Mat Ishbia, the still-green owner of the Phoenix Suns, popped onto the Bill Simmons Podcast for about 20 minutes to talk about a myriad of topics. While the episode can be heard in its entirety here, I’ve whittled down the most current Suns-specific topics for your reading pleasure:
Simmons opened by saying he was surprised Ishbia didn’t look more “somber” and weighed down by Phoenix’s 0-2 start in the second round against the Denver Nuggets. Ishbia gave his squad a vote of confidence, saying:
“Hey you know, we’re working hard, I feel good about our team; we’re going home. Obviously Denver’s a great team. I feel good about our guys, I know coach Monty Williams and the whole team is ready to go Friday night. Hopefully we can bounce back and protect home court and win a game or two.”
He later talked more specifically about Nikola Jokic, calling him a “great basketball player” and saying “we’re down 2-0, but I believe in our guys and we’re coming back on Friday to hopefully compete at the highest level.”
On the reception of Ishbia following the aftermath of Robert Sarver:
“People have been very grateful to me, and I’m grateful to them that they’ve welcomed me to the Valley and the Phoenix area. You know, with the past ownership, a lot of things happened. I wasn’t there obviously, so I told the guys and gals at the company we’re going forward. We’re going forward with this vision. I laid out the vision so every person who works in the organization including the players [understands] here’s what we’re gonna go do and here’s how we’re gonna accomplish it, and we’re gonna work everyday to do it...
“I think people are very excited that I’m the new owner, I think they know I’m young, I have energy, I’m excited about it, I love basketball, I wanna win. Like I’m a fan more than I’m an owner, I’m much closer to the fans than I am to the owners, like I just want to win. So whatever it takes to win, we’re gonna do what it takes to win. And you can’t win every single year, you can’t win every game, but we’re gonna try.”
Simmons asked about Ishbia’s game and whether he’d step in for the occasional scrimmage a la Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Hornets. Ishbia joked that he’s not good enough to earn a 10-day contract but likened his game to your run-of-the-mill unathletic, heady point guards, accepting the TJ McConnell comp from Simmons.
Ishbia talked at length about the Suns teams he’s been familiar with over the years, like the 92-93 team that matched up in the Finals against a Chicago Bulls squad he wasn’t too fond of, growing up in Detroit a fan of the Bad Boy Pistons. He went onto speak about Steve Nash as well, saying he saw a bit of himself in Nash as a fellow point guard with vision.
When talking about current Suns golden child Devin Booker, Ishbia had an added vigor, connecting with Booker as Michigan natives, calling himself “naturally a huge fan.”
When it comes to the Kevin Durant trade, there was loads reported regarding Ishbia’s interest, but we never heard much about it from Ishbia himself, clarifying those reports here. While he wasn’t officially owner at the time of the initial reporting of the trade, but had “certain rights while the NBA was vetting”, like the ones to interact with James Jones and discuss trade terms with Brooklyn owner Joe Tsai.
Simmons asked Ishbia if there was any sort of “gulp moment” when looking at everything the Suns would have to give up to get Durant and Ishbia immediately said “no, not at all. It takes what it takes to win... you can either plan to win, or you can go try to win. I’m not planning to win, I’m gonna go try to win... we didn’t want to give up Mikal or Cam... but it’s Kevin Durant.” I’ll interject my own thought for a moment to say that latter sentiment was exactly mine as well at the time of the trade and it has been ever since.
“The reality is the best chance for us to win a championship this year is with Kevin Durant. And the best chance for us to win a championship next year is with Kevin Durant next to Devin Booker next to our guys... it’s not like Durant’s in his last year.”
Ishbia also talked about the recent news about Suns games coming to over-the-air broadcasts:
“Not being able to watch the basketball game in my city would be crazy, and so hearing about that, I don’t know what’s going on... some people think short term money is better than long term, I don’t focus on money at all honestly… never focused on it; [I] focus on winning, focus on doing it right. And so to me, I think it’s the obvious choice, it seems simple… three million households in Arizona are going to be watching the games. They’re gonna become huge Suns fans. Will that help your merchandise revenue and all that? Maybe! But if not, it’s still pretty cool that we have three million people watching Booker and Durant and our whole team...”
Simmons prodded about how Ishbia will measure success in that particular area, whether ratings or otherwise and Ishbia said it’s all about fan experience, saying that using money as your measurement for success will “drive you in the wrong direction in almost all parts of life... make success the goal.”
Finally, Ishbia talked a little bit about the Dan Gilbert situation after Gilbert abstained from voting in Ishbia, giving him a 29-0 final tally among owners instead of 30-0. I’ll let the clip speak for itself: