For the first time since the 2009-10 season, when Steve Nash was still tossing dimes to Amar’e Stoudemire, the Phoenix Suns are in the playoffs.
The Suns clinched a playoff spot behind the clutch play of veteran guard Chris Paul, who seems to have been on a mission to remind everyone of just how good he is.
Paul had 28 points and 10 assists to lead the Suns past the Los Angeles Clippers, breaking the Suns’ 11-year playoff drought.
The Suns have clinched a spot in the 2021 @NBA Playoffs
Tonight we celebrate, tomorrow we’re back to work
🤝 @Ticketmaster @Verizon @FanDuel @MichelobULTRA pic.twitter.com/erV0SYZdDv
— Phoenix Suns – x (@Suns) April 29, 2021
Phoenix now has the second-best record in the Western Conference, behind Utah, and they are 20-7 since the All-Star break.
In an interview with CNBC, team owner Rober Sarver had a simple answer for the team’s newfound success.
“In my view, people are the most important,” said Sarver. “In this business, from a basketball standpoint, it’s people that can identify talent, develop talent, and people that can coach talent.”
One of the people Sarver put in charge is general manager James Jones.
Jones won titles with the Miami Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers, and he’s now bringing that winning experience to the Suns.
“Your team in general needs a clear philosophy,” Jones said, via CNBC. “That’s what I learned [with the Miami Heat]. It was, ‘This is our philosophy. This is our process. And these are our people.’ You need all three of those things to be aligned.”
When Sarver hired Jones, he did so because he knew it was time for a change.
“There is no perfect time to make a change, but when it’s time to make a change, you need to make a change,” Sarver told CNBC.
And now Jones has the 35-year-old Paul piloting the team to the playoffs.
“Chris helps our young guys get up to speed faster so we can accelerate their growth,” Jones said. “In order to win championships, your expectations must be high,” he added. “And you don’t have championship culture unless you win a championship.”
At the end of last season, the Lakers were the odds favorite to win it again this year, but the Phoenix Suns may not be done making their own history this year.