Suns head coach Monty Williams recently sat down with Sam Amick of The Athletic to discuss Phoenix’s run to the 2021 NBA Finals, his relationship with All-Star point guard Chris Paul, his visit to the champion Bucks’ locker room after the Suns lost the series 4-2, and more.
“I think you’re always going to have that hole in your heart about it — your sports heart, anyway,” Williams said of his feelings following the Suns’ defeat this year. Phoenix made its first playoff berth in 11 seasons, and its first NBA Finals appearance since 1993.
“You had that chance, and you’re praying and hoping like heck that you’ll have a chance to do it again. That’s always going to be there. I think I had to get away from it, at least away from the building, from the city, for a little bit to just kind of connect with my family.”
Paul, who played through multiple injuries during the postseason, underwent left wrist surgery after Phoenix’s season ended.
“I’m sure he didn’t want to tell people, but I think that part bothered me because he was getting all kinds of flack over it, and I was like, ‘Nobody knows,’” Williams said.
Here are a few more noteworthy quotes from the Suns’ head coach:
On when Paul’s wrist injury began to impact his on-court contributions:
“I think it was when (then-Clippers guard Patrick Beverley) made that play on him and he had to put his hand down, I think that’s when it probably started. I don’t think anybody did it on purpose, but he got to a point where he just couldn’t use it like he normally could. So that part bothered me because he was getting flack and he’s out there battling, playing in that much pain.
“We tried (to get Paul to discuss it), man. And that was another thing, to play with that kind of pain and fight through it, I’m sure, had a huge impact on our young guys. To see a guy who has accomplished everything except, you know, winning a title, is out there fighting his tail off every night and not willing to come out of the game. I’m sure it had a huge impact on all of our young guys.”
On the Suns’ decision to re-sign Paul to a big-money deal in free agency:
“We didn’t want to lose him. That was always at the top of our minds. But we also respected the fact that he had earned the right to be a free agent, and anything could happen — even though, in my mind, I wouldn’t say I knew he was coming back, but I did feel like there was a level of comfort in our program. I think he and I have a level of trust that we both know is not always like that in other places.”
On congratulating Finals MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and his Bucks teammates on their victory in the Milwaukee locker room after Game 6:
“All I wanted to do was congratulate Giannis, because I came right out of a press conference and I shut the door and I went right into him. I come right out of my press conference, I’m emotional, and then I run right into him and I just wanted to be gracious and say, ‘Congrats. You deserved it. You beat us.’
“What I’ve learned over the course of my career is to try to handle defeat the right way, and maybe you get a chance, maybe you get a chance to handle the other side of it. I remember when we beat Denver (in the second round of the playoffs), (Nuggets president of basketball operations) Tim Connelly came straight down to our locker room. That had a huge impact on me when we beat Denver. When I was in San Antonio (as an assistant coach) and we beat the Pistons in Game 7 (of the Finals) in ’05, Coach (Larry) Brown and (then-Pistons assistant coach) Dave Hanners came right over to our locker room. And so I’ve had these examples, and I was always taught that.”
On the Suns’ outlook for 2021/22:
“I’ve been meeting with the coaches, just talking about how to approach this year because this is an unknown with such a short rest. But the West is tough. But every year the West is tough. And you know, nobody picked us to be (in the Finals). Look where we were picked last year. Some people didn’t even have us making the playoffs, even with Chris.”