In the 2014 NBA Finals, journeyman J.J. Barea was playing in his sixth game as a member of the Dallas Mavericks when he scored 18 points and had 10 assists, leading to an astounding 48-point comeback that sent the series into overtime and eventually culminated with one of the biggest upsets in sports history: The Mavs beating LeBron James’s Miami Heat team. “The way I play is just out on fire,” said Barea postgame.
The “when are the nba finals 2021” is a brief article about how a journeyman found himself chasing a return to the NBA Finals.
THE DOWNS HAVE FOLLOWED THE UPS FOR THE MOST PART OF Monty Williams’ time as head coach of the Phoenix Suns.
Despite an 8-0 record in the NBA bubble two seasons ago, the team was unable to qualify for the playoffs due to a lack of participation in the play-in game.
Making the Western Conference finals for the first time in a decade was greeted with the news that point guard Chris Paul would have to start the series away from the squad due to the coronavirus. Then, in the NBA Finals, Phoenix led the Milwaukee Bucks 2-0 before losing four consecutive games and missing out on the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
After a dreadful 1-3 start to the season, ESPN aired allegations of racism and sexism by Suns owner Robert Sarver. Williams met the Suns on the practice court ahead of the report’s publication to convey what he knew about the charges and give his squad the opportunity to respond in real time.
“We have a very seasoned bunch now, and they’ve gone through a lot,” Williams told ESPN. “We didn’t want to tell them what to say or how to feel.” “I believe that our curriculum and my leadership style are designed to develop leaders rather than followers. As a result, you sometimes have to let men figure it out.”
Phoenix had won two games in a row when the news broke on November 4th, and was prepared to play the Houston Rockets. The Suns would go on to win the game 123-111 and go 29 days without losing. This time, the upward trend coincided with the downward trend. Phoenix has won 18 games in a row, which is a club record.
The 17th victory of the run came against the Golden State Warriors, tying the previous high water record for Phoenix established by Steve Nash’s seven-second-or-less team. The Suns entered the game with a 17-3 record, having just defeated Kevin Durant and the Brooklyn Nets on the road. The Dubs were 18-2 in the league and on a seven-game winning run of their own.
Despite losing Devin Booker to a strained hamstring in the second quarter, the Suns triumphed, 104-96, against the Warriors.
“It was a major match. As a coach, you try to minimize it and pretend as if it wasn’t a huge game, but the truth is that it was. I simply have to tell you the truth “Williams stated his opinion. “Man, it’s the Golden State. They’ve won championships, had an MVP, a Defensive Player of the Year, and are coached by Steve Kerr, who is now the finest coach in the league.”
As indicated by his capture of the NBCA Coach of the Year title last season, many others would characterize Williams in the same manner.
He seems to know what important in life, yet he can’t seem to get away from the meaning basketball gives him.
While reflecting on his whole career, Williams admits to crying before a Suns playoff game. When Phoenix won their Finals spot, he asked an assistant coach to co-pilot his press conference and partake in the joy. He spends his free time not only watching movies but also reading Bible scriptures to his children.
As much as he teaches his players about the game, the game continues to educate him about life. While Phoenix looks to have sorted things out, with their play only becoming better since their Finals appearance, Williams can’t help but remain modest.
“I don’t believe anybody on our squad strolled into the gym or into our program tipping their hat because we got to the Finals,” he added. “I believe it was the exact opposite. Our crew, I believe, came in with a profound appreciation for the process, the trip, and those teams who had gone before them. You realize how difficult it is.”
WILLIAMS WAS TRADED to the San Antonio Spurs halfway through his second season in 1995-96. It was a group that included three other future NBA head coaches, Doc Rivers, Avery Johnson, and Vinny Del Negro, and was put together by then-general manager Gregg Popovich the season before he became a head coach himself.
That team won 59 games but lost to the Utah Jazz in the second round. Williams only played 29 minutes in the playoffs, but he made an impact on Popovich right away.
“Even at his early age, you could speak to him about what was happening on in games,” Popovich said. “He had an instinctive understanding of the game, and he had a calm and composure that was astounding.”
After his playing career, Del Negro went on to coach the Chicago Bulls and LA Clippers, describing Williams as “a man that’s easy to appreciate because of how he goes about his life.”
Williams felt there was an aptitude mismatch between him and his sharp-minded colleagues because of the age disparity.
“I was probably the last man they believed was going to be a head coach,” Williams said. “It was seen on Avery. It was available on Doc. Vinny had a great basketball IQ, but I didn’t seem to fit in with that group.”
Williams didn’t see it, but it was already happening to Rivers, who played with Williams during his first season with the Knicks and was reunited with him in San Antonio.
