Monty Williams

Suns Notes: Game 7, Booker, Williams, Ayton

The Suns didn’t expect to be in a Game 7 with Dallas, but now that they’re here, they’re determined to win it, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Both teams have captured all three games at home, several of them by wide margins, so Phoenix has confidence about playing today’s deciding contest on its home court.

It will be the first-ever seventh game for Devin Booker, who said the excitement was already evident at Saturday’s practice.

“I like coming in here with everybody locked in, top to bottom from the front office looking through the windows — you can feel their demeanor,” Booker said. “That’s why we play the sport. We thought we had something going there [in terms of pressure] during the regular season, trying to break the franchise record [for victories], and this is a whole different beast.”

There’s more from Phoenix:

  • Coach Monty Williams used the practice session as a “clean-up” to fix some of the team’s bad habits in the series, McMenamin adds. Williams emphasized protecting the basketball, as the Suns have averaged 18.7 turnovers per game in the series, and guarding the three-point line because the Mavericks are making 16.3 threes per game. Williams has also noticed the different atmosphere that Game 7 brings. “You can feel it,” he said. “From the time when we knew we were going to be in a Game 7 until now, the gym is thick with intensity. And that’s how playoff basketball should be.”
  • In an interview with Marc J. Spears of Andscape, Williams talks about the difficulties he’s had to overcome and the importance of faith in his life. The Suns’ head coach admits he spent about two weeks being severely disappointed about losing in last year’s NBA Finals until he began to fully reflect on all that’s happened. “I had a lot of time to think and pray. I became way more aware of my hypocrisy,” he said. “Here I am again, this reputation for all this stuff, and here I am internally feeling like I deserve something. It took me about a week or two to get to that point where I was like, man, I should be way more grateful and thankful than I am right now.”
  • Video games have been an important outlet for Suns center Deandre Ayton throughout his basketball career, per Maya A. Jones of ESPN“I don’t think I could live without the game and that’s real talk,” Ayton said.

Suns’ Monty Williams Named Coach Of The Year

6:05pm: Williams has officially been named Coach of the Year, according to a league press release.

Williams received 458 points (81 first-place votes) from a global panel of 100 sportswriters and broadcasters. Jenkins finished in second place with 270 points (17 first-place votes), while Spoelstra finished in third place with 72 points (one first-place vote).

Ime Udoka of the Celtics receive the other first-place vote and finished fourth. J.B. Bickerstaff, Tyronn Lue, Jason Kidd, Nick Nurse, and Chris Finch all received second- and/or third-place votes.

3:03pm: Suns coach Monty Williams is expected to be named Coach of the Year later today, per star Devin Booker (via Twitter), who amusingly says “book tells sources.”

Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link) confirmed the news a few minutes later, noting that Williams led the Suns to an NBA- and franchise-best 64-18 record in 2021/22. Phoenix led the league in net rating at +7.5 and held the No. 5 offense and No. 3 defense during the regular season.

Williams, 50, was runner-up for Coach of the Year last season after he guided Phoenix to a 51-21 record and a berth in the NBA Finals. The Suns ultimately fell to the Bucks in six games.

Phoenix’s turnaround has been one of the most surprising stories in the league over the past couple seasons. The Suns hadn’t made the playoffs since 2009/10 prior to their run to the Finals last season, going a combined 272-450 (.377) from 2010-2019.

The team was particularly bad in the years directly preceding Williams’ tenure, going 87-241 (.265) and winning no more than 24 games in any season from 2015-2019. In 2019/20, his first year at the helm, Phoenix went 34-39.

In three seasons as Phoenix’s head coach, Williams sports an overall record of 149-79 (.656), including 20-12 in the postseason (.625). The Suns are currently tied with the Mavericks at two games apiece in their second-round matchup, with Game 5 set for Tuesday in Phoenix.

The other finalists for Coach of the Year were Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins and Heat coach Erik Spoelstra.

Pacific Notes: Williams, Paul, Irving, Kings

There was a tense atmosphere at the Suns‘ practice on Saturday, which is just what coach Monty Williams wanted to see, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. With a chance to take a commanding lead in its series against the Mavericks, Phoenix fell behind for good midway through the first quarter of Game 3, leaving the players feeling like they missed an opportunity.

“When you’re a sore loser, you’re a sore loser,” Williams said. “That’s just the way it is. I don’t see anybody in the playoffs that’s like, ‘Man, I just love the way we lost today.’ I just don’t see that. … You hate losing and you bring it to the gym the next day. Your food doesn’t taste as good, there’s an attitude with it. But it also has to be channeled the right way.”

