Suns coach Monty Williams almost sat Chris Paul for pivotal Game 4
Point guard Chris Paul asked Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams to trust him before Game 4 of the opening series against the Los Angeles Lakers. The front office gave him that trust. Paul returned it tenfold.
The injured point guard had his best game of the opening round against the Los Angeles Lakers, scoring 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting and announcing to the Staples Center crowd that he’s back.
He almost didn’t get the chance to play.
In the on-court interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols after the Suns’ 100-92 victory, Paul said that head coach Monty Williams told the star guard he would not play in the game due to the shoulder injury that had hampered Paul since he suffered it in Game 1.
Paul was announced as a game-time decision on Sunday, and as tipoff approached, Williams had a conversation with the point guard and general manager James Jones.
"[Coach] told me he was gonna sit me. … I told him hell nah."
— ESPN (@espn) May 30, 2021
“Met with Coach before the game, he told me he was going to sit me,” Paul said in the interview. “I told him, ‘Hell nah, just give me a couple minutes, see what I can do.'”
Williams described the 20-minute talk as an “emotional conversation.” The coach said he decided to trust Paul and the relationship the two had built over their respective careers.
“To have to sit out in a game like this, you can imagine how we both felt. It was something that I had been thinking about for past 48 [hours],” Williams said. “It came down to him looking at me in the eyes and saying, ‘Just trust me on this one, Coach. If I don’t look the way you want me to, then take me out.'”
Paul asked to start and have the team evaluate his performance in-game. His performances since the injury had not been good: He lacked strength on passing and shooting, had a loose dribble and hadn’t even attempted a 3-point shot since before the injury.
He also told guard Devin Booker and forward Jae Crowder to tell him if he was limiting the team on the court.
“I said, ‘If y’all feel like I’m out here looking like some trash, just tell me and I’ll get out,'” Paul said. “I at least had to see what I could do.”
Paul got on the floor and had his best performance of the series.
He set his series-high in scoring less than four minutes into the third quarter. In fact, he scored eight points in the third quarter alone on Sunday, more than his seven total points in Games 1 and 3 and his six in Game 2.
The point guard looked more like his usual self, able to pick his spots for midrange looks and rise up over defenders with a more normal shooting motion, but his 3-point shot has yet to return. He missed all three looks from behind the arc on Sunday, the first shots from deep since before the injury.
With the win, the Suns evened the series at two and take back home court advantage. They will host Game 5 in Phoenix before returning to Staples Center for Game 6. If Game 7 is necessary, it would take place at Phoenix Suns Arena.