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July 8, 2021

Monty Williams

Phoenix Suns

Game 2: Pregame

Q. Something we heard a lot from players the last few days is preparation meets opportunity. And, yeah, I know it's another one of your phrases that you busted out, but I'm just curious, when did that start kind of being something that you guys talked about a lot, and how do you feel like that has sort of captured this playoff run for you guys and where you are right now?

MONTY WILLIAMS: It's hard to say. I can't remember when we brought it to the program. The thing that I've always felt is if you try to have an atmosphere and an environment where everything was at a high level, you didn't have to change once you got to the place where you wanted to be. That was the hope. We're still a ways away from it, but we wanted the environment to be a place where guys felt like they were getting better every day, but also if we were ever in a position to win big, it wasn't going to feel different. So we just talked about those two things meeting at the right time.

We're just grateful that we're in this position and the guys have adopted some of the stuff that we have tried to implement in the program.

Q. What are some examples of that as far as daily habits, just things that maybe exemplify that?

MONTY WILLIAMS: I think the commitment from the guys to do everything we ask and more. The stuff they do off the court has a lot to do with the success that we have had. They get together and watch games. You can't do it now, but before we got to this point they would get together as a team and watch games. That's part of the preparation. I think those moments allow for the younger guys to listen to the older guys about what it was going to be like.

Q. Deandre's numbers are starting to put him in really rarified air in the NBA history books. I think his Finals debut put him in company with Kareem and Tim Duncan in terms of putting up 20 and 15 in the Finals debut. I think he's had four games or five games in the playoff run where he shot 80 percent from the field, and that puts him there with Shaquille and James Worthy. Have you looked at him and where he is now versus where he could be and considered how special of a talent he could be? Like what type of player are we looking at at 22, and where could he be at 32?

MONTY WILLIAMS: I haven't. I just don't because I think it's important to just embrace where he is and embrace the work that we have to do today. Mark Bryant has been with him every day. He and Randy (Ayers). DA has just embraced the work. From that standpoint, I think that's, for me, the best way to go about it. I do appreciate it and I'm thankful that he has allowed the staff to push him the way that they needed to push him. But all of the other stuff, it's hard to take time to look at all of that. We tried to stay in the moment and embrace what we're doing today, and I hope that serves him well.

Q. How much of a weapon is the mid-range shot for Chris and Devin, not only in Game 1, but really throughout their careers?

MONTY WILLIAMS: It's huge because everybody is trying to take away the rim and the three ball. That, to me, is why it's such a weapon. I think anybody that can shoot that shot, they should. We told our guys, if you have confidence in a shot, shoot it. If you worked on it, shoot it. I think the guy that probably helped me with that was just spending a year with Kevin (Durant) in OKC. I would see him win games with that shot. When teams are taking away the three and you can't get to the rack, the ability to get to your spot and raise up when the defense is back and a guy is trailing you, I think it's a huge asset for your team.

Q. Why has that become sort of a lost art in the game?

MONTY WILLIAMS: The data, the analytics, the value on certain shots. Corner three, rim shots, free throws and any three has trumped the two. Guys like Rip Hamilton, who shot twos his whole career and won a title, never got enough credit for taking that shot. I remember spending a summer in Houston -- not a summer, but just playing against Ricky Pierce. His nickname was "Deuces" because that's all he did was shoot mid-range shots, and he was so hard to guard. You knew he was going to take that shot.

I grew to have an appreciation for guys who can knock down that shot, and that certainly has helped us.

Q. When you guys clinched the last series, Chris made sure to shout out Willie Green when he was on the podium. What kind of role did he play in not just getting Chris to come to Phoenix but also just with development in terms of the other players?

MONTY WILLIAMS: Those guys are like best friends. Chris probably listens to Willie more than he does to me. That's how strong a voice Willie has. I coached them both in New Orleans and they were trump tight back then. They have a special relationship. They're like brothers. Chris has a lot of guys that he's close with, but you would be hard pressed to find anybody that he's closer with than Willie Green. Willie is just so important to our program, he and Tara. So I'm not surprised to see the bond that they have. I just, I try to stay out of their way. When I hear them talking or going over something I just go the other way. I just know it's going to help us.

Q. Speaking of Chris, a lot of people refer to him as one of the best point guards of his generation and someone who plays a style that maybe not a lot of other point guards still play in terms of taking his time to get into his scoring, things like that. Do you find his style of play to be unique compared to other point guards around the league?

MONTY WILLIAMS: I don't know. It's hard to say. Most of the point guards in today's game are score-first, shooting a ton of threes, off the dribble, that kind of thing. Chris can do that, but the thing that I love about Chris is he manages a game as good as anybody I've been around. I'm trying to think of a point guard that manages the way that Chris -- it's hard. I've been around really good point guards before, but it's just been a benefit for me to be able to have somebody like that that can help you manage a game.

