Suns fans are certainly excited for the arrival of Chris Paul, but center Deandre Ayton might be the most excited of all.
“We got CP3 in Arizona, y’all trippin’,” Ayton said Dec. 3 in a press conference via Zoom. “We got Chris Paul in Phoenix!”
Arizona sports fans have endured a lot of heartbreak over the years, and Suns fans are no exception. After the team went 8-0 in the NBA bubble in Orlando, yet still failed to reach the 2020 playoffs, it felt like the latest in a long line of proverbial slaps to the face.
Once the Suns’ season reached its bitter end, trade rumors again began swirling around star guard Devin Booker, and fans prepared for the worst.
Every year, it seems like the same old story. Players and fans get excited at the chance to finally break the cycle of misery, only to be let down.
This time, however, there’s a legitimate reason to believe that cycle might end.
Fresh hope arrived when the Suns made waves across the NBA on Nov. 16 by acquiring Paul, the 10-time All-Star guard, from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
“He’s an ultra-competitor, and he’s been (one) for many long years, that’s why he has the resume that he has,” Booker said at the press conference. “But his leadership, even in the short time (he’s been) here … just makes you want to work that much harder.”
The Suns also signed free-agent forward Jae Crowder to a three-year contract on Nov. 28, solidifying the team’s frontcourt.
Aside from the on-court talent the two veterans bring, a lot has been made of the improvements they can make to the culture around the team.
“I feel like the culture has definitely changed, even from the bubble to now,” Booker said. “I think with the additions of the players that we added, we have a depth team with a lot of (basketball) IQ and guys that know how to play the game.”
Booker also mentioned how this is an important step in Phoenix becoming a destination city for high-level players.
“That says a lot. I think that was what was most important for this organization and this team this summer, was having guys who wanted to come here,” Booker said. “A guy like Jae wanting to come here, a guy like Chris, a Hall of Fame guy wanting to come to Phoenix after what we’ve been through for the past five to 10 years, so I think that’s a step forward for this organization. People really see something’s brewing over here.”
Paul is a 10-time All-Star and averages 18.5 points per game in his career, but his contributions extend beyond his offensive abilities. He said he is ready to embrace a role where he can serve as a mentor to the younger players on the roster.
“I’m an open book,” Paul said during a Dec. 2 press conference. “Whatever they wanna know, I’ma tell them. I’m always learning day in and day out.”
Paul led the league in steals six times and made an All-NBA defensive team nine times in his 15-year career.
“Everyone always talks about what I can teach Book or what I can teach some of these other guys, but they’re teaching me, too,” Paul said. “We’re here to hoop, we’re here to compete and I think that’s the way I approach this.”
The Suns will have a new look in 2021, and not just on the roster. A newly renovated arena, brand-new practice facility and the new “The Valley” City Edition uniform are all contributing to the new identity the team is trying to build.
“It’s perfect timing. We have a new arena, new practice facility that we’re in now, so it’s a great culture around here, and it’s still building,” Booker said. “We’re having fun in here, the energy’s high, the personality’s out, and the competitiveness is there.”
The Suns are tentatively scheduled to begin their 2020-21 season at home Dec. 23 against the Dallas Mavericks.