James Jones

Suns To Hire Josh Bartelstein As CEO

Pistons executive Josh Bartelstein will become the next CEO in Phoenix, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Sources tell Wojnarowski that new Suns owner Mat Ishbia targeted Bartelstein as someone he could work closely with to help rebuild the organization’s image after the scandals surrounding former owner Robert Sarver. Woj adds that Ishbia and Bartelstein will operate jointly to oversee both the business and basketball divisions of the team.

James Jones will retain his positions as president of basketball operations and general manager and will report directly to Ishbia, according to Wojnarowski’s sources.

Bartelstein will replace former CEO Jason Rowley, who was alleged by several team employees to have been part of the atmosphere of verbal abuse and intimidation that resulted in Sarver’s one-year suspension and led to his decision to sell the team.

The 33-year-old Bartelstein spent seven years in Detroit and was promoted to assistant general manager in September. Wojnarowski notes that he was involved in several high-profile projects during that time, including the Pistons’ move to a downtown arena.

Wojnarowski also points out that Bartelstein was a walk-on player in college, just like Ishbia, and served as a team captain at Michigan during the 2012/13 season. His father is Mark Bartelstein, CEO of Priority Sports and Entertainment and one of the NBA’s most powerful agents.

Suns Owner Ishbia: Durant Trade Involved “No Risk”

New Suns majority owner Mat Ishbia believes the Kevin Durant blockbuster deal wasn’t risky at all, he told Chris Mannis of Sports Illustrated.

Ishbia made a big splash and acquired of one of the league’s biggest stars right after being approved by the league’s owners to take control of the franchise.

“I don’t look at it like a risk at all. I know what the vision is,” he said. “I’m going to own this team for 50 years, so like zero [risk]. I don’t need to come in and win in the first year. But at the same time, there’s nothing in my life that I don’t want to win at. We’re going to try to win everything we do.”

The fact that Durant is in the first season of a four-year extension played into the decision to make the deal with the Nets. The Suns gave up Cameron Johnson, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder and several first-rounders in the deal, which turned into a four-team swap.

“It wasn’t a tough decision. We really didn’t want to give up some of the guys, because we love those guys,” Ishbia said. “They were winners and we didn’t want to give them up. But at the end of the day the right decision was, what do we do to maximize our team for today and for the next three to four years? This is going to be what the Phoenix Suns are about.”

Ishbia touched on a number of topics with Mannix:

  • Potential luxury tax penalties didn’t factor into the decision to make the trade. Ishbia is also unfazed by any future tax issues: “The financial piece was five seconds. They know I’m ready. That doesn’t bother me.”
  • Ishbia won’t meddle with GM James Jones and head coach Monty Williams in their jobs: “James will pick the best player. And that’s his job. I’m not calling Monty Williams to ask him why we played someone. That’s not my thing. I’ll watch the game like a fan and cheer the team on. That’s what my job is to do, is to be the biggest supporter, to give Monty Williams all the support he needs, to give James Jones all the support they need, to give the players all the support they need.”
  • Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert was the only owner who abstained from approving him as Phoenix’s owner. Gilbert and Ishbia both own major mortgage companies based in Michigan, but Ishbia says there’s no bad blood between them. “If I saw Dan today, we’d shake hands and say hello. We’re normal people. But we’re not giving each other advice and being friendly in the business side. I have no negativity towards him. He’s probably not one of the first owners I’ll call for advice on ticket sales or sponsorships, but I’m friendly to everybody. But I’m fine talking with him.”

Kevin Durant Trade Notes

The Suns were at the top of Kevin Durant‘s list of preferred destinations because of his close relationship with head coach Monty Williams, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic. Williams spent a year as associate head coach in Oklahoma City during Durant’s time there, and they worked together on Team USA as well.

Amick adds that credit for the early-morning mega-deal should also go to Phoenix president of basketball operations James Jones, whose image of team building was influenced by his time as a player in Miami when the Heat brought in LeBron James and Chris Bosh to team with Dwayne Wade. In 2019, Jones made the decision to hire Williams, whose connections to Chris Paul and now Durant have turned the Suns into an updated version of that Heat super-team.

