All-Star Game will take place on Sunday, Feb. 20 at 6:00 p.m. MT and will air live on TNT and ESPN Radio.

In a fun twist, the Suns assistant coaches will do more than just roam the sideline in the All-Star game next to Monty Williams.

The Suns assistants, led by Associate Head Coach Kevin Young, will help choose and coach young players in the Rising Stars three-game mini-tournament on All-Star Friday Night.

This mini-tournament is a new twist to the Rising Stars. It will feature a dozen of the best rookies, a dozen of the best second-year players and four players from the G-League Ignite. The players will be picked by voting from all NBA assistant coaches, and then will be split into teams and coached by the East and West All-Star assistant coaches.

The four teams compete in a mini-tourney of real games with a ‘Final Target Score’ ending, meaning that a game will end with a made basket or a made free throw instead of with the clock running out. It will be a “Race to 75” to celebrate the league’s 75th anniversary season — Games 1 and 2 will be played until a team reaches 50 points; Game 3 will be played until a team reaches 25 points.

See more here: Rising Stars Tournament Explainer

The players picked for the Rising Stars will be named at a later date, likely around February 8 when the All-Star Saturday participants are announced.

The Suns do not expect any of their players to make the Rising Stars teams. Only Jalen Smith and Ish Wainright are eligible and neither has played consistent minutes.

Participants in the All-Star Saturday Night showcase will be named on February 8.

The only other Phoenix Suns player who could be sent to All-Star Weekend is Cameron Johnson, who might be named to the Three-Point Shootout because he currently ranks 3rd in the NBA in three-point percentage (43.1%) among players who have attempted at least 200 threes this year (93 players). Only Luke Kennard and Eric Gordon have shot better on volume.

Working against Cam Johnson is that he doesn’t start, has taken only half the threes that Steph Curry has launched, and ranks only 37th in three-point makes per game and 44th in attempts.

Usually 6-8 players are named to participate in the Three Point Shootout each year, and most of them are All-Stars already.

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