Monty Williams

Pacific Notes: Wall, Trade Deadline, Williams, Brown

Clippers guard John Wall gave himself a “low C” when asked to rate his comeback season after 34 games, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Wall’s shooting percentages are close to what they were when he last played regularly — although his turnover rate is a concern — and he’s confident that things will improve.

“The season will get better for me,” Wall said. “It’s tough being on a minute restriction. It’s tough like, trying to figure out guys, figure out what roles you’re going to be. Still frustrated by not getting a lot of, no calls, it ain’t going to never change, I feel like. I think it’s always an excuse. I think we just trying to figure out as a team and as a group and try to get better game by game.”

The Clippers had Wall adjust his workout routine, which featured frequent weightlifting while he was idle with the Rockets last season. Coach Tyronn Lue also made a change to Wall’s playing style that has him taking more catch-and-shoot jumpers, rather than the pull-up variety he preferred when he was an All-Star in Washington.

“Just getting him used to playing that style of basketball when he’s been playing a different way his whole career,” Lue said. “It’s kind of tough, but he’s been doing a good job.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register has suggestions for both L.A. teams ahead of the trade deadline. She believes the Lakers should be aggressive in finding another shooter — either Bojan Bogdanovic from the Pistons or Doug McDermott or Josh Richardson from the Spurs, while the Clippers should target a big man with energy, such as the Pacers center Myles Turner, Hawks forward John Collins or Jazz center Kelly Olynyk.
  • Suns coach Monty Williams refused to get into a war of words with Jae Crowder, who said the coaching staff didn’t appreciate what he brought to the team, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Crowder has sat out the entire season so far while Phoenix searches for a trade. “The thing that I’ve been consistent with is the stuff that goes on here, stays here,” Williams said. “I’m not one to use the media to get a point across. It’s just not my way. It’s not how we do business.
  • Kings coach Mike Brown is campaigning for De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis to be named All-Stars, saying “shame on the whole process” if they aren’t included, per Chris Biderman of The Sacramento Bee. “Hopefully sooner than later, these guys will start getting the appropriate love from around the league that they deserve,” Brown said. “Starting with the media, because the media has a lot of influence.”

Pacific Notes: Ayton, Williams, Suns Sale, Warriors, Davis

Tempers ran high for the Suns in Tuesday’s loss to the Wizards and there was a heated exchange between Deandre Ayton and head coach Monty Williams, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. They were seen yelling at each other during a time out with 43.4 seconds left to play (video link), but Williams said the incident wasn’t just between him and Ayton.

“It was the whole team in those moments,” Williams explained. “It wasn’t just Deandre, it was the whole group out there not executing properly. It was a bit of frustration, but that happens. That was not an isolated one-person or one-player thing.”

The exchange is notable because Williams benched Ayton during Game 7 of last season’s playoff loss to the Mavericks, and Ayton revealed in training camp that he hadn’t talked to his coach since that happened. Ayton, a restricted free agent, signed a four-year, $133MM offer sheet with the Pacers in July, but the Suns quickly matched it, with general manager James Jones saying Ayton is “vital” to the team’s future.

Ayton also downplayed Tuesday’s incident, saying he and Williams were “intensified in the moment.”

“We weren’t really exchanging words,” Ayton said. “We’re a family. He knows how to talk to his boys and his boys know how to just communicate. Obviously, the whole world see it, but it’s really all love and just getting us back to regroup and just take out the confusion.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Williams believes having a buyer in place will give the Suns more stability, especially heading into the trade deadline, Rankin adds in a separate story. Phoenix has been trying to move Jae Crowder since before the start of training camp.
  • The Warriors have struggled on their road trip with a depleted roster, but veterans and coaches are trying to make sure the team’s younger players aren’t blamed, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic. “It’s kind of tough to put them out there in the fourth quarter and expect them to play great when we haven’t, even the starters, we didn’t play great,” Kevon Looney said after Tuesday’s loss. “… They could play better. I feel like they’re making steps in the right direction. They’ve been playing good down there in Santa Cruz. Maybe some game experience is good for them. It’s tough to get thrown in the fire like this at the end of a trip.”
  • Five days after Anthony Davis hurt his right foot, the Lakers still haven’t provided an official statement on the injury, notes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. Coach Darvin Ham explained the delay tonight, telling reporters, “He’s still going through the evaluation process. We’re still trying to see which course of action we should take, and you’ll know more in the coming days about that situation.”

