Mark Warkentien

And-Ones: Suns’ Sale, Expansion, Udoh, Ignite, Warkentien

There wasn’t a ton of trade chatter at the G League Winter Showcase in Las Vegas this past week, but the news of the Sunssale to Mat Ishbia generated plenty of discussion, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic. Specifically, the franchise’s $4 billion valuation raised eyebrows, given how far above recent projections it was.

As Hollinger explains, that eye-popping sale price led to speculation on two fronts. For one, there were conversations about whether other franchises could find their way onto the market — for instance, Paul Allen‘s estate appears content to exercise patience before eventually opening the bidding on the Trail Blazers, but it’s possible the Suns’ valuation could help expedite that process. Hollinger adds that there have also been whispers over the years about whether Michael Jordan will sell the Hornets.

Perhaps more importantly, the Suns’ high sale price could be good news for the prospect of NBA expansion. As Hollinger observes, the existing 30 team owners are more likely to agree to bring in two new partners if their cut of the expansion fee high enough to offset their losses from splitting the NBA’s TV deal and other sources of revenue 32 ways instead of 30 ways. The Suns selling for $4 billion increases the odds of expansion fees for teams in cities like Seattle and Las Vegas reaching the neighborhood of $4-5 billion, says Hollinger.

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

  • Former NBA lottery pick Ekpe Udoh is resuming his playing career in Japan, according to Alessandro Maggi of Sportando, who relays that the big man has signed with the Shimane Susanoo Magic. The No. 6 overall pick in the 2010 draft, Udoh appeared in 384 total NBA games, but hasn’t played in the league since the 2018/19 season.
  • Scoot Henderson wasn’t available for the G League Ignite during the league’s Winter Showcase event in Las Vegas this past week, but Jeremy Woo of got a chance to scout several other Ignite players, including London Johnson, Leonard Miller, Sidy Cissoko, and Mojave King. Woo shares several of his key takeaways on the Ignite’s non-Henderson prospects, identifying Miller and Cissoko as players who have a chance to be selected in the first round of the 2023 NBA draft (Johnson will be draft-eligible in 2024).
  • Veteran NBA executive Mark Warkentien, who won an Executive of the Year award in 2009 as the Nuggets‘ head of basketball operations, has passed away at age 69 (Twitter link via the Nuggets). Warkentien most recently worked in the league as a special assignment evaluator for the Thunder. We at Hoops Rumors send our condolences to his family and friends.

New York Notes: Nets, Pierce, Knicks, Executives

The Nets and Knicks will renew their intracity rivalry this season as both teams hope to get off to faster starts than they did in 2013/14. Each club figures to be in the mix for a playoff spot again this season, so while we wait to see if we’ll have a subway series come the postseason, here’s the latest from the Big Apple:

  • Nets GM Billy King insists the team is still doggedly pursuing a championship and isn’t focused on making financial cutbacks, telling reporters, including Newsday’s Rod Boone, that he still has permission from owner Mikhail Prokhorov to make expensive acquisitions. King made his remarks in response to Paul Pierce‘s assertion that the team was no longer willing to spend to win. ” . . . We have some younger guys like Mason Plumlee who are under rookie contracts, and that helps your payroll. But [Prokhorov] hasn’t wavered in pursuit of what he wants,” King said.
  • That seems to conflict with King’s admission last month that money was a factor in the team’s decision not to re-sign Pierce and that the club doesn’t want to repeat its more than $190MM expenditure on players and luxury taxes last season. Pierce’s representatives with Excel Sports Management asked the Nets for a two-year, $24MM deal this summer, but the Nets didn’t want to pay that much, according to Boone.
  • Former Magic GM John Gabriel‘s influence is growing within the Knicks front office, reports Marc Berman of the New York Post. Gabriel, who holds the title of director of basketball operations, is on the upswing while former Nuggets GM and current Knicks director of player personnel Mark Warkentien is losing sway, and assistant GM Allan Houston doesn’t have the pull that he once had, either, Berman adds.
  • The Knicks have hired former D-League assistant and small college head coach Kevin Whitted as head coach of their D-League affiliate, the team announced. Whitted went to college with Houston, who serves as the GM of the Knicks D-League affiliate in addition to his duties with the big club.

