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Monty Williams to be fired? Changes in store for Phoenix Suns

Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams spoke with the media after they were blown out by the Dallas Mavericks at home in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals last season.

His words now seem to be more of a precursor of things to come than anything else.

“Game 7 was an anomaly. We let that get away from us as a team. That is all in the past. We’re going to look forward,” Williams told reporters.

Phoenix found itself down by 30 points at the half in front of its home crowd. Nothing was going right for the team against Luka Doncic and the Mavericks. In reality, the game was over after 24 minutes.

Fast forward nearly a full calendar year, and the Suns found themselves right back in the same situation against the Denver Nuggets on Thursday.

Phoenix was facing elimination in Game 6 of the conference semifinals. It needed a win to send the series back to Denver for Game 7 on Saturday.

What ended up happening was nearly a carbon copy of last season’s playoffs. Without starters Deandre Ayton and Chris Paul, the Phoenix Suns were run off the court inside Footprint Center by a Nuggets team that was playing on a completely different level than its counterpart.

The Nuggets went on a 17-0 run to end the first quarter up 18. They then outscored the Suns by 12 in the second quarter to take a 30-point lead into halftime. In the process, Phoenix found itself down by that 30-point margin at halftime for the second consecutive season in an elimination game. Fans in the desert literally booed their team off the court.

While the Suns showed a tad of fight to open the third quarter, this one was never really in question. The desert went completely quiet as it became clear these Suns were going to be blown out on their home court to end the playoffs for a second consecutive season.

The Suns can blame injuries to Paul and Ayton all they want. Would it have made a difference in a game that they yielded 81 first-half points? Were their absences a primary culprit in a unaggressive Kevin Durant attempting exactly zero three-point shots while turning the ball over in careless fashion? What about Nuggets wing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scoring 21 first-half points?

No. No to all of that.

Following Phoenix’ absolutely embarrassing 125-100 loss to Denver, it heads into the summer with way more questions than answers.

One of these questions will be Monty Williams’ job status as head coach. Because, as we learned with Mike Budenholzer’s firing in Milwaukee, NBA owners have short memories. Two consecutive blowout losses at home to conclude a season is not going to sit well. That’s simple math. The Suns’ season is over. It ended with a thud. In that, changes are in order.

Related: Sportsnaut’s NBA Playoff and Finals predictions

Phoenix Suns could very well fire Monty Williams

phoenix suns changes, monty williams fired?
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Williams is among the most-respected coaches in the NBA. He has that respect from current and former Suns players. He has that respect from opposing players and those in the media. It’s hard not to respect someone who was used as a scapegoat after his tenure with the New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans in the early-to mid 2010s before finally landing a gig in Phoenix.

With that said, new Phoenix Suns owner Mat Ishbia has no built-in relationship with Williams. He didn’t spend an NBA-record $4 billion for the organization late last year to witness what we saw Wednesday night.

“We’re going to win together, we’re going to lose together — as a team — and we’re going to be a family,” Phoenix Suns owner Mat Ishbia told employees after buying the team, via ESPN. “We’re going to take care of each other. We’re going to care about each other.”

Winning and losing is one thing. Being blown off your homecourt with you in attendance is a completely different thing. Seeing fans boo your product at the half before going completely quiet as things drew on is a completely different thing, too.

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Kevin Durant is not your typical star

NBA: Playoffs-Denver Nuggets at Phoenix Suns
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Let’s be clear here. Prior to the Brooklyn Nets trading Durant to Phoenix back in February, the two-time NBA Finals MVP had requested that the Nets fire head coach Steve Nash and general manager Sean Marks.

Nash was actually fired by Brooklyn months before Durant was traded. What does that have to do with Durant’s current situation in Phoenix? Much like other superstars around the league, he wants a say in coaching decisions. We’ve seen this with LeBron James over the course of a majority of his stops in the Association.

Durant had no built-in relationship with Williams prior to February’s trade. After a premature exit in the NBA Playoffs, an argument could be made that Durant looks at this iteration of the Suns in a similar fashion as what he saw in Brooklyn prior to initially requesting a trade last summer. At the very least, KD is a true wild card.

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Phoenix Suns don’t have much wriggle room to improve roster

NBA: Playoffs-Denver Nuggets at Phoenix Suns
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Speaking of Durant, Phoenix gave up the franchise for him in that trade back on February 9. That included yielding stud young wings Cameron Johnson and Mikal Bridges. The Suns also gave up four future first-round picks and a pick swap in the blockbuster.

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that this now limits assets for the Suns to improve their roster. In reality, the Suns don’t have a future first-round pick to entice other teams in trade talks.

The Suns have $116 million allocated to Durant, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton next season. A total of $15.8 million of Chris Paul’s salary is guaranteed for the 2023-24 campaign, too. With the NBA salary cap projected to be $134 million next season, this leaves Phoenix without any real ability to improve its depth behind Durant and Booker.

No one is giving up anything of substance for a 38-year-old Paul with major injury concerns. League-wide perception regarding Ayton as a cornerstone player can’t be seen as realistic.

In the end, Phoenix’ only real way to improve after a premature playoff exit could be to fire Monty Williams. Whether that would actually improve the team remains to be seen.

Such is the nature of the beast when you sell your future for an enigmatic veteran, only to get blown out at home for a second consecutive season in an elimination game. Ouch!

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