Talk of Robert Sarver, Jae Crowder define unusual Suns Media Day

Despite an offseason filled with turmoil, Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges said he is excited to see what the 2022-23 holds. (Photo by Susan Wong/Cronkite News)

Chris Paul, left, took a moment during Phoenix Suns media day to talk with coach Monty Williams. (Photo by Susan Wong/Cronkite News)

Suns center Deandre Ayton caused a bit of a stir during Media Day because of a collection of answers that came across as subdued. (Photo by Susan Wong/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – For a franchise coming off an extraordinary 64-win regular season, the Phoenix Suns faced an offseason that can best be chronicled as tumultuous and bizarre.

As with every season, media day marks the start of training camp, and for the Suns, it’s the end of what has been a story of plot twists.

From the glaring findings in the investigation of longtime Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver to the sudden departure of veteran forward Jae Crowder, the team has endured a multitude of issues as a franchise. Those issues and more were brought to focus in a very somber and serious line of questioning during Monday’s Suns Media Day.

(Audio by Damon Fairall/Cronkite News)

The issue surrounding Sarver has been the latest lead headline in recent weeks. After the bombshell report that the 17-year owner will begin the early stages of selling both the Mercury and the Suns, the focus has been on how the team will move forward.

Suns coach Monty Williams spoke on the ownership issue hanging over the franchise and how he plans to lead this team back in the right direction.

“When I first came to Phoenix, I asked myself how do I add value? The one way I know how to add value is by loving and serving others,” said Williams, who is entering his fourth season with the team. “Our guys are ready to go. Having a long summer like this has paid dividends for our players. It is the first true offseason since I’ve started coaching this team.”

Williams will have most of his core group back for the upcoming season, but there will be a missing face in the starting lineup on opening night. The Suns and Crowder agreed that the forward will not participate in camp as the team searches the trade market to find a new landing spot for the hard-nosed veteran. Crowder reacted to the decision on his personal Twitter account.

“It’s a little unfortunate. He’s done a lot of really good things, but I wish him the best as a brother,” Suns guard Booker said. “There is only so much I can say, but it all has to do with moving forward.”

Crowder has carved out a role in the league in the last couple of years as a versatile wing who can defend at a high level while also being able to knock down three-pointers at a career 35% clip. His career average of 9.6 points may not pop off the statistics sheet, but his presence on the court has been an integral piece on numerous contending teams over the years, including the Suns.

With every offseason departure comes an opportunity for another player to step in and contribute.

Luckily for Suns big man Dario Šarić, the departure of Crowder could free up a larger role for the talented Croatian. Coming off a successful arthroscopic procedure on his right meniscus, he enters the season looking to hop into a well-rounded frontcourt rotation.

Offensively, it’s simple. Šarić can do it all.

Suns guard Devin Booker said the offseason “was tough for me because that is not the Robert Sarver I know.” (Photo by Susan Wong/Cronkite News)

Šarić hit the hardwood for the Croatian national team during the Fiba EuroBasket tournament earlier this month in his first game since July of 2021. For him, gaining those reps against elite international talent expedited his rehab progress, and started to crack a glimpse of what his role could look like this season.

“In the second unit, I could’ve helped with ball movement,” said Šarić, who is entering his fourth season with the Suns. “I can go in the low post, and I can pass out of the post as well.

“I am happy I am here, and all this work and mental hurdles are behind me.”

He will join a frontcourt rotation led by former first overall pick Deandre Ayton, who was involved in contentious contract negotiations dating all the way back to the beginning of last season.

Ayton was not his characteristically buoyant self when fielding questions about his offseason, his new contract and the Sarver situation.

It is unclear whether he has lingering hard feelings about the contract situation, or if he is just more focused on returning with a more business-like attitude.

That question and others will have to be answered as training camp and the preseason quickly near.

(Video by Liam Archer/Cronkite News)
Sam Stern sam stern
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Sam Stern expects to graduate in May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in business. Stern has interned with Sports360az and Take it Easley Productions, and he is an editorial intern at the Phoenix Business Journal.

Damon Fairall(he/him/his)
Broadcast Producer, Phoenix

Damon Fairall expects to graduate in December 2022 with a master’s degree in sports journalism. Fairall has worked in the video department of University of Arizona’s football program.

Sports Broadcast Reporter, Phoenix

Liam Archer expects to graduate in December 2022 with a master’s degree in sports journalism. Archer has interned with the Dallas Wings’ digital media department.

Susan Wong soo-zin wah-ong (she/her/hers)
Sports Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Susan Wong expects to graduate in May 2023 with a master’s degree in mass communication. Wong, who earned a bachelor’s in sports journalism in May 2022, is a digital media intern with Sun Devil Athletics.