Phoenix Suns look to the future after losing in the NBA final
Coach Monty Williams got emotional talking about the 105-98 loss that ended the Phoenix Suns season. He spoke slowly and close to tears. Then, a few minutes later, and shortly after the Suns fell 4-2 against the Milwaukee Bucks, he walked over to the locker room across the street.
“I just wanted to come and congratulate you as a man, as a coach,” Williams told NBA Champion Bucks. “You deserve it. And I’m grateful for the experience. You made me a better coach, us a better team.”
The moment was a symbol of who Williams is and how he carries himself. But there was still another topic wrapped up in the first hour after the Finals for the Suns: They are already thinking about how they can get even better from it.
Williams said he was better for the experience and the players repeated it well in their cases. They knew that no one expected them to be there, and how tempting close they were. Guard Devin Booker wants to build on this.
“I think we have a foundation and a foundation for our team,” said Booker. “We all have things to work on and we understand that. We have to take this injury, bring it to the summer and get better.”
What Booker reinforces is how deep that pain goes.
“It’s not something you want to feel. I’ve never felt an injury like this in my entire life, ”he said.
The specifics are not necessarily all there when it comes to takeaways. Most players found that it was a bit early to process. And while they knew the experience would help, they weren’t happy with it.
“There are no moral winners in our locker room,” said Booker. “… We wanted to win a championship.”
Williams, Booker, and Chris Paul all focused more on the injury. Center Deandre Ayton also felt the pain, but as the last of the group he could say a little more about the future.
“I think that was the first thing I said to Book when we were in the locker room when we got off the floor,” Ayton said. ‘That’s just the beginning.’ Now we know what to do, nothing less.
“We will hold ourselves accountable together for the rest of our careers.”
Ayton went on to name other actors in this vision of the future that he has: Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder. As for his future, Paul made one thing very clear.
“I’m not retiring if you ask that. That’s out. So back to work,” Paul said.
“We saw what it takes to get there and hopefully we’ll see what it takes to get past that,” he added.
When it comes to schedules, nobody has to turn the page as quickly as Booker, who is returning to Tokyo for the Olympic Games immediately afterwards. And while it’s a different competition there, its focus on getting better has an added intensity.
“Experience is the best teacher,” said Booker. “I think all of our great games have gotten better and we now understand the importance of having possession.
“That feeling, I keep talking about the injury, you don’t want that. This is what you strive for, with it you go into the summer. And you take it and use it as fuel.”
Reach the reporter at [email protected] or 480-356-6407. Follow her on Twitter @ kfitz134.
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