6:00am, day after Christmas.
I throw some clothes on in the dark.
The smell of cold, car seat is freezing.
The world is sleeping, I am numb.
The Phoenix Suns are a brick and we’re drowning slowly...
I can’t believe that we’re already at this point in the season. I can’t believe that we’re about to have the conversation that we’re about to have. But following another fourth-quarter collapse, this time at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks in a 128-114 loss, the Suns are lost. And when you are lost, you begin to search. Search for solutions. Search for change. Search for a way out.
I am not typically one to call for a coach’s head, at least not during the middle of the season. I don’t know of many instances in which that change has equated to long-term success for a team. Sure, you might get a slight bump off a quick high of having somebody new in charge, but that typically does not last. The key to success is stability. Changing your coach is the opposite of that, and the upheaval that it brings typically is not sustainable.
But here we are. The Suns look awful. God awful. And it isn’t one thing that needs to be fixed.
Are we sure Vogel is a defensive coach?— The Bright Side (@BrightSideSun) December 26, 2023
There have been 0 defensive adjustments. Luka running the same action over and over with the same result.
Make no mistake about it, the issues that they having are correctable. It is a drum I will continue to beat. Three-point shooting can improve as it did last night against the Mavericks. Offensive and defensive sets can improve, especially given the talent that exists on this team. Ball security can improve. It starts at the top, however.
With so many challenges and so many different areas, the question becomes, “Why?”.
Is it due to injuries? We’re over a third of the way through the season. I can’t accept that answer on a consistent basis anymore. Yes, $46.7 million in payroll has been injured for nearly the entire season in Brad Beal. But you can still adjust with what you have, not simply throw your hands up and say we can’t get it done. And adding Beal isn’t going to give the Suns the defensive acumen they are lacking.
Is it because of the 13 new players? Again, we’re a third of the way through the season. The meshing part of the season should be behind the team and the growing via execution phase is where the team should be living. But what do I know of timelines to success? I’m a Suns fan. We’ve never climbed that mountain.
Is it because of coaching? Both of the issues mentioned above have one thing in common: the failure of the coaching staff to properly adjust and motivate their team through them. If you’re looking to correct what is occurring, this is where it can be done.
Leaks are starting to flood the ship. Kevin Durant is reportedly unhappy and frustrated with the Suns and their roster. Eric Gordon kept it real and stated after a loss to the Sacramento Kings, “Early on in the season, it was better. Lately, I haven’t been getting hardly any touches.”
These are not signs of a team that has faith and the direction it is going. These are signs that the locker room foundation is beginning to crack.
Now we look at the history, albeit brief, of Suns owner Mat Ishbia. On his first day taking office, he pulled off the unthinkable. He traded for Kevin Durant, a 13-time All-Star. James Jones had initially refused to include Mikal Bridges in that trade, but Ishbia saw the opportunity, included Mikal, and made it happen. The Suns underperformed in the postseason and, despite taking the team to the 2021 NBA Finals and winning 64 games, parted ways with head coach Monty Williams.
I’m not saying these were the right or wrong moves, but I am noting that Ishbia is a man of action. He has showcased his ability to pull the trigger early and often. He is a “get stuff done” kind of guy. And right now the Suns aren’t getting stuff done.
So the question remains: how long is the leash for Frank Vogel and his coaching staff?
Like the roster itself, there isn’t a plethora of options that exist across the coaching landscape.
So hear me out…Mike…Budenholzer…— The Bright Side (@BrightSideSun) December 26, 2023
Here I am, a guy who typically doesn’t ask for the head of a head coach during a regular season. But I also don’t see very many solutions for this team and if changes to occur, it may have to start with the head coach.
Should it start with the players? Of course. But you’re not firing Kevin Durant or Devin Booker. You’re allowing your stars to figure it out on the court. But they need coaching support, especially from the veteran minimum players. They need to have a complete understanding of the offensive and defensive schemes, and if they are too complex, they need to be adjusted to the learning capability of the players who are executing them.
I don’t know if Vogel is doing that.
Add to the equation that Kevin Young is the highest-paid assistant coach in the NBA and is allegedly an offensive guru. The team has the 15th-best offensive rating in the league and plays with the 26th pace. It’s just not acceptable. It’s beginning to affect the play of your stars.
Kevin Durant took only 11 shots last night, and while he was willing to let his teammates cook, he appeared to be disengaged and lackadaisical with his effort. Lazy passes led to easy turnovers in the fourth quarter, which is the same old story for the 2023-24 Phoenix Suns.
At what point is a change made? At what point does the laziness stop? At what point do the Suns resume playing fun, enjoyable, winning basketball again? It might not be until the other side of Frank Vogel. He might be why we’re off the coast and headed nowhere.