PHOENIX SUNS

Charles Barkley: Suns’ season ‘100%’ on players; ignore the Devin Booker-to-Knicks rumor

Apr 30, 2024, 8:35 AM | Updated: 8:38 am

It’s time to play the blame game. As the Phoenix Suns enter the postseason, the possibility of firing coach Frank Vogel and the chances of shaking up the roster despite heavy salary-cap restrictions will be explored.

But if the process of discussing change begins with assigning blame, former Suns star Charles Barkley made one thing clear about a 2023-24 season that ended Sunday at the hands of a sweep by the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“It’s 100% on the players. Guys, on any team, the coach is really, really important. But at some point, the players have to take ownership, leadership of the team,” Barkley told Arizona Sports’ Bickley & Marotta on Tuesday.

“If y’all fire Frank Vogel, it’ll be a disgrace and a travesty. It kind of reminds me of exactly what happened with the Lakers. He was a great enough coach to win a championship and then they put that weak, awful lineup together and they fired him and traded (Russell) Westbrook. The Suns, they never solved the point guard situation. It’s so stupid how this thing is. We’ve been talking about almost a year: The Suns need a point guard. … They never addressed it.”

Barkley said that roster moves should be considered and “everything’s on the table.”

In February before the trade deadline, Barkley told Bickley & Marotta that Phoenix not only needed a point guard but a backup big man.

“They have a really difficult time because Beal and Booker aren’t really point guards,” Barkley said then. “When they get into the playoffs, other teams are going to make them take the ball up and down the court and use up the shot clock so they’ll get into offense late, and then they’ll be rushing.”

He added that the Suns needed an energy big who had some shooting chops.

Those two points proved prescient.

The Timberwolves in their first- round sweep deployed fullcourt pressure to bog down the offense before the Suns could cross halfcourt, making Devin Booker and Bradley Beal work in the process. Minnesota also played Phoenix center Jusuf Nurkic off the court, and by Game 4, Vogel turned away from backup Drew Eubanks in favor of smaller lineups.

“They’ve got to do something. This team cannot run it back,” Barkley said. “Now I hope they don’t trade Booker. He’s one of my favorite Suns. Everything else is on the table. You never know what you might get for KD or Beal, but everything is on the table. You just never know.”

Why not to worry about Stephen A. Smith’s rumor of Devin Booker wanting to be a Knick

First Take’s Stephen A. Smith got people in New York and possibly Phoenix riled up on Monday.

After Phoenix’s playoff exit, Smith loosely said that Booker wants to be a New York Knick. It came with hedging: That Smith doesn’t know if it would ever happen, that it didn’t come from Booker himself and that it was simply “scuttlebutt” in league circles.

“Devin Booker wants to be in New York. That’s what I’m being told,” Smith said. “Now, he might deny it, I haven’t spoken to him. I’m just telling you, the scuttlebutt in the NBA circles, brother wants to be in New York.”

Barkley brought this context to make Suns fans feel better.

“Stephen A. thinks everybody wants to go to New York,” Barkley said. “Last few years, it’s been Donovan Mitchell. Last time … KD was a free agent it was New York. Stephen A is a friend of mine, and I love Stephen A, but he wants everyone in New York. He’s not going to die happy until the Knicks win a championship. … You can skip that (rumor).”

Barkley is going off memory, but Awful Announcing‘s Brandon Contes went back to look at Smith’s receipts.

Booker now joins a list that includes LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Donovan Mitchell, Damian Lillard, Joel Embiid, Jayson TatumZion Williamson, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and others who saw their name linked to the Knicks by Smith on various levels.

None of those players have yet to play for the Knicks.

More KD criticism

Barkley and Durant have had their back-and-forths over different mediums — Barkley on TV and radio, and Durant over social media.

That did not cease when Barkley joined Bickley & Marotta on Tuesday.

The former Suns star was asked about the current Phoenix team lacking joy in their public disposition.

“It’s pretty evident now KD’s never going to be happy,” Barkley said. “He has to answer that question. He owned an entire city and entire state. That (Oklahoma City) fanbase loved him more than anything. He wasn’t happy there, he goes to the Warriors, he wins back-to-back championships basically and he’s still not happy.

“He goes to Brooklyn, follows Kyrie (Irving), and then he wasn’t happy. He forced his way out of there, and then he goes to Phoenix … he’s just never going to be happy. It’s just sad and unfortunate. … Like, damn dude, you ain’t never happy?”

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Charles Barkley: Suns’ season ‘100%’ on players; ignore the Devin Booker-to-Knicks rumor