Pacific Notes: Sabonis, Kings, Suns, Booker, Beverley

Before Kings center Domantas Sabonis racked up 28 points, 23 rebounds, and seven assists in Sunday’s loss to Charlotte, head coach Mike Brown said there’s “no question” that the big man should be an All-Star this season, according to Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. Sunday’s performance increased Sabonis’ season-long averages to 18.0 PPG, 12.0 RPG, and 6.4 APG. He’s also shooting a career-best 62.7% from the floor.

“If you don’t vote for him to be an All-Star, in my opinion, you don’t know basketball because what he’s doing, it’s almost on a historic level, and I’m not just talking about his ability to score or his ability to pass,” Brown said.

As impressive as Sabonis has been, the Kings are still seeking a reliable backup at the center position. The team began the season with Richaun Holmes playing that role, then turned to Chimezie Metu. On Sunday, two-way player Neemias Queta got a look, playing seven minutes in just his second appearance of the season. Brown said on Sunday that Holmes and Queta will get more opportunities, per Anderson, and that he expects to continue experimenting until he finds a reliable option in that spot.

“I can’t run Domas 40 minutes every night,” Brown said, according to Chris Biderman of The Sacramento Bee. “So I need to find a guy in that spot who’s going to defend, run the floor, spell Domas for six, eight minutes a half, and play as hard as he as can while following the game plan. Not fouling, boxing out, doing all the little things that need to keep that group solid for those six to eight minutes. We’ve found it in spurts. But I want to get to a point where it can be a little bit more consistent, so I’m going to keep searching until I feel like that person is there.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Although Suns owner Robert Sarver was suspended and fined by the NBA and is now planning to sell the team, a number of current and former Suns employees are still wondering whether other executives who contributed to creating a toxic workplace will face any punishment, reports Baxter Holmes of ESPN. CEO Jason Rowley is among those accused of mistreating staffers. As Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports tweets, the club put out a statement claiming that there are “factual inaccuracies” in Holmes’ report and that the franchise’s leaders have taken accountability for the allegations found to have merit.
  • Suns head coach Monty Williams blamed himself for the groin injury that sidelined Devin Booker on Monday. “Let’s be straight, I played him way too many minutes,” Williams said (Twitter link via Bourguet). “I can’t look at anybody else when I put players in harm’s way.”
  • Suns point guard Chris Paul brushed off a taunt from Lakers guard Patrick Beverley on Monday, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Beverley made a “too small” gesture when he converted an and-one against CP3 that cut L.A.’s deficit from 26 points to 23. “You can’t pay attention to that stuff,” Paul said. “That ain’t new. He ain’t come up with it. But just play basketball, man.” Beverley was suspended three games for shoving Deandre Ayton the last time the two teams faced one another.

Monty Williams, Joe Mazzulla Named Coaches Of The Month

Suns head coach Monty Williams and Celtics interim head coach Joe Mazzulla have been named the NBA’s coaches of the month for the Western and Eastern Conferences, respectively, the league announced (via Twitter).

As previously mentioned, the NBA combined the games played in October and November for its initial monthly awards.

Williams, the reigning Coach of the Year, has led Phoenix to six straight victories and the West’s top seed thus far at 15-6. The Suns held the league’s top overall record (64-18) during the 2021/22 regular season and were expected to be good again in ’22/23, but Williams’ coaching certainly deserves recognition.

Phoenix currently has multiple key players sidelined — veteran forward Jae Crowder has yet to play this season as the Suns are trying to trade him; his replacement in the starting lineup, Cameron Johnson, underwent meniscus surgery and has only played eight games; and 12-time All-Star point guard Chris Paul will miss his 12th consecutive game on Friday with right heel soreness (Twitter link via Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports). Reserve guard Landry Shamet also missed seven games while in the concussion protocols, but returned to action last week.

