Suns owner Mat Ishbia intent on doing ‘whatever it takes to win’ championship

Feb 16, 2024, 10:43 AM

Mat Ishbia looks on during a Phoenix Suns game...

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

(Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Another NBA trade deadline, another big swing for Phoenix Suns owner Mat Ishbia.

After landing superstar Kevin Durant last season, Ishbia went out and added an instant impact player in Royce O’Neale in addition to forward David Roddy.

But with those additions came added financial commitments for Ishbia. Per Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro, bringing on O’Neale and Roddy added another $20 million to the team’s salary and luxury tax payment.

It was just another day at the office for Ishbia, who remains intent on doing “whatever it takes to win” regardless of the dollar signs attached.

“I was a fan my whole life and still am a fan. No fan cares about the owner’s luxury tax bill, no one cares about the money I spend,” the owner told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Friday. “They care about winning. That’s all I care about, too. Whatever it takes to win. We say, ‘It takes what it takes’ here in Phoenix for the basketball teams in the Mercury and the Suns. That’s what we’re going to do. It takes what it takes to try to win a championship. We’re going to figure it out together.

“Bringing Royce in and David Roddy also … we find ways to get our team better,” Ishbia added. “We’re trying to compete at the highest level. The West is very tough. The NBA’s got a lot of great teams and we thought it was important at the deadline to get better.”

Don’t expect Ishbia’s mentality to change, either.

While he understands the Suns can’t realistically win a championship every year, that’s not going to stop him from putting the best possible product on the table.

“It’s not championship or bust, it’s championship. That’s what we’re trying to do,” Ishbia said. “We’re going to try to win a championship every year. You’re going to get to know me for a long time. I’m not going to sit here and say, ‘In five years, we’re going to plan to do this.’ Don’t get excited about my draft picks in five years, we’re going to try to win this year and we’re going to try to win next year.

“There’s not a guy in that locker room, there’s not a person on the staff of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury that doesn’t say, ‘We’re trying to win a championship right now and we’re going to do everything in our power to do it.’ Hoping they feel the owner’s doing that from (their) perspective, too.”

Ishbia didn’t stop on the court when it comes to opening his wallet.

Just this week, the owner announced plans for a new G League team after Phoenix did away with its old squad in 2020 under former owner Robert Sarver. The Suns are currently the only NBA team without a G League team.

As for Ishbia’s prized addition this deadline, O’Neale is already bringing a lot to the table in the owner’s eyes.

In three games played with Phoenix, O’Neale is averaging seven points, five rebounds, three assists and 2.3 steals across 21.7 minutes per contest.

On top of his on-court production, O’Neale is also bringing an added level of leadership to a team already focused on fostering the best culture possible.

And it starts from the top.

“I think culture in any business, whether it’s basketball, whether it’s mortgages, whether it’s radio, anything you’re doing you have to have culture and team and you have to care about one another,” Ishbia said. “We have three superstars everyone would say but they’re great guys. That goes all the way through the roster. … We’re building something different here in Phoenix.

“It starts with the players and coaches but also with the medical staff, the scouts, the administrative staff, everybody’s a part of the team and that’s what we’re about. … I think you’re starting to see it. I know KD talked a little bit about it. I know (Devin Booker) and a lot of the guys feel the same way.”

No justification needed when it comes to trading for Kevin Durant

It’s been just over a year since Durant joined forces with Booker in the desert, with Ishbia swinging for the fences fresh in his role as Suns owner.

Since then, he’s lived up to his impressive resume, especially this season.

Through 48 games played, Durant is averaging 28.2 points on 53.8% shooting and 44.3% from long range, 6.6 rebounds and 5.7 assists in 37 minutes per contest. He along with Booker are ninth and 10th, respectively, in NBA MVP odds, per FanDuel Sportsbook.

Still, Phoenix had to give up a pair of fan favorites in Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson (on top of some hefty draft capital).

Regardless of the price tag Ishbia would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

“Trading for Kevin Durant never needs any justification,” Ishbia said. “He’s one of the best players to ever play basketball. Obviously, we loved Mikal and Cam and we gave up some stuff, but it wasn’t even a close decision. It’s not close, never been close. Mikal and Cam were great players but that’s Kevin Durant. let’s make sure we all understand that.

“This guy’s a winner all around and he sets the tone with everybody else in a lot of ways. Having Kevin Durant changed the structure of this team in such a positive way. Pair him with homegrown star in Devin Booker — I think he’s one of the best players in the NBA as he stands right now at 27. It’s great to pair them together. Making the Kevin Durant trade, it wasn’t even a discussion, it wasn’t even close. Not even a thought on it. I’d do it 100 times out of 100.”

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