Elfrid Payton: Suns’ winning culture ‘way different’ from prior Phoenix stint

Nov 2, 2021, 6:01 PM
Phoenix Suns guard Elfrid Payton (2) drives past Sacramento Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton during th...

Phoenix Suns guard Elfrid Payton (2) drives past Sacramento Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, in Phoenix. Sacramento won 110-107. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

After spending the last three seasons with two different teams, Elfrid Payton is back playing with the Phoenix Suns.

But things are quite different around the team from the last time the guard called the Valley home.

Payton played 19 games for the Suns on the backend of the 2017-18 season under then-interim head coach Jay Triano.

Now the 27-year-old gets to play under the likes of Monty Williams — who was awarded the 2020-21 NBCA Coach of the Year by his peers — and the Point God in Chris Paul.

“It’s been good,” Payton said of his return to Phoenix on Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Tuesday. “Monty has been great for me, honestly letting me know what’s going on. The fit has been pretty good. I’m happy to be back.

“The culture is just different here than last time, way different. There’s so much talent on this team, so I’m happy to be a part of that. … Just the overall approach every day, coming in getting better and the goal: we really believe we have a chance to win a championship. That’s everybody’s mindset when we come into the gym every day. That’s the goal that we’re really trying to reach and think that we can do. That’s a huge difference from the last time I was here.”

Payton added that the main reasons why he returned to Phoenix were to get a chance to play under Williams and compete for the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

“Playing for somebody that I’ve had a lot of respect for from afar, just how he carried himself and coaching,” he said. “I think the talent that was over here, the chance to compete for a championship and then lastly probably Chris calling me and having a conversation about coming here.”

“(Williams) always says we’re not reinventing the wheel over here,” Payton added. “He always tries to downplay his coaching and things like that. But his approach to being a leader, his style of coaching, the way he challenges you — things like that — and his honesty have been things that I’ve been impressed with.”

Another big change for Payton has been his playing time, as the guard had 394 starts coming into the eighth season of his NBA career.

The 27-year-old believes that the younger players on the Suns will benefit from the veterans on the team now compared to 2017-18 when he started all 19 games he played in for Phoenix.

Payton has not started in any of his three appearances for the Suns this season.

“It’s not easy,” he said of starting as a younger player.

“You definitely need a good balance of earning your minutes and having to watch a little bit and having somebody teach you as well as getting out there and getting reps because there’s no better teacher than the game. But you definitely need some help along the way and sometimes getting thrown right into the fire is tough.”

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