The Suns have announced they're parting ways with general manager Lance Blanks. The move puts the future of interim coach Lindsey Hunter in doubt, since Blanks has been Hunter's primary ally in Phoenix, notes Marc Stein of ESPN.com (Twitter link). USA Today's Sam Amick tweets the same, adding that Blanks had a year left on his contract.
"Lance has been a trusted friend and colleague," said Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby, in a statement released by the team. "I thank him personally and professionally for his hard work on behalf of the Suns. We will continue to prepare for the offseason even as we look for his replacement."
Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News wrote in January that Blanks could be on shaky footing, along with Babby, who wound up getting a new two-year deal with the team earlier this month. It was in January that the Suns parted ways with coach Alvin Gentry, and around that time, Amick noticed Blanks seemed unsure about his future (Twitter link). Still, the timing of today's move comes as something of a surprise, since outgoing GMs often remain with their teams through the draft, as Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer points out, via Twitter.
Both Blanks and Babby came aboard in the summer of 2010. Without Amare Stoudemire, who left for the Knicks that offseason, the Suns went from a Western Conference finalist in 2010 to a mediocre team the next two seasons. Last summer, Phoenix sent Steve Nash to the Lakers in a sign-and-trade, and the Suns finished 25-57 this year, their worst winning percentage since their inaugural season of 1968/69.
The Suns vacancy is the first front-office position to come open so far this offseason. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports volunteers the name of Mark Warkentien, a Knicks executive and former Nuggets vice president of basketball operations, as a possible candidate (Twitter link).