‘Doing great’: Mat Ishbia encouraged about Phoenix Suns’ future despite sweep

Although he was disappointed in how the Phoenix Suns finished the season, owner Mat Ishbia said he remains confident about the future. (Photo by Huston Dunston/Cronkite News)

PHOENIX – After the Phoenix Suns’ season came to an abrupt end, owner Mat Ishbia and general manager James Jones knew they would have to face the music.

They did Wednesday, and it was accompanied by a healthy dose of feedback.

“I’m glad that the fans are upset with how the season went, that means they care just as much as we do,” Ishbia said.

Reporters grilled the pair after the team finished the regular season 49-33 and were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

After trading for Bradley Beal in the summer of 2023, the Suns had high expectations for the season. But the team fell victim to inconsistencies, both said, because of health issues and players unable to get on the same page.

“Guys had to learn a new system,” Jones said. “They had to unlearn and relearn terminology and schemes.”

Ishbia noted that “our core guys (Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal and Devin Booker) only played about 40 games together.” Beal played in just 53 games, Booker in 68 and Durant in 75. The lack of chemistry proved costly.

Speculation about coach Frank Vogel’s future picked up after the first-round sweep but Ishiba said he didn’t want to discuss the coach’s performance because the pair hadn’t talked yet.

Jones, meanwhile, voiced his support.

“I thought Frank did a great job given the circumstances,” Jones said. “We assembled a really talented team, primarily three scorers. Whenever you try to get guys to adjust and adapt their games, there’s a transition time. It’s sometimes a struggle, but I thought he did a great job this year.”

Ishbia also suggested a major overhaul wasn’t in the team’s future.

“I don’t think it’s a blow-it-up and all these things people are talking about,” he said. “We were way better than we were last year.”

Fans are restless. They hoped to see a team compete for a championship or at least a Western Conference Finals appearance.

The Suns’ offense showed promise this season and ranked fifth in field goal percentage, but the team finished in the middle of the pack in defense at 13. Defensive struggles and the lack of a facilitator-type point guard hurt them.

Jones confirmed reports that the team wanted a true point guard to help the three core guys become more effective, but added the filling that role is more challenging than people think.

“It varies on how they fit with our play style, personalities and who is available,” he said.

The Suns’ starters are under contract for at least next season, and the team has its first round pick for five of the next eight drafts.

“We aren’t looking for the next best seventh-grader in 2031,” Ishbia said. “We want to win and compete right now with the best roster we can come up with.”

He remained optimistic about the team’s future.

“The narrative that the house is burning is incorrect,” Ishbia said. “The Phoenix Suns are doing great. Excellent. Not as good as we want to be. Not as good as we’re going to do next year. And that’s what we’re going to figure out – what we’ve got to tweak, modify and adjust to win a championship next year.”

Huston Dunston Jr.(he/him/his)
News Reporter, Phoenix

Huston Dunston Jr. expects to graduate in May 2024 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Dunston has interned for Sports Radio America and RaveonSports and has worked on producing social media content and publishing stories for other companies.