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June 28, 2021

Monty Williams

Phoenix Suns

Game 5: Pregame

Q. You said yesterday that you wanted to get the guys in the gym just to get the mind right heading into today. What was the vibe like in the locker room?

MONTY WILLIAMS: Yesterday was a typical Suns day. We have always said we're not going to let a win or a loss dictate how we approach the gym. We walked through some things. We talked about things we needed to improve on. Our guys were locked in and focused on just having a productive day. We didn't talk about the game much at all because we know it's on our minds and guys want to perform well and win and all of that. But we wanted to keep our culture consistent. We feel like that certainly helps a team like ours, with not that much experience in these situations.

Q. It's been over a decade since the Suns made the playoffs, let alone made a run like this. How have you seen the city embrace your team?

MONTY WILLIAMS: (Laughs) I just don't. The local media have heard me talk about, because of the virus and just trying to stay safe, I go to the arena, practice site, home, airport. And I haven't even been to church in a while. But I have seen it in my neighborhood, with people putting up signs in the neighborhood and on the gate where I live. That's been pretty cool. So I imagine throughout the city -- and I've competed against the Suns over the years, and when they were really rolling with Nash and Stoudemire and Coach D'Antoni, I know what that looks like on the other side. I haven't felt it, but I do feel it when we go out to the floor. That environment, I don't know of any other environment that can touch it. There may be some just as loud, but nobody is louder than our fans on game night.

Q. Deandre's [indiscernible] on Saturday was just terrific. When you look at his progress from when you got here, is it recognition, confidence in terms of getting good at that specific thing, because he, his progress seems like the last two years he's at a point where he can dominate the game in that spot?

MONTY WILLIAMS: Yeah, I think that Willie Green has taken charge of our defense the last two years, and being in the same system I'm sure helps. But DA has defensive gifts that not many bigs have. The guy that he reminded me of is like two guys, LaMarcus and Garnett in pick-and-roll coverages, the way that they talk and their athleticism to switch and cover for the guy on the ball. And then the guys around DA really help, the ability to get over screens and that kind of thing. I think the continuity of being in the system for another year and knowing what to call and when to call it certainly helps. The guys around DA, Mikal getting over screens, Book getting over screens certainly helps, and having Chris and Jae talking on the back side, those two guys have really helped DA understand defense in a way that's furthered his growth.

Q. You have a lot of people who care about you and are rooting for you. Is it tough to manage, with the phone blowing up and people reaching out? And how do you deal with that as you try to stay locked in here?

MONTY WILLIAMS: I've gotten a lot of phone calls and text messages. Most people will say, Don't text me back, I just want you to know, whatever. And I look at it, I'm just grateful to be in this position. At the same time, I want to maximize it, and people understand that. I never thought I would be here, so when you do get a chance to be in this spot, you want to do everything you can to do the best you can. At the same time, I don't think there's anything wrong with being grateful and reaching back out to people and just saying thank you. That's all you can do. But for the most part, it's been the same people. My high school coach texted me just about every day to kind of give me a point or two. From Brett Brown to Nate, Doc, different coaches I've worked with. All that stuff is pretty cool because when everybody is in those situation, I do the same thing. I was probably the last guy that everybody thought would be here in this position [laughs], so we just want to maximize this opportunity. We have the utmost respect for what we're going to go against tonight. Ty, as I've said before, is one of the best coaches in the league. We know that he's been here before and he's been in this situation before. Our guys know that, I know that and we know what we're going up against tonight. Even the people who are texting me, they know that, you know what I'm saying? So that's where my focus goes right back to is how do we have a great first quarter and then keep going from there.

Q. What were the initial conversations with Book like about getting Chris and what made you think it would be a great partnership?

MONTY WILLIAMS: Having been around Book for a year and before that knowing Chris for 10, I knew if nothing else they both wanted to win and, not just being great players but great competitors, figure it out over time. I knew at the end of the day they just wanted to win. The conversations with Book when we got Chris, there was excitement. But then it was like, okay, what are we going to do to get this thing rolling. It took us a minute to try to figure out some things that could help them. To be straight, I was in the way, trying to force what we did last year onto those two guys. I feel like up to this point, getting out of the way and letting them figure it out at times has helped us. To answer your question, I think when you have competitors who want to win, they're going to figure it out at some point and it certainly has helped us this year. But the conversations were like excitement and then it was like turn the page, how can we make this thing work. It's been a ton of sacrifice on both of their parts to mesh well.

Q. This game's a big opportunity for the team, for the franchise, but for Chris to actually get to a Finals after all these years. Have you noticed anything about him the last couple of days going into this game, and what do you think it would mean to him to finally get to The Finals?