The Suns admitted that they focused too much on the officiating in Friday’s game. McMenamin cites a play where Devin Booker and Chris Paul were arguing an out-of-bounds call, which allowed Dorian Finney-Smith to get open for a three-pointer.

“We got out of character a little bit and that’s totally not us, being worried about the calls we’re not getting,” Deandre Ayton said. “At the end of the day, we’re not home. We’re not home at all, so we can’t really expect anything. The crowd is against us and it was loud in there so we just got to maintain focus and stick together more.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Paul had an uncharacteristic seven turnovers in the Suns‘ loss, per Greg Moore of The Arizona Republic. “If I don’t turn the ball over like that, I feel like it’s a different game,” Paul said. “Give (the Mavericks) a lot of credit, I feel like they came out and did what they were supposed to do.”
  • The Lakers had internal discussions about trading for Kyrie Irving before the Nets gave him permission to start playing part-time in early January, sources tell Ian Begley of Those sources didn’t say if L.A. decided to make an offer or if the team still has interest, but Begley doesn’t believe it will matter because Irving is likely to re-sign with Brooklyn this summer.
  • Kings owner Vivek Ranadive attended Saturday night’s playoff game, giving him a chance to see two of the finalists in his team’s head coaching search in action, notes Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. Mike Brown was on the sidelines as an assistant with the Warriors, while Mark Jackson was part of ABC’s broadcast team. Steve Clifford is the other finalist, and a source told Anderson that there’s nothing new on a potential decision.
  • If the Kings decide to hire Brown, he will remain with the Warriors as long as they’re in the playoffs, Anderson tweets.

Monty Williams, DeMarcus Cousins Fined By NBA

Suns head coach Monty Williams is the latest NBA figure to be penalized by the league for criticizing its officiating. The NBA announced on Tuesday in a press release that Williams has been docked $15K for his comments following Phoenix’s Game 4 loss in New Orleans on Sunday.

The Pelicans shot 42 free throws in their 118-103 win, compared to just 15 for the Suns, a disparity that Williams called attention to during his post-game press conference.

“You can slice it any way you want to,” Williams said on Sunday, per ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. “In a playoff game that physical, (the disparity) is amazing. Coaches shouldn’t have to come up to the microphone and feel like they’re going to get their heads cut off for speaking the truth.”

Sixers center Joel Embiid and Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins were also hit with fines on Monday for their comments about the officiating.

Meanwhile, Nuggets center DeMarcus Cousins has been fined $15K by the NBA for kicking towels into the spectator stands, according to a press release from the league.

The incident occurred midway through the second quarter of Denver’s Game 4 win over Golden State on Sunday. Cousins, having been called for a foul and subbed out of the game, expressed his frustration by kicking a pile of towels next to the bench, causing some of them to land on fans (video link).

Pelicans Notes: Lineup, Griffin, Ingram, Alvarado

The Pelicans‘ “jumbo” lineups weren’t working in Game 1 of their first-round series vs. the Suns, writes William Guillory of The Athletic. The team found success in the second half of the regular season by starting Jaxson Hayes at power forward alongside center Jonas Valanciunas, but the two big men had matching plus-minus ratings of -11 on Sunday, the worst marks of any player on either team.

Hayes ended up playing just 11 minutes, with Trey Murphy coming off the bench to play 26 minutes. New Orleans was a plus-six when Murphy was on the court and the team’s offense was functioning better, says Guillory. However, head coach Willie Green told reporters on Monday that he’s not planning to change his starting lineup, per Andrew Lopez of ESPN (Twitter link).

“Not at the moment,” Green said. “I think as a group, we didn’t have a great first half. That wasn’t one individual, that was us as a team. We have to be better. We have to do the things we do better, harder and with more force and see where we are after that.”

Here’s more on the Pelicans:

  • Pelicans VP of basketball operations David Griffin has made some mistakes since being hired to head up the team’s front office in 2019, but he deserves credit for putting together a team that made the playoffs even without Zion Williamson available all season, Rod Walker of opines. Walker believes the Pelicans look like a potential top-three squad in the West with a fully healthy Williamson.
  • Griffin’s faith in Brandon Ingram as a franchise leader on and off the court has been rewarded, according to Scott Kushner of, who points to Ingram’s performances in play-in wins over the Spurs (27 points) and Clippers (30 points) as indicators of the forward’s ability to handle the spotlight and step up in big games.
  • Pelicans rookie guard Jose Alvarado is joining Puerto Rico’s national team, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). As Charania observes, Alvarado will get a chance to face Team USA this summer in qualifiers for the 2023 FIBA World Cup.
  • Jason Quick of The Athletic takes a look at the long-standing bond between Willie Green and his first-round coaching rival Monty Williams. After the two men were teammates in Philadelphia, Green played for Williams in New Orleans and then was an assistant on his Suns staff. “Monty and I are not just friends,” Green told Quick. “We are like … that’s like my older brother. I look up to Monty.”