Mazzulla, the youngest head coach in the league at 34 years old, has guided Boston to the league’s best record at 18-4. The Celtics hold the No. 1 seed in the East, two games ahead of the 15-5 Bucks.

Mazzulla’s NBA debut as a head coach has been quite impressive. In addition to navigating the drama surrounding the organization in the wake of head coach Ime Udoka‘s suspension prior to the season, big man Robert Williams and free agent addition Danilo Gallinari have yet to play in 2022/23. Williams is reportedly targeting a return by Christmas following a second knee surgery in 2022, but Gallinari will likely miss the entire season with a torn ACL.

Though he currently has an interim tag, Mazzulla is expected to eventually have the interim designation removed and sign a long-term contract to remain head coach of the Celtics — the only question is when, not if.

According to the NBA, the other coaching nominees in the West were Chauncey Billups, Mike Brown, Willie Green, Will Hardy, Taylor Jenkins and Michael Malone, while J.B. Bickerstaff, Mike Budenholzer and Rick Carlisle were nominated in the East.

Pacific Notes: Leonard, Fox, M. Williams, Okogie

Kawhi Leonard has a reputation for being sparse with words, but he has been much more vocal at Clippers practices since training camp began, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Coach Tyronn Lue believes it’s because Leonard is excited to be back on the court after missing all of last season with a knee injury.

“Just having a voice and showing these guys, like in the scrimmage the other day at USC [on Thursday], [guys] started out messing around and he pulled the guys in and said, ‘Let’s play for real and let’s tighten it up,’ and guys started playing more serious,” Lue said. “I don’t think he would have done that two or three years ago. I think with him and PG [Paul George] just having the biggest voices on the team and knowing that this is their team, he’s definitely taken huge steps in that regard.”

The Clippers don’t want to be overly cautious with Leonard as they prepare him for the regular season. He played 16 minutes in Monday’s game, and Lue plans to use him again Sunday night against the Timberwolves.

“I know he wants to get a lot of reps in because he hasn’t played in 15 months,” Lue said. “So, he wants to get a lot of reps in, play as much as he can. So that’s why every day in practice, we’ve been scrimmaging a lot, just playing. Just trying to let him get his rhythm.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • In an interview with Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee, De’Aaron Fox expressed confidence that the Kings have made the necessary changes to break their long playoff drought. After adding Domantas Sabonis at last season’s trade deadline, Sacramento brought in Mike Brown as head coach, signed Malik Monk and traded for Kevin Huerter over the offseason. “We’re going to be a team that can score the ball,” Fox said. “I don’t think that will be a problem. Even if we’re not shooting well, we have guys that can touch the paint, get open shots, get offensive rebounds. We have guys who are athletic enough to do those things, but at the end of the day we have to be able to stop people. I think we have the personnel that can do it, and we also have a coach who’s going to demand it, so I think that’s great for us.”
  • Suns coach Monty Williams underwent lens replacement surgery after it was strongly suggested by Chris Paul‘s mother, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic“I was talking to my brother the other day, he was watching the game and said it was actually weird to see Monty not squinting,” Paul said. “It is crazy to see him not squinting, but we’ve been talking to him about that for years.”
  • Suns guard Josh Okogie is dealing with a strained left hamstring, but he hasn’t given up hope of playing before the preseason ends, Rankin tweets.

Suns Notes: Ayton, Williams, Sale Price, Crowder, Preseason Loss

Suns center Deandre Ayton raised a lot of eyebrows when he said at the start of training camp that he hadn’t spoken to Monty Williams since the team’s playoff flameout last season. The Suns coach calls it a non-issue, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic tweets in a video clip.

“I coach him hard every day in practice,” Williams said. “You see he’s here getting his work in and that’s what we expect of our guys. … We don’t need to air anything out. That’s my point. I’m not going to keep addressing that. He’s the player, I’m the coach.”

