Media Day is always about optimism, muscle watch and other false hope storylines. Instead, let’s take a look at 10 random things from the Phoenix Suns’ 2019-20 Media Day you might have missed.
Like most of the league, the Phoenix Suns held their annual Media Day for the upcoming 2019-20 NBA season on Monday. This event is always about blind optimism, measuring which players spent all of their summers in the gym and trying to figure out which preseason promises actually hold true when the games start and no one is 0-0 anymore.
For a team that’s missed the playoffs nine straight years, Media Day has become harder and harder to buy into. While other fanbases get to be excited about the upcoming campaign, most Suns fans have been resigned to a Doubting Thomas approach: They’ll believe things have changed when they actually see it.
Bearing that in mind, it’s time to take a quick look at a few of the random, smaller takeaways of an enjoyable Media Day for a new-look team that’s desperate to prove that this time, the change is for real.
Devin Booker doesn’t care what you think about him
While Ricky Rubio was winning the gold medal for Spain in the FIBA World Cup, his Suns backcourt partner wasn’t exactly enjoying the same kind of summer. Back in the states, Devin Booker was catching flak for not participating with Team USA, and for complaining about being double-teamed in pickup games.
The debate became so tired we turned the Devin Booker narrative into a narrative, but the point still stands: NBA Twitter is bone dry in August, and people need something to argue about. Suffice it to say the league’s new poster child for “good stats, bad team” is ready to let his game do the talking.
Lord willing, the Suns will actually be somewhat competitive in 2019-20 so we can put one of the NBA’s dumbest narratives to rest.
Devin Booker wants to represent Team USA in the 2020 Olympics
All the panic over Team USA’s dismal appearance in the FIBA World Cup, and what that means for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, was also entirely overdone this summer. While the A, B and C-listers stayed home this summer, there was no reason to believe that’d be the case for an international basketball competition that Americans actually care about.
No surprise, then, that Devin Booker wants to play for Team USA next summer if he gets the call.
“Yes I would, I would love to,” he said. “Just representing your country, playing in the Olympics, all these things have been dreams of mine. So hopefully if I ever get that opportunity, I will take full advantage of it. I know a lot of work goes into that, I know representing the country for USA basketball is one of the most prestigious things you can do, so being a part of that would be a great experience.”
Every NBA coach has their favorite fallback expressions. Jeff Hornacek would always refer to his players as “those guys,” Igor Kokoskov liked to talk about “playing with the purpose” and Earl Watson used the word “love” more than every Beatles album combined.
It seems one Monty Williams-ism that could be making a recurring appearance is “sweat equity.” After never hearing that term once in his entire life, this writer heard it twice during Williams’ time at the podium, the first of which came while talking about Deandre Ayton shooting 3s this year:
“In our offense, there’s a number of opportunities in the trail spot where he can knock down the 3 or transfer the ball,” Williams said. “He’s worked on it, and my philosophy is if you’ve worked on it, do it. If you have it in your game and you’ve spent the time and put the sweat equity in, do it in the game.”
Essentially, “sweat equity” refers to earning the right to implement something on the basketball court after the requisite practice time. In all honesty, it’s a pretty dope term and a unique one at that. Williams seems to like it, so get used to seeing the words “sweat equity” around these parts.
Frank Kaminsky is well aware the Suns fanbase is divided on him
In the NBA, Frank Kaminsky has been an underwhelming top-10 pick based on his first four years with the Charlotte Hornets. That’s not why the Suns fanbase is divided on him, however, since College Frank Kaminsky was the notorious Wildcat slayer in 2014, dropping 28 points and 11 rebounds in a sensational Elite Eight performance that downed the University of Arizona.
As such, local Wildcats fans haven’t forgotten or forgiven him, and Kaminsky says he’s already gotten plenty of crap from the U of A fanbase.
“It’s funny,” he said, laughing. “It’s like, what, five years later at this point? Sorry, but…I’m not that sorry.”
Mikal Bridges wants to improve … everything
Every year, we hear first- and second-year players blindly speculate on where they can improve. Mikal Bridges gave a lovable, perfectly blunt response on what he worked on this offseason after mentioning how he spent almost all of his summer in the gym in Phoenix.
“I think everything,” he said. “Just shooting, ball-handling, getting stronger. So not really just one thing, but everything.”
