Drama, am I right? People flock to it. Rubbernecks clog our highways while the nightly news leads with the local tragedy.
The Phoenix Suns are not immune to drama. Like a colleague leaving your job, all the dirt starts coming out two weeks after it’s gone. “Jason was cool, but he never noticed his lunch in the fridge.” “I liked Steve, except for his breath! And he was a tight talker too!”. “We all loved Lou, but I know he was a chronic crop duster!”.
Phoenix fired head coach Monty Williams over a month ago, and now the team’s inner workings are hitting the podcast airwaves.
Williams did incredible things in Phoenix. He reset the culture, provided much needed quality leadership and gave us plenty of Monty-isms. But he also had his faults. His lack of adjustments in the playoffs led to two consecutive second-round exits over the past two seasons. He was loyal to a fault, it turned out, to certain players.
With the window for the Devin Booker and Kevin Durant era currently open, the Phoenix brass wanted more. Some of the qualities displayed by Monty Williams did not align with the vision of new Suns owner Mat Ishbia. Therefore, the team moved on from Monty and replaced him with Frank Vogel.
That’s the way it is. Right? Never.
Suns insider and Arizona Sports 98.7FM talk show host John Gambadoro pulled back some of the curtain and shared his knowledge of the inner mechanics of the organization on the HoopsHype Podcast with Michael Scotto on Monday.
Topics ranged from the Bradley Beal acquisition to Chris Paul, how Cameron Payne fits into the equation to the potential return of Josh Okogie, Jock Landale and Torrey Craig. It’s a must listen if you’re a Suns fan.
On the Beal Deal, Gambo stated the following:
I think the problem was if you waited until after July 1st, the trade rules change drastically so it reduces what can be included in a trade and a very different landscape than when Durant was traded.
Washington wanted out of Beal’s salary, and they wanted out of it. Beal misses a lot of games. He’s a great dynamic scorer and three-time All-Star, but he misses a lot of games. Washington’s first priority was to get that salary out. The fact that they weren’t able to get a quality return back in terms of compensation for draft picks and players is beyond belief.
We knew the Suns were ripping Washington Wizards in the agreement, and it confirms why. The wizards tear it down to the ground, pour it in lighter fluid and set it on fire. They certainly wanted a king’s ransom in the draft to help with their rebuild, but given the fact that Beal controlled his own destiny with a no-trade clause, there’s only so much they could do.
Regarding the departing Chris Paul:
The Suns would waive Chris Paul. They didn’t want to keep Paul at $30M. It was either waive and stretch him to create $27 million in salary cap space or waive and re-sign him to the veteran minimum.
Kudos to the Suns for making this deal happen. Of the options available to them, they maximized Chris Paul and Landry Shamet contracts and turned it into an All-Star caliber player.
Deandre Ayton continues to be the hottest topic, especially with the Beal acquisition. His $32.5 million contract, when stacked on top of Durant’s ($47.6 million), Beal’s ($46.7 million) and Booker’s ($36 million), puts the Suns at $162.8 million. With just the four contracts. The projected, ominous second tax bill is $179m.
Knowing all the math, what does that mean for Ayton? Do the Suns hold onto him and allow Vogel to try his defensive magic touch? Moving on from Ayton in an attempt to bring back two (or more) rotating pieces? Per Gambo:
I think Phoenix would prefer to trade Deandre Ayton for depth. Their top three is set with Booker, Durant and Beal. Their problem — and this is why they’re not better than the Denver Nuggets — is their four, five, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth guy. They have no depth. If you can trade Ayton and take that $30M salary and turn it into two or three good players, that’s the preference. You have to find a team willing to take Ayton. He has over $100 million left on his contract over the next three years and hasn’t been a dominant center. He’s not Joel Embiid or Nikola Jokic. He’s a good player and someone trading for him might get 22-24 points a night and 12 rebounds, but if he’s your second best player, you’re probably not going to win.
We’re here for a little drama, right? Just a little?
We’re here for a little drama, right? Just a little?
Speaking about Monty Williams and the postseason, Gambo confirmed what many of us knew: that Monty has “his guys,” and at times the team’s defining factor, he sticks with them through thick and thin. That Monty wasn’t a Jae Crowder or DA guy.
The problem Monty Williams had in the playoffs was that he had guys like Ross and Warren who were offensive minded but not great defensively. He had other guys like Okogie who were defensive but not offensive. Monty really couldn’t figure out who to play. He started Okogie with Durant in all eight games they played in the regular season. He comes to the playoffs and he bench Okogie and play Craig. Monty didn’t want to play Warren because he wanted to play a role with his guys. I had a player on the team tell me that Monty told TJ he had to play a role with his guys in the playoffs. That’s why Ross and Warren didn’t play as much. The guys that Monty knew were playing.
The Jae Crowder situation was all on Monty. He told people he was too difficult to handle and train. Monty didn’t want Jae. It wasn’t Sun’s organization. He didn’t want Jae around. As for Deandre Ayton, Monty didn’t want him either. He wanted them to trade him to Indiana for Myles Turner. He didn’t like coaching Ayton. When Ayton signed his max contract when the Suns matched his offer sheet, Monty wasn’t even there and didn’t show up when Ayton signed it at the arena or call him to say congratulations. Monty is a good coach and a player’s coach, but he’s a player’s coach for the players he likes, but he wasn’t with Jae and Deandre.
There’s the smoke.
Gambo’s comments confirmed many of our suspicions regarding these two players. Jae Crowder, who many believe quit on the Suns, was reportedly fired by his head coach. Like Ayton. I’m thinking about going to work and having your boss tell you they don’t believe you. “Stand up” comes to mind.
If you asked me a week ago if I thought it would be a good idea to pursue unrestricted free agent Jae Crowder in free agency, I would have passed on the chance. My perception of events was much like most of yours. It was the contract and the starting gig he was looking for.
How quickly a little rumor changes an opinion, right?
Given the state of the roster, though, Crowder is exactly what Phoenix needs. A corner three specialist with some attitude. A physical presence. Someone who moves the needle and gives the team an edge. Given his history with the team, combined with what he can get on the open market, he may pass on Phoenix.
I guess if the Suns move on from Ayton, it won’t be Detroit.