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Chris Paul flashes high-level skill in short preseason debut for Suns

Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns controls the ball during a game against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena on December 14, 2020 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

If you were hesitant at all about the Phoenix Suns trading for Chris Paul, the 35-year-old 10-time All-Star smacked you in the face through the screen in his preseason debut on Monday night.

While it was only 18 minutes and indeed in the preseason, Paul showed all his elite skills in a short burst, posting five points, two rebounds and six assists in a 111-92 loss to the Jazz.

Paul’s level of pace and pressure on a defense is menacing and is going to give third-year center Deandre Ayton dozens of free buckets this season.

Paul is an upgrade over Ricky Rubio in many ways, and the biggest is that he’s an all-around offensive threat that defenses are terrified of. Watch how easy this is for him to find a hard-rolling Ayton out of essentially nothing.

And with his incredible handle, Paul can create so much space. Here, it’s a huge burst into the screen to set up an Ayton bucket again.

Paul played three short bursts of 4-5 minutes in the game, as was the plan, until Paul checked back in for the start of the fourth quarter. Head coach Monty Williams said pregame he would be very happy with 12 minutes for Paul and he gave him an extra shift with some of the starters.

Paul said after the game it was his first time running pick-and-roll with Ayton ever, so if that was the first go, it’s hard not to find their potential as a duo tantalizing. The point guard said usually on a new team you’d play with your teammates over the summer to build chemistry, but he obviously did not get that chance.

“We gonna figure it out, ” he said.

As usual, even when Paul wasn’t playing, he was coaching. Rookie guard Ty-Shon Alexander had some questions and Paul obliged him through a full timeout.

“That’s the way you become a team,” Paul said. “You don’t just get to put it on paper and say, ‘It’s gonna be this, it’s gonna be that,’ We gotta build. And so, communication is the way that you build.”

The game was Paul’s first in preseason play after he missed Saturday’s loss due to right ankle soreness. Paul was listed as questionable on the injury report Monday morning before.

Paul said he really needed Monday night and appreciated the game being in Utah to help with conditioning.

“I’ve been running, doing workouts, all that — nothing is like the game,” he said.

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