Former Suns GM McDonough Talks Firing, Suns, Ariza

The Suns made a surprising move during the preseason, announcing just over a week before opening night that they had fired longtime general manager Ryan McDonough. Considering the team had given McDonough the entire offseason to execute his plan for the team, which involved drafting Deandre Ayton first overall, extending Devin Booker, hiring Igor Kokoskov, trading for Mikal Bridges, and signing Trevor Ariza, the timing was considered unusual.

Speaking to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols on The Jump (video link) this week, McDonough acknowledged that his dismissal was “unexpected” and that there were other times of year when he would have been more prepared for the possibility. The former Suns GM, who admitted that he was fired over the phone, also touched on a few other topics during his appearance on The Jump, so we’ll round up a few highlights…

On why he was surprised and a little frustrated by the timing of his ouster:

“I viewed the roster as not fully completed. We were working on a few trades to upgrade the team, and I guess I thought we had more time than I ended up having.”

On whether it was challenging to recruit free agents to Phoenix:

“Phoenix is a great place to live. It’s a great place to play. The team is super young, so I think that hurt us somewhat in terms of recruiting elite free agents in their prime. The two foundational pieces that we left there are 22 years old (Booker) and 20 (Ayton). I think free agents, especially veteran free agents like a LeBron James or LaMarcus Aldridge, look at it and say, ‘They’re a little ways away.’

“It is a challenge. There are unique challenges to every setup, every situation. The Suns have been a destination franchise in the past. I think, and hope, as Devin and Deandre and the rest of the young players improve, they will be again in the future.”

On his biggest regret from his time with the Suns:

“The biggest regret, I think, is how public some of the conflicts with the players became. I think the good organizations have historically handled that behind closed doors. And that’s not a shot at Phoenix — that’s more of a shot at me than anything. We could have done better internally, from ownership and the front office and our coaching staff in terms of communication with the players, and vice versa. If I do jump back in on the team side at some point, I’ll learn from that. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting over the last couple weeks, just thinking about how we can do better in that area going forward.”

On why the Suns used their cap room on Ariza instead of a point guard over the summer:

“We studied the final four teams in the league last year, and other than Cleveland with LeBron, if you look at Golden State, Houston, and Boston, they have a ton of interchangeable wing players. And a lot of times, they’ll have three or even four of them on the court at a time.

Ariza was an unrestricted free agent, he’s a West Coast guy, he had interest in coming to Phoenix, and we viewed his contract similar to how Philly viewed J.J. Redick‘s contract a year ago, where we can pay him a lot of money for one year [and] keep our future flexibility. … We thought Ariza would help us take a step from rebuilding to hopefully being playoff competitive. And then we could build from there, either with Ariza or with an elite free agent from the 2019 class.”

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