Amick hears from sources that Durant spent the past few days seeking advice from confidants about the best path for his future in the wake of Kyrie Irving‘s trade to Dallas. Most league insiders believed he would wait for the offseason to seek an exit from Brooklyn, but the deal with Phoenix came together quickly late Wednesday night.

There’s more on the Durant trade:

  • Even before Durant made his request last summer, league insiders understood that he had a desire to go to Phoenix, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. The chance to play with a Hall of Fame point guard in Paul and another All-NBA player in Devin Booker was appealing, and Durant knew the Suns had enough draft assets and young talent to make a trade realistic. Sources tell Fischer that Durant didn’t give the Nets a list of preferred locations when he made his trade request last June, but there was an understanding that Phoenix was among the leaders.
  • Brooklyn issued several public denials through the media this week that Durant was being made available, but teams began to believe on Wednesday that the Nets might reconsider that stance, says Ian Begley of SNY (Video link). He states that several clubs had similar offers ready, including the Grizzlies and Pelicans, but Durant’s desire to be in Phoenix influenced Brooklyn’s decision.
  • The Nets had no intention of trading Durant when they agreed to send Irving to the Mavericks on Sunday, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN (video link). When Brooklyn obtained Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith from Dallas, they were intended to be pieces that could team with Durant and remain competitive in the Eastern Conference. The Nets’ front office spent Monday trying to move Finney-Smith and draft picks to improve the team even more, but things had changed by Tuesday. Windhorst said there was essentially a “one-team negotiation” with the Suns, and new owner Mat Ishbia was willing to offer a lot more than Robert Sarver did last summer.
  • The Durant news broke shortly before Irving addressed the media following his first game with the Mavericks, per Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News. Irving indicated there was a dysfunctional situation in Brooklyn and responded, “I’m just glad that he got out of there,” when he was asked about Durant. “I think this was in the works after year one,” Irving said. “I was unsure about whether or not I wanted to be in Brooklyn because of things that were happening behind the scenes. I just did my best to put my head down and work as hard as I could.”

Pacific Notes: DiVincenzo, Garvin, Crowder, Booker, Monk

Warriors guard Donte DiVincenzo says that the Bucks and Milwaukee will always hold a special place in his heart, Dalton Johnson of NBC Sports Bay Area writes. DiVincenzo won a championship with the Bucks two seasons ago before being traded to Sacramento in a deadline deal last season.

DiVincenzo, who signed a two-year contract with the Warriors as a free agent over the summer, is looking forward to tonight’s game at Milwaukee: “They opened the door to the NBA for me. I can play for every team in the NBA. No matter what, I’m still always going to have that special love for the organization, for that front office for giving me my first shot in the NBA. That goes with the fans as well.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Suns interim governor Sam Garvin is confident the front office will get a solid offer for Jae Crowder, who is sitting out while he awaits a trade.  “(GM James Jones and his staff have) had a lot of discussions with a lot of teams that are interested in Jae. As James said, there’s no magic wand of a timeline,” Garvin told Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic (subscription required). “It’s going to happen when it’s going to happen, but I think Jae is going to go somewhere and do well and I think we’re going to get value for Jae.” Garvin addresses other topics in the Q&A, including Jones’ extension and the team’s inability to sign Cameron Johnson to an extension.
  • Suns star guard Devin Booker will sit out for the second straight game on Tuesday due to left hamstring tightness, Rankin writes in a separate story. Booker also missed Phoenix’s overtime loss to New Orleans on Sunday. Booker has a history of hamstring issues, Rankin notes.
  • Malik Monk has a reputation of being a scorer but the Kings are also using him more as a play-maker, according to Spencer Davies of Basketball News. Monk is not only averaging a career-best 14.4 points per game but also 3.8 assists. His 2.9 APG with the Lakers last season represented a career high. “We’re just try to move it, move the defense as much as possible,” Monk said. “But they can’t help off me as much ’cause I can shoot. They can’t help off of (Domantas Sabonis) that much because he’s a big threat rolling. So whatever they do is going to be wrong, and I’ve just been making the right reads this year.” Monk signed a two-year, $19.4MM contract with Sacramento as a free agent.

