Phoenix Suns’ Mat Ishbia represents new beginning, hopeful reprieve for franchise

Feb 8, 2023, 5:56 PM | Updated: 6:53 pm

A sports town is only as good as its owners. It’s a dicey proposition.

Mat Ishbia is our newest gatekeeper. He is impossibly young and full of energy. His debut press conference was almost frenetic, but in a good way. He is a 43-year-old fanboy living the dream.

His entire family joined him in Phoenix on Wednesday, including his ex-wife. A wise old Sun said the latter was proof of Ishbia’s ability to handle complicated relationships.

Mat’s older brother, Justin, also shared a funny story. As a young boy, Mat was so convinced he was going to make it to the NBA that he practiced shooting over an eight-foot impediment.

Guess what? He made it.

Ishbia assumes control at a pivotal time. The trade deadline is Thursday, and the timing is impossibly cruel: How does anyone properly assess the deficiencies of a Suns team that just welcomed back its starting lineup for the first time in months?

The last few days have also raised some red flags. There was the attempted acquisition of noted culture-killer Kyrie Irving and the report that the Suns had offered Chris Paul as trade bait. And most recently, there was the in-game TNT report that Ishbia was hiring Isiah Thomas for a prominent role in the front office.

Planet Orange convulsed on social media, a forceful display of outrage and disbelief. Everyone seemed to wonder how the new guy could be so tone deaf. After all, he was celebrated for the culture he built with his mortgage company back in Michigan. How could he be so blind to the problems Thomas might present to our culture, to a franchise that became available solely because of a toxic workplace environment?

Fortunately, the new regime knows where the fire extinguishers are located. But there’s clearly more to this story, and Ishbia two-stepped around the subject during his press conference, saying “there’s no role for Isiah at this time” and “There’s nothing happening right now.”

Here’s hoping Ishbia learns from his mulligan. At the very least, he now understands the potency of his new customers, a fan base that is passionate, traumatized, and living on the edge.

With the trade deadline fast approaching, it’s unclear what the Suns are pursuing. It’s unclear how James Jones feels about the entire process, or if the proposed peddling of Paul came from the outside. And at this point, maybe it’s best that the current roster remain intact until the offseason.

After all, Devin Booker just returned from a lengthy absence, Mikal Bridges is growing as a scorer, and a fire is suddenly crackling inside Deandre Ayton. Throw in the very public trade rumors surrounding Paul – the guy who once called most of the shots around here – and we might be watching a broken brotherhood of a basketball team uniting all over again. A team rallying together and raging against the machine. That would be something.

For now, it’s enough to celebrate a new beginning. Hopefully one of the greatest reprieves in Valley sports history.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 – 10 a.m. on Arizona Sports.

Dan Bickley

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns in the second half at Crypto.com Arena on March 22, 2023 in Los...
Dan Bickley

Suns crying foul hints at problems between their ears

The Suns have been tagged as a flopping, foul-hunting, fall-down-after-every-shot kind of team. You don’t think that comes with consequences?
4 days ago
Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams, left, reacts to referee CJ Washington (12) during the first...
Dan Bickley

Complaints about whistles by Suns distract from their real problems

The Suns have glaring holes that they are hoping Kevin Durant can fix. And it's hard to say they're working to patch those holes.
12 days ago
Kevin Durant #35 of the Phoenix Suns signs autographs before the game against the Chicago Bulls at ...
Dan Bickley

Feeling like Griswold: Suns fans left waiting for Kevin Durant’s home debut after scratch

Durant was a late scratch on Wednesday, a letdown for a sold-out crowd anticipating one of the most celebrated home debuts in Suns history.
18 days ago
Kevin Durant #35 of the Phoenix Suns signs autographs before the game against the Chicago Bulls at ...
Dan Bickley

Kevin Durant’s home debut for Suns will reignite Valley

When Kevin Durant takes the court Wednesday for his first home game in Phoenix, the atmosphere will be overwhelming.
20 days ago
Kevin Durant #35 of the Phoenix Suns warms up before a game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv F...
Dan Bickley

Phoenix Suns’ Kevin Durant can finish the job many before him could not

Barkley delivered the laughs. Nash started a revolution. Book and CP3 rekindled a love affair. Kevin Durant can finish the job.
26 days ago
New Arizona Cardinals head coach Jonathan Gannon answers a question from the media during a press c...
Dan Bickley

Cardinals’ new coaching staff is impossibly green by NFL standards

First-time head coach Jonathan Gannon is 40 years old. His first-time DC Nick Rallis is 29. Together, they are younger than Bruce Arians.
1 month ago
Phoenix Suns’ Mat Ishbia represents new beginning, hopeful reprieve for franchise