Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Suns coach Monty Williams share Paul’s historic night of passing Magic Johnson on all-time assists list.
Whether it’s before, during or after games, Chris Paul always has something to say.
“He’s talking 24/7,” Jevon Carter said. “The man never shuts up. You’re going to hear him. Whatever he’s thinking, you’re going to hear about it.”
All smiles when talking about the 11-time All-Star, Carter later reiterated the biggest ingredient Paul has brought to the Phoenix Suns’ successful and resurgent season.
“On a serious note, he’s just leading guys in all ways that we need to be led,” Carter continued. “When it comes to the fourth quarter and we need a basket, when we need a play, CP is calling it. He’s running it. Everybody else just feeds off that. We just do our job well around him, the game comes easy.”
The 16-year NBA veteran will turn 36 Friday, but shows no signs of slowing down or a drop off in play. If anything, Paul has raised his level, which has led to him becoming a growing MVP candidate as this shortened 72-game regular season winds down.
Trading four players, with two being starters in Kelly Oubre Jr. and Ricky Rubio, and a future first-round pick in the offseason to Oklahoma City for Paul and reserve Abdel Nader, Phoenix has put an emphatic end to an 11-year playoff drought with its new point guard running the show.
Here’s a look at the five biggest things Paul has brought to the Suns (46-18) in spearheading them atop the NBA.
As Carter said, Paul has provided that quality the Suns have lacked over the years.
While Devin Booker is the team’s best player, as he was named Western Conference Player of the Week for the third time this season Monday and has grown as a leader, Paul has been one of the best ever to orchestrate teams in the NBA.
He’s certainly demanding, but it’s all part of his leadership style. With Phoenix having six players in its rotation 26 years of age or younger, three being starters in Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges and Booker, Paul’s guidance helps them understand how to play at the highest level on a consistent basis.
Paul has further branded Phoenix’s culture of toughness and grit with his leadership.
Chris Paul scores Phoenix’s last seven points in Monday night’s 118-110 win over New York to cap five-game road trip.
All his talk would be just talk if Paul wasn’t producing.
Averaging 16.2 points on 49.4% shooting from the field, Paul is Phoenix’s second-leading scorer as he’s shooting 38.4% from 3.
He’s fourth in the NBA in assists at 8.8 a game. Only LeBron James (2019-20 season) and Steve Nash (2009-10 season) have averaged at least 15 points on at least 48% shooting and 8-plus assists in a season at age 35 or older.
Now fifth all-time in assists after passing Hall of Famers Oscar Robertson and Magic Johnson, Paul closed out the month of April with 143 assists and just 32 turnovers. Since Paul was drafted fourth overall by New Orleans in 2005, he’s the only NBA player to achieve those numbers – and has done so four times in his career.
When it comes to winning time, Paul has delivered time and time again this season.
From scoring the final seven points in a comeback win at New York to churning out 15 points in the fourth quarter of Phoenix’s win last week over the Los Angeles Clippers to clinch a playoff spot, Paul has not only created for others, but made huge shots.
With Paul and Booker, Phoenix has two closers who can run pick-and-roll and score off isolation in the half court. The two continually improve ways to work together down the stretch of games. With Paul being the better ball handler and decision maker, Suns coach Monty Williams puts the ball in his hands to finish games.
Paul not only holds his teammates to a higher standard, but does the same for himself.
He’ll quickly take the blame for a turnover and do his part to make up for it. Williams recalls Paul looked to make up for a late miscue he had at New York that resulted in a basket to cut Phoenix’s lead to one. Paul responded with that seven-point finish.
The Paul-Williams reunion in Phoenix after the two were together in New Orleans a decade ago has worked out very well. The two not only bounce ideas off each other, Williams calls it a “partnership” instead of coach-player relationship. That’s reflective on the court as their connection has played a major role in Phoenix’s success.
Between his demands, talks and instructions, Paul does have a lighter side.
Over time, Paul has learned what works and what doesn’t when it comes to working with teammates, but he’s having a great deal of fun in his first season in Phoenix. He’s takes the teasing of being 10 years older than most of his teammates, but dishes it back in saying Bridges and Carter are like his kids.
Bridges joked he and Carter were ready to rough up Paul , but said Paul admitted he missed being around them during an off day. Seeing this fun side of Paul makes him more approachable for a connection that goes beyond practice and games.
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