Suns owner Mat Ishbia downplays panic after sweep: ‘The house is not on fire’

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PHOENIX – Suns owner Mat Ishbia said Wednesday he has not had the opportunity to discuss coach Frank Vogel’s performance from this season. Over a 30-minute session with reporters, Ishbia did not even hint that the coach’s future was in jeopardy, only that he would be evaluated like everyone else.

“The way I look at it is, everyone is accountable,’’ said Ishbia, adding that he planned to talk with Vogel, general manager James Jones and players over the next few days.

On Sunday, the third-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves completed a four-game sweep of the sixth-seeded Suns, ending a season that began with championship aspirations. Although Game 4 was competitive until the final minutes, Minnesota controlled the series, beating Phoenix by an average of 15 points. Locally, some are referring to this as the most disappointing season in franchise history, which has sparked speculation on what should happen next.

Ishbia said he understood the frustration but the narrative that Phoenix’s “house is burning” is incorrect. He does not think the Suns are as far away as people might think.

“Ask the other 29 GMs — 26 of them would trade their whole team for our whole team and our draft picks and everything as is,” Ishbia said in a scheduled news conference. “The house is not on fire. We’re in great position. It’s not hard to fix. It’s not like we’re like, ‘Hey, we don’t have enough talent to win a championship.’ We have enough talent to win a championship. Do we have enough continuity? … There’s a lot of things we can look at. Do we have the right leadership in place?”

The Athletic reported Sunday that players had lost trust in Vogel and that they questioned the coaching staff’s ability to structure the offense and maximize the output of a lineup featuring top talents in Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal. In addition, sources briefed on the matter told The Athletic that Durant, even though he averaged 27.1 points, was not always happy with how he was used.

The Suns also struggled defensively — although they improved on that end as the season unfolded — and with turnovers. Leadership and accountability within the locker room also were issues. After Sunday’s elimination loss, Booker said Phoenix simply needed to do a better job with details such as offensive and defensive rebounding and securing “50-50” balls. Durant declined to list specifics because he did not want to sound like he was making excuses.

Ishbia hired Vogel last summer after Phoenix had lost to Dallas in the Western Conference semifinals. After the Suns traded for Beal, expectations rocketed in the Valley of the Sun. It was “championship or bust” from the start, but the Suns never found the chemistry or edge required to reach such heights. They had to rally in the final week just to stay out of the Play-In Tournament. In the first round, they were overmatched.

Ishbia said the Suns will learn from the experience and grow from it.

“We’re in a great position — not a good position — a great position,” Ishbia said. “We didn’t win an NBA championship so we’re going to figure out what we got to change, what we got to tweak, what we got to improve to be better to win a championship next year. And guess what? We might not win one next year, but we’re going to sure as hell try every single year. So get ready for that.”

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(Photo: Barry Gossage / NBAE via Getty Images)

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