Jason Rowley

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 Executive Jason Rowley Resigns From Position

Suns president and CEO Jason Rowley has resigned from his position with the franchise, sources tell Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

Rowley had been with the Suns since 2007 and has been the team’s president since 2012. He came under scrutiny following the publication of an ESPN report detailing team owner Robert Sarver‘s history of workplace misconduct in Phoenix.

ESPN’s reporting indicated that other high-level team executives, including Rowley, had also treated employees poorly and engaged in acts of retaliation and intimidation.

Despite those allegations, Rowley reportedly told Suns employees in January that he had no intention of resigning from his role. He issued a statement to ESPN saying that the outlet’s reporting “misrepresented me and others,” adding that he would “never quit on this team and the people who make up this great organization.”

Less than a month later, he has resigned, according to Holmes, though it’s fair to question how voluntary the decision was.

Sarver has sold the Suns to Mat Ishbia and the new owner is expected to formally take control of the franchise this week, so it seems likely that there will be turnover in the upper ranks of the organization – though not necessarily among basketball operations executives – in the near future as Ishbia puts his stamp on the team and looks to distance himself from the Sarver era.

Suns Notes: Rowley, Ayton, Washington Jr., McDaniels

Suns president and CEO Jason Rowley has no intention of resigning despite an ESPN story last month that alleged Rowley was among the Suns executives who mistreated employees, according to ESPN’s Baxter Holmes.

Rowley told a group of team employees that the story, which placed him at the center of allegations of verbal abuse, retaliation and intimidation in the workplace, misrepresented him.

A statement released by the team on Tuesday and attributed to Rowley read: “I will say this in regards to the closed-door meeting. I confided in them that the story misrepresented me and others. Also, given that the team is going through a period of ownership transition, I communicated that while I do not know my ultimate fate with new ownership, I will never quit on this team and the people who make up this great organization.”

We have more on the Suns:

  • Deandre Ayton missed Tuesday’s game against the Warriors after re-injuring his left ankle in Sunday’s loss against Cleveland, according to Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. Ayton had already missed four games with a left ankle sprain and will likely remain out for Wednesday’s game at Denver.
  • Two-way guard Duane Washington Jr. has been one of the key replacements for the Suns’ injury-ravaged unit, Gerald Bourguet of GoPhnx.com notes. He scored 25 points against the Cavs but also committed some crucial turnovers. “With where we are, he’s doing a good job,” coach Monty Williams said. “There are times where he gets himself in a little bit of trouble deep in the paint. He had a couple of turnovers that he could have avoided, but I don’t want him playing fearful or worrying about making mistakes, even though you want him to have some balance.”
  • The Suns haven’t had discussions with the Hornets regarding forward Jalen McDaniels, John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Phoenix tweets. The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that Phoenix had interest in McDaniels, but didn’t say the Suns had actually held trade talks with Charlotte about him.

Pacific Notes: Sabonis, Kings, Suns, Booker, Beverley

Before Kings center Domantas Sabonis racked up 28 points, 23 rebounds, and seven assists in Sunday’s loss to Charlotte, head coach Mike Brown said there’s “no question” that the big man should be an All-Star this season, according to Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. Sunday’s performance increased Sabonis’ season-long averages to 18.0 PPG, 12.0 RPG, and 6.4 APG. He’s also shooting a career-best 62.7% from the floor.

“If you don’t vote for him to be an All-Star, in my opinion, you don’t know basketball because what he’s doing, it’s almost on a historic level, and I’m not just talking about his ability to score or his ability to pass,” Brown said.

As impressive as Sabonis has been, the Kings are still seeking a reliable backup at the center position. The team began the season with Richaun Holmes playing that role, then turned to Chimezie Metu. On Sunday, two-way player Neemias Queta got a look, playing seven minutes in just his second appearance of the season. Brown said on Sunday that Holmes and Queta will get more opportunities, per Anderson, and that he expects to continue experimenting until he finds a reliable option in that spot.

“I can’t run Domas 40 minutes every night,” Brown said, according to Chris Biderman of The Sacramento Bee. “So I need to find a guy in that spot who’s going to defend, run the floor, spell Domas for six, eight minutes a half, and play as hard as he as can while following the game plan. Not fouling, boxing out, doing all the little things that need to keep that group solid for those six to eight minutes. We’ve found it in spurts. But I want to get to a point where it can be a little bit more consistent, so I’m going to keep searching until I feel like that person is there.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Although Suns owner Robert Sarver was suspended and fined by the NBA and is now planning to sell the team, a number of current and former Suns employees are still wondering whether other executives who contributed to creating a toxic workplace will face any punishment, reports Baxter Holmes of ESPN. CEO Jason Rowley is among those accused of mistreating staffers. As Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports tweets, the club put out a statement claiming that there are “factual inaccuracies” in Holmes’ report and that the franchise’s leaders have taken accountability for the allegations found to have merit.
  • Suns head coach Monty Williams blamed himself for the groin injury that sidelined Devin Booker on Monday. “Let’s be straight, I played him way too many minutes,” Williams said (Twitter link via Bourguet). “I can’t look at anybody else when I put players in harm’s way.”
  • Suns point guard Chris Paul brushed off a taunt from Lakers guard Patrick Beverley on Monday, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Beverley made a “too small” gesture when he converted an and-one against CP3 that cut L.A.’s deficit from 26 points to 23. “You can’t pay attention to that stuff,” Paul said. “That ain’t new. He ain’t come up with it. But just play basketball, man.” Beverley was suspended three games for shoving Deandre Ayton the last time the two teams faced one another.

