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June 25, 2021

Monty Williams

Phoenix Suns

Practice Day

Q. Can I just ask how Cam Payne's ankle is doing and was he able to participate in practice?

MONTY WILLIAMS: He was a little bit better today. We didn't do a ton. So it's hard to evaluate but we think he's getting better. We hope that he can get back on the floor tomorrow. We didn't have a practice, a normal practice today. But he was able to get out on the floor and shoot a little bit and put the ball down and he's walking around fine.

Q. We always know you have an in-depth breakdown of the game after you've seen it on film, so what did you see after watching film that you feel like you guys can do better or improve upon for Game 4?

MONTY WILLIAMS: I just thought they played with a great deal of grit for 48 minutes. You know, they changed their rotations, changed the starting lineup, changed the rotations, leaving [DeMarcus] Cousins out. So they went small.

But they took advantage of the moment better than we did. You know, when we cut it to six, we turned it over and they ended up scoring five straight points. I think it went to 11 right away and that was around six, five minutes.

You know, they have thrown a bunch of defenses, as we have at them and the thing that we saw over the course of game was their level of intensity stayed the same or increased. We played somewhat inconsistent in our intensity and [Ivica] Zubac in the first half had five offensive rebounds. You know, that's something that we have to do a much better job is rebounding the ball. Our backside rotation on threes in the second half was not at a high level. These are things that we will spend time on today and tomorrow among other things so that we can be better in the next game.

Q. When you have a tough night shooting like the team did and like Chris and Devin did, how much is it talked about, how much is it just kind of thrown out as just a bad shooting night and how much is it a teaching point for you today?

MONTY WILLIAMS: I mean, you always look at the intention. Missing shots is never the intention. If it was messing up an assignment on the back side of your pick-and-roll defense, that's something you show and you go over. Not getting back in transition, the play that Zubac missed the dunk and [Terance] Mann was the only guy to pursue the ball, that's something when it comes to shots and missing shots, we tend to look at what we can do as a staff to help our guys bet better shots, and that's what we spent some time doing today, this morning in our meetings.

We know our guys put the work in. We have a let-it-fly mentality, we'll always have that, and we don't want our guys thinking about shots. We tend to think about how we can get them better shots, and that's our goal.

Q. Devin said last night he liked his quality of looks but wanted to watch it back to be sure. When you watched it back for Chris and Devin, did you like the shot quality for those two?

MONTY WILLIAMS: I didn't mind the shots that happened in the flow of our offense. The ones that hurt us, and it wasn't just Chris and Book, the ones that we got a bit bogged down and we had to take late-clock shots, those are the ones that limit your ability to have other options. You tend to be out of rhythm because the offensive rebounders are in and out of the paint because they don't know when that shot is going to go up and when it does go up, you're so worried about transition defense. When I looked at the numbers from our team in Phoenix, the data, our shot quality wasn't great last night but it wasn't terrible. Like I said, that's on me to try to put our guys in a better situation so that they can be more efficient.

Q. Last night Chris said he wanted to play with more pace and Dario mentioned more pace and last night you said there were a lot of hands on Devin. Is one way to combat getting bogged down by whatever defensive scheme that's thrown at him is just getting up and down the floor quicker and he's able to play in space?

MONTY WILLIAMS: It is. I felt like we got enough stops. They didn't score a great number last night. We just didn't. When you miss that many shots, you're playing in transition and that can make you a bit tired. Once we get stops, that allows for us to get out and play the way that we want to.

So to your point in transition, and in our half-court sets, we have to be more violent in our actions. Playoff basketball is handsy, it's physical, and the one way to combat that is to play with great pace.

Q. You knowing Chris as well as you do, what were your expectations of what his first season would be like from a performance, health and leadership standpoint and how has that maybe exceeded what you thought you would get?

MONTY WILLIAMS: For a season?

Q. Yeah.

MONTY WILLIAMS: Okay. I've learned having been around him for as long as I have to not put him in a box in anything. You can sit here and look at his age and look at the miles or try to project what he has left. I wouldn't do that. He's just one of those guys, and we've seen them over the course of the last 10 years, we've seen guys extend their careers with work ethic, diet and just sheer will to play and play at a high, high, high level. That's what I've seen from Chris, the impact that he's had on winning, the impact he's had on our young guys and I've been around him long enough and talked to him long enough to understand that's just who he is, from the time I met him in New Orleans, watching his leadership, I think Chris was 26 at the time, to have that kind of leader my first year as a head coach helped me, sped up my growth. A lot of people thought I could coach that year when it was really Chris and David West helping me out. He's a freak of nature in that way, from a leadership standpoint and his will to play the game at a high level.