We have more on the Suns:

  • Joe Tsai bought the Nets for an NBA-record $2.35 billion in 2019 and an investment banker that spoke with ESPN’s Baxter Holmes believes the Suns will sell for higher price. Suspended owner Robert Sarver has begun the process of selling the team. Some of the factors that could drive up the price include the warm-weather climate and proximity to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and the Bay Area, as well as the team’s new practice facility and renovated arena. In recent days, Suns executive VP and CFO Jim Pitman relayed to team employees that a fully executed sale of the team could take 6-9 months, Holmes adds.
  • Experts that spoke to Marc Stein said the Suns’ sale price could reach the $4 billion threshold, he reports in a Substack post. That’s potentially 10 times the $401MM purchase price that Sarver’s ownership group paid in April 2004.
  • A source told Stein over the weekend that the trade chatter regarding the Suns’ Jae Crowder being swapped for the Cavaliers’ Cedi Osman isn’t much more than that. Crowder is sitting out training camp while awaiting a trade.
  • The Suns lost an exhibition game to the Adelaide 36ers and Rankin notes that the team lacked energy and enthusiasm. The defense was especially poor, as it surrendered 134 points.

Pacific Notes: Ayton, Williams, Nunn, Lakers’ Staff, Vezenkov

The Suns matched the Pacers’ four-year, $133MM offer sheet for Deandre Ayton but there’s still some lingering tensions between the center and coach Monty Williams. Ayton said on Tuesday he still hasn’t spoken with Williams since he was benched during the Game 7 conference semifinals loss to the Mavericks in the spring.

“I haven’t spoken to him at all, ever since the game,” Ayton told ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and other media members. Asked what he plans to say to Williams when they do speak, Ayton replied, “I can show him better than I can tell him. It’s life. Nobody cares about the uncomfortable nature of it, it’s how you perform and what you bring to the table. What’s said is already said.”

Williams believes he’ll be able to mend fences with Ayton.

“I think 1-on-1s are always needed between guys I’ve been around for awhile,” Williams said. “Some guys need it and some guys don’t. I’ll identify that as the season progresses. I’ll talk to everybody as I always do during camp and it won’t be an issue at all.”

If things can’t be worked out, Phoenix will have to wait before finding a new home for Ayton. He’s not eligible to be dealt until January 15.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • After missing all of last season due to a knee injury, Lakers guard Kendrick Nunn was a full participant in the team’s first practice on Tuesday, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register tweets“Getting the rhythm back and feeling good on the floor with no injuries, feeling pain-free and able to play is everything for me,” he said. “So today was a good day for me.”
  • The Lakers officially announced Darvin Ham‘s coaching staff in a press releaseChris Jent, Jordan Ott, J.D. DuBois, Schuyler Rimmer and Zach Peterson are the newcomers, joining Phil Handy, Dru Anthrop and Jon Pastorek.
  • The Kings expressed some interest in European star Sasha Vezenkov this offseason but he decided to stay at least for one more season with Greece’s Olympiacos. Vezenkov, a 2017 second-round pick, believes he made the right move, according to Achilleas Mavrodontis of “It was the first summer in a long time that there was some solid talk, and the Kings showed interest,” he said. “Based on the information, what I heard, and what I had on the table, I decided that the best option for me was Olynpiacos. I don’t look back. I always stand by my decisions. I’m trying to prove that it was the best choice.”

Suns Notes: Ayton, Sarver, Williams, Jones, Booker, Crowder

Suns center Deandre Ayton said that owner Robert Sarver’s suspension and $10MM fine was much deserved, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes.

“At the end of the day, the actions are unacceptable,” Ayton said. “My thoughts go out to all the people that were affected by his actions.”

Coach Monty Williams and GM James Jones said they were blindsided when the investigation revealed the depth of Sarver’s actions within the organization, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

“I was in disbelief,” Williams said. “When you see the bullet points and then when you go through it, um, you start to think about how these things impact the people.”

“I would say just a state of shock,” Jones added. “You don’t want that around the organization. You don’t want that to be the issue.”