Pacific Notes: Green, J. Jones, Lee, Sabonis, Kings

Draymond Green is on a potential expiring contract, so his NBA future beyond this season remains up in the air. However, he made it clear in a conversation with Marc J. Spears of Andscape that he doesn’t take his lengthy tenure with the Warriors for granted and appreciates that he has gotten to play alongside Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson since entering the league.

“It’s incredible when you look at the amount of guys who’ve played for only one team,” Green said. “You can look around the NBA right now. There are five guys that’s been on a team for 11 years-plus. We have three of them. It’s a very rare thing. There’s 470, 480 players in the NBA? There are five guys that’s been with his team for 11 years plus. That’s amazing. So, you don’t just give that away.”

Green went on to say that, while he recognizes the NBA is business, he’d “absolutely” be interested in spending the rest of his career in Golden State. The four-time All-Star, who has a player option for 2023/24, said he’d let agent Rich Paul handle his contract situation, but added that he’d like to play for four or five more seasons before calling it a career.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Having been promoted to president of basketball operations by the Suns, James Jones expects to step away from some of the day-to-day aspects of running the team and delegate more of those tasks as he focuses on bigger-picture goals, per Gerald Bourguet of GoPhnx.com. Jones said this week that there are no plans to hire a general manager to work under him in the front office hierarchy, but he also didn’t rule out that possibility down the road.
  • In a separate story for GoPhnx.com, Bourguet examines how offseason signee Damion Lee became such an important part of the Suns‘ second unit. Lee, who is making a career-best 49.4% of his three-point attempts so far this season, is only on a one-year contract, so he’ll return to the open market next summer.
  • Speaking to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports, Kings center Domantas Sabonis said that he and point guard De’Aaron Fox are on the same page on and off the court, with the two stars determined to snap Sacramento’s 16-year playoff drought. “Fox is unselfish, I’m unselfish. I love to play in the pick-and-roll, he loves to play in the pick-and-roll. We want to show people that we can win, and win consistently, apart from everything that goes on in the NBA,” Sabonis said. “I think that’s the most important thing, is to show that we can turn this franchise around.”
  • Returning to Sacramento for the first time since being traded from the Kings to the Pacers, Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield got wildly different receptions on Wednesday, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. Haliburton, who was caught off guard and upset when he was traded last season, received a standing ovation; Hield, who made it clear before being traded that he’d welcome a change of scenery, was met with boos. Hield was unfazed by the crowd’s reaction, as Dopirak relays. “I didn’t give a (expletive),” he said. “I go to sleep happy and I make a lot of money.”

Suns Promote James Jones To President Of Basketball Operations

The Suns have made general manager James Jones their new president of basketball operations along with his current title, the team announced in a press release.

Jones was named the Suns’ co-interim general manager alongside Trevor Bukstein in the fall of 2018 after joining the organization a year earlier as vice president of basketball operations. He became the lone, permanent GM in April 2019 and has held the position since then. In that time, he has taken a Phoenix team that was among the league’s worst and turned it into a perennial contender.

The Suns have captured two straight Pacific Division titles, posted franchise records with 64 wins and an 18-game winning streak and reached the NBA Finals. Jones received the Executive of the Year award in 2021.

“In the nearly 15 years I have known James, he has excelled in every role he performed, from player to NBPA Treasurer to his roles in our front office, most recently as general manager,” Suns interim governor Sam Garvin said in announcing the move. ” James has the unique ability to create and lead high-performing teams in basketball operations and his commitment to collaborating with our business side, including at the C-level with partners like PayPal and Verizon, is second to none.  We are fortunate for his contributions across the organization and this promotion recognizes his commitment to excellence.”

Jones moved into a front office role in 2017 when his playing career ended after 14 NBA seasons. He was hired by Phoenix about a month after playing in the NBA Finals and began working to transform the franchise.

One of his first moves after being named the permanent GM was hiring Monty Williams as head coach, replacing Igor Kokoskov after just one season. Following the team’s undefeated run in the NBA bubble in Orlando, Jones swung for the fences by sending four players and a draft pick to Oklahoma City to acquire Chris Paul. That move lifted the Suns into the NBA’s upper echelon.

