This post was originally published on Andscape.com and told to Marc J. Spears.
The reason I’m doing this diary, I would say, is to give everybody a bigger insight of myself, a bigger picture of my transition into Phoenix. This is my first year on a different team and so it’s kind of me outside of my comfort zone, outside of my shell. And I know that it’ll be an unbelievable journey to document. I’m definitely excited that I get to be a part of this awesome team with Marc [Spears] leading the charge. But it’s an unbelievable story that I get to tell about myself and my teammates and my family.
My time in Washington, it’s very hard to put into really one word. But it was unbelievable, I would say, but in a great way knowing that was the first place where I was drafted. I have family there. I have friends there. I’ve established that as kind of like home base. I was there for 11 years. So, D.C. will always and forever hold a special place in my heart, for sure.
The goal is to have the No. 3 retired up in the rafters. I’m 160 points away from being an all-time leading scorer and hopefully one day down the line that’s something that I can go back and finish and accomplish. But the fact of even hearing that is very surreal and just a testament to the work I put in. But it’s a joy and humbling experience to hear that for sure.
The one thing I left D.C. with was kind of the mindset of unfinished business. I was always one that stood up and stood on the forefront of how I wanted to make it work here. I wanted to win a championship there and do whatever it takes to make sure that that happens. And we eventually came to a crossroads as an organization. But it was still tough knowing that you’re so close from an individual goal that only 30 people in the league have. And then on top of that, knowing that I’m kind of letting go of that opportunity of winning here in D.C. So, it was kind of a little bittersweet moment knowing that I get a better opportunity to compete every single day. But tough knowing that I’m leaving an unbelievable great city that raised me.
I’ve established a lot of relationships with people within the organization, people outside the organization just on a day-to-day basis. Family, friends, fans, people I interact with on a daily basis. Security workers at Capital One [Arena]. There was a lot of people that I’ve built and developed relationships with. So, I would say that would be the biggest thing I miss the most.
I wouldn’t do anything different with my career and my time in D.C. and with how everything came to about where it is today. I really feel like I’m not a big guy who lives with regrets. I don’t go back and have what-ifs. We live every moment and make every decision confidently and we live with the results of that decision, win, lose or draw. And I’m a big, firm believer that those moments and those results build your character and build who you are and prep you for things in life that you may not know that you’re destined to be prepared for. So, it is definitely enlightening, but I have no regrets.
Losing is the worst feeling in the world. It makes you question a lot of things. Puts you in a bad space. Nobody likes to lose. Nobody likes being called a loser. Nobody likes being even in that category, so it’s very tough to be able to endure those titles and hear your team being called that. And then, obviously, you don’t put forth the results as a team, as an organization and it is frustrating. I contribute to it. We all do and we can never get over that hump. So, losing sucks.
Why Phoenix? This is always a fun one for me because everyone loves to kind of speculate of what their idea was of my process with having a no-trade clause and everything. Thanks to my agent, Mark Bartelstein, for that. But, honestly, Phoenix picked me. That’s pretty much the gist of it. That’s the short term of it… Phoenix was very aggressive. I felt like I was back in college being recruited again to hear K [Durant] and Book [Booker] pretty much sign off on it and encouraging it to happen. It was definitely surreal because they were kind of a dark horse. They came out of nowhere. They definitely weren’t on my map initially until the day Mat Ishbia reached out and that kind of changed everything.
So, my initial favorite was Miami. And so, we call Miami. [Miami president] Pat [Riley] says well I’ll go talk to [owner] Micky [Arison] and figure it out. So he goes, talks to Micky, we go, we hear back [New York] Knicks, Sacramento, Brooklyn a little bit, and then it was Milwaukee and it was one more big team … And that was kind of one of the most difficult things about every trade and every team. And I respect and love every team, but a lot of them just couldn’t do it because the money was just so high.
And with our new CBA [collective bargaining agreement] and the luxury tax, a lot of owners just was like, ‘We don’t want to get hit over the head with that.’ And that’s a respectable decision. If I was the ownership and I’m pouring in billions of dollars, I want to make sure we’re getting a championship out of it too. So, out of nowhere I get a call and it’s Mat Ishbia in Phoenix. I’m like, ‘Y’all about to trade Book? How is that going to happen? How is that going to work?’ That didn’t even cross my mind of going to Phoenix. And sure enough, they just kept pressing and pressing and I’m nudging my agent.
I’m like, ‘OK, what’s Miami doing? Dragging feet.’ And eventually it came to a point to where Miami said they just can’t do it. But it was an eye-opener for sure. And that’s why I said I went into everything kind of open-minded and with an open slate. And out of nowhere here comes a dark horse in Phoenix and their aggressiveness pushed me over the top. Milwaukee was very close in the running as well, but they were going to make some moves that I didn’t necessarily like in the trade, too. So, I guess that’s the beauty of having a no-trade clause. You get to have a little bit of say-so in the deal. Having so many teams pursuing me so hard was really cool. But in the end, man, it ultimately just felt like Phoenix picked me.