NBA Announces 2021/22 Award Finalists

The NBA has announced the 2021/22 season award finalists for the league’s six major awards: Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year, Coach of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year and Most Improved Player.

[RELATED: Hoops Rumors’ 2022 NBA Award Picks]

The awards were voted on by a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters. The three top vote-getters for each award are the finalists. They are as follows:

Most Valuable Player:

Rookie of the Year:

Sixth Man of the Year:

Coach of the Year:

  • Taylor Jenkins (Grizzlies)
  • Erik Spoelstra (Heat)
  • Monty Williams (Suns)

Defensive Player of the Year:

Most Improved Player:

Winners will be announced during TNT’s coverage of the NBA playoffs, according to the league.

Monty Williams Wins Coaches Association Award

Suns head coach Monty Williams has won the Michael H. Goldberg award for the 2021/22 season, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. It’s the second consecutive year in which Williams has been named the National Basketball Coaches Association Coach of the Year.

This award, introduced in 2017 and named after longtime NBCA executive director Michael H. Goldberg, is voted on by the NBA’s 30 head coaches, none of whom can vote for himself. However, it isn’t the NBA’s official Coach of the Year award, which is voted on by media members and is represented by the Red Auerbach Trophy. The winner of that award will be announced later in the year.

Williams led the Suns to an NBA-best 64-18 record this season, despite missing All-Star point guard Chris Paul for an extended stretch in the second half. Phoenix finished the year ranked in the top five in both offensive and defensive rating — the team’s +7.5 net rating was the league’s best mark.

A year ago, Williams won the Coaches Association’s award and then finished second to Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau for the official Coach of the Year award. This season, Williams will face stiff competition for the Red Auerbach Trophy from Taylor Jenkins, Erik Spoelstra, Ime Udoka, and J.B. Bickerstaff, among others.

According to Wojnarowski, Jenkins (Grizzlies), Spoelstra (Heat), Willie Green (Pelicans), Tyronn Lue (Clippers), and Gregg Popovich (Spurs) were among the other coaches who received votes for this season’s Michael H. Goldberg award.

Suns Notes: Booker, Paul, Johnson, Williams

When asked at a recent Suns press conference if he should be considered in the 2022 MVP debate, Phoenix All-Star shooting guard Devin Booker had a pretty concise response, per Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic (Twitter link).

“Yes,” Booker said simply. And for good reason.

After All-Star Suns point guard Chris Paul recently sat out Phoenix’s first 15 games following the All-Star break due to a thumb injury, Booker emerged as the team’s leader and the Suns barely missed a beat. Booker has an argument to be a fringe MVP contender, as potentially the best player on the best team in the NBA.

The 6’5″ wing averaged 30.3 PPG across his 11 contests played during Paul’s absence, and the Suns went 8-3 in those games. For the year, the three-time All-Star is averaging 26.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG and 5.0 APG, on .462/.375/.870 shooting. The 25-year-old is the leading scorer for the team that has already clinched the best record in the NBA (60-14 and counting) and will retain its home court advantage throughout the playoffs.

There’s more out of Phoenix:

  • Chris Paul expressed his excitement upon returning to the Suns following his 15 games spent on the sideline as he rehabilitated from his right thumb fracture, per Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. “I’ve been playing pickup like 3-on-3, 2-on-2, (but) 5-on-5 is totally different, especially when your first game back in Denver,” Paul said. The 12-time All-Star scored 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting from the floor and logged a game-most 13 dimes in a 140-130 Suns win over the Nuggets on Thursday. “I still have a little ways to go, but it was good to get out there and play,” Paul said. “We missed him,” Booker added.
  • Cameron Johnson‘s right quad contusion will sideline him for a 12th consecutive game today, but he’s nearing a return to the floor for Phoenix, writes Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. Phoenix head coach Monty Williams revealed that Johnson had no limitations in the club’s most recent practice. “He did everything today. He looked pretty good as far as getting up and down the floor,” Williams said. “He’s not in a situation or a in a position to say he’s playing in the next couple of days. Still got to wait and see how his body responds to days like today.” 
  • The Suns believe head coach Williams deserves 2022 Coach of the Year honors, per Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. “It shouldn’t even be close,” Chris Paul opined. “No disrespect to all those other coaches and what they’re doing, but what are you watching if this man doesn’t get Coach of the Year?” Phoenix has weathered its fair share of extended injuries absences to key players like Paul and Deandre Ayton, and has remained head-and-shoulders the best team in the league by record. Williams, of course, guided the Suns to their first NBA Finals appearance since 1993 during his second season with the team last year. “He should’ve had it last year,” small forward Mikal Bridges said. “We won’t go there, but we’re the best team by far right now, record-wise. Yeah, it should be a no-brainer.”

