Ricky Rubio bringing his personality to surprising Phoenix team

Phoenix Suns guard Ricky Rubio reacts after being called for a foul during the first quarter of an NBA preseason basketball game against the Sacramento Kings in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Phoenix • Jazz head coach Quin Snyder gives Ricky Rubio a large share of the credit for his team’s personality over the two seasons he played in Utah.

“It’s hard to overstate the impact that Ricky had on our group. I think, in a lot of ways, we took on his personality; his unselfishness, how hard he played, he had great pride,” Snyder said.

He seems to have brought that to the Phoenix Suns as well. The Suns have surprised teams with their good early season efforts, especially given that they were projected to finish last in the Western Conference. But instead, they pulled out a huge win against Sacramento, lost by just one point to the Denver Nuggets on the road, and then blew out the L.A. Clippers — projected as one of the league’s best teams — in Phoenix.

The Suns have succeeded despite early season adversity, too. DeAndre Ayton tested positive for a diuretic, which are sometimes used to pass steroid tests. As a result, he received a 25-game ban from the NBA; the NBA’s player association is appealing. And Rubio himself missed the Clippers game with a knee contusion, though he came back against Utah. When past Suns teams may have folded, they had one of their most impressive performances in years.

But while the team is coming off a massive win, it’s still a matchup that Rubio is looking forward to.

“I built great chemistry against them. I have a lot of friends still there. It’s fun to play against your friends, you know, but once the jump ball is up, it’s about winning," Rubio told the Arizona Republic.

And 2018 No. 1 pick Ayton, before his suspension, noted how much “fun” it is to play with Rubio.

“You don’t know when the pass is coming. You just gotta keep running," Ayton told Bright Side of The Sun. "It’s fun. Having someone that wants to pass, you’re just looking for that first look.”

But naturally, from his point of view, Snyder didn’t want Rubio to have too much fun against the Jazz. Even then, he gave caveats.

“It was fun to see him pick up a gold medal this summer, unfortunately at the expense of Donovan [Mitchell], Rudy [Gobert] and Joe [Ingles],” Snyder pointed out, “But it’s hard not to feel good about Ricky’s successes.”

“He came to Utah at a unique time and he gave everything that he had every night," Snyder continued. "What he gives comes from deep inside, and you appreciate that.”

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