As far as his uniqueness, it's hard to say. I mean, Isiah Thomas was a lot like Chris. He could score when he wanted to, but he also could get off of it. I don't know, he has a lot of characteristics of the great guards -- the passing and the ability to score, but also managing a game is something that he probably doesn't get enough credit for.

Q. Back to DA. He kind of has an exuberant slightly goofball personality and everything. How did you get him to say that's okay but channel -- to take care of what he needed to take care of on the court, and there's a time to be carefree and there's a time to take it seriously? When did that kind of manifest?

MONTY WILLIAMS: I don't think I've ever tried to legislate personalities. People are who they are. We just ask our guys to work hard and compete. Who they are as people is something that we try to embrace. They certainly embrace me being relatively goofy and out of touch and boring. I don't think anybody has tried to change me. That's not what we try to do. I just know that when he's effective it's usually because he's working hard and competing.

Who he is as a person is, that's the part that I just love. I think we all rub off on each other, for sure. Especially when they tease me about something I say poorly or how I dress. That's typically a connection point, and I think we just do a really good job of embracing our uniqueness throughout the team.

Q. Did Devin have conversations with you or with James (Jones) before he accepted that Team USA invitation? He basically said like when this is over, I'm ready to go do this. And are you surprised at sort of his enthusiasm for that, considering what the last season has been like?

MONTY WILLIAMS: No, I just think Devin is one of those guys who loves to hoop. That's just the deal. I've shared with him my experience on Team USA, the World Cup and the Olympics, and how cool it was for somebody like me who didn't -- you could have picked like a hundred other coaches to be in that position, and I got a chance to do it. I talked to him about the privilege of being in that group and how cool it was to be the last team standing and have your country's anthem being played. I talked to him about that stuff.

But I just think Devin likes to hoop. That's who he is, and he's got unreal energy. So I am not surprised that he's feeling that way, but I'm sure he's just locked in on doing this. But he loves to hoop.

Q. Wanted to ask you about the family and how that's working in this situation for you in terms of what you're doing with them or do they simply understand, hey, he's got a championship to win, or how much interaction are you having with your family?

MONTY WILLIAMS: With my family? Oh, I mean, we have people in town, but with all the restrictions and protocols, we're doing our best to stay safe. But my kids are in the house. They're all in town and they have been tested. I'm blessed beyond measure where I have a house that I can go to the other side when I need to get work done, and then when I want to just see and goof around with them, I do it. I think in these unique situations when you -- you can't guarantee we're ever going to get back here again, and I want them to enjoy it and that's what I expressed to my family. This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing for someone like me, and so I don't want to take away from their enjoyment by being so rigid and staunch about my day and keeping the house quiet. I can get away and get my work done, and it's helped us throughout the playoffs. But I really want my family to enjoy it, because I never thought I would be in this position.

Q. Are your kids asking you -- like what kind of questions are they asking? Because they got to be curious about what you're experiencing. So what are they asking you in terms of things they want to know?

MONTY WILLIAMS: Well, I've tried -- I have young boys. You have young boys that are my boys' age, you know why sometimes animals eat their young. So they don't really know what to ask at times. So I just try to share with them as a man that it's always -- it's okay to be nervous and it's okay to be afraid. I've talked to them about that, because I've gotten a reputation for looking like I'm calm on the sidelines, but if you check my armpits you would think otherwise. So I've talked to them about embracing that and it's just part of it.

It's been a good learning time for them for me to just tell them the real deal about the emotions that go with pursuing a championship or trying to do something that is bigger than you.

Q. Cam Payne has really transformed. He talked a little bit about how back when you guys were in the bubble you had some talks with him that really stood out to him and helped him with his confidence. What do you remember from then and what's it been like for you to watch him grow the way he has?

MONTY WILLIAMS: Yeah, I tried to express to him that this was his shot. And one, we needed what he had. I knew him as a person because of our time at OKC, but rarely do you get a chance like that when you've been out of the league and been in the G League. So I tried to be as clear as I could, like we're going to give you an opportunity, but you got to make the most of it. We had pretty tough talks in OKC when he was a developing young player and he was a bit amiss in how he approached the game. I had to have some really tough talks with him, and we would refer back to that. He appreciated it. So I think that helped him come here and embrace what we were doing.

Other than that, I've just tried to not get in his way. He has a unique game and what he brings to the table really helps us, and I try not to crowd his mind with too much. So I just told him to just work your tail off and hoop, and that's what he has done.

Q. Chris said Willie wants him to get it across half court before five seconds go off the shot clock. With the way Milwaukee sends bodies on the offensive glass, how important is pace for you guys in this series?

MONTY WILLIAMS: It's huge. Before we can get the ball, we got to make sure we box out and limit those guys to one shot. That's been a huge part of our game plan, and it's the same for Milwaukee. Chris did a really good job of trying to keep Tucker and Connaughton off the glass. Those guys are bulldogs going to the boards. So once we get it, we want to get it down the floor quickly. But we have done that all season. We want to continue that.

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