The Phoenix Suns aren’t done yet when it comes to restoring their image as one of the NBA’s top franchises, but there is progress being made, namely new players saying they wanted to come to Phoenix.
Chris Paul and Jae Crowder both spoke on their desire to be with the Suns and to play alongside Devin Booker. Crowder even admitted to Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo he was being offered more money elsewhere.
Head coach Monty Williams had his group performing at its highest level yet in the bubble, where both those names noticed how hard and together the team played, as Paul put it.
When discussing his season-ending speech from the bubble that went viral, Williams got more into that.
“It was no disrespect to any team, it was to destroy the narrative that Phoenix wasn’t a good place to play and culture here was whatever it was … it was really about that narrative,” he said.
With a new practice facility and renovated arena on top of all the other appeal living in Phoenix brings, things are coming together in that regard.
“I think that was what was most important for this organization and this team this summer is guys wanting to come here,” Booker said Thursday. “A guy like Jae wanting to come here, a guy like Chris — a Hall of Fame guy — wanting to come to Phoenix after what we’ve been through for the past 5-10 years. That’s a step forward for this organization and people really see something’s brewing over here.
“I’m trying not to get ahead of myself but I think already this is a big step for this organization.”
Booker and the Suns as a whole aren’t even tempering the higher expectations for the team, they’re not even really addressing them. That’s what Booker is getting at when saying he doesn’t want to say too much, like penciling in a playoff appearance already. That’s because there’s a common mindset there that has shined through all week when everyone speaks.
“The expectations are what you work for,” Williams said. “I think it’s a much bigger deal here because of the history of this program the last few years but I think if you ask all of our guys, they would tell you that this is what they want. When you have expectations and you have pressure, that means you’re a team that has the potential to be pretty good.”
That unity is easier to have when its similarly-minded individuals, a credit to the swiftness of general manager James Jones’ rebuild and roster reconstruction.
“Culture is driven by players,” Williams said Tuesday.
What it comes down to is this: they’re going to grind together towards the ultimate goal of winning a championship, continuing Williams’ team-building process, and everything else is the journey of getting there.
Mikal Bridges had the best answer of the week when he was asked about his own expectations on Tuesday.
“Shoot, my expectation’s always to win,” he said. “What’s the highest thing you can do from winning? It’s winning a championship. Trying to improve and get to that point. I know James Jones, coach Monty — that’s what they’ve been preaching and that’s everybody else. Obviously, for Suns fans and everybody else that’s been around the Suns for a while, us winning games (and) making the playoffs is the next step for them. For just being around for years with the team not playing that well, so I understand … We definitely have a lot of expectations to win and win at the highest level and the ultimate goal is to be the last team standing.
“I know everybody is saying slow your roll for how we’re talking about wanting to win a championship, like, what else do you want us to say? You understand? We’re competitors, we want to win. Do you want us to say, ‘Oh, we’re OK with just playoffs. We’re OK with making it out (of) the West.’ No. Everybody wants to definitely get a ring on their finger and that’s definitely going to be the goal.”