Ahead of their first playoff appearance in a decade, the members of the Phoenix Suns organization gathered to pop bottles of champagne. The Suns, who haven't been to the playoffs since 2010, finished second in the Western Conference this season.
"It was more a celebration of the employees," Suns general manager James Jones said of the champagne toast in a wide-ranging interview with ESPN. "A lot of them who have been here for ages. ... Coming through COVID this past year and a half, it's been a lot.
We've asked a lot from them ... [So] just showing them some love. They do a lot for us." The Suns are set to face defending champions Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. Jones was the teammate of Lakers star LeBron James in each of his last seven seasons in the NBA.
"I mean, LeBron's the greatest," Jones said. "He's the best player in the league. I'm biased. I know him. I've seen him up close and personal. He's great. There's no other way to describe him and he's the ultimate competitor.
And he's really good. And you have to beat really good players and really good teams to do what you want to do -- do what we want to do, do what I want to do, which is win a title."
Jones and the Suns ready to face James
"It's a challenge.
It's a great challenge. And it's fun," Jones said. "You live for these opportunities. You don't take it for granted. Because you don't get a chance to compete against the greatest very often. And so, I'm just excited.
I'm just as geeked for the opportunity to play him as I'm sure he is playing our team. It's just fun. I'm looking forward to it. "Seriously, I'm looking forward to it. And I'm not even playing. ... It's the type of stuff you talk about for years to come.
Because I plan on being in this industry for a long time, and I know he does too." Jones also gave credit to head coach Monty Williams for the great season they are having. "When you have a coach that you not only respect professionally but personally, then you have a relationship that's bigger than basketball," Jones said.
"Monty talks about doing hard things, it's tough to do hard things with people you don't like. ... It's easy to do the hard things with people that you love. So that's how I look at it."