It’s not often in an NBA game you see a guard pickpocket another in the backcourt, let alone twice.
This is what Phoenix Suns veteran Ronnie Price did Wednesday night versus the Chicago Bulls, leading to four easy points. The first time he got Aaron Brooks and the second time it was E’Twaun Moore.
“I watch people’s patterns,” said Price. “It’s like a game of chess. I might play you a certain way just to see what your counter move is the first two times you dribble up the floor and just see what your dribble pattern is. And then maybe the third or fourth time I’ll see if I can jump on one of your dribble patterns.”
While the two steals were flashy, this obviously isn’t a sustainable way for Price to contribute to the team. He has nine total steals in 106 minutes this season and only two of them are in the backcourt.
Price wants to be a part of the rotation on a regular basis for a winning, successful team much like his time with the Utah Jazz. Price spent four years in Salt Lake City, making the playoffs three times. From 2007-08 to 2010-11, the Jazz averaged 52 wins and made it to the Western Conference Semifinals twice.
“Playing behind Deron Williams, playing on a deep Utah team, I played spot minutes,” said Price. “That was my role and everyone on that team embraced their role. We were good because of that. We knew this guy was going play 10-12 minutes a night, this guy was going to play 15-20 minutes a night and other guys were going to play 30-plus, but it didn’t matter. That role could change from game-to-game depending on injuries, but we embraced it, we accepted and we were a good team. That’s very similar to what we have here.”
On those teams Price averaged 12.3 minutes per game and played in 61, 52 and 60 games. This season he’s right in the same range at 11.8 minutes per night.
Price’s value comes from the ability to expend energy knowing he isn’t going to play for long stretches. Making opposing guards work for 94 feet has significant impact even if it’s only for a couple of minutes at a time.
“That’s the main reason why you want to pressure guards,” explained Price. “You don’t pressure guards to get steals. More than anything you’re just trying to take time off the clock. If I can turn a guy two, three times in the backcourt, and then he crosses half court he’s worn down a little bit, and he’s looking up and he has 15 seconds left on the shot clock, and he’s trying to get his team organized to run a play, that’s the primary reason for doing it. Bled comes in, and B-Knight, they’re in the game, hopefully I get a chance to pressure the starting point guard. I get to wear him down so when those guys come in he’s worn down a little bit and they can attack him on the other end.”
Price’s level of self-awareness about what he’s here to do is part of the Suns roster being more compatible. Not every player in the NBA is capable of playing over 30 minutes a game, but understanding that and being able to contribute positively anyway helps lead to team success.
The Suns benefit from Price’s understanding of his role and so does he.
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