Story By Evan Oscherwitz
With their spot in the NBA finals already secured, the Phoenix Suns will have the opportunity to rest and recuperate for a few days while they wait for the Eastern Conference Finals to wrap up.
The Suns are one of the few teams fortunate enough to avoid major injuries in this year’s playoffs, but the extra down time comes as a relief to players like starting point guard Chris Paul, who has battled through hand and shoulder ailments over the course of the team’s playoff run.
In the two days since the Suns closed out their Western Conference Finals series against the Los Angeles Clippers, Paul has already noticed improvements in his condition, and he hopes that the coming days will help him get closer to full strength ahead of his first NBA Finals appearance.
“[My hand feels] good,” Paul said. “These days that we’ve had off have been really good. We’re all getting a chance to rest up a little bit before we get it going again.”
More to do, more to come.
… but on the way, SOAK in every moment! pic.twitter.com/YnZe03Wzbe
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) July 1, 2021
While some of the Suns’ more banged-up players are using their time off to heal, others have used it to prevent rust from setting in. Saturday’s practice was the team’s first since their series-clinching victory over the Clippers, but several players were present at team facilities in the two days prior, hoping to get extra reps in before the franchise’s biggest series in almost three decades.
“We gave guys two days off,” head coach Monty Williams said. “I tried to give them a break. I think we all needed a day to decompress, and I found out that guys came up to the gym anyway. We got in here today and had a really good practice.”
“We’ve got more work to do and more to come.”
– Monty Williams pic.twitter.com/INmyrWH5bo
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) July 3, 2021
Phoenix has grown accustomed to having time off at the end of series, as they have managed to close out each of their first three matchups in six games or fewer. The repeated periods of inactivity have enabled the team to spend time together and scout their next opponent all at once, which Paul says has helped the players stay focused on the task at hand.
“All of us got together and watched the game [between the Hawks and Bucks] the other night,” he said. “We’ll all probably be talking during the game tonight and that’s just the way we are. That’s the way we’ve been all season long and it’s fun to be a part of a group and a team like that.”
The two teams vying for the right to play against Phoenix have both seen key players fall victim to injuries, and the Suns’ extended recovery period gives them a natural advantage heading into the Finals. Nevertheless, they have used their time off wisely, and the team has no intentions of underestimating its final challenger. Whoever their opponent ends up being, the Suns are confident that they will be ready to give their best.
“Being in a position to have an opportunity to win a championship is one of the coolest things you could ever experience,” Williams said. “We’ve got more work to do and more to come.”