The Milwaukee Bucks and the Phoenix Suns both entered the league during the 1968-1969 season and now the two teams will meet to determine who will be this year’s NBA Champion. The Bucks are only four wins away from their 2nd Title in franchise history while the Suns are four wins away from their very first title.
After a shortened off-season due to COVID-19 and a barrage of high-profile player injuries, the finals landscape looks a lot different than it has in years’ past. Even amongst the two teams facing off there are questions about the health of the players.
Chris Paul, one of the greatest point-guards the league has ever seen, has been plagued by injuries over the years and this year marks his very first NBA finals appearance. It has been a long road for the 11-time All Star, but his undeniable leadership helped create a unique path to his first NBA Finals berth. Adding an NBA Championship to a career as impressive as Paul’s would be the fairy tale ending any player would hope for.
Paul also serves as the NBPA president and has had the added pressure of shouldering some of the criticism of the decision to have such a compacted season.
“Man, one thing about our league and its players is everything is always a conversation,” Paul explained. “There’s a ton of guys on the executive committee who are working hard on things right now, as we speak — day in and day out, traveling. I wish you guys knew all the things that are going on. So, decisions that are made as far as playing or not playing, players are always involved in it.”
He went on to say, “Injuries are always unfortunate. You hate to have them. But just like when we went to the bubble, everything was discussed as far as the players and the full body of players. Everything that’s good for this guy and that guy might not be the same for that guy, but everything has always been a conversation, and it’s going to continue to be that way. So, if people don’t like it, then you know everybody has the same opportunity to be a part of all these conversations.”
Paul played on the Rockets between 2017-2019 before being traded to OKC. PJ Tucker, a Milwaukee Bucks forward played on the Rockets from 2017 through part of the 20-21 season. Ironically, Paul and Tucker share a history beyond the Rockets franchise in having been childhood friends during their time in North Carolina.
Tucker established himself as an elite defender during his time in Houston and has continued that tradition with the Bucks. It should be noted that after playing overseas for a spell, Tucker spent some time on the Phoenix Suns.
Tucker talked about how impactful and life-changing his time with the Suns was. “Phoenix is honestly everything to me. Like, I literally turned down my contract I had to go back to Russia, which was the biggest contract I was ever going to sign, and it was a really big decision for me to do that,” Tucker said. “I wasn’t happy about it at first, but my wife and agent talked me into it, and it ended up being the best decision I ever made in my life and it changed my life. So I’m super grateful and indebted to Phoenix and the staff and the people that were here, (owner) Robert Sarver, all of them.”
His former teammate and Suns star Devin Booker talked about their impending matchup saying he was, “So excited. So excited. We have obviously had those matchups before in practice that have gotten heated at the highest level, but he’s a competitor, and I have a lot of respect for that man, so we’re going to be out there battling, for sure.”
This year’s matchup will be one of the most exciting and unpredictable series the league has seen in quite some time.