Larry Fitzgerald

Suns Notes: Williams, Booker, Paul, Sarver

Asked on Thursday night about the allegations of racism and misogyny leveled against Suns owner Robert Sarver, several of the team’s on-court leaders acknowledged the severity of those allegations while also stating that they’ll wait for more details to come out before jumping to any conclusions. As Tim Bontemps of ESPN relays, head coach Monty Williams and star guards Devin Booker and Chris Paul were among those who addressed the subject.

“As someone who is the caretaker of a program, I find all these things that are being said serious in nature,” Williams said, noting that the incidents described in the ESPN report occurred before he arrived in Phoenix. “It takes courage to come out and express yourself. But at the same time, I’m aware there are two sides to this equation. … We still have to wait to see how clear the facts can appear.

“… If any of that stuff happened while I was here, I wouldn’t be in this seat. The league is doing an investigation, and we’ll know more obviously once that is settled.”

[RELATED: NBA, WNBA To Launch Investigation Into Sarver’s Conduct]

Booker said that he hasn’t noticed any racist or misogynistic behavior from Sarver since joining the team in 2014, but he also disagreed with the team owner’s portrayal of former Suns head coach Earl Watson as an unreliable source. Watson was one of the individuals who went on the record with allegations against Sarver. Asked if he considered his former coach credible, Booker replied, “Earl? Yeah. That’s my guy.”

Watson, who is currently an assistant for the Raptors, issued a statement of his own on Thursday stating that he’s “not interested in engaging in an ongoing battle of fact” and that he doesn’t want to spend every day reliving what was a “traumatic experience” for him.

Here’s more on the Suns and the investigation into the Sarver allegations:

  • Paul and Booker said the team is trying to keep its focus on the court and to “control what we can control,” per Bontemps. Booker suggested that Williams is the “perfect person” to help the club navigate the situation. “He’s the best at that, at managing situations, controlling the room and keeping people focused forward,” Booker said of his coach, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. “That’s what he’s done with our team, we’ve talked about it as a team. You can feel everything he says. We’re sticking behind him and we’re going to keep playing hard for him and winning basketball games.”
  • The Suns continue to publish statements in support of Sarver on their official website. Today, they issued one signed by 12 members of the team’s ownership group, including longtime NFL star Larry Fitzgerald. “To a person, we dispute the characterization of Mr. Sarver and the organization as racist and sexist,” the statement reads. “We support Mr. Sarver’s leadership and stand with him.” It’s unclear exactly how many of the team’s minority shareholders didn’t sign the statement — Baxter Holmes’ ESPN report suggested the ownership group consists of approximately 20 members.
  • One of the team’s minority stakeholders, vice chairman Andy Kohlberg, issued a separate statement of his own in addition to signing the aforementioned letter. Kohlberg said he has been business partners with Sarver for more than 17 years and has “never seen nor heard Robert make any statements that I experienced as racist, sexist or misogynistic.”

Pacific Notes: Kings, Lakers, Saric, Suns

Appearing in their first game as members of the Kings on Wednesday, Kent Bazemore and Anthony Tolliver were part of the team’s sixth consecutive loss and 15th in the last 18 games. While Sacramento’s playoff chances appear to be slipping away, the two newcomers remain optimistic that they can help turn things around.

“Me and Kent both feel exactly the same way — it’s not unfixable,” Tolliver said this week upon joining the Kings, according to Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. “It’s not something where we feel, ‘Aw, crap, we’re just gonna have to ride it out.’ We really feel we have an opportunity to do something with the guys we have.”

The Kings are now 5.5 games back of the No. 8 seed in the West, but Bazemore isn’t convinced that deficit is insurmountable, as Anderson relays: “You win two or three games in a row, you finish strong going into the (All-Star) break and you have plenty of time to make up that slack. This league is about getting hot at the right time.”

Despite the disappointing stretch, the Kings have no changes planned for their coaching staff or management group, according to James Ham of NBC Sports California, who tweets that the club will need to work things out with the current group in place.

Let’s round up a few more items from around the Pacific…

  • Asked by ESPN’s Dave McMenamin (Twitter link) if the Lakers need one more piece to cement their place as a championship contender, LeBron James declined to lobby for an upgrade. We have enough right now,” he replied.
  • As a result of starting 41 games this season for the Suns, Dario Saric has met the starter criteria and will be eligible a slightly higher qualifying offer if the team makes him a restricted free agent this summer, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. A former 12th overall pick, Saric would have been in line for a $4.79MM QO, but it’ll now be worth $5.09MM, the equivalent of a QO for the ninth overall pick.
  • Suns head coach Monty Williams and star Devin Booker expressed enthusiasm about NFL receiver Larry Fitzgerald joining the club’s ownership group, as Brendon Kleen of writes. “The level of credibility of our franchise continues to go up,” Williams said. “When someone like Larry partners and pours his money into it, it says a lot about who we are and who we’re trying to be.”

Larry Fitzgerald Now Part Owner Of Suns

NFL star Larry Fitzgerald has purchased an undisclosed share of the Suns, according to Adrian Wojnarowski and Adam Schefter of ESPN.

A longtime receiver with the Arizona Cardinals, Fitzgerald has forged a strong working relationship with Suns managing partner Robert Sarver and has been serving as an ambassador for the team.

Fitzgerald was part of the interview process when the organization hired Jeff Bower as senior vice president of basketball operations in April. He also helped to canvass for a public arena vote, but he won’t become more active with the NBA team until he retires from football, according to the authors. Fitzgerald signed a one-year extension with the Cardinals last week.

He becomes the second prominent NFL player to invest in the NBA, joining Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who bought part of the Bucks in 2018.

Wojnarowski and Schefter point out that Fitzgerald is well respected in the Phoenix community and should bring more credibility to the Suns and to Sarver, who has frequently been a target of fan anger amidst a string of losing seasons. Fitzgerald does extensive charitable work and was selected as the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year in 2016.

“It’s an investment in something I have supported since I’ve been in Arizona,” Fitzgerald told Jim Trotter of “It gives me another connection in the community I love and always will live in. It’s a long-term commitment I wanted to make for life after football.”

Sarver and Fitzgerald have a friendship that dates back to 2005, a year after the wide receiver was drafted into the NFL, Trotter adds. Sarver brought up the idea of investing in the team two years ago when Fitzgerald was thinking of retiring.

“I had never really given it any thought before then,” Fitzgerald said. “I asked him to give me a little bit of time to think about it and wrap my mind around it. I thought it was a unique opportunity because I hadn’t heard of many other [athletes] doing it, but I wanted to really think about it because it’s a substantial capital commitment. It’s not something small.”