Suns notebook: Players excited for playoffs; Ayton ready for Sunday
The Phoenix Suns will play their first playoff game on Sunday after a decade-long drought, however who they will face in the first round still remains to be seen.
Phoenix will play the winner of the Los Angeles Lakers vs. Golden State Warriors play-in game on Wednesday.
Suns’ general manager James Jones stopped by Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Wednesday to reflect on the Phoenix’s 51-21 season and the preparation heading into the playoffs.
“We want to take the time to enjoy these moments,” Jones told Burns & Gambo. “We don’t take it for granted and playing the Pacific Division is tough. We have some of the best teams and best players every single night.”
Jones went on to say that he is happy with the consistency the Suns have shown this season and is excited for the next challenge that lies ahead for Phoenix.
Suns forward Jae Crowder told reporters via Zoom on Wednesday that the entire team will be getting together to watch the Lakers vs. Warriors game to prepare for their first round matchup.
“We’ll be together watching it and talking,” Crowder said. “Getting our minds ready for our next opponent.”
As the Suns get a full week to prepare for their first round opponent, they are taking the time in practice this week to execute at a high level on Sunday.
“We’re just trying to keep it as simple as possible,” Crowder said. “It comes down to just playing hard. In the playoffs, there are going be a high level game. So just get your body where it needs to be. We’ve done a good job putting ourselves in position to have a few days here to get our bodies and minds where they need to be.”
For most of the Suns players, this will be their first time getting a taste of playoff basketball in their careers and center Deandre Ayton is thrilled for the opportunity to be playing on the big stage.
“I’m excited to be in the playoffs and to continue to play throughout the year but I don’t know what to expect,” Ayton told reporters. “I just know it’s going to be super intense and this is going to be serious. It’s gonna be a real mental focus.”
Point guard Chris Paul and Crowder bring the most playoff experience to the Suns’ roster and Ayton took it upon himself to study film on his teammates’ past playoff games.
“It’s really a whole different season and a different world in the playoffs,” Ayton said. “Just having those dudes, knowing how they are, they can talk to the refs and they can just control the game in so many ways mentally. It’s good to have dudes like that, that have my back.”
Head coach Monty Williams also has experience coaching in the postseason and has been preparing his squad for quite some time now.
“Coach Monty he sets that tone from the jump,” forward Mikal Bridges said via Zoom. “He is not going to wait till the playoffs and be like ‘we need to have major focus because it’s the playoffs’. It’s from the jump and from the beginning and when it comes to playoff time we’re ready.”
Bridges, who will get shot a playoff basketball for the first time in his career, gave kudos to Williams and the rest of the Suns coaching staff for mentally preparing their team for the moment come Sunday.
DEANDRE AYTON INJURY UPDATE
Ayton, who missed the Suns’ last three regular season games due to injury, told reporters that he will be ready to play come Sunday for Game 1 of the postseason.
“I feel great to be honest,” Ayton said. “Doing a lot of therapy. Just exercising and doing a little rehab and bring back my confidence. And today it was a good practice. So I’m locked in and ready to go.”
Meanwhile, Jones told Burns & Gambo that getting their starting center back was one of the most important thing heading into the first round.
“We just wanted to make sure that when we rolled into the playoffs, he was feeling at his best.”