‘Crazy competitive’ Suns PG Chris Paul excited to build, lead his new team
The feeling in the Phoenix Suns’ locker room will not be the same as it was for the 2019-20 season. Same goes for on the court.
Ricky Rubio’s calm, quiet leadership is gone. So are Kelly Oubre Jr.’s waves of energy.
Put money on the Suns’ reshuffled roster being more accountable, more fiery and more chippy — expectations aside. While head coach Monty Williams’ culture of work ethic and caring for fellow teammates remains, the nature of how those principles are held up changes immensely.
Ten-time NBA All-Star point guard Chris Paul steps in as a lead voice of the team alongside shooting guard Devin Booker and Williams. Booker is not the only bulldog personality anymore.
Paul, who spoke to reporters for the first time since being traded to the Suns from the Oklahoma City Thunder, said that the process of building on Phoenix’s 34-39 season is what excites him about joining the team.
“We’re just going to have a workman’s approach,” Paul said on a Zoom call Wednesday. “We’re going to keep our head down, do our work. It’s about building. The one year I played for Monty in New Orleans (2010-11), it was one of the most special years I’ll ever remember. Mont is all about principles and building and building.
“I’m excited to be here. I’m always motivated. I’m self-motivated. I’m crazy competitive, sometimes to a fault, depending on who you’re talking to.”
Paul knows he hasn’t had a spotless record as a teammate.
This past postseason, his division with former Houston Rockets teammate James Harden two years back was a narrative in a playoff series between Houston and Oklahoma City. Looking further back in his history, Paul’s second NBA team, the Los Angeles Clippers, broke up as their two best players — Paul and Blake Griffin — went through their issues.
The 35-year-old Paul knows he will need to be a leader on a Suns team with plenty of new faces, including Jae Crowder, E’Twaun Moore, Langston Galloway and rookie Jalen Smith. They will have an even more difficult time bonding during a hyper-speed offseason with coronavirus limitations.
How does Paul with his alpha personality keep his teammates’ ears?
“It’s balance. It’s an unbelievable conversation that me and Monty even had once I got here and you talk about how you grow as a person, as a player,” Paul said. “What you do is you learn over the years … who you can get on, who you gotta sorta be a little easier with. One thing about my approach — and I’m not saying that it’s always right and it’s not for everybody — but I’ll never ask you to do something that I wouldn’t do myself.
“I had a coach when I was in Houston, he used to tell me that the biggest thing that I’ll have to battle with is sometimes having guys who don’t care as much as I do, but I guarantee you whatever you see is coming from a good place. I’m not perfect by no means, but I’m always trying to push the next guy and hope he tries to push me the same way.”
Paul believes in the Suns’ chances for reasons beyond a strong relationship with Williams.
He knows Booker well and admires the shooting guard’s competitiveness. Paul also played with assistant coach Willie Green with New Orleans (2010-11) and the Los Angeles Clippers (2012-14).
Playing against the Suns last year and watching them take a massive step forward with an 8-0 appearance in the bubble mattered to the nine-time All-NBA member.
“I think the biggest thing I learned last year is you can write your own story,” Paul said of a rebuilding Oklahoma City squad that made the playoffs. “I think that’s the big thing that our team did … we didn’t care about y’all expectations.
“As long as we’re very honest with each other on a daily basis of what we expect from each other, that’s all that matters,” he added about expectations for the Suns. “People always (say), ‘It’s a young team, it’s a young team.’ Sometimes it’s nice to have a young team because they don’t know nothing else but to hoop and to play hard.”