Western Notes: Thompson, Sterling, Gay

With Andrew Bogut, Stephen Curry, and Andre Iguodala slated to make $10.6MM or more each next season and through 2016/17, a lucrative contract could be hard to come by for Klay Thompson in Golden State, writes Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski. Keeping that in mind, one source tells Wojnarowski that Thompson would be open to being traded to the Timberwolves because it would increase his chances of receiving a max contract.

Klay’s father – former NBA champion Mychal Thompson – offered his thoughts on ESPN 710 radio today, suggesting that Klay would actually be unhappy in Minnesota. “If this (Kevin Love trade) happens, I will have to talk (Klay) down from the ledge” (Twitter link via Andy Greder of the St. Paul Pioneer Press). 

As Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune further transcribes from Mychal’s radio appearance, Klay’s disappointment would stem from missing out on the opportunity to play alongside Love on the Warriors.

Here’s more out of the Western Conference tonight:

  • Later in his piece, Zgoda says that Bill Duffy – Klay’s Thompson’s agent – will surely push for a max deal on his client’s next contract.
  • According to Donald Sterling’s lawyer, Donald’s mental competency has now been examined by other doctors and “the results are different,” tweets Ramona Shelburne of
  • DeMarcus Cousins told Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee that he reached out to Rudy Gay about staying on board with the Kings (Twitter link). Gay has a player option for 2014/15 worth just above $19.3MM.
  • Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger said that Nick Calathes will be back with the team next season, according to a tweet from Rob Fischer of FOX Sports  (hat tip to Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal). Calathes’ contract is non-guaranteed for the 2014/15 season.
  • Knicks director of player personnel Mark Warkentien and Pacers vice president of basketball operations Peter Dinwiddie are drawing interest from Memphis as potential add-ons to the Grizzlies front office, hears Chris Vernon of 92.9 ESPN (Twitter link).

Lawrence On D’Antoni, Gasol, Calipari, Sterling

Mike D’Antoni walked away from the Lakers due in part because the team is likely to attempt to re-sign Pau Gasol this summer, reports Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News. A source tells Lawrence that D’Antoni knew that Gasol and Kobe Bryant didn’t want to play for him, so he made the decision to resign from the team on Wednesday. Let’s have a look at some more interesting notes from Lawrence’s piece:

  • Kurt Rambis and Byron Scott are two of the most viable candidates for the Lakers’ coaching job, hears Lawrence. We reported on Thursday that both Rambis and Scott are set to interview with the team.
  • Despite rumored interest, Lawrence says there’s no chance John Calipari will become the next head coach for the Lakers. The team reportedly has “zero interest” in hiring Calipari.
  • Stan Van Gundy was contacted about taking over the head coaching role for the Pistons, but talks didn’t get far because he wanted some level of control over the team’s personnel decisions, writes Lawrence.
  • Lawrence hears that once Adam Silver meets with Donald Sterling, Silver is expected to tell Sterling that the league will battle him in court to see that the franchise is sold, no matter the resistance Sterling puts up.
  • Knicks assistant GM Allan Houston and director of player personnel Mark Warkentien aren’t worried about their jobs, since the duo has contracts with owner Jim Dolan and not the Knicks specifically, says Lawrence. As a result, the pair will be able to retain their positions, even if Phil Jackson doesn’t want them around.
  • The Cavs and Bucks still haven’t decided whether or not they’ll keep their general managers beyond this season, reveals Lawrence. Both Central Division teams failed to meet preseason expectations and finished well below .500.
  • It’s likely Mark Jackson will be fired by the Warriors, suggests Lawrence, who adds the coach might have a hard time landing another job with an NBA team because of the perceived dysfunction in Golden State’s organization during his tenure.
  • The Thunder could potentially see a first-round playoff exit tonight, but Lawrence says Scott Brooks‘ position is safe in Oklahoma City.

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).

Latest On Clippers GM Search

While the Magic hired Rob Hennigan as their new GM this week, it appears the Clippers will head into the draft without someone to replace Neil Olshey, who jumped to fill the Blazers GM vacancy earlier this month. Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times says no hire is imminent and no candidate has gone before owner Donald Sterling. Team president Andy Roeser, coach Vinny Del Negro and director of player personnel Gary Sacks are jointly handling the draