Lance Blanks

And-Ones: NBA Media Rights, Kuzma, Poeltl, Blanks

Analysts at JPMorgan recently issued a report stating that the exponential growth of sports media rights is unsustainable in the long term, according to Mike Ozanian of Forbes, but the NBA remains on track to do extremely well on its next deal. The league’s nine-year, $24 billion agreement with its current partners expires in 2025 and the NBA will reportedly look to double or triple that amount on its next rights contract.

With some regional sports networks around the country struggling to make payments to teams, the NBA’s next media deal may lean more heavily on broadcast television and/or streaming platforms, creating alternatives for teams when their current agreements with RSNs expires, per Brian Windhorst and Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic explores the same topic, citing a source with knowledge of the situation who says the NBA would like to get more games on broadcast television and fewer on cable in its next media rights deal. Vorkunov confirms that NBC has displayed interest in getting the NBA back and adds that several streamers – led by Amazon and Apple – are believed to have interest in broadcasting NBA games.

Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • After previously breaking down this summer’s free agent market for guards, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report shifts his focus to 2023’s free agent wings and big men. Pincus suggests this year’s crop of wings isn’t especially deep and that most of the market’s top players – such as Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma – are far more likely to stay put than to change teams. Within his story on bigs, Pincus says multiple sources view the Raptors as a “lock” to re-sign Jakob Poeltl.
  • John Hollinger of The Athletic shines a spotlight on the minimum-salary players who are making a difference for playoff teams, including Lakers guard Austin Reaves, Suns forward Josh Okogie, and Heat guard Gabe Vincent, among others. Those players will all be free agents this summer and are in position to receive significant raises.
  • Lance Blanks, a former NBA player for the Pistons and Timberwolves, died on Wednesday at age 56, per The Detroit News. After retiring as a player, Blanks worked as a scout with the Spurs, then was later hired by the Cavaliers as an assistant general manager and by the Suns as their GM. Most recently, he served in a scouting role for the Clippers. “Lance was a light for all those who knew him,” former Pistons star Joe Dumars said in a statement. “It’s been a privilege to have called him one of my closest friends. I’m eternally grateful for all the support he has shown me throughout the years.” Mike Finger of The San Antonio Express-News has more on Blanks’ passing.

International Notes: Brown, Basketball Without Borders, World Cup

Former NBA wing Anthony Brown has agreed to terms on a deal with Russian club Unics Kazan, writes Alessandro Maggi of Sportando. A former EuroLeague club, Unics Kazan now competes in the VTB United League.

After being selected with the No. 34 pick by the Lakers in 2015 out of Stanford, Brown bounced the NBA and G League for several seasons. He suited up for the Lakers and their NBAGL affiliate, at the time called the Los Angeles D-Fenders (now the South Bay Lakers), the Magic and their affiliate team the Erie BayHawks/Lakeland Magic, the Timberwolves and their NBAGL club the Iowa Wolves, and the Pelicans. In 41 total NBA games, the 29-year-old has averaged 3.9 PPG and 2.5 RPG across 18.6 MPG.

Brown first headed overseas in 2018, and has since suited up for teams in Serbia, France, Spain, Turkey and Israel. While playing for Maccabi Rishon LeZion in Israel Super League competition last season, the 6’7″ swingman posted averages of 16.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.4 APG and 1.0 SPG, with a shooting line of .465/.396/.821.

Here are more international basketball odds and ends:

  • Several NBA players and coaches will head overseas to take part in a Basketball Without Borders camp set for Cairo, Egypt, per a league press release. The event will run from this Sunday, August 28, through next Wednesday, August 31. Sixty-four of the best boys and girls hailing from 26 African nations, aged 18 and under, will travel to the camp. Jazz center Udoka Azubuike, Magic center Mohamed Bamba, Celtics guard Malcolm Brogdon and forward Grant Williams, and retired Hall of Fame center Dikembe Mutombo will be among the camp’s coaches, with Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, Trail Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups, Pelicans head coach Willie Green, Wizards head coach Wes Unseld Jr., Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch, Bucks associate head coach Charles Lee, and Hornets athletic trainer Quinton Sawyer also participating. The camp’s roster of directors will be pretty star-studded as well, led by Raptors president Masai Ujiri, Cavaliers GM Mike Gansey, and Clippers scout Lance Blanks.
  • With almost exactly one year to go before the 2023 FIBA World Cup tips off, Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press checks in on USA Basketball as the organization ramps up its preparation for the event. The first games in next year’s competition are scheduled to be played on August 25, 2023. Fielding a lineup that features G League and international-caliber American players, Team USA currently has a 6-1 record in the World Cup qualifiers. Next year, Steve Kerr will coach Team USA, featuring a likely-star studded roster. This year, that task falls to former Bulls head coach Jim Boylen. “We’re learning a lot because the NBA game has changed over the last seven or eight years, too,” Sean Ford, the U.S. men’s national team director, said. “There’s much more shotmaking. It’s just unbelievable, incredible the amount of 3-point shots that are taken, the freedom of movement, the flow of the game. But the international game has stayed the physical way.” 
  • Former Thunder swingman Terrance Ferguson has made the jump to overseas play, signing on with Polish team GTK Gliwice. Get full details here.

Broussard On Cavs, Bucks, Suns, Wolves

Cavs fans worried about what the hiring of Mike Brown might mean for the team's potential pursuit of LeBron James in 2014 shouldn't put too much stock in the move one way or the other, says Chris Broussard in his latest piece (Insider-only link). Brown's return to Cleveland doesn't mean LeBron is coming back too, but it also shouldn't be a deterring factor, according to Broussard, who notes that there will be plenty of other factors in play over the next 14 months. The scribe explores that topic and a number of others in his article, so let's round up the highlights….

  • The Cavs are hoping to upgrade the roster before next summer in an attempt to lure James (or another impact free agent, presumably). As we heard from Adrian Wojnarwoski of Yahoo! Sports yesterday, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, and draft picks could be dangled as trade chips. Broussard mentions LaMarcus Aldridge and Kevin Love as potential targets.
  • The Bucks would like to keep all three of their free agent guards this summer, but recognize that they'll probably only be able to retain two, with Brandon Jennings the player most likely to stay put.
  • Several sources around the league believed Lance Blanks, who the Suns fired earlier this week, was a scapegoat for the team's poor season. According to Broussard, the widely panned signing of Michael Beasley was Lon Babby's call, and Blanks had "little to do with" Alvin Gentry's firing as well.
  • Bucks assistant GM Jeff Weltman is viewed as the frontrunner for the Suns' GM opening, says Broussard.
  • Former Suns assistant Elston Turner may join Rick Adelman's staff in Minnesota, with an understanding that if Adelman steps down, Turner would take over as the Timberwolves' coach. We've heard in the past that Adelman "badly wanted" Turner on his staff when he first took the Wolves' job.
  • While Kevin McHale isn't expected to step down as Rockets head coach anytime soon, Broussard hears from sources that the team would have "strong interest" in Stan Van Gundy if McHale left.

Suns Part Ways With GM Lance Blanks

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 (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).

Suns Notes: Gentry, O’Neal, Blanks

The Suns are at the bottom of the Western Conference, but like the Lakers and Kings, the other sub-.500 teams in the Pacific Division, they've had no trouble generating headlines of late. Here's the latest out of Phoenix: 

  • The end of Alvin Gentry's tenure with the Suns was characterized as a mutual parting of ways, but Gentry indicated that wasn't so in his comments Tuesday to Arizona Sports 620's Burns and Gambo. Adrian Martinez of has the story. "Decisions are made that you don't agree with," Gentry said. "They have the right to do that."
  • Jermaine O'Neal denied via Twitter that he and GM Lance Blanks took part in an altercation, and said they didn't exchange words over the team's coaching situation (hat tip to Matt Moore of Blanks acknowledged the two had an argument, but downplayed the incident, also saying it wasn't about the coaches, as Sam Amick of USA Today documents.
  • I looked at the trade candidacy of Marcin Gortat earlier this evening, arguing that a combination of market demand and the Suns' need to move forward with rebuilding will lead to the departure of the Polish Hammer.

Lawrence On Suns, Babby, Blanks, Heat, Europe

Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News consistently delivers at least few noteworthy rumors in his weekly column, and this week's edition is no exception. He touches on the state of the Nets and some chirping between Dwight Howard and former Lakers sharpshooter Robert Horry, and we'll round up the rest right here:
  • Suns president Lon Babby is in the final year of his contract, and is "probably done" in Phoenix, where owner Robert Sarver, not known for his patience, appears anxious to make changes, Lawrence hears, adding that GM Lance Blanks could also be on his way out.
  • In addition to a big man, the Heat are also looking for an upgrade at point guard. Lawrence suggests the Heat, who aren't re-signing Josh Harrellson to another 10-day contract, are still mulling whether to sign Chris Andersen, who worked out for the team earlier this month.
  • Lawrence doesn't think London, which played host on Thursday to the KnicksPistons game, is anywhere near ready for an NBA franchise, and believes the league might be better off expanding into Barcelona or Rome, where there's greater interest in the game. Commissioner David Stern foresees multiple NBA teams based in Europe within 20 years.