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Ricky Rubio gives Suns coach on the floor, defense-first mindset

Ricky Rubio #3 of the Utah Jazz brings the ball up court against the Houston Rockets in the first half of Game Four during the first round of the 2019 NBA Western Conference Playoffs at Vivint Smart Home Arena on April 22, 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS — By default, new Phoenix Suns point guard Ricky Rubio is going to bring a different dynamic to the team.

Not only is Rubio a point guard, something the Suns haven’t had in nearly two full seasons, but a proven, starting-caliber one at that.

“Knowing that his experience, his winning pedigree, his ability to control a team, to run a team, to lead a team is something that we missed, something that we haven’t had recently in Phoenix,” general manager James Jones opened with when introducing Rubio as a member of the Suns in Las Vegas on Tuesday.

It has to be a huge sigh of relief for new head coach Monty Williams, who signed on with the Suns not knowing who his de facto floor general was going to be.

His relationship with Rubio is already blossoming.

“For me, Ricky is going to be an extension of me on the floor and I’m really excited about that,” Williams said, before Rubio echoed the sentiment.

“I want to be the coach on the floor and having that relationship with a coach like him … I hear a lot of good things about him but finally meeting him and picking his brain a little bit and knowing all the plays he wants to run … it’s getting more exciting day by day,” Rubio said of his new coach.

As Jones said when asked about trading Josh Jackson and T.J. Warren, the team’s moves now and going forward are all about what’s best for Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton.

That was reflected in what Jones and Williams had to say about Rubio regarding the expectations for their young duo now that there is a more established group built around them.

“And with his addition, I expect our young guys to be able to take a huge leap forward this year,” Jones said.

Williams knows the nuances in Rubio’s game can help Booker take another step forward.

“When you have a point guard like Ricky — nothing in the NBA is easy, but a point guard can make things easier when you’re facing defenses that try to take you out every night, which is what Devin faces,” Williams said.

And for the head coach, it’s more about knowing he can trust Rubio without having to worry about how his coaching is being implemented.

“To have a point guard that can take my message to the floor, understand time, score and situation, the kinds of defenses that you’re going to play, be able to make reads on the floor, take my play and then figure out a way to make other guys better — I don’t think Devin’s had that,” Williams said.

Rubio saw the situation in Phoenix and his own career path matching. It’s the right time at the age of 28 to take on a new role.

“I was ready to take that step of being more of the veteran in a team that [needs] that type of player,” he said.

With that role change after the experience he picked up in Minnesota and Utah over eight years, Rubio knows what it takes to be a solid NBA team.

The repeated message from Rubio was about the Suns’ defense, where Booker and Ayton still have a ways to go. Rubio has already shown he’s one of the better defenders in the league at his position.

“There’s a lot of guys in this league that (on) offense are really, really good, but what separates the best from them is their defense,” Rubio said. “They’re willing to really sacrifice some things to play defense and that’s one of my mindsets. Everything starts with defense.”

Rubio was on bad young Timberwolves teams at the start of his career and some great ones with the Jazz the last two seasons. Through constant dialogue with Booker and Ayton, he’s going to make sure they end up becoming the latter and not the former.

“To be the difference from the other teams is going to be all details,” he said. “And it starts from defense, starts from being a good teammate, starts from sharing with your team and (being) willing to sacrifice a lot of things.”

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