Chris Paul # 3 of the Phoenix Suns controls the ball during a game against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena on December 14, 2020 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Alex Goodlett / Getty Images)
If you were at all hesitant about trading Phoenix Suns for Chris Paul, the 35-year-old 10-time All-Star punched you in the face through the screen on Monday night in his preseason debut.
While it lasted only 18 minutes and indeed in the preseason, Paul showed all his elite skills in a short burst, putting in five points, two rebounds and six assists in a 111-92 loss against the Jazz.
Paul’s pace and pressure on a defense is imminent, giving third-year center Deandre Ayton dozens of free buckets this season.
Paul is an upgrade from Ricky Rubio in many ways, and the biggest one is that he’s an all-out offensive threat that the defense is terrified of. Look how easy this is for him to find a rock-hard Ayton out of nowhere.
And with his incredible handle, Paul can create so much space. Here it is a huge burst in the screen to set up another Ayton bucket.
Paul played three short bursts of 4-5 minutes into the game, as planned, until Paul checked back in for the start of the fourth quarter. Head coach Monty Williams said before the game that he would be very happy with 12 minutes ahead of Paul and he gave him an extra shift with some of the starters.
Paul said it was his first time playing pick and roll with Ayton after the game, so if that was the first time it’s hard not to find their potential as a duo enticing. The point guard said that on a new team you would usually play with your teammates during the summer to build chemistry, but he clearly didn’t get that chance.
“We’ll work it out,” he said.
As usual, even when Paul wasn’t playing, he was coaching. Rookie security guard Ty-Shon Alexander had some questions, and Paul committed him to a full time out.
“That’s how you become a team,” said Paul. “You can’t just put it on paper and say, ‘It’s going to be this, it’s going to be that’, we have to build. And so communication is the way you build.”
The game was Paul’s first preseason after missing Saturday’s loss due to pain in his right ankle. Paul was previously listed as doubtful in the injury report on Monday morning.
Paul said he really needed Monday night and appreciated the game in Utah to help with conditioning.
“I’ve been running, training, all of that – nothing like the game,” he said.