Q. The guys talked about after the game about not letting this loss get to them and they have done that really all year with losses and they have stayed even keel throughout the season. As a coach, what's that like to see that culture after losses? And the good teams that you've been around, that has to be the common theme that they don't let losses affect their gym, right?

MONTY WILLIAMS: Yeah, but your human nature is to allow it to bum you out a little bit. You go home, your food tastes different, your sleep is different. The one thing we said, when we come to the gym, we are going to have pound the rock mentality, relentless mentality, no matter what happened the day before, win or lose. Our gym was typical Suns gym. That doesn't mean we don't have great remorse for the things that we could have done better. Doesn't mean that we don't feel badly about losing a game, especially in the playoffs.

But we have to turn the page. That's the one thing we tried to do with our young guys is to teach them how to learn from the win or the loss. At the same time, approach the next thing in a fashion that would allow you to be productive, whether it's film or practice, whatever it is. So with that being said, we know that we have to play much better and that's a part of -- that was a part of our day today, as well.

Q. There was a point last night in the first half where Chris was flexing the hand a lot and he came back with tape on it. Do you know what the issue was there and will it affect him?

MONTY WILLIAMS: He got fouled one time on the right side of the floor in front of their bench. Somebody got him pretty good. So it was a little sore. I just saw him at our practice. He seems to be okay.

Q. And is there anything that you guys can do to speed conditioning? I don't even know if that's possible but if a guy had an 11-day layoff what do you do on the off days now that you have them back to get him in game shape?

MONTY WILLIAMS: I said is last night, I felt like I played him too much but that may end up helping him. To have your body go through that soreness, it probably felt like an old-school training camp, which most of you guys don't know anything about where we practice for two and a half, three hours every day for almost a month, and soreness was a part of your deal.

Q. I covered Pat Riley teams. I know all about that.

MONTY WILLIAMS: You know exactly the you-know-what that I went through during that year. But I think it's going to help him. And not having Cam out there probably sped up the process, so having been around Chris, once he has like a game like that under his belt, he tends to bounce back from a conditioning standpoint better than most.

Q. Any update on Cameron Payne and how he's feeling with the left ankle?

MONTY WILLIAMS: Yeah, we didn't do a ton today but he was on the floor shooting and dribbling and getting a little bit of court time in but not enough to make an evaluation. But we all walked over from the hotel to the gym today and I was walking behind him and felt so grateful that he was just walking the way that he was to the gym. So we're hopeful we'll get a good report going forward and he can be ready to play tomorrow, but we just don't know right now.

Q. Having spoken with Dario earlier got me to thinking how he was able to turn it around a little bit. He struggled at the end of the season and didn't play a lot in the Lakers series and he seems to have found his game. What have you seen from him that's allowed him to bring it back that way?

MONTY WILLIAMS: Well, I mean, the confidence is the main thing that we've seen from him. A few weeks ago, I didn't see that. I saw a look on his face that was, you know, not like Dario and not the guy that we needed to have an impact on the floor. Lately, we've seen a great deal of confidence and a lot of it is the work he's put in with Coach [Brian] Randle and then his teammates rallying around him to tell him, "You know, Dario, we need you," that kind of thing.

What I've told him is go out there and be a warrior, that's who you are. From the time I've coached him since we were in Philly together, when he's effective, it's when he's out there playing confident and making plays for other people and himself, and it's stuff that he does that you don't even coach that you expect from him.

So the confidence piece is something that I've seen change over the past few weeks.

Q. You mentioned earlier about the need to be more consistent with your physicality and intensity. But you also mentioned you cut the Clippers lead down in the fourth quarter and second quarter, you had a turnaround fueled by the defense. Clippers only had one basket in the first six minutes of the second quarter. How satisfied have you been with the team's defense and execution not just last night but the previous game as well?

MONTY WILLIAMS: It's solid but it's not to the level that we need it to be. It certainly wasn't last night. We did it in stretches and you alluded to that. In the second quarter, and then when we made a run in the fourth, you could see our defense take over a little bit. Where we struggled was the transition defensive piece coming out of halftime that was not at a high level, and the offensive rebounding in the first quarter.

So if you broke the game down, there were segments of not-so-good and then there were segments of, that's us, and we have to have, as you said, consistent levels of our kind of defense, just relentless, keeping the ball in front, forcing tough shots and then five guys in the paint to rebound the ball. You know, when we're doing that, we give ourselves a chance to play in transition and create a lot of space for our scorers.

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