Suns notebook: Rubio ‘should’ play, Ayton on the move, Bridges’ gambles
Jul 25, 2020, 9:30 AM | Updated: 12:15 pm
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams said after practice Saturday that starting point guard Ricky Rubio “should play” in Sunday’s scrimmage against the Boston Celtics.
“He had a good practice today,” Williams said. “It was probably smart to hold him out. We don’t want guys playing when we’re not comfortable, they’re not comfortable and we’ve been going unbelievably hard in our practice so I’m looking forward to seeing him on the floor tomorrow.”
Rubio did not play in the team’s first scrimmage on Thursday, a 101-88 Suns win over the Utah Jazz. The 29-year-old point guard arrived with the team on July 17, being delayed by the coronavirus. His first practice was on Tuesday.
Rookie point guard Ty Jerome started in Rubio’s place.
“Ricky being Ricky” is what Mikal Bridges is looking forward to in seeing the point guard return.
“He finds me on my back cuts probably the most so I’m happy he’s here for me selfishly,” Bridges joked.
The biggest development in Deandre Ayton’s game for many is his three-point shot, but the big fella’s ability to take a few dribbles and make plays off that might be just as important.
Despite some of the guard-like qualities of Ayton, it’s rare to watch him take his catch 12-20 feet away from the basket and slim it down to 4-8 with a few dribbles.
Because of Ayton’s outstanding touch, this can be such a difference-maker in his game, and this example below from a game against Utah earlier in the season shows why.
See how easy that is for him and how quickly he cuts down that space? Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert doesn’t know what to do with that version of Ayton.
In a much lesser extension off this, the opening play of Thursday’s scrimmage featured Ayton on the move, but this time in a set play.
Centers usually take maybe one dribble when used as a dribble-handoff piece of a play near the top of the key, but watch Ayton below go from the right wing to the left elbow.
Big talk of Mikal being more on ball. Early DHO action for a bucket. pic.twitter.com/M54kFgbBkV
— Michael Gallagher (@MikeSGallagher) July 24, 2020
That might not seem significant, and it’s really not all that big of a deal, but getting Gobert on the move especially is nice and opens up the lane for Bridges’ drive.
It can help out the primary ball-handlers too.
“It’s huge for us because it can also relieve pressure off the guards,” Jerome said, noting that with someone like Ayton, Jerome can throw him a pass ahead and have Ayton start the offense with one of those types of handoffs.
For Williams, he said when asked of that specific instance that it’s about trust and knowing his center’s skillset.
“The only way guys are going to get that comfort level is when they do it in the game,” Williams said.
“I want him to explore those options. Whether it’s putting the ball down to a DHO or putting it down and taking a DHO to the basket.”
THE MAN OF STEAL
When asked of Bridges’ performance after the game on Thursday, Williams spoke highly of his wing’s night, but noted there were some gambles defensively he didn’t like.
This is one of them.
Coach mentioned Bridges gambling a few times and I think this is one of ‘em. Puts himself out of position for the swipe when he already had Mitchell cut off. I respect trying to get the call and it’s a good reset by Mitchell/Gobert pic.twitter.com/lh4MGwDQd0
— Kellan Olson (@KellanOlson) July 24, 2020
Now, Bridges is obviously a very good defensive player, and his coach knows that. It’s just those little instances where Williams sees a guy that can be even better.
“There’s a huge time-score situation component within playing that kind of defense,” he said.
“When you’re early in the clock and you know you have DA behind you, you can gamble a bit. It’s those late-clock gambles that can get you in trouble.
“You play defense for about 10-12 seconds, they move the ball around 3-4 times — the last thing you want to do is gamble and give up an open three or a dunk or a layup because you didn’t hold the fort down for the last three or four seconds of the shot clock.”
Bridges is aware.
“I was getting frustrated with myself last game defensively so definitely gotta be better and I’m happy the coaches see it and they get on me as well, he said.
“Just knowing when I’m doing it.”
Now, as Williams goes on to say, some of these gambles are good because there’s a half-decent chance Bridges makes a play like this one below that Suns fans have seen him make the past two seasons.
Can never get enough of watching Mikal Bridges blow up hand-offs pic.twitter.com/XcrUfQKJFJ
— Jackson Frank (@jackfrank_jjf) July 24, 2020
“I want to be careful of telling him not to take those chances because he’s good at it,” Williams said. “There’s a when-to and a when-not-to in that whole equation that I think once he figures it out and has that feel for the clock, his aggression can be an asset for us and it has been.”