Rivers stated, “I believe I was the first one who kept encouraging him, ‘You’re going to be a coach.’” “Monty was certain that he would not be a coach, and I couldn’t help but chuckle. ‘Yeah, right,’ I’d say. Whatever. There’s no question in my mind that you’ll be a coach.’”
Popovich offered Williams a seat in the program in San Antonio after his playing career ended in 2003 so he could “be around the club.” In the Suns’ media guide, the role does not appear on his coaching CV.
“I had no clue what to do,” Williams said, “so they simply let me come in and take notes and observe.”
That led to a five-year stint as an assistant coach in Portland before landing his big break, the head coaching job in New Orleans. Williams, who was just 39 years old at the time, sought assistance from Rivers.
“‘Sometimes people don’t realize I’m the head coach,’” he says. Rivers remembered a talk he had with Williams at the time. “‘No, they don’t,’ I said. They are aware of it. Look outside your office door and you’ll see Monty Williams, Head Coach, right there on the left side.’”
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Williams, who turned 50 last autumn, has become more relaxed as he’s grown used to his chair, his graying beard even giving off a touch of laxity.
“You have no option but to alter when you’ve had some life experiences and listened to people’s opinions of you,” Williams added, “and I’ve realized I’d rather be successful than correct.”
All coaches, according to Rivers, must learn this lesson.
“When we first start teaching, we all have this obsession with being correct rather than doing it right,” Rivers said. “And Monty, like myself and other rookie coaches, is probably guilty of that at first, and then we learn. The value of doing things right outweighs the importance of being correct.”
Williams and Paul have to an understanding.
“We don’t even discuss it. We simply go with the flow. Do you get what I’m saying? I feed off of him, and he feeds off of me “Williams stated his opinion. “Just talking about that cooperation, Chris and I both recognized early on that there would have to be some give and take because he was competitive and I was competitive. Now I’m more likely to just move out of the way.”
Following his time in New Orleans, Williams moved to Oklahoma City and subsequently took a two-year break from basketball to mourn the death of his wife, Ingrid, who died in a car accident in 2016. His return to the game was with the Spurs, where he served as vice president of basketball operations. Before joining the Suns in 2019, he worked as Brett Brown’s assistant in Philadelphia, a branch of the San Antonio coaching tree.
Then there was the surprise reunion with Paul, who had been dealt to Phoenix over the summer.
Unlike in New Orleans, when Paul was a rising star and Williams was a new head coach still getting his bearings, the two have worked in perfect harmony up to this point.
“I didn’t comprehend the statistics and what it would take when he phoned,” Williams said of Paul reaching out during the shortened offseason after the bubble. “As a result, it was simply something to speak about. Obviously, I was ecstatic, but I had no idea how it would all come together. Then, as it got closer, I was thinking, ‘Holy Smokes,’ as in, ‘This might be very wonderful.’”
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Although Paul was the team’s highest scorer, the other three Suns that make up the team’s top four scorers are all under the age of 25. When asked whether that kind of run was unusual for a bunch with so little experience, Williams, who is generally reserved, perked up.
“Rare?” Williams responded, his voice tinged with skepticism. “You’re generally out the first round the first time you go.”
According to Williams, Phoenix was just a fourth of the way to hosting an NBA Finals Game 7 on its own floor.
He can’t seem to get over the idea that the Suns couldn’t finish Game 6 in Milwaukee.
“I informed the guys, I believe it was 77-77 at the start of the fourth quarter, that I didn’t have enough for them,” Williams said. “You return to that point. Athletes and coaches cope with the situation in their own way. You must also be honest with yourself. ‘What did you do at that point?’ for example. And at the start of camp, I informed our boys that I didn’t have enough for them. And that’s the one that follows you around like a shadow.
“Because it was our chance to shine.”
Even though he knows he can “replay most of it in my brain,” Williams told himself that he will watch the second half at some point this season.
Sifting through what went wrong to get things back on track.
“I believe that is what causes you to mature,” Williams said. “It doesn’t promise you a shot at it again or that you’ll win it, but it does give you the opportunity to improve.”
This season, Williams’ mission is to pick up the pieces and put them back together, and he’s done an excellent job so far.
With a 29-8 record, the Suns are tied with the Warriors for the best record in basketball heading into Thursday’s game against the Clippers.
“I’ve seen a kind of humility in the process,” Williams remarked. “I heard respect for the road and humility about how difficult it is when I spoke with men during the summer. I overheard several people bemoaning the fact that we wouldn’t be able to accomplish it. And I believe it has helped us to enter the season more motivated and humbled because it is difficult.”
It’s his humility that gets his message where it has to go: into one player’s head, into another’s heart.
“It was an honor to be in that position, and I hope that going through such experiences enhances your potential to evolve.”
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