Connect with us

The Rundown w/T-Money

The Rundown v5.14.23 – Happy ‘Mother of All Scapegoats’ Day

It must be Mother’s Day … because I have been saying “mother” a lot as I read today’s NBA headlines …

I guess I should give a special shout out to actress Barbra Streisand, because that has usually been followed up by “Focker” or some variant, especially since hearing that the Phoenix Suns have fired head coach Monty Williams in the wake of the Suns’ being blotted out of the NBA Finals in 2021, losing by 33 in Game Seven of 2022’s Western Conference Semifinals to the Dallas Mavericks, and then losing by 25 at home in Game Six to the Denver Nuggets in this year’s Western Conference Semis.

I get it. That’s regression.

But how are you going to give up on a coach who had personnel essentially quitting on their team after inking a large contract extension that showed – despite their differences over the previous two years – that Williams was willing to be a part of the Suns’ loyalty to keep Deandre Ayton in the only state he’d ever played basketball in?

You want to talk about an individual regressing? In the Suns’ run to the NBA Finals, Ayton had his worst statistical season of the five in Phoenix, since he was drafted No. 1 by the Suns in the 2018 NBA Draft. He averaged 14.4 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in 2020-21. 

The rebounds went down and assists didn’t change in 2021-22, yet the team signed him to an extension out of loyalty, despite the fact that in the aforementioned Game Seven (2022) 364 days ago, Ayton scored five points, had four rebounds and two assists, and was sixth on his team, statistically, for the entire 2022 season. Jae Crowder had better numbers in 2022, and was forced to sit out, be away from the team for most of the year while Ayton got a contract extension of $132.929,128.

Hell, even Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson were playing better than Ayton … and they got traded to the Brooklyn Nets for Kevin Durant while Ayton remained a Phoenix Suns, which at least proved Sean Marks does his homework and reads the same analytics that I am, as he didn’t even entertain taking Ayton in the trade.

That’s Williams’ fault?

A former No. 1 pick! People in the 2018 NBA Draft that are playing better than Deandre Ayton?

Bridges, Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Jaren Jackson Jr., Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Lonnie Walker IV, teammates Landry Shamet and Josh Okogie, as well as second-round picks like Jalen Brunson and Gary Trent Jr.

On his own team, Jock Landale (6.6 points) and Bismack Biyombo (4.3 points) were getting bigger minutes over Ayton in the playoffs, because they brought the parts of the game to the table that Ayton wasn’t – hustle, effort, and heart.

Williams recognized that and substituted those two in and out of the lineup for Ayton, who rap icon Lil’ Wayne overheard Williams telling, “you f****** quit on us.”

Whether that was said or not, he did. Ayton did quit on the team – not just in this series, but on the team that selected him number one overall five years ago. 

Loyalty is obviously not a two way street with Deandre Ayton.

Ayton’s name doesn’t belong in the company of Anthony Davis, Derrick Rose, LeBron James, Yao Ming, Kenyon Martin, Elton Brand, Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, Glenn Robinson, Chris Webber, Shaquille O’Neal, Larry Johnson, Derrick Coleman, David Robinson, Brad Daugherty, Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon, Ralph Sampson, James Worthy, Mychal Thompson, David Thompson, Bill Walton, Bob Lanier, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, or Oscar Robertson.

Hell, I’d even take Andrew Wiggins, Kwame Brown, or Joe Barry Carroll over what Ayton (hasn’t) given the Phoenix Suns.

The entitled, lazy, cry baby millionaire “athlete” has won over one of the hardest working men in the NBA.

And it’s not just Williams.

  • Nick Nurse (who I hope the Suns consider) won a title as head coach of the Toronto Raptors in 2019 … and is out of a job.
  • Frank Vogel won a title as head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020 – a year where COVID-19 turned the world upside down … and is out of a job.
  • Mike Budenholzer (who I hope the Suns consider bringing home to his native Arizona) won a title over these Phoenix Suns in 2021 … and is out of a job.
  • By that pattern, is Steve Kerr next? He won the title last year, but his Golden State Warriors were just steamrolled by the Los Angeles Lakers. If he gets the axe, could the Suns bring back their former general manager as head coach?
  • Mike D’Antoni (former Suns coach) is out of a job after having the best record in the NBA in 2017-18 with the Houston Rockets. He does not currently have a coaching job.
  • Budenolzer had the best record in the NBA in 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2022-23. He does not currently have an NBA coaching job.
  • Quin Snyder had the best record in the NBA in 2020-21 with the Utah Jazz, and was fired. Snyder currently is the new head coach of the Atlanta Hawks.
  • Monty Williams had the best record in the NBA in 2021-22 and is now unemployed, but hopefully not for long.

You reap what you sow, NBA. This is why there’s so much parity.

Look at the Miami Heat, who have kept a former Portland Trailblazers ball boy as their head coach for 15 years and are now awaiting the Philadelphia 76ers-Boston Celtics outcome in the Eastern Conference Finals. As a play-in team. 

It’s why you can’t attract and keep good coaches. Hard to coach when you’re keeping one eye open over your shoulder. Eric Spoelstra and Kerr haven’t had ownership and management that treat them that way. Something Gregg Popovich has never had to worry about.

With Mat Ishbia’s competitive fire, I would have expected him to have given Williams at least until Christmas or All-Star to see what Williams could have done in a lineup without Ayton, with Devin Booker and Kevin Durant together.

Here’s hoping he realizes his mistake.

And while you can’t put the shit back in the horse, I hope Ishbia makes a move that makes the Suns back in the thick of a championship run … before he loses Booker and Durant, too.

Anything less would be the biggest “mother” of them all.



Tracy Graven is the Senior NBA Analyst for
He has written the NBA, done NBA Radio, and appeared as a guest for the last 21+ years for HoopsWorld, Swish Magazine, HoopsHype, the Coach Scott Fields Show,, and is also tackling the NFL, NCAA, and will be pinch-hitting on some Major League Baseball coverage for BackSportsPage.
He’s spent 21 years in locker rooms in Orlando, Boise (CBA, G League), San Antonio, Phoenix, Denver, Oklahoma City, and Atlanta. 

A corporate trainer by day, he currently resides in SEC Country near Knoxville, Tennessee.
Reach him on Twitter at @RealTMoneyMedia  

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Featured Articles

Featured Writers

More in The Rundown w/T-Money