“I am grateful for the privilege to work with and support the players, staff and employees of the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury,” Jones said. “The collective efforts of our business and basketball operations have allowed us to provide an amazing atmosphere and best-in-class experience for our fans and community.  I remain excited about and dedicated to driving success for our teams on and off the court.”

Suns Notes: Ayton, Sarver, Williams, Jones, Booker, Crowder

Suns center Deandre Ayton said that owner Robert Sarver’s suspension and $10MM fine was much deserved, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes.

“At the end of the day, the actions are unacceptable,” Ayton said. “My thoughts go out to all the people that were affected by his actions.”

Coach Monty Williams and GM James Jones said they were blindsided when the investigation revealed the depth of Sarver’s actions within the organization, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

“I was in disbelief,” Williams said. “When you see the bullet points and then when you go through it, um, you start to think about how these things impact the people.”

“I would say just a state of shock,” Jones added. “You don’t want that around the organization. You don’t want that to be the issue.”

We have more on the Suns:

  • Devin Booker is happy that the Suns matched the Pacers’ offer sheet for Ayton, he told Rankin. “I’m excited for him,” Booker said. “That’s a weight lifted off his shoulders. You understand that this isn’t just basketball. It comes down to business at some point. The only way you can learn and understand those situations is if you’re in them. I think he learned a lot.”
  • Jae Crowder will sit out camp as the team seeks a trade for the veteran forward. Jones said the situation is a “difficult” one, Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports tweets. “It’s a team thing for us,” he said. “This is a difficult situation to navigate.”
  • Where will Crowder wind up? Yossi Gozlan of HoopsHype tackles that subject and believes the Cavaliers, Sixers and Hornets top the list of potential suitors.
  • The fact that Sarver announced the franchise is up for sale doesn’t mean that the issues uncovered during the investigation and the backlash the league experienced after revealing its punishment have been erased, Windhorst opines.

Suns’ James Jones Talks Ayton, Luxury Tax, Draft

Addressing reporters in his end-of-season press conference on Wednesday, Suns general manager James Jones didn’t make any guarantees about whether center Deandre Ayton will remain with the team long-term, but suggested that the club wants to bring back its top restricted free agent.

“As far as free agency and those things, we’ll address them at the proper time,” Jones said, per Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. “That happens in July, end of June, but we want to continue to keep our consistency and continuity and keep the guys that we have and continue to help those guys improve upon the things that we did this year.”

Asked during an appearance on the Burns & Gambo show on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM about the Ayton situation, Jones conveyed a similar sentiment, stressing that the 23-year-old has been an important part of Phoenix’s recent success, as Jake Anderson of ArizonaSports.com relays.

“Deandre had an amazing season and he’s progressed every year and improved every year he’s been here, and so he’s a big part of what we do,” Jones said. “His future with us is something we’ll address at the proper time, which is in the future. He’s a free agent and I’ve said all along, he’s about the same things we’re about, which is winning. We’ll address it at the proper time.”

Here’s more from Jones on the Suns:

  • Although the season didn’t end the way the team wanted it to, Jones said it “was not a disappointment” on the whole and that the early playoff exit won’t change the way the front office operates or result in any major overhauls. “I’m not going to change my approach to team building, which is to create and construct a team that has a ton of depth, a ton of skill and great chemistry,” Jones said, according to Rankin. “We just need to be better and I think after a summer where our guys improve, we will be.”
  • Asked about potentially lucrative new contract extensions for Devin Booker and Cameron Johnson, Jones acknowledged that payroll increases are part of the territory for a team that has as much talent as the Suns do. “We’re focused on improving the team and those guys, they deserve the credit. They deserve the accolades and the financial rewards that come with being good players and productive players,” Jones said. “It doesn’t preclude us from doing anything. We’re not talking about a luxury tax issues or avoiding those things. That’s not something that’s going to prevent us from continuing to build this team and keep this team together.”
  • The Suns don’t have any 2022 draft picks, but Jones said, “If there’s an opportunity to get back into the draft, we will,” according to Rankin. Acquiring a late draft pick could be appealing to the Suns since rookie second-rounders have the lowest possible luxury-tax hit — they’re penalized at a lower rate than an undrafted rookie with the same salary.
  • The investigation into Suns owner Robert Sarver seems likely to be completed before next season, but Jones isn’t focused on that outcome, as Rankin relays. “It doesn’t change what we’re doing on the basketball operations,” the GM said. “Our job as execs and coaches and players is to assemble, build and lead a team to accomplish a goal of winning basketball games. That part of the job doesn’t change.”

