Lance Blanks Rumors
“It was among the most difficult, if not the most difficult, decisions we’ve had to make since I’ve been here…” said Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby, who made the deal when Lance Blanks was general manager. “We made the right decision. I’m just disappointed it didn’t work out better for him. “He defined our culture. To be honest about it, when you assess a trade like that, we gave up intangibles that we’re still trying to replace.”
The Suns obviously disagree. They were willing to move the L.A. pick for the right player, and even offered it to the Bucks after Milwaukee turned down a direct Dragic-Knight swap, per several league sources. “Everybody loves the L.A. pick,” says Phoenix GM Ryan McDonough. “The concept of a pick is great, but it’s more of a sure thing to get a 23-year-old who is a borderline All-Star in the East.”
The Suns had a counselor/mentor dedicated to Beasley to travel with the staff and General Manager Lance Blanks went out of his way to have a peer friendship with Beasley, meeting often after practices with him to the point that they would even play-wrestle on the court. He held onto his starting position for 20 games until early December and even lost his rotation spot at times, even after the coaching change from Alvin Gentry to Lindsey Hunter. “Obviously, we’re disappointed he didn’t have more success here,” Babby said. “We went into the relationship with our eyes open and understood the calculated risks we were taking. Those risks turned out to work against us. There comes a point that the maintenance of our highest standards was paramount.”
New Suns general manager Ryan McDonough is said to be eager to move Beasley out as part of the ongoing reboot in Phoenix in the wake of last season’s 25-57 mark, followed by the offseason ouster of previous GM Lance Blanks.
Jeff Weltman, as has been reported, is the frontrunner to be the Phoenix Suns’ next GM, and one source said he was team president Lon Babby’s preference when he first joined the Suns but that owner Robert Sarver was eager to tap the San Antonio Spurs’ braintrust and therefore preferred the now-deposed Lance Blanks. The bigger question is, how much longer will Sarver be calling the shots? One source says the increased evaluation of franchises inspired by the Seattle-Sacramento fight over the Kings has Sarver wondering if it’s time to cash out.
A good number of executives felt Lance Blanks got a raw deal when he was fired as the Phoenix Suns’ GM earlier this week. Blanks, who comes out of the Spurs’ highly regarded front office tree, is respected around the league and several execs thought he became the Suns’ scapegoat. Blanks was indeed pushed out front on a few moves that weren’t his doing, sources said. While blamed on Blanks, sources say the heavily panned signing of Michael Beasley to a three-year, $18 million deal was president Lon Babby’s call. Blanks, having worked with the volatile Delonte West in Cleveland, warned Babby that paying Beasley that much guaranteed money would take away his incentive to work hard and change. But Babby didn’t listen and got a disappointing 10 points per game on 40 percent shooting out of Beasley. Blanks also had little to do with the firing of Alvin Gentry, sources said. Milwaukee assistant GM Jeff Weltman, a longtime league executive who has worked for Detroit, Denver and the Los Angeles Clippers, is widely regarded as the frontrunner to replace Blanks in Phoenix.
Blanks alienated staff by emphasizing that the Suns’ past, as the NBA’s fourth-winningest franchise, was lacking because they never had won a championship. He hailed this past season as the start of a new era and culture. As the roster had more of his imprint, Blanks was present more this season, particularly in trying to mentor Beasley for the first half of the season. Blanks came from successful franchises but he had never held this sort of responsibility. He still was not a classic general manager because Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver instituted a new format with Babby, a former agent, in control.
Blanks failed on the first two. As a personnel boss, he pushed the trade of Goran Dragic and a first-round pick to Houston for Aaron Brooks and prioritized Michael Beasley in free agency. His lottery draft choices of Markieff Morris and Kendall Marshall have been unconvincing. Blanks never became a respected figure, remaining largely unseen ever since his tenure began with the curious statement that he had not researched the Suns roster enough to comment on it.
Three weeks after landing his first general manager job, Lance Blanks was first heard and seen in Phoenix at a 2010 press conference that opened with a glowing introduction from Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby. “I don’t know how it could go any more positive,” Blanks said. “It’s probably downhill from here.” It was. A Western Conference finals team fell into non-playoff seasons of 40-42 and 33-33 before crashing this year to 27-55, the team’s worst record in 44 years. Amid the losing, Blanks did not inspire confidence or embrace the franchise. As a result, he was fired Monday with the Suns eating his seven-figure salary for the fourth contract year.