Charania: Suns fired Monty Williams with Booker, Durant in the loop
May 15, 2023, 9:24 AM | Updated: 10:19 am
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Mat Ishbia has flashed aggressiveness in his decision-making. In the three months since becoming the Phoenix Suns owner, he has grabbed the steering wheel to guide the franchise.
Ishbia was directly tied to the negotiations of the Kevin Durant trade in February and, also according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, made the decision to fire head coach Monty Williams “immediately after” Phoenix’s Game 6 blowout loss to the Denver Nuggets on Thursday.
Williams was not formally fired until Saturday. How much say did general manager and president of basketball operations James Jones have in the decision? Jones, after all, had hired Williams and hand-in-hand helped rebuild the franchise from a decade of struggle.
What about stars Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, the only two players who will assuredly be part of this team in 2023-24?
“I’m told unequivocally this was an organizational decision from owner Mat Ishbia down to management and on down,” The Athletic’s Shams Charania told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Monday. “I do believe … Durant, Booker, these are all guys that were all involved during the process.”
“That is my belief, that he was in the loop on it,” Charania added of Booker, who skipped media duties both after the Thursday game and in the locker room cleanouts on Friday.
Charania said the league-wide perception of Williams’ ouster was that of surprise.
Current Los Angeles Clippers coach Tyronn Lue is a top candidate, but it’s unclear if he wants to leave the Pacific Division rival or if the Clippers, who have their own committed owner and top-heavy roster, will let him head east. Former Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse is another top name on the coaching market after he was fired following this season.
Now, the Suns enter a coaching search that could directly impact how their roster is reshaped around Booker and Durant.
Chris Paul has a partially-guaranteed contract that could be expendable, most likely as a trade chip.
Deandre Ayton has three years left on his max deal, and his future might be tied to whether a new coach believes there’s more to squeeze out of the big man.
“This is a guy who does have significant value in the market,” Charania said of Ayton.
More change is coming for the Suns under Ishbia, who according to Wojnarowski, allowed Jones to deliver the news to Williams.
What isn’t on Charania’s radar, however, is a role for Isiah Thomas, the former NBA star and friend of Ishbia who brings baggage. He was involved in sexual harassment allegations at the workplace and poor basketball operations management of the New York Knicks in a tenure from 2003-08.
Thomas had attended multiple Suns playoff games this postseason.
“This is a guy in Isiah Thomas that is on the board of (directors of) Mat Ishbia’s mortgage company. … Clearly there’s a friendship, there’s a relationship, there’s a bond there — no question,” Charania said.
“As of right now, there’s no formal role for Isiah Thomas — at least on paper — and I have not gotten the sense there’s going to be one in the near future.”