Bridges isn’t wrong; most rookies do need to improve on pretty much everything. He’s an integral part of Phoenix’s young core, and his 3-and-D skill-set has to pan out for this team’s long-term ceiling to come to fruition. After shooting 33.5 percent from deep last season (compared to 40 percent over three years in college), he definitely needs to get back on track in that respect.
With that being said, we have to thank Bridges for filling in the “Young Player Says He Worked On Improving Everything Over The Summer” square for Media Day Bingo.
Aron Baynes calls Ricky Rubio “MVP”
While talking about his and Ricky Rubio’s FIBA experience, Aron Baynes casually dropped another enjoyable nugget in an interview full of them:
“There’s no better preparation for us coming into camp and we’re looking forward to trying to continue what we were able to do in summer,” he said. “[Ricky]’s the MVP, so he’s already told me I’ve got to refer to him as that. Which is … fair enough!”
This officially makes Ricky Rubio the Suns’ first MVP since Steve Nash. Rejoice, Phoenicians!
Update on the new training facility
When asked about the new training facility that’s being built, general manager James Jones jokingly offered a shovel to a reporter to come and help break new ground. After that, he said he believes it’ll be ready by the start of next year’s training camp.
Dario Saric is content with just trying to fit in
Remember, the swaggering, hot-headed international prospect that was once Dario Saric? His trip up to frigid Minnesota seems to have cooled that mindset, because even in the desert, he’s approaching his tenure with his third NBA team with a totally different mentality.
“It’s kind of hard to talk about myself, about my role,” he said. “Obviously I really want to give something to the team, obviously I have my positive things I can do on the court. I will try to fit myself in with this group of guys. [Booker] is an All-Star profile player and Deandre Ayton, obviously he will one day be a top-two, top-three big man in the league. Kelly Oubre, rookie guys are nice too, so it’s kind of hard to say what’s my role. But I’ll try to fit in, try to give my best every game, every single night and score some shots.”
Modesty is refreshing, but in all honesty, the Suns might need a little more fire from their starting power forward.
Suns might not play at the fastest pace…
Monty Williams’ teams in New Orleans played at a much slower pace. The game has obviously leapt lightyears ahead of where it was since then, but there have still been questions about what to expect from this Suns team and its pace. Williams offered some two-sided insight:
“With today’s players and athletes, the game is played a ton faster,” he said. “My goal is to be efficient. If you look at our numbers, those are things that we have to improve. So I want to play an enjoyable style, but I also want to be efficient. I want to be able to get out of the way. That’s why I was so happy about Ricky. He allows you to give him the reins and let him go. Couple that with Devin and his ability to play off the ball and play with the ball and our athletes and I think we can play a bit faster. I tell players all the time, ‘If you want freedom on offense, get a stop. ‘Cause if you get a stop, I won’t have to call plays and we can just go.’”
On the surface, Monty is saying this team will play faster, in line with the pace most NBA teams play at now. Dig a little deeper and you’ll see he’s really saying he just wants the offense to run smoothly, and that getting stops is what lead to transition points.
If the onus is on the Suns’ defense to push the tempo, this team might wind up playing at the slowest pace in the league.
Aron Baynes’ groin injury — and everyone else — is fine
Health plays a more crucial factor in teams’ seasons than most are willing to admit, and it appears injury luck is on Phoenix’s side heading into training camp. Aron Baynes, who suffered a groin injury during FIBA play for Australia, seems to be perfectly fine and ready to go for training camp.
“Aron is always sore, man, he plays hard,” Jones said. “But he’s a guy that always gets back to 100. So as we head into camp, we’re good to go.”
Baynes said he feels good and has been able to work out for the past week and a half. Rubio, also coming off his time at the FIBA World Cup, said he’s in the best shape he’s ever been in. Booker acknowledged how important it is to enter training camp healthy after being banged up last year.
Even Tyler Johnson, who was rehabbing a knee injury over the summer, says he’s good to go.
“For me, [my summer] had everything to do with getting healthy with my knee, and then trying to make sure that I have the opportunity to play 82 games,” he said. “That’s always been a goal of mine, I think I’ve played 72 as the most, but the ability to be available at all times and then produce at all times, I think once you become a reliable person like that, there’s a lot more trust from coaches, from players and from yourself.”
For a new-look team, with a new head coach, having everyone available and ready to bond at training camp is imperative. Only rookie Cameron Johnson appears to be on the mend, so the Phoenix Suns are starting things off on the right foot at least.