We have more on the Suns:

  • Devin Booker is happy that the Suns matched the Pacers’ offer sheet for Ayton, he told Rankin. “I’m excited for him,” Booker said. “That’s a weight lifted off his shoulders. You understand that this isn’t just basketball. It comes down to business at some point. The only way you can learn and understand those situations is if you’re in them. I think he learned a lot.”
  • Jae Crowder will sit out camp as the team seeks a trade for the veteran forward. Jones said the situation is a “difficult” one, Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports tweets. “It’s a team thing for us,” he said. “This is a difficult situation to navigate.”
  • Where will Crowder wind up? Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype tackles that subject and believes the Cavaliers, Sixers and Hornets top the list of potential suitors.
  • The fact that Sarver announced the franchise is up for sale doesn’t mean that the issues uncovered during the investigation and the backlash the league experienced after revealing its punishment have been erased, Windhorst opines.

Suns Sign Monty Williams To Long-Term Extension

JULY 27: The extension is official, the Suns announced (via Twitter).

JULY 23: The Suns and Monty Williams, the NBA’s reigning Coach of the Year, have agreed on a long-term contract extension, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports.

Williams had two years left on his original five-year contract. He’ll have several more years added to that deal.

Williams was the head coach in New Orleans from 2010-15 and the Pelicans won just two playoff games during that time. Williams was chosen as Phoenix’s head coach after an assistant coaching stint with Philadelphia.

Williams has emerged as one of the league’s premier head coaches. Phoenix reached the 2021 NBA Finals and won a franchise record 64 regular-season victories last season. The Suns, who recently matched Indiana’s offer sheet for center Deandre Ayton, should continue to be a contender for years to come behind All-Star Devin Booker.

Overall, Williams has gone 149-78 (.656) in his three seasons with Phoenix.

Suns GM Jones On Ayton: “We Wanted Deandre Here”

Although the Suns never offered center Deandre Ayton the five-year maximum-salary deal he originally sought, they told him throughout his free agency that they intended to match any offer sheet he signed with another team, according to Marc J. Spears of ESPN.

The Suns made good on that promise, immediately matching Ayton’s offer sheet once they received it from the Pacers. In a phone conversation with Spears, Suns general manager James Jones said the team felt it was “critical” not to waste any time making that move.

“We wanted Deandre here,” Jones said. “He’s vital to what we do, at the core of everything that we do. And throughout this whole process it was, it rang true. We wanted to keep him here, and the moment we can come to an agreement, we would. So, waiting 24 hours, 48 hours, that wasn’t something we needed to do because going into it, we knew this is where he wanted to be and where we wanted him to be.

“I’m one to just be direct. And if you’re convicted, if you know what you want to do, you do it. But if there’s any doubt from anyone that we wanted him, I think that the matching did that. It was urgent for us. It was important. It was critical for us. So, we just wanted to make sure that we handled our business quickly.”

While Jones insists that Phoenix was “where (Ayton) wanted to be,” ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski hears from sources that the former No. 1 overall pick was intrigued by the possibility of teaming up with Tyrese Haliburton and becoming a core player in Indiana. Speaking to Spears, Ayton indicated he was happy to be back with his former team, but also praised the club he nearly joined for how it handled the restricted free agency process.

“I got to give a lot of respect to the Pacers organization. They were aggressive from the start and showing a lot of love. And we agreed to a max offer sheet. The Suns matched. Now, I’m back in Phoenix as a Sun,” Ayton said, adding that his new contract will have a “generational impact” on his family and on the community work he can do in Phoenix and in the Bahamas, his home country.

There was plenty of chatter earlier in the offseason about the possibility of Ayton leaving Phoenix, but the Suns never showed a willingness to discuss a sign-and-trade deal with the Pacers, despite Indiana’s interest in doing so, according to ESPN.

Ayton’s final 2021/22 appearance played a part in the speculation about his offseason departure — he logged a playoff-low 17 minutes in a blowout Game 7 loss to Dallas in the Western Conference Semifinals, and was seen jawing with head coach Monty Williams on the sidelines.

However, the two men downplayed that incident in their respective interviews with Spears. Williams referred to it as a “bad day,” while Ayton said it was “in the past,” adding that he and his coach are on good terms.

“Game 7 was an anomaly,” Ayton said. “We let that get away from us as a team. That is all in the past. We’re going to look forward. We are going to move on.”