PHOENIX – This year’s NBA Finals will not only crown the champion, it will also end one of the toughest seasons in league history.
The league sailed through the COVID-19 pandemic with a shortened offseason and a compact 72-game schedule only to have a Playoffs tainted by a wave of injuries to some of its most high-profile players.
Within hours of the Finals Game, Chris Paul, a Phoenix Suns star who also serves as the president of the NBPA, spoke about the criticism the league and union have received for the quick turnaround and how it may have affected health. of the players.
One of the most notable critics was LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers, who served as Paul’s vice president of the players’ union from 2015 to 2019. In June, with several stars out of action in virtually every playoff series, James took to Twitter. to indicate that he predicted these problems.
Without directly responding to James’ comments, Paul made it clear that each player can speak up when the time comes for the union to make decisions for its more than 400 members.
“Wow, one thing about our league and its players is that everything is always a topic of conversation,” Paul said during the Finals media day. “There are a lot of players on the executive committee that right now, right now, they work hard on a daily basis, traveling. I wish everyone knew the things that are happening, so in the decisions that are made in relation to playing or not playing, the players are always involved.
“Injuries are always unfortunate. You hate them, but just like when we were in the bubble, everything was discussed with the players. Everything that is correct for one or the other may not be the same for another, but everyone has always been a topic of conversation and will continue to be so, so if people don’t like it, then everyone has the same opportunity to be part of the conversations, ”he added.
The conversation between the Suns heading into Game 1 of the NBA Finals was how they would prepare for the Milwaukee Bucks if their injured superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, who did not play the last two games of the Eastern Finals with hyperextension in the left knee.
“The pressure that (the Bucks) put on the paint has been very consistent, even with Giannis out, but you see a different way of doing it now with Jrue Holiday attacking and Brook Lopez going to the basket,” Suns coach Monty said. Williams. “It is something that we must respect. They have to be respected in any way with Ginanis coming into the painting, in transition, in isolation, when he makes an entrance, especially with Khris Middleton, so without Giannis, there seems to be a different way of attacking the painting and then everyone comes. up to the table.
“So (the Bucks) haven’t stopped playing the way they know how. The pressure in the paint has been very consistent in the Playoffs, “he added.
Even with the two-time MVP winner in the Milwaukee lineup, the Suns succeeded against the Bucks in the regular season by beating them twice (125-124 on February 10 and 128-127 in overtime on April 19), despite Antetokounmpo averaging 40 points and 60 percent shooting at the rim with 9.5 rebounds in the two games.
Suns center Deandre Ayton said he is preparing for the Finals as if Antetokounmpo will be back at some point in the series.
“Mainly to match his physical ability and, at the end of the day, just to compete,” Ayton told ESPN during a segment of “The Jump.” “One cannot evade the challenge (…). At the end of the day, you want to keep yourself between him and the wall.
“It’s just about being up for the challenge. Period, ”Ayton finished.