LOS ANGELES — Monty Williams wasn’t named NBA Coach of the Year, but he has something more monumental — a trip to the NBA Finals.
On Wednesday night when Chris Paul saw the Phoenix Suns finish the Los Angeles Clippers 130-103 in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals, Williams was delighted to see his players celebrate.
“I really enjoyed watching him and his feelings after the game. I was like, I’m getting old now because I enjoy seeing other people,” Williams said. “It used to be about me. Now, I see everyone having a good time and I’m like, Man, I’m getting old.”
Williams and Paul hugged after the game and took in the moment. Although there were many tears on Paul’s part, there were no tears on Williams’ part.
“It’s just authentic. I just felt like hugging him. I think his parents were right behind us and he was emotional,” Williams said. “I felt for him. I had an emotional time before the game. “
Before being taken to the Sans Staples Center Court, Williams and assistant coach Randy Ayers were in the locker room reflecting on their journey together — five years in New Orleans and the last two in Phoenix.
“Today around 2:30 we were in the locker room. It was just Randy and me. I was like, ‘Man, Randy, we’re so close.’ And then Randy starts telling me how he feels about me, because he’s been with me since day one in New Orleans. And I broke up before the game,” Williams said. “So I understood the feelings Chris was dealing with. I just ran out of tears. I used up all the mines this afternoon at about 2:30, 3 PM.
“I was gone, because Randy spoke to me heartily about some of the things we’ve been through. He’s been with me every step of the way since New Orleans and now.”
While Paul’s journey of 16 years to his first NBA Finals will be one of integral stories, Williams also deserves his praise. When he was named coach on May 3, 2019, the Suns were out of the 19–63 season, tied for the league’s second-worst record.
Two years later, the Phoenix broke a 10-year playoff drought by finishing in a pandemic-shortened season with the league’s second-best score (51–21). The Phoenix are just the third team in the past 45 years to have improved the top-two points in two seasons or less, holding one of the league’s worst records.
The Suns eliminated defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the first round in six games, swept league MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets to four in the semifinals and sent the Clippers to six to reach the NBA Finals for the third time in franchise history.
“He respects the position. And it’s really gratifying for me, to see how much work he puts into it,” Ayres said. Want to talk at the end of the day before we all go home. I know that the next day he took the time to find a solution to that situation. And you respect that. I’ve seen it for seven years.”
Williams showed he had a decent pool of young talent last season after improving from 15 wins with Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. Adding Jay Crowder and Paul, this put them on top with an additional improvement of 17 wins.
“Monty is coming, building the culture, he is leading us with preparation. These moments were right here, and we took it and we ran with it,” Booker said.
In addition to having a home-court advantage, the Sons should be given plenty of rest to advance to the NBA Finals. If the Eastern Conference Finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks ends in six games, the series will begin Tuesday. If this distance goes, it starts on 8th July.
Phoenix should also be favored to capture their first championship. It last made it to the NBA Finals in 1993, losing in six games to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
The Sun’s only other appearance was in 1976, losing to the Boston Celtics in six games. That series still goes down to the NBA Finals for the Celtics triple overtime win in Game 5.
“I’m happy and proud of my team. Monty isn’t winning Coach of the Year, but we know who he is,” said Paul, “he won two games in this series without me, and it’s you Shows how crazy it is. Got the nervous thing in the first series. Win the second series, end with COVID. It’s been enough and I want it not just for myself, but for everyone in that locker room.”
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