MONTY WILLIAMS: He's been the same. We talked yesterday at practice. After practice he had something going on that we were talking about. Nothing changed. It was all business yesterday. When you work as hard as he has and you've been around it as long as he has and you've been in so many situations, you just think it's going to happen. Sometimes you tend to take it for granted, especially when your contemporaries have been so many times. So from that perspective I think, Lord willing, if we can get there, I think it would be the greatest gift for him. For me, this is one of the reasons why I do it. I wanted to be a part of coaching so that I can be in a position to partner with guys so that they can -- nobody's talking about me, you know what I'm saying? That's not how it works. It's about the legacy players. Chris and Devin and guys like Jae, who was right there last year. For me to be a part of that, I would be overjoyed and overwhelmed That's why my focus from this conversation goes right back to what we got to do in the first quarter to try to give him a chance to do that. But I think it would be huge for him.

Q. [Question about Chris Paul's leadership style and how it is received.]

MONTY WILLIAMS: I heard the same thing, so I can relate. When I was in New Orleans, there was mixed reviews on my leadership style. My bark was biting. I think you learn over time, leadership is tricky. It's only leadership if people follow you. Otherwise you're just taking a walk by yourself. I think we both, especially Chris, would tell you he's made adjustments to fit the situation. There are times where he has to tell people directly what the deal is, and then there are times where I've seen him lead in a different way than he did 11 years ago. So I just think you learn over time. For me, and I think Chris, it's better to be effective than right. Sometimes when you're in leadership positions, if you feel like you have to be right all the time, you're probably going to be by yourself trying to figure out ways to be effective and bring everybody along with you. It can serve you well, and that's what I've seen with him. The time that he spends with our players at his house or Book's house or the dinners that these guys have, I don't know where they get the energy. And then he's on the phone with the NBPA and somebody at the White House -- it's like I don't know where he gets all that energy from. But I'm sure through all those experiences he's learned different ways to be effective in leadership.

Q. You talked a lot when you first got here about how great of a stop this used to be in the NBA and trying to bring it back. What has it been like to play in front of these crowds and this arena at home during the playoffs, and what kind of atmosphere do you expect tonight?

MONTY WILLIAMS: It's been amazing. It's hard to say who is the loudest. I remember my first time playing in front of the Utah crowd when I was in San Antonio. At that point, it was the loudest thing I had ever been a part of. And then if you've been in the league as long as I have, you're in a ton of venues that are pretty cool. I don't know of anybody that is as loud and locked in as our crowd. It just reminds me of what it was like when Nash and Stoudemire and those guys were here with Coach D'Antoni. So to answer your question, it certainly is cool when you first walk out there. And then when I get the clipboard I can't even focus on it anymore. I'm sure it gives our guys juice to play in front of that many people going that crazy when you're out there making plays. We hope it's an advantage for us tonight.

Q. How is Cam Payne doing physically after the ankle injury? And after re-watching Game 4, do you feel like there's maybe ways to get him more involved with Chris back now?

MONTY WILLIAMS: He seems to be doing fine. He had a good workout yesterday. I think he's involved just about as similar as he was when Chris was playing before. When Chris was out, he had more opportunities. With Chris being back and Book out there and Mikal and DA, it limits your touches, so to speak. Somebody told me that DA's shots were down by five this year and I thought, well we have Chris and Mikal, Jae's out there, so it's hard. Good for us, but hard for the individual. I think Cam just wants to win. I don't think he cares about touches. He wants to win the game. So we're just going to play in our normal structure and if you have the shot, take it. If you don't, get off of it and go from good to great. That's who we have been. That's who we're going to be.

Q. You mentioned what it would mean for Chris to close this out and go to The Finals. What would it mean for you? Have you allowed yourself to kind of visualize that yet?

MONTY WILLIAMS: I think it's natural to do that. I would be lying if I didn't tell you the truth and say I didn't think about it. But my mind goes right back to preparation and getting ready for the first quarter, and actually for the film session. So I try not to do it. It's a natural tendency, but that's something that I try not to stay in that line of thinking. Pop taught us as coaches to just continue to pound the rock. You never know when it's going to crack. It just comes from that Jacob Riis poem. That's been my mindset, to just live in the moment and be present with where you are.

Q. Chris made it pretty clear to us that he's a bit superstitious about the 3-1 series lead and that he didn't really want to talk about it. I'm curious, has he been like that around you guys as well? Has that been like the thing over the last two days that like you guys just don't like mention?

MONTY WILLIAMS: We haven't talked about it, because it's there. It's something that we've earned. But we also realize talking about is not going to get it done. We got to work. And as far as it being superstitious, I haven't been here enough to have any superstitions [laughing]. So for me, it's like I can't relate. Chris has played in 500 playoff games, whatever it is. I have not. Nor coached. So I don't have many superstitions. I'm going to walk out of this room and get ready for the film session and get ready for the game. If superstitions worked, I would be undefeated. So that's pretty clear that they don't work. I'll be praying a lot, for sure, so you can count on that.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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