Suns’ Frank Vogel talks Kevin Durant’s leadership, Bradley Beal’s injury status

Feb 21, 2024, 9:10 AM

Phoenix Suns coach Frank Vogel found himself in the middle of the basketball media narrative machine Wednesday when he joined Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta.

Kevin Durant’s lengthy interview for Boardroom where he addressed past criticisms of his leadership was published after TNT’s Charles Barkley added to the shots taken at the Suns star’s reputation on a telecast over NBA All-Star weekend.

So Vogel from his head coach seat got to answer questions about Durant’s leadership style, Bradley Beal’s injury status and the additions of Royce O’Neale and Thaddeus Young while joining Bickley & Marotta on Wednesday.

Frank Vogel defends Kevin Durant’s leadership style

So here’s the background: Barkley said on a TruTV alt-cast over the weekend that Durant was a “follower.”

“No disrespect to Kevin. Kevin’s a follower. He’s not a leader,” the former Sun said. “He’s proven that on all his stops. (Devin) Booker’s a hell of a player, also. I think he’s going to have to take the initiative and take this Suns team to the next level. Because, man, Kevin’s a hell of a player — I ain’t never going to say anything bad about him. But I said the same thing with Boston: one of your guys has to step forward, he has to step forward, and for me, for Phoenix to be successful, it has to be Booker.”

Vogel backed Durant by saying he “leads by example but he definitely speaks up when he needs to.

“Not every player is going to be a rah-rah type,” Vogel said. “You have to lead within your personality. I learned that as a coach a long time ago, that I can’t come in and try to be Rick Pitino as much as he got me into coaching. Our personalities are different.”

For what it’s worth, Durant preemptively responded to the Barkley comments on his Boardroom interview with business partner Rich Kleiman, who operates the media company with the NBA player.

“When guys like that say (things about Durant’s leadership), I just got to chalk it up to them being unaware of what goes on instead of wanting to push a narrative of myself … expose the truth about how great of a leader I am. I don’t feel it’s necessary,” Durant said.

“I’m not as charismatic as my peers. I don’t have a personality that’s like fit for TV like my peers …. you got to sell what you’re doing as well. I haven’t sold it enough. I don’t feel like I need to. I don’t feel like I need people to call me a leader but I don’t want people to say I’m not one, either.”

Bradley Beal should be good to go

Beal spent the last month-plus playing with a fractured nose that was reset over the All-Star break.

He also missed the final game before the long weekend due to a hamstring injury. Vogel expects Beal to be healthy enough to play Thursday against the Dallas Mavericks.

“Brad a procedure on his nose and hopefully that has been reset and is behind him,” Vogel said. “The hamstring is doing well and we got to see how he responds to yesterday’s work, we’ll have a practice later today in Dallas. … But we’re hoping to have him available.”

Getting ramped up for the stretch run

Phoenix officially signed Thaddeus Young to bring the roster to 14 regular contracts. He could very well give the Suns a solid plug-and-play option in the middle around Jusuf Nurkic, Drew Eubanks and Bol Bol.

“We wanted to make some improvements around the margins. Thaddeus, definitely with the depth at the center position or power forward position, he can play the 4 or 5,” Vogel said of adding Young and trade deadline pickup Royce O’Neale.

Vogel said he views the Suns’ Christmas blowout loss to Dallas the “embryo stage” of his stars figuring things out.

Since then, Phoenix is top-10 rated on both ends of the court.

“I think we’re close,” Vogel said. “We played some really good basketball (recently). I think we’re 19-7 since Christmas. I think if we can stay healthy, we have as good of a chance as anybody to win this thing.”

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Suns’ Frank Vogel talks Kevin Durant’s leadership, Bradley Beal’s injury status