Jared Dudley: Former Suns teams lacked accountability
Jared Dudley understands the reasons why his former team, the Phoenix Suns, fired their general manager Ryan McDonough just more than a week before the 2018-19 season began.
Dudley’s trade from Phoenix to the Brooklyn Nets was one of the last major moves by the team in McDonough’s rocky five-year tenure. Before that, he’d been atop the basketball-decision-making totem pole as the team faltered to three sub-25-win seasons in a row.
Poor drafting and poor communication by McDonough played a part in the struggle by the franchise to find a footing, Dudley told Burns & Gambo on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.
“A little shocked because of the timing, not shocked of the result,” Dudley said of his former team’s GM firing. “How many losing seasons can you have? How many times can you have a top-five pick? If you don’t hit on these top-five picks over and over and over … the owner’s not going to fire himself so next one is general manager.
“As you see, what the comments of players have made in terms of the organization — I’ve always loved it — when it comes to Goran (Dragic), Isaiah (Thomas), the (Morris) twins and stuff like that. Your head is supposed to be the face of it. We had problems with structure there, we had problems with accountability.”
Those players showed displeasure before or after their times with the Suns. Two of them, Dragic and Markieff Morris, forced their way out of Phoenix, only to be responded to by McDonough publicly.
McDonough admitted on ESPN’s “The Jump” on Monday that he knows he could have done better. He called his firing by phone “frustrating” and said he thought he was close to upgrading the roster with a series of trades when his dismissal caught him off guard.
Now, the Suns are forced to move forward under interim general manager and vice president of basketball operations James Jones with an ill-fitting roster.
Dudley believes the pressure on guard Devin Booker to carry a heavy load of play-making and scoring isn’t ideal. The pieces around him are raw but talented, Dudley said.
“The question is, ‘How do you develop that talent?'” the Nets forward added.
Building player accountability will be placed on head coach Igor Kokoskov, who coached Dudley with the Suns from 2008-2013. Dudley knows the Suns coach has the Xs and Os chops to teach basketball to his players, but Kokoskov’s challenge will be pushing the right buttons and relating to such a young core group of players.
Maybe the bigger question is what happens in the front office.
Jones’ interim status comes with its own instability, especially since he’s only two years removed from the end of his playing career. Promoted assistant GM Trevor Bukstein will lend his salary cap knowledge having worked for the Suns since 2010, but the firing of assistant GM Pat Connelly and director of scouting Courtney Witte — in addition to McDonough — add to more questions than answers in the player evaluation department.
“It’s James Jones’ first year. Through experience, he’s a great player, he’s a great communicator,” Dudley said. “I mean, I thought his communication skills were phenomenal compared to Ryan McDonough last year. I can see why as a general manager, when you’re supposed to manage so many people, communication is huge. But it’s different now. You’re dealing with the cap, you’re dealing with trades, you’re dealing with agents, everyday personnel.
“The best thing for him and like (Sixers GM) Elton Brand, these new GMs, (is) that through experience, you would hope your assistant — it would help you out with someone who’s been in the game 30, 40 years.”
From Dudley’s perspective, his second stint in Phoenix didn’t go as well from the first. Not only were the playoffs out of the question, but his own success attempting to lead a young group alongside fellow veteran Tyson Chandler, who was bought out this week, was precarious.
“When you’re not run the right way, as a veteran, you try to help out,” Dudley said. “I can say for sure for me and Tyson, you can try to give your wisdom and have that. When accountability is not there, it’s tough because everything you’re trying to preach and what you’re trying to teach to these young kids is not held to this standard.”