Storyline: Suns Front Office

25 rumors in this storyline

2 weeks ago via ESPN
Devin Booker was napping when an earthquake struck the Suns. At 1:44 p.m. Mountain Standard Time on Oct. 22, Eric Bledsoe sent his now-infamous tweet about wanting out of either Phoenix, or a hair salon — or, hell, maybe both. Sixty-eight minutes later, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news: The Suns had fired Earl Watson, their head coach. Booker was still sleeping. “I woke up,” he says, “to everything. It was crazy.”

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2 weeks ago via ESPN

Meanwhile, Ryan McDonough’s phone was buzzing constantly, as tends to happen when you are the general manager of a team embroiled in multiple and intertwined controversies. One notification alarmed him: a voicemail from Jeff Schwartz, the New York-based power agent who represents Tyson Chandler. “Given the way our season had started,” McDonough says, “it wouldn’t have been shocking if Tyson wanted to be moved.” Schwartz delivered the opposite message, the two recall: “Tyson is fine.” He likes Phoenix, Schwartz told McDonough, and enjoys mentoring the young Suns. “It was a breath of fresh air,” McDonough says.

Suns Managing General Partner Robert Sarver told azcentral sports Thursday that he has “zero interest” in selling the team. Sarver’s comment came in response to a note item in the Washington Post in which an NBA writer said, “There are already rumblings around the league that Robert Sarver, who bought the team from Jerry Colangelo for $401 million in 2004, is looking to cash out.” “There’s zero accuracy to that story,” Sarver said. “Zero. I have zero interest in selling.”

Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough admits that, in hindsight, he should have considered outside candidates before hiring Earl Watson as head coach. Watson replaced Jeff Hornacek in 2015-16, going 9-24 before the Suns removed the interim tag in April without conducting an interview process to consider other candidates. “As far as the procedure goes and the process goes, yes, I think we probably should have gone through a more extensive interview process,” McDonough said Wednesday on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Burns & Gambo show. “Some people said that at the time. Robert and I take and accept that criticism, and I think we’ll learn from that going forward.”

“It all starts with Sarver,” one of the people told B/R. That would be owner Robert Sarver, who bought the team for $404 million in 2004, just in time to have a front-row seat for the team’s most successful four-year run since the early 1990s, when Cotton Fitzsimmons and Paul Westphal led the team to seven straight 50-plus-win seasons, three Western Conference Finals and the 1993 NBA Finals against Michael Jordan’s Bulls. It’s been downhill ever since for Sarver.

My question is, why aren’t the Suns better? They have a decent team, they’re young, they’ve had a consistent team, no big moves, “deep” lineup, no major flaws. So why are they a 24-58 team? David Aldridge: The short answer to his question, though, is found in that firing. There isn’t anyone outside Phoenix’s management that thinks the Suns’ awful, awful start — 0 and 3 out of the gate, including 48- and 42-point shellackings by the Blazers and Clippers, respectively — is just Watson’s fault. Ownership, in the form of Robert Sarver, and management, in the form of GM Ryan McDonough, will be on their third head coach together since the improbable 48-34 season of 2013-14. They’re the ones that have traded Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas, and gave Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight $70 million extensions, and gave Tyson Chandler $52 million (yes, in pursuit of LaMarcus Aldridge, but gambles that don’t pay off aren’t celebrated), and have seen none of their Lottery picks look like budding superstars yet. And they’re the reason, I’m told, that Bledsoe wants out. Bledsoe’s “I Dont wanna be here” tweet, posted Sunday afternoon, just before news of Watson’s firing broke, was not directed at Watson, a source said. Yet another source that’s been around the team put more blame — 70 percent, the source said — on Watson.

“I think we will lean toward younger guys, with the mid-to-late 20s being the upper limit of what we’ll look at,” McDonough said. “Is there one guy out there who could be an exception to that? Maybe. But I think that will be the target of the initial process, somebody who fits with the timeline of our young core.” McDonough said the Suns also have internal options to replace Reed, who will be out four to six months after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.

James Jones working for Altman? — Matt Hey, Matt: There were considerations for Jones on the Cavs’ side in terms of a front-office role, as well as a discussion between the two sides in relation to what he wanted to do in retirement, a league source told cleveland.com. Jones ultimately wanted to be in Phoenix, where he is vice president of basketball operations, and where he played for two seasons early in his career. The source said Jones’ decision was not related to the tumult that’s surrounded the Cavs this offseason.

At 27, Bledsoe doesn’t fit into the Suns’ youth movement, or #timeline, as it’s been coined on social media. He said he “definitely feels” like an old man among his teammates. Then there was this response when asked what he thought of the Suns’ offseason: “We got Josh Jackson. James Jones (in the front office). But for the most part, I don’t care,” he said. “Whatever team we have at training I’m going to play my heart out for. I just control what I can control. Getting better every time I step onto the floor.”

So McDonough said the best route short term is through the draft, building a young foundation with Booker, Bender, Chriss, Ulis, and T.J. Warren along with veterans Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, and Chandler. “That’s certainly the most sustainable way to do it,” McDonough said. “If you can draft those guys and have them under control for four years on the rookie scale and then have a bunch of advantages in terms of contract extensions and full Bird rights, that really helps.

Sarver said McDonough “definitely” will remain GM of the team next season. In his third season as Suns GM, McDonough is running the basketball operations for the first time; Lon Babby moved from the role of president to part-time adviser last summer. Sarver has hailed McDonough’s talent evaluation and is excited about the future of his draft picks (Booker, Len, T.J. Warren and Archie Goodwin) in what he believes are key areas to NBA success: drafting and developing.
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