EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Bradley Beal, Grayson Allen speak for Suns as Frank Vogel’s job remains in question

Apr 29, 2024, 3:06 PM | Updated: 3:17 pm

The reasons for the Phoenix Suns’ failure in 2023-24 run the gamut. Minutes after being dispelled from the playoff picture in a sweep by the Minnesota Timberwolves, Suns stars Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, plus coach Frank Vogel, touched on a few of those.

A day after, Bradley Beal and Grayson Allen gave their parting words that unfurled more layers about the complex basketball dynamics that played a role in Phoenix’s failure to win a single playoff game.

“I’ll be damned huh?” Beal said to start his session with reporters, referencing his pre-Game 4 comments about never being swept before. “You see I’m trying to make light of the situation. It’s a (expletive) situation, excuse my language.”

The situation is this: head coach Frank Vogel’s job reportedly is on the line because of how far the Suns fell below expectations.

Vogel was at the Suns facility on Monday, a day that originally had been scheduled for president of basketball operations and general manager James Jones to address reporters.

Instead, the team allowed Beal and Allen to sit in front of the microphones and TV cameras. Phoenix moved back Jones’ availability to Wednesday, when owner Mat Ishbia will also speak.

Beal was forced to address the rumors of Vogel’s job security.

“I think Frank’s a good coach, I think Frank’s a great coach,” Beal said when asked about whether Vogel should keep his job. “I think he’s a proven, obviously, winner. That’s not really a question I like answering. I’m not responsible for coaches having jobs. Awesome guy and he’s a great coach. What that looks like (moving forward), it’s not up to me.”

In the past week, Beal has been seen arguing with Vogel on the sidelines and backhanding his coach’s high-five attempt — moments that might pass without second thought for a team that doesn’t appear to be in turmoil. Phoenix is not such a team.

The guard downplayed both incidents.

“I was just frustrated with fouls, I knew I was coming out,” Beal said Monday of his brush-off of Vogel from Sunday’s Game 4 loss. “I’m sorry if it does look bad … I was more frustrated with foul trouble.”

Beal said Monday he was trying to process his own experience, a miserable Game 4 that began with foul trouble and ended with six turnovers, just nine points and being on the bad end of an Anthony Edwards highlight dunk in crunch time.

But Beal’s and Allen’s comments about the roster structure continued to paint the complex picture of what is going with Phoenix behind the scenes.

When asked about one Devin Booker comment from the night prior — about the Suns’ Big Three and head coach needing better communication — Beal threw out several examples.

“Just talk more, being more vocal about what you like, don’t like, being opinionated about stuff,” he said.

It echoed the problems cited by anonymous sources in The Athletic’s story published Sunday that detailed internal fracturing among the Suns.

“We don’t communicate well on defense, so that can be part of communication,” Beal added. “In terms of coach, it’s kind of just how we’re playing, the flow of the games, putting (Booker) and (Kevin Durant) specifically in positions to score and succeed — and I think just talking it out. I don’t really know what he’s referencing, I can’t speak for Book.”

Beal also seemed to hint that the Big Three had room for a more natural point guard to exist with them. At the same time, he defended the Suns’ roster construction, pointing out many teams have non-traditional initiators.

Problem is, Phoenix struggled to initiate sets at all, and that wart showed most in a four-game series against Minnesota where ball pressure in the backcourt junked up the Suns’ rhythm.

“It was challenging. I was something I was willing to do and it’s what the team needed,” Beal said of playing point guard at times and shooting guard at others, before adding, “It’s not the most ideal thing. Again, it’s what the team needed and I was comfortable with it.”

Allen might challenge the thought of Phoenix bringing on a true point guard.

He did, after all, benefit most from the current setup.

Allen led the NBA in three-point shooting, earned a massive new contract by year’s end and was the most consistent player on the team for the full year until his ankle injury popped up twice against the Timberwolves.

Allen, who made a single basket in parts of two games, said his attempts to play in Games 3 and 4 led to more swelling and pain.

As for reflecting on the year as a whole, he segmented the Suns’ season into two parts: In the first half, injuries got in the way of cohesion. The second half, in Allen’s eyes, saw a relatively healthy team hunt wins, with no time to work through growing pains that would have helped the team improve.

“I felt like we were starting the season off and preseason like we saw some things where if we really work on this, this could be really good for our group. Then we go the first half of our season without our full five out there,” Allen said.

Added Beal: “We didn’t look at this thing as a one-year thing. We got time. You don’t want to use that as a cop-out. We have a window, yeah it’s a short window, but we have a window. We want to maximize it.”

Empire of the Suns

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