Central Notes: LaVine, Thompson, Haliburton, Allen, Williams, Smith

The Bulls officially signed veteran center Tristan Thompson on Saturday, adding a former NBA champion to their rotation. Thompson, who is expected to provide depth behind star center Nikola Vucevic, drew praise from new teammate Zach LaVine this weekend.

“He’s going to bring another championship-level guy where he’s been in these games before,” LaVine said, as relayed by Julia Poe of the Chicago Tribune. “He can help us in these situations.”

Chicago is tied with Miami for the best record in the East at 38-21. The team won its final five games entering the All-Star break and has added Vucevic, Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and others over the last calendar year.

“With AK [Arturas Karnisovas] and Marc [Eversley], obviously, they’re going for it,” LaVine said of the Bulls’ front office. “They trust in me, they trust in DeMar, they trust in this group, and it just means a lot going into the last year of my contract that they’re putting a team around us that can compete.’’

There’s more from the Central Division tonight:

  • Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton finally enjoyed his Rising Stars moment on Friday, Scott Agness of FieldHouse Files examines. The 21-year-old was acquired by Indiana before this season’s trade deadline. In four games, he’s averaged 20.8 points and 11.0 assists per contest.
  • Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen has enjoyed every moment of All-Star Weekend, Kelsey Russo of The Athletic writes. Allen is a major reason why Cleveland owns the fourth-best record in the East at 35-23. This is his first All-Star appearance. “It’s still a lot to take in,” Allen said. “I don’t think I’ve fully grasped the moment that I’m in. I’m part of the top 24 players in the NBA at this All-Star Weekend, so I’m just excited, I’m ready to take it all in and just absorb every moment. It’s been a one-of-a-kind weekend that I wouldn’t trade for anything.”
  • Suns head coach Monty Williams is happy to see Jalen Smith get a new opportunity with the Pacers, as relayed by James Boyd of The Indianapolis Star (Twitter link). Smith was traded from Phoenix to Indiana earlier this month. “I’m happy for him,” Williams said as part of a larger quote. “He’s a guy that worked his tail off every single day with us. He just couldn’t crack the rotation.” Smith has appeared in four games with the Pacers, averaging 12.0 points and 6.3 rebounds in 21 minutes per contest.

And-Ones: Giddey, Cunningham, Fitch, Bell, More

Thunder guard Josh Giddey has been named January’s Rookie of the Month for the Western Conference, while Pistons guard Cade Cunningham earned the honors for the Eastern Conference, the NBA announced on Wednesday (Twitter link). The other nominees can be found here.

With most of this season’s top rookies in the East, Giddey won the Western award for a third straight time. He averaged 13.3 PPG, 8.6 RPG, and 6.1 APG on 14 games (33.2 MPG) for the Thunder in January, posting a shooting line of .443/.284/.786.

Cunningham is a first-time Rookie of the Month, joining Evan Mobley and Franz Wagner as the East’s award winners so far in 2021/22. The rising Pistons star got off to a slow start, but began to flash more potential in January, averaging 17.3 PPG, 5.6 APG, and 4.2 RPG on .420/.365/.879 shooting in 15 games (32.3 MPG).

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • The Suns‘ 13-1 performance in January earned head coach Monty Williams his second Coach of the Month nod of 2021/22, the NBA announced on Wednesday (via Twitter). Williams was also named the Western Conference’s Coach of the Month for October/November. J.B. Bickerstaff, whose Cavaliers had an 11-4 month, was the East’s Coach of the Month for January.
  • Hall-of-Famer Bill Fitch, a two-time Coach of the Year, has passed away at age 89, according to NBA reporter Marc Stein (Twitter link). Fitch coached the Cavaliers, Celtics, Rockets, Nets, and Clippers from 1970-98, winning a title with Boston in 1981.
  • Veteran NBA big man Jordan Bell was acquired this week by the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the Pacers‘ G League affiliate, per a press release. The Mad Ants made a trade with the Santa Cruz Warriors – Golden State’s affiliate – to secure Bell’s NBAGL rights.
  • In an in-depth story for The Athletic, Joe Vardon details the series of logistical nightmares the Nigerian national team experienced en route to competing at the Tokyo Olympics last summer. As Vardon outlines, several assistant coaches who flew to Japan never made it into the Olympics and Nigeria nearly wasn’t able to play its first game after almost missing a necessary round of COVID-19 testing. The team entered the Olympics with medal aspirations, but lost all three of its round-robin games and was quickly eliminated.