Suns Notes: Purchase Price, Sarver, Roster, Rowley

Now that Suns majority owner Robert Sarver has officially announced his intention to sell the team following a year-long investigation into decades of workplace misconduct, Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic examines how much a desirable, championship-caliber NBA franchise like the Suns might cost a potential buyer. Sarver will also be selling the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.

According to Vorkunov, an “early high-end estimate” for the Suns and Mercury could be $3 billion or more. As Vorkunov explains, there are several factors that could push the sale price well beyond the latest valuations (around $1.8 or $1.9 billion), including a belief that the big-market team hasn’t been run especially well under Sarver. As the controlling owner for both clubs, Sarver will earn the biggest slice of the pie, whatever its ultimate price turns out to be.

There’s more out of Phoenix:

  • Though the departure of Sarver is an encouraging step for the Suns and the league at large, Howard Beck of Sports Illustrated writes that, because he’s ultimately departing without being forced by the league’s other owners and is set to become potentially billions of dollars richer in his exit, the disgraced team owner’s “punishment” doesn’t feel like real justice.
  • The Suns will have some issues to address on the court this season beyond the off-court Sarver drama that is now mostly behind them, opines David Aldridge of The Athletic. Potential chemistry issues between head coach Monty Williams and re-signed starting center Deandre Ayton and the disappointing playoff finishes of All-Star guards Chris Paul and Devin Booker are the chief puzzles facing the team itself heading into the 2022/23 season. Phoenix will have to contend with a crowded Western Conference this year, and will face an uphill battle to return to the NBA Finals.
  • Suns CEO Jason Rowley addressed staff members during a conversation with all the team’s employees on Wednesday, reports Baxter Holmes of ESPN. Rowley indicated during the call that interim governor Sam Garvin would stay on in that position while the sale of the team was underway, and that Sarver would have no involvement with anyone in the organization, per the terms of the one-year suspension. “I’m beyond happy, I’m empowered and I’m motivated to continue to ensure that all of the men in that organization still in power who upheld this culture are rooted out,” said one Suns employee who took part in the investigation that would ultimately lead to Sarver’s decision to sell.

NBA, WNBA To Launch Investigation Into Sarver’s Conduct

The NBA and WNBA issued a joint statement announcing that a “comprehensive investigation” will be launched regarding the conduct of Suns owner Robert Sarver, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets.

“The allegations contained in today’s ESPN article are extremely serious, and we have directed the Wachtell Lipton law firm to commence a comprehensive investigation,” the statement issued by NBA Communications stated. “The NBA and WNBA remain committed to providing a respectful and inclusive workplace for all employees. Once the investigation is completed, its findings will provide the basis for any league action.”

ESPN published a detailed report regarding Sarver’s conduct on Thursday. It was based on interviews with more than 70 current and former Suns employees, and painted a picture of a toxic workplace culture under Sarver, who is accused of using racially inappropriate language and engaging in inappropriate and misogynistic behavior.

The law firm is the same one that conducted the 2014 investigation regarding former Clippers owner Donald Serling, Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic tweets.

The organization issued a statement from Sarver, who indicated he’d welcome an investigation while denying the allegations. Sarver also took shots at former head coach Earl Watson, stating that Watson created a “toxic atmosphere in our organization.”

“I continue to be shocked by the false reporting from (reporter) Baxter Holmes,” Sarver’s statement read. “While there is so much that is inaccurate and misleading in this story that I hardly know where to begin, let me be clear: The n-word is not part of my vocabulary. I have never called anyone or any group of people the n-word, or referred to anyone or any group of people by that word, either verbally or in writing.

“… Instead of reporting the truth, Holmes’ story is based on misrepresentations from former Suns coach Earl Watson and other unnamed “sources.” Mr. Watson created an unprofessional and toxic atmosphere in our organization. He is clearly not a credible source. Despite hearing from witness after witness that disputed Mr. Watson’s stories, Mr. Holmes completely disregarded the truth here. Now we are in the position of trying to disprove things that did not happen.”

The team’s president and CEO, Jason Rowley, also issued a statement which in part questioned Holmes’ integrity.

“The Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury organization vehemently reject the claims made in today’s ESPN article,” it read. “Our two organizations have always worked hard to create an environment that is respectful and diverse; where racism, sexism and damaging behavior of any kind are not condoned. Today’s story contains false information and narratives perpetuated by a reporter who has struggled unsuccessfully to match the facts to a story he decided he wanted to tell a year ago. He twisted statements and circumstances to fit his preconceived narrative. He broke every rule of journalism by first deciding on his findings and then cherry-picking events and unreliable sources to prop up his demonstrably false claims.”

However, the team’s part owner and vice chairman, Jahm Najafi, struck a different tone in a statement of his own, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today tweets.

“The conduct he is alleged to have committed has stunned and saddened me and is unacceptable,” Najafi said.