The first day of NBA Finals media availability took place on Monday. Monty Williams, Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder, Cam Johnson & Cam Payne took the podium for the Phoenix Suns to answer questions.
Here are some top quotes from the 2021 Western Conference Champions at Media Day. Full interviews from Phoenix’s presser can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/c/suns/playlists under 2021 NBA Finals-Media Availability.
Monty Williams on how the Bucks have played without Giannis: “The pressure they put on the paint has been pretty consistent, even with Giannis [out], but you see a different way of doing it now with Jrue attacking and Lopez diving. That’s been something that we have to respect. You have to respect them anyway with Giannis getting into the paint in transition, in isolation, when he dives in the pick-and-roll, especially with Middleton. So without Giannis, there seems to be a different way of attacking the paint. And then all of their guys that crash the boards. When Giannis is down there with Lopez, they’re so big there’s really no room, it seems like, for other guys. Now you got Connaughton going. You got P.J. going a ton. Portis is down there. Everybody they bring in the game pretty much is going to get an offensive rebound. So they haven’t stopped playing the way they want to play. The pressure on the paint has been pretty consistent in the playoffs.”
Monty Williams on getting back in the gym: “I think the guys feel really good about where we are. We have had a few days to heal and get back in the gym, and we have had some really good practices. Yesterday was one of our more competitive practices. The spirit was great. Guys are ready to play. That’s been the sentiment for the last couple of days. Guys are ready to get out there and hoop against somebody else.“
Chris Paul praises assistant coach Willie Green: “He was a teammate of mine, and not just a teammate. I say this all the time. Willie is like a brother to me, family. His family, his wife, his kids, everything. To have him as a coach, I couldn’t imagine going through this season without having Willie here.“
Chris Paul on Milwaukee’s addition of PJ Tucker: “A big piece of their team. Them picking up Tuck, I think has helped them a lot. Tuck is always just going to do the dirty work. Whatever his team needs from him to help his team win, he’s always going to do that. So that’s a big pickup for them.“
Devin Booker on Jrue Holiday: “He’s a competitor at the highest level and you understand that you’re getting that. So, you have to be on your P’s and Q’s and I’ve been watching him in the previous series and who he’s matched up with and he’s guarding those primetime guys, so I’m sure I’ll see him out there, but you have to be locked in when you’re playing against him for sure.“
Devin Booker describes how living in Michigan & Mississippi helped shape his game: “That’s where it all started. Man, you threw me back thinking about it now. I’m reminiscing in my head right now. But that’s where I fell in love with the game. I fell in love with that Pistons team. They taught me the game of basketball. And just being around everybody in West Michigan. I remember Drake Harris, just looking up to him every day and wanting to be him. But Michigan-Michigan State rivalry game, just all that, all those memories, all the stories, that’s where I learned the fundamentals of the game, honestly. I always say I learned the fundamentals in Michigan, and then when I moved to Mississippi, it brought more of the dog out. So, it was a great balance for me and I credit Michigan for a lot of my success, especially Grand Rapids, my hometown.”
Deandre Ayton on his keys to how he’s been able to start each series with a strong game: “Just being relentless, doing what I do best. Just being a presence on both ends. Defense is what gets me going. Getting a couple boards off the glass, getting outlets, getting other guys running a little bit, getting the butterflies out. That’s what really gets us going, attacking early. That’s what we’re good at in transition, and we’re good at defense as well.“
Deandre Ayton applauds Jae Crowder’s toughness: “Most of our toughness is because of Jae. The dude is a dude who is all about sacrificing. He’s the main part of just sharing the ball, and just whatever contributes to wins, you do it. He’s the main guy of that. Just having the type of experience he has, dealing with guys like Giannis and AD, he helped me a lot. Telling me what they like to do and what they don’t like and things they like to do when it comes to drawing fouls. Him stepping up to the plate as well. Getting on our butts a little bit and making us step up. You need a guy like that.“
Mikal Bridges describes his journey since draft night and talks about bubble experience: “It’s been wild ever since draft night, and it’s great. I’m happy I’m here. The bubble as well, just kind of not knowing, even with COVID, just the world and NBA, trying to find something to bring back the season and doing something like the bubble that never happened before. So just going there not knowing what was going to happen kind of seemed like AAU all over again, but you’re older and professional. So, it was different but it was fun at the same time.“
Jae Crowder looks back on his college days at Marquette University in Milwaukee: “I learned how to work when I was at Marquette. I learned how to put work into the game of basketball. Two years there, I thought I was working up until I got to Marquette, and that’s when I really found out how to really work when I step into the gym, learn how to make the days count. I think that rolled over into my professional career, and I know how to put work in when no one’s looking, and I think it’s definitely beneficial for me to take what I learned in college and implement that into my NBA career, and that’s what I did.“
Cam Johnson on what it means to play in the NBA Finals: “This means a lot. Obviously, I watched the Finals every year of my life, and this is obviously something that millions and millions of people around the world would give a lot to be a part of. So, the fact that myself and my team and everyone in this organization has an opportunity to play in it is incredible. I’m just really thankful that I have this opportunity.”
Cam Payne on if he could imagine being in the Finals a year ago when he first signed with Phoenix: “Absolutely not. To be honest, when I first signed, I just wanted to be able to get some time in the bubble and try to make someone’s roster next season, this season, basically. I had a pretty good bubble run. I didn’t think all this was going to come about, us making it to the Finals. I kind of feel like we were going to be able to make the playoffs, but here? No, not even a little bit. It’s a crazy roller coaster this thing here. Life is crazy.”