Mat Ishbia’s five-month tenure as the new owner of the Phoenix Suns has produced a whirlwind of change.
Nobody seems completely safe — not even 12-time All-Star point guard Chris Paul — as the Michigan native continues his quest to deliver Phoenix its first NBA title.
The aggressive owner oversaw his latest big move Sunday, when the Suns put together the framework for a trade that would send Paul, Landry Shamet and other compensation to the Washington Wizards in exchange for three-time All-Star Bradley Beal.
Paul — making an appearance on ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’ on Monday morning to promote his new book — seemed just as shocked by the development as everyone else.
“I was surprised, too,” Paul said. “I found out on the plane, yesterday, flying here for this. In this league, anything can happen, so you just figure out what’s next.”
Paul told the New York Times that he learned about the trade via text from his 14-year-old son. He also said that he believed former Detroit Pistons point guard Isiah Thomas, who is friends with Ishbia, had a role in the deal. Ishbia has said that Thomas has no official role with the franchise.
“It’s just — it’s tough,” Paul said. “Seriously, it is part of the business, and what you realize is that no one owes you anything. No matter how you are with them or what you do, you realize that in this business, nobody owes you anything, as it should be.
“But when it comes through and my son texted me, I realize that, you know, Mat and Isiah, I guess, just wanted to go in a different direction.”
Paul came to the desert in 2020, bringing instant credibility to the Suns, who had languished near the bottom of the standings for the better part of a decade. The point guard formed a formidable backcourt with Devin Booker, and the Suns came agonizingly close to a championship, winning the first two games of the NBA Finals against the Milwaukee Bucks in 2021 before losing the next four.
The Suns were also good in the past two regular seasons, but suffered back-to-back embarrassing playoff exits on their home floor.
That was apparently enough for Ishbia to decide that wholesale changes needed to be made.
Ishbia — who took over control of the team from the embattled Robert Sarver in February — hasn’t been shy about making big moves, even before their latest playoff exit. The Suns added 13-time All-Star Kevin Durant in a blockbuster trade deadline deal that sent Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson and a bevy of first-round picks to the Brooklyn Nets.
The bold move failed to produce a championship, so Ishbia continued his overhaul.
The Suns recently fired coach Monty Williams, who was the NBA’s Coach of the Year in 2022, and brought in Frank Vogel, who led the Lakers to a title in the Florida bubble in 2020. Now the team is moving on from the 38-year-old Paul and bringing in Beal, who has averaged more than 22 points per game over his 11-year career.
More changes could be on the horizon.
The Suns now have a stellar nucleus of Booker, Durant, Beal and Deandre Ayton, but not much help around them. The foursome will make about $150 million next season and the Suns will have to be creative as they try to add quality role players.
Another option would be trading Ayton, the No. 1 overall pick in 2018 who has had five up-and-down seasons with the franchise.
There doesn’t seem to be a ton of obvious suitors for an Ayton deal, particularly after the 6-foot-11 center had an underwhelming performance in this year’s playoffs.
But with Ishbia helping pull the strings these days, nothing seems impossible. The former Michigan State walk-on basketball player — who was part of the Spartans’ championship team in 2000 — has made it clear no one in the organization is sacred as he pushes for a title.
“I want to think big,” Ishbia said back in February.
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