The hardest thing about moving my family across the country is moving 10 years’ worth of stuff, which is a hassle. I’m in the process of still getting rid of stuff, donating stuff … Moving my family across the country was a huge, huge adjustment for them. Obviously, we’ve been in D.C. for 10, 11 years. We had a lot of stuff that we had to coordinate and moved to Arizona. And we eventually ran out of space, so we’re still donating and getting rid of things and it’s a bit of a hassle, but we have an awesome team. The beauty of it is that I was moved in the offseason because if it was during the season, oh, man, it’d be a hassle. So, I’m definitely blessed that it happened in the offseason where we had time to get things done and get acclimated in Arizona.
I would say my family loves Phoenix. My boys love it because it’s hot every day. They get to swim every day, so they are great. My wife loves it for the same reasons. It’s hot and it is growing on me. I’m used to the very fast city of D.C. and traffic all the time and it’s kind of like a complete opposite side of the spectrum. Being here in Phoenix, I’m closer to the practice facility relatively in distance, so it’s an adjustment for me. But I’m definitely embracing it all with open arms and it has been a fun journey for sure so far. I love the heat. I’m a summer baby, so I’d rather be hot than be cold all day every day.
My relationship with Booker and K is fun. It’s competitive, it’s energetic, it’s rejuvenating. It is what I needed. I think it’s what we all need when you have like-minded guys who want to be the best that they can be on and off the floor, very unselfish guys and just want to compete at the highest level. That’s the biggest thing I love about Book. K, is [there is] a competitive spirit with everything. Anything. Whether Book is playing cards, it’s going to be anything. Cars we have. Everything is supercompetitive and that is what’ll hopefully take us over the top. But our relationship has been amazing so far.
I feel embraced already and it wasn’t something I was worried about. But I am kind of amazed to see how fast it happened and how quickly it happened and how everybody’s just gravitating towards lifting one another up. And when I got here it was crazy to just feel the love. You feel the energy, you feel the commitment to the common goal out of everybody. And so, to be a part of that is special.
To have an opportunity to win every night, it is different. It is something that I’ve asked for and it is kind of one of those things where this is what you asked for, now what are you going to do about it. This is an unbelievable opportunity that we all have. But we have a target on our back and that’s fun to be a part of. And that’s where the competitive spirit will come out of everybody on our team and just knowing that every single night we’re going to get a team’s best, and we know that we can rely on each other because of the depth and the versatility of our team to uplift each other every night. So, it is going to be a fun journey.
I’m crazy. I’m naive. I’ll always feel like I can win a championship at the beginning of every year. But this is the first time I can say in my career I legitimately feel like to start the year I have a legit chance of competing for a championship. I know that I have an opportunity to compete every night for a championship before we even throw the ball up in the air. It’s humbling, it’s motivating, definitely motivating. I’m always sitting on the couch watching [playoff] games. So now I’m definitely excited that I hopefully get playoff basketball again and above and beyond. To know that our goal is a championship — it’s not first round, second round, it’s not make the playoffs, it’s not make the play-in. No, we want to hold up to Larry [O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy] at the end of the year and that definitely changes your mental for sure.
To put on a Suns jersey for the first time, the purple and orange, it was amazing. It was exciting for me. I definitely felt a little weird initially being so used to red, white and blue. But purple and orange looks amazing. Suns fans, it’s going to be a fun year. I’m beyond committed to this team, this organization in helping any way I can and this team sees fit, and I’m blessed to be in this position. I will never take it for granted — I’ll be a hard worker, great community guy — just knowing that we’re playing to win every single night.”
Opening night at Golden State, it will be special. There will be a lot of emotions, a lot of energy in the building. Just from [new Golden State Warriors guard] Chris [Paul] being there now, too. He’ll have a little emotion from the ties of being on the [Suns before], and K having his previous years there [at Golden State], too. I know it’s always competitive when they see them. I’m looking forward to it, man, it’s exciting. This is what I signed up for, just to be a part of meaningful basketball games, games that the whole world is watching and you get to go out and showcase your talents and play your heart out as best you can. It’s going to be a hell of a game — two unbelievably competitive teams that are trying to push for the same goal. It’s going to be fun.
The biggest thing for me, man, this process of moving from D.C. to Phoenix has been unbelievable. Just in terms of how easy everybody has made it on myself and my family, whether it’s K and Book, helping me with real estate and food and getting acclimated with the city, getting acclimated with the gym, then on the floor, just learning what they like, don’t like, how they work. And I’m excited, man. It’s kind of hard to put into words. But my mindset is changed in a new way to where I feel like I have levels to tap into. To be around these guys is a joy and a pleasure. Things like this don’t happen every single day. They don’t happen every year. So, I’m taking advantage of every opportunity that we have this year.
I’m emotionally great, spiritually great. I’m in a position I would say I haven’t felt like this in a long time. I haven’t felt this prepared, this ready to go, my body is ready, my mental is ready. Just kind of everything clicking the way it needs to. I haven’t felt this in a long time. My mindset is kind of in a whole new realm. I’ve never been here before in this space, but I’m definitely excited to see the opportunities we have in front of us and to see where my journey will go.