Bradley Beal Trade Thoughts: Isiah Thomas’ Subversive Suns Role, NBA Super Teams and Chris Paul

Chris Paul knew what he was doing. Don’t forget, folks: Chris Paul always knows what he’s doing.

So when the recently traded future Hall of Famer went to pull back the curtain on the Phoenix Suns’ new operation on Monday, he addressed Isiah Thomas’ (unofficial) role in the Bradley Beal trade during several interviews. On the book tour, you don’t have to start a league investigation to figure out what he might have been trying to accomplish. The 38-year-old is as intelligent and calculated as he has been on the floor in decades now, and this is no different.

“(Suns owner) Matt (Ishbia) and Isiah, I think, wanted to go in a different direction,” Paul, a former president of the National Basketball Players Association, said. The New York Times said He mentioned Thomas’ influence on three different occasions during an interview.

Paul has always been as smooth a political director as the association has been, and this was his way of letting the world know whose fingerprints were — and weren’t — all over this deal. The Suns’ front office president of basketball operations, James Jones, once served on the NBPA board of directors with Paul and was largely responsible (along with Paul) for the trade that brought him to town from Oklahoma. City in November 2020. According to Paul, they spoke earlier in the day and there was no mention of this trade coming anytime soon.

No, all this action stems from Ishbia, the 43-year-old businessman who bought the team for $4 billion in February and is on a superstar shopping spree. And more importantly, as Paul makes clear, it is Thomas.

But Paul’s choice to reveal the extent of Thomas’s true influence may make it difficult for Sun to avoid the uncomfortable questions that come with his involvement. Thomas, to review, is 17 years removed from the infamous Knicks scandal, in which then-Knicks executive Anucha Brown Sanders eventually got one. $11.6 million settlement From Madison Square Garden, where Thomas headed their front office, was sexually harassed.

His profile in the league is so high these days, thanks to his work as an on-air analyst for TNT and NBA TV, that he hasn’t worked in an NBA organization since leaving the Knicks in 2008. More than a year removed from their own toxic workplace scandal, former owner Robert Sarver was found guilty by the league of sexist and racist misconduct. This particular setup couldn’t be too bad for his NBA return.

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Suns Thomas denied reports of joining their front office in early February, but it’s no secret that the Hall of Famer-turned-broadcaster was Ishbia’s trusted advisor. Anyone who watched Thomas sit with Ishbia during the playoffs could say as much. In retrospect, Thomas’s public denial of involvement was a ploy to get around the whole thing. Unpleasant topics It was sure to follow. For better or worse, it’s long past time for Ishbia to acknowledge the role Thomas plays within her circle.

As for where Paul goes next, I’d be stunned if it’s not one of the LA teams, either via trade or if the Wizards decide to waive him. Not only is there significant interest from both the Clippers and Lakers (in varying degrees), but the fact that Ball is playing in the same city as his family for the first time in five years is a big deal. factor too. There isn’t a bad storyline between the two options: it’s Paul reuniting with the Clippers franchise, or Paul finally joining the Lakers organization, whose trade was vetoed by David Stern late in 2011 (presumably while playing with his close friend LeBron James for the first time, as well).

Go deeper

Chris Paul for the Clippers? Why LA is interested and how a trade could be made

The super team strategy lives on

So much for the Nuggets championship that marks the end of the super team era. It has never been so simple as teams always try different ways to get to the top of the league.

Still, seeing the Suns make the Beal move less than a week after Denver’s mostly homegrown center hoisted the Cup was a reminder that the path of patience isn’t for everyone. And certainly not Ishbia, who now owes the new core of Beal, Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton $719 million over the life of their respective contracts (plus massive luxury tax penalties when the new CBA takes effect).

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For the Nuggets’ purposes, their combination of elite talent (Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray), depth, consistency and the chemistry that comes with it should be a stark contrast to teams like the Suns. tissue. Any team can develop that critical element over time, but it’s always the missing ingredient in the early stages of this kind of loop testing.

As Denver approaches its first title in franchise history, I’ve talked about these two polar-opposite strategic approaches, whose perspective is as worthy as it gets: Nuggets guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

“It’s okay to have one or two of your (star players) on the team, but everybody else has to fit around them, guys,” Caldwell-Pope said, “and (fit) the system’s plan for the team.”

For those who forgot, Caldwell-Pope was a key member of the Lakers Westbrook deal. The Lakers’ impatient pursuit of a star would ultimately cost them dearly, and Caldwell-Pope will prove his worth again with the Nuggets after being sent to Denver along with Ish Smith last summer in exchange for Monte Morris and Will Barton.

In the interim, he’s been part of the Wizards’ scheme, helping provide Beal with role players who can put them back in the playoff picture.

“When (the Lakers trade) happened, I was a little hurt, no doubt about it,” Caldwell-Pope said. “But I had to go. I thought I was going to be (with the Lakers) for a while, especially after the championship. But it didn’t work out that way. I felt at the end of the day, business is business.

“I got a call from my good friend Brad (Beal, the day before the trade went down), asking me how I felt about playing with him. I’ve (known) him since we were 15 and one of the things we always talk about is playing with each other. And then the next morning it happened. “

Fast forward 22 months, the Wizards finished 12th in the East that 2021-22 campaign and 11th this past season, and now Beal is on the move. until the end.

Will Beal finally live up to his best basketball career?

By all accounts, Beal is as good a guy as you’ll find in the league. I never dealt with him on a consistent basis, but that was the perception of reporters, executives, coaches, teammates and so on. It feels like the basketball gods decided to see him get a real chance at this point — weeks before his 30th birthday and 11 seasons ago.

The unbelievable amount of money these star players make is a huge part of their NBA experience, and Beal certainly has a lot of it. But competition and legacy are still a big deal. Although he’s been to the playoffs five times — twice in the first round and three times in the second round — he’s never had an opportunity like this. The question now is which version of Peele are we going to see?

Although the health concerns of these past few seasons have been well established, it wasn’t long before he played in all 82 games in back-to-back campaigns (2017-18 and 2018-19) en route to his best scoring outputs. Averaging 30.5 points in 2019-20 (in 57 games during a Covid-shortened campaign) and 31.3 points (in 60 games) in 2020-21, he posted two. A player has averaged more than 30 points in 20 seasons since 2009-10..’s list of others is filled with players who are either the greatest of all time or who want to be: Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Westbrook, James Harden, Damian Lillard, LeBron, Joel Embiid, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Luka Doncic, Jayson Tatum and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. .

None of that will help the Suns figure out how to slow down Jokic, but they’re not alone on that front. Good luck to Ayden – if he’s still there – and whoever else they hire to handle that incredible job. But these all-or-nothing Suns will be more powerful than ever, and Ishbia decides to gamble (yet another).

With Isaiah’s help of course.

(Photo by Isiah Thomas and Sons owner Matt Ishbia: Christian Peterson/Getty Images)

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