Suns Notes: Jones, Ayton, Sarver Investigation, Booker

Suns GM James Jones received a multiyear extension this week and the team’s head coach and players voiced their approval, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic reports.

“I’m so happy for him, he deserves it,” said Chris Paul, who served on the NBPA’s executive committee with Jones when the GM was a player. “I’ve got a different relationship than everybody else because I know him personally. Been through labor negotiations with him. James is like part of my family. I think he deserves it, I’m happy for him and he should be in this league a long time for whatever executive position he wants.”

“I’m happy for him,” coach Monty Williams said. “Anytime you can hang around as long as he has, that’s a huge accomplishment. He’s earned it for sure.”

We have more on the Suns:

  • Deandre Ayton is expected to return to action against San Antonio on Sunday barring any setbacks, 98.7 FM radio talk show host John Gambadoro tweets. Ayton hasn’t played since Jan. 16 due to an ankle injury suffered against Detroit. He’ll be a restricted free agent after the season.
  • With the league investigation into owner Robert Sarver’s behavior still ongoing, the team is seeking to create a confidential internal hotline for employees to file complaints, Baxter Holmes of ESPN writes. The internal hotline is being created because employees haven’t been using the NBA hotline for fear of being revealed as a source.
  • Devin Booker ranked fifth in the latest All-Star fan voting results among Western Conference guards and Williams calls it “laughable,” Rankin relays in a separate story. “I kind of laugh at the voting numbers when I see it at the bottom of the ticker and so many guys are getting so many more votes than him,” Williams said. “It’s laughable. When you look at what he’s done, not just of late, but all season long and the wins we have, he should be a starter on the All-Star team.”

Suns Sign GM James Jones To Contract Extension

The Suns have signed general manager James Jones to a contract extension, he confirmed to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. Terms of Jones’ new contract aren’t known — Spears described it only as a multiyear deal.

Jones initially became the Suns’ interim co-GM – alongside Trevor Bukstein – following Ryan McDonough‘s dismissal in 2018. He was given sole control of the position on a permanent basis in 2019, just two years after his retirement as a player. Since then, Jones has presided over one of the NBA’s most drastic turnarounds.

The Suns had a 19-63 record in 2018/19, but went 34-39 and then 51-21 in the league’s two COVID-shortened seasons, earning a spot in the NBA Finals in 2021 — and earning Jones an Executive of the Year award. Although they lost in six games to Milwaukee, the Suns appear well-positioned to make another run at a title this season. They currently own a league-best 37-9 record.

Several of the most important players in the Suns’ lineup – including Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, and Mikal Bridges – were acquired by the previous front office regime. However, Jones has made a handful of key moves since taking the reins, including hiring Monty Williams as the club’s head coach.

Jones was also responsible for the 2020 trade that sent Chris Paul to the Suns, as well as the team’s signings of free agents like Cameron Payne and Jae Crowder. One of his first roster moves in 2019 was trading No. 6 overall pick Jarrett Culver to Minnesota for Dario Saric and No. 11 pick Cameron Johnson. The selection of Johnson was viewed by draft experts at the time as a reach, but both he and Saric became regular rotation players in Phoenix, while Culver lasted just two seasons with the Wolves.

Suns owner Robert Sarver is still under investigation following allegations that he created a toxic and hostile workplace. Jones, who suggested in the fall that he hadn’t witnessed the abusive behavior described in ESPN’s report, told Spears that the investigation into Sarver “didn’t give me pause” in accepting the extension offer from the team.