Most NBA players take the offseason to return home, recuperate and relax, Mikal Bridges, on the other hand, can be found in the same place he was when the season ended, the Phoenix Suns’ gym.
“I feel like I’m young so I just stay around and I like being out here in the first place,” Bridges said. “Living at my spot in Phoenix and just being around knowing I’m here working.”
After spending his entire life growing up and going to school in Pennsylvania, Bridges is embracing Phoenix as his new home.
“I’ve lived here for almost a year so I’m already accustomed to it,” Bridges said. “I like it a lot. I know my way around. I’m just happy I’m here.”
Bridges visited his family back in Philadelphia when the season first ended, but has made it a priority to grind away at his craft in Arizona, despite his family being more than 2,000 miles away.
“I take my summers really seriously and my family knows that,” Bridges said. “If they want to come see me, they’ll come visit. Other than that, I’m here working out all the time and getting ready.”
This is nothing new for the young Sun, throughout his time at Villanova, Bridges was aggressive in his offseason work. From redshirting his freshman year to helping lead the Wildcats to a National Championship in his final season, Bridges’ offseason effort paid off on the hardwood as his game elevated each and every season.
His scoring averaged increased from 6.4 points per game in 2015-16 to 9.8 in 2016-17 to 17.7 in 2017-18, while also seeing improvements in his three-point shooting (29% to 43.5%), rebounding (3.2 to 5.4) and overall leadership on the court.
Bridges appeared in all 82 games this past season for the Suns and even as a rookie quickly established himself as one of the top perimeter defenders in the NBA. With all that said, the young wing still isn’t satisfied.
“Just try to be the best player I can be,” Bridges said. “Always hear from my coaches to try to be the best player you can be when it’s all said and done. That’s what I try to do. I try to work to be great. That’s what I do every day. I just try to get better and see what’s going to happen by the end of my career.”
Bridges’ is looking to improve his overall game, but said his primary focus this offseason is on his shooting and ball handling, while also gaining strength in the weight room.
Not only has Bridges used his summer in Phoenix to hone his craft, but he’s also been able to spend time connecting with his new head coach, Monty Williams.
“Real good coach. Real good guy, too,” Bridges said about Williams. “You know he’s serious about his work and what he wants to do. I’m excited. I know he’s all about winning and that’s what I’m about too.”
Bridges has seen the successes his new coach has been a part of in the more than 20 years of basketball experience as a player and coach and believes that Williams is going to lead the Suns in a similar direction.
“I know what he’s going to want out of all of us,” Bridges said. “He’s going to push us and I think that’s what we need is people to push us to be really good, be great. I feel like he’s the right person.”
As the Suns prepare for the 2019 NBA Draft next week, Bridges will continue to train in preparation of next season and, with the growth shown throughout his previous four summers, more success may be on the horizon for his sophomore campaign.