Phoenix Suns Media Day 2023.You’ve read the quotes, you’ve watched the videos, you know what was said and how it was said. What might not have translated on the broadcast was the vibe in the building.
A season ago the Suns held their Media Day in what I believe was once Jackson’s on Third, a rustic brick building that once housed a jubilant bar located on the south side of the arena. I used to pregame there before the Suns’ playoff battles against the Lakers and soak my sorrows in defeats against the Spurs. In a cramped room that felt like a dentist’s office, player after player had to answer the same questions that James Jones and Monty Williams did about Robert Sarver and Jae Crowder.
I recall watching Deandre Ayton walk into the room with an infectious smile gleaming from his face. He then stoically turned towards the media, walked on stage, and proceeded to answer every question in a monotone manner.
There was no joy in that stuffy room and there was no excitement. The team had just come off winning a franchise record 64 games, and although the wounds were still fresh from a Game 7 blowout at the hand of the Dallas Mavericks, a team that had championship aspirations did not feel so in person.
Fast forward a year later. A new owner is in place and with it is the excitement of a team primed to set the league on fire. This season Media Day was held in the main concourse of the Footprint Center, with all of the bells and whistles that area provides. The Toms were there to interview players after they were interviewed and the experience was a seamless one.
There was a candid moment when I first walked in, seeing Mat Ishbia looking at the stage for the first time. A high boy was located at the center of the stage, draped with a black cloth, and a high chair behind it.
Ishbia noticed it, made a couple of subtle comments to those who surrounded him, and they went into action. A 6-foot table was instantly brought out, along with a logoed apron and a steamer. You can’t have any wrinkles when you are a championship contender.
The small moment was most likely not noticed by many and you may find not to be an event worth mentioning, especially here. I’m an operations gy and I understand what it takes to make a room presentable for meetings such as this, and witnessing this in real time impressed me. It was a microcosm of how Ishbia operates. He knows what he wants and he knows how to effectively communicate it to those around him.
Mat was the first to take the stage and, in true Ishbia fashion, his energy was cranked up to ten. He eagerly answered questions about the state of the Suns, the Deandre Ayton transaction, and what the season holds as well as how it will be consumed by local fans. It felt like a 180-degree turn from the energy put forth last season. There was a jubilancy in the room, and while the questions carried much less weight than a season ago most likely was the primary reason as to why, it was noticeable.
Following James Jones and Frank Vogel, Devin Booker walked into the space rocking some Chuck Taylors and donning the new association edition uniform. They look good. He looked good. A player in his prime, Booker seemed more light and engaging than just a season ago. He was reflective on the changes around him and how his approach this season will be. This wasn’t a funeral we were at, it was a celebration. A celebration of a new shoe that he is debuting. A celebration of the roster constructed around him. Him!
Player after player came out and you truly felt the transition Phoenix has operated. So many new faces, so many grateful for the opportunity to play alongside Booker, Durant, and Beal. So many excited to be in the national spotlight on a contending team.
Training camp begins tomorrow and the excitement must translate to the court. The Suns first preseason game is on Sunday against the Pistons. Will the good vibes carry over? Wins make everyone happy, and there were plenty of little wins today.