OK, LeBron James was not 100% and Anthony Davis missed games in the first round. And Jamal Murray did not play in the conference semis for the Nuggets. There was the Kawhi Leonard absence for the Clippers, too. The Suns did play a series of playoff opponents leading to the NBA Finals that were, unquestionably, beaten up by injuries.
But they still had to win the games. And they did, making it all the way to the NBA Finals before falling to the Bucks. At least one superstar suggests the rest of the Western Conference should take them seriously.
Kevin Durant, speaking during a Team USA press conference after Game 6, talked about watching the NBA Finals and whether he and his Olympic teammates had a rooting interest in the series—and he shouted out the Suns when he did.
Of course we did not have any rooting interest, we wasn’t in here cheering for either team. We enjoy the game of basketball for how it is played and it and that’s the highest level of basketball being played in our league at this time. So most guys just want to see a good game. But you play against these teams, you know these players and we got respect for guys—especially guys on the bench, guys that’s starters, you know these guys personally. To see a couple of friends become champions today was cool. That experience doesn’t happen to just anybody.
So you respect the guys who went through that journey. Then you see a young team like Phoenix who everybody been counting them out for the last five or six years, now make themselves into a contender and I feel like will be a contender going forward in the West. That was good to see.
Chris Paul Vows to Be Back — in the NBA, at Least
With Devin Booker and Mikal Bridges at only 24 years old, and with Deandre Ayton a few days from turning 23, the Suns thrust themselves into the ranks of contenders less than a year after they were the darlings of the bubble with their 8-0 run in the NBA’s COVID-19 restart. Now the challenge will be to keep it going.
First up will be re-signing point guard Chris Paul, who has the option to hit free agency this summer and is likely to do so. The Suns have made it clear they want him back, even at age 36. Paul said on Tuesday, in what a grim press conference, he has no plans to retire.
“I mean, it will take a while to process this or whatnot, but it’s same mentality, get back to work,” he said. “I ain’t retiring, if that’s what you’re asking. That’s out. So, back to work.”
Deandre Ayton: ‘This is Just the Beginning’
Ayton was among those who was looking forward to the bright Suns future after the game. He averaged 14.7 points and 12.0 rebounds during the series and was consistent throughout the playoffs for Phoenix. He was asked about now getting to the Finals and whether the Suns can get back.
“I think that was the first thing I told Book, once we got in the locker room after we got off the floor,” Ayton said. “You know, I walked over to him and said, you know, this is just the beginning. Now we know what we need to do and no less. We’re going to keep each other accountable for the rest of our careers together and so does Mikal and Jae Crowder, all the other guys on the team as well.”
That is quite a leap, of course, for a franchise that had not been to the playoffs since 2010. But the postseason run this team went on, as well as the consistent play it established all season, has changed perceptions—in Phoenix and around the NBA.