Monty Williams and Willie Green share hug after Suns advance in emotional Game 6 victory
Monty Williams and Willie Green shared an emotional embrace after the Phoenix Suns won the first-round series against the New Orleans Pelicans on Thursday.
“One of the hardest things I’ve had to do in basketball is coach people I love and care about,” said Green, the first-year head coach of the Pelicans. “You have to cut off communication. You have to act like we’re not friends or brothers. And…go ahead and compete. It’s tough, but I’m proud of our group. I’m proud of them.”
“We’re all family,” added Williams.
Chris Paul led the Suns to a 115-109 victory in Game 6 at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, a home Paul helped build while playing for the New Orleans Hornets for six seasons of 2005 to 2011. But it was Paul who put the nail in the Pelicans’ coffin on Thursday, scoring 33 points on 14 of 14 shooting to set an NBA playoff record for most field goals without a miss.
“Don’t remind me right now,” Green joked after the game about Paul’s historic performance. “They brought it and I wouldn’t expect anything less.”
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Green and Williams share a close bond. Green and Paul played for Williams as members of the New Orleans Hornets in the 2010-11 season, Williams’ first as head coach. Green served as an assistant coach for the Suns under Williams for two seasons, including their 2021 run to the NBA Finals.
“I’ve been with (the Suns) and I understand why they play,” Green said. “They are playing for a title. Last year, this group – I was included – it hurt not to win. When the moment is right, they are ready and we prepare our group in New Orleans for the same thing.”
Williams said he experienced “a weird back and forth with my feelings and my heart” after the game.
“It’s tough when you have to compete with someone you love,” he said. “So there was tons of emotion with that game. I’m glad we won, but I know what it’s like to be on the other side and I just felt for Willie. But I was incredibly thrilled for our team.”
Paul agreed, calling the mix of emotions “the weirdest thing I’ve ever been apart from.”
“I don’t think people really understand this relationship with me and Willie. I’m not in Phoenix if not for Willie. He’s the first person who even knew About me even thinking about coming to Phoenix,” Paul said. “He’s a coach, but he’s my teammate and my brother. … Willie is my family. So not talking to him or communicating with him during the show is difficult.”
Williams praised Green, saying he is one of the “most stable people I have known”, describing him as “consistent, stable and strong”, characteristics the Pelicans exemplified during the first-round series after earning a playoff berth. through the play-in tournament.
“I know what Willie brought to our program and you saw it this year with his program,” Green said. “I just know that feeling. I know what it is. To see him in that place is a tough time for all of us because at the end of the day, we’re all friends and we’re all brothers.”
Devin Booker said Green contacted him after injuring his hamstring earlier in the series, causing him to miss three games.
“Willie actually reached out to me when I did my hamstrings,” Booker said. “He said, ‘Even though we’re competing, pray. I hope it will heal quickly. He’s an upstanding guy, always has been.”
The Suns will advance to the Conference Semifinals to face the Dallas Mavericks. The first game of this series will take place on Monday in Phoenix.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Monty Williams and Willie Green share a hug after Suns lead in Game 6