Suns hint at a new non-Chris Paul unit down the stretch of Kings game

Oct 28, 2021, 2:52 PM | Updated: Oct 29, 2021, 8:39 am
Harrison Barnes #40 of the Sacramento Kings handles the ball against Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix S...
Harrison Barnes #40 of the Sacramento Kings handles the ball against Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns during the first half of the NBA game at Footprint Center on October 27, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Kings defeated the Suns 110-107. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams pulled out something you could deem as rash Wednesday against the Sacramento Kings.

With 6:55 left in the game and Phoenix trailing by double-digits, he pulled starting point guard Chris Paul for Landry Shamet.

It effectively put the Suns in Point Book mode down 12 points.

But it more notably took Phoenix’s veteran leader and second-highest-paid player off the court.

“Saw a different look, getting Book at the point and getting Landry out there so we could … switch better,” Williams said Wednesday after the 110-107 home loss. “I didn’t think that group was that bad. We generated some shots, couldn’t make any shots at that segment. Think we went 1-for-2 a few times on the free-throw line. I didn’t mind that group at all because we had like-sized guys, which should help us when they go small-small pick-and-roll

“And I wanted to give Chris a break. I did that to him a lot last year and he got worn down,” Williams added. “I didn’t think it was that bad of a look.”

That last bit of the comment from Williams might hint toward the Point Book-No-CP3 lineup becoming a thing, and it was notable Williams tossed it on the court with his team trailing and needing a lift.

It also hinted that Williams will be keeping a shorter leash on Paul, at least early in the season.

Paul had been limited to 29 and 26 minutes in the two games heading into the Kings outing, but with 28 played by the time he was yanked in the fourth quarter, the point guard had gone 1-of-10 from the field. Paul had a -10 plus-minus on the court despite the late swing in the Suns’ favor.

Despite the misses at the line in the Paul-less lineup, the Suns inched back over the next five minutes before his return, reducing the lead to seven points by the time Paul subbed back in with 1:58 to go.

A minute-and-a-half after the point guard’s return, Phoenix had tied the game at 107-107 with 34 seconds left. That score stood before Harrison Barnes’ buzzer-beating three pushed Sacramento to a win instead of a blown double-digit lead forcing overtime.

Williams reiterated Thursday that managing Paul’s minute isn’t anything new to this season.

But the head coach did allude that his trigger finger to be more quick about finding minutes for Paul to rest — even in crucial, crunch-time moments. So far, Williams is getting a strong look at a backup guard trio that includes Cam Payne, Elfrid Payton and Landry Shamet, who are all able to play next to Booker.

“Last night, you could kind of nitpick at whether I got him back early or the right time, it’s hard to say,” Williams told reporters when asked about Paul’s minutes on Thursday. “We tied the game up. Maybe that was the right time, I’m not quite sure.

“That’s a dilemma for me. Usually, I get eye contact with him, I can kind of tell, I’ve been around him long enough to know when it’s time to get him out. And then there are times when I see him like going and he’s doing his thing, and I’m like, ‘psshh,’ (I’m) not that bright but I’m not messing with that. It is something we deal with from game to game. We’ve had the luxury of having some good backups.”

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Suns hint at a new non-Chris Paul unit down the stretch of Kings game