Monty Williams

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.”

Latest On Kevin Durant

After speaking to “a couple” NBA general managers, Marc J. Spears of ESPN (video link via Talkin NBA) outlined during an appearance on NBA Today what sort of return the Nets are seeking as they explore the trade market for Kevin Durant.

“A young or future All-Star,” Spears said, “lots of picks, the ability to swap picks, and another starter.”

Spears went on to say that Durant “might not have as much control of the situation as one would think,” not only because he has four years left on his contract but because there are so many teams involved in the bidding. According to Spears, about half the league’s clubs remain interested.

Here’s more on Durant:

  • Sam Amick of The Athletic explains that Phoenix is Durant’s preferred destination in part because of his close relationship with Monty Williams, who was an assistant for the Thunder in 2015/16. The bond between the two men grew deeper after Williams’ wife was killed in a car accident in February 2016, Amick writes.
  • While Phoenix may be atop Durant’s wish list, Amick has gotten the sense that the Nets would want something more – or something “different” – than a Suns package headlined by Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges. Cameron Johnson is a player who might help move the needle for the Nets, Amick adds. However, John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter link) suggests that any deal between the Suns and Nets would likely see Phoenix giving up the maximum amount of first-round picks (four) and pick swaps (three).
  • The Heat are also on Durant’s wish list, but Amick says the former MVP would only want to play on a Miami team that features Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Kyle Lowry. Amick is understandably skeptical that a package centered around Tyler Herro would gain any momentum.
  • The Nets have been “emboldened” by the returns in the Rudy Gobert and Dejounte Murray trades, which both included multiple unprotected first-round picks, Adrian Wojnarowski said during an appearance on ESPN’s televised NBA Free Agency Special on Friday evening. Wojnarowski added that he doesn’t believe the Nets are in any rush to make a deal, since they want to fully assess all their options.
  • Wojnarowski also said during ESPN’s NBA Free Agency Special (video link) that he believes the Raptors are “lurking” as a possible suitor for Durant, given their combination of players and draft picks, as well as their track record for making this sort of deal (for Kawhi Leonard in 2018).

Latest On Deandre Ayton

Suns restricted free agent Deandre Ayton is expected to command a maximum-salary contract this offseason, but there’s skepticism around the NBA that Phoenix will be eager to match that sort of deal, says Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

As Fischer explains, there are multiple reasons why the Suns may not be enthusiastic about making a substantial financial commitment to Ayton.

For one, league figures believe the team’s front office is reluctant to pay any center a salary of $30MM+ annually, according to Fischer. It’s probably unwise to draw any conclusions based on small samples in the regular season, but Fischer notes that the team didn’t miss a beat in January when Ayton was unavailable and modestly-paid centers like JaVale McGee and Bismack Biyombo filled his role.

The Suns have already invested heavily in Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and Mikal Bridges, and would push their team salary well beyond the luxury tax line if they were to sign Ayton to a lucrative new deal. Robert Sarver has said the right things publicly about his willingness to become a taxpayer, but it’s unclear what sort of appetite he’d have for a significant tax bill, especially if it spans multiple seasons. It also remains unclear how the NBA’s investigation into Sarver’s conduct may affect the ownership situation.

Additionally, league sources with knowledge of the situation have suggested to Fischer that Ayton may not be one of head coach Monty Williams‘ favorite players. Fischer has heard that Williams has “griped about Ayton’s waning focus.” The big man memorably played just 17 minutes in the final game of Phoenix’s season earlier this month, with Williams brusquely referring to the decision as “internal” in his post-game comments.

The Hawks, Pistons, and Trail Blazers have been the teams most frequently linked to Ayton by league personnel, according to Fischer, who says multiple team executives have also mentioned the Hornets and Spurs as potential suitors.

Some of those clubs would have the cap room necessary to make a serious bid for Ayton, but the Suns would control the process as a result of their ability to match any offer sheet. If a rival suitor is unsure whether or not Phoenix would match its offer for the 23-year-old, attempting to negotiate a sign-and-trade to acquire him outright might be the safe move. There’s a belief that the Suns would be open to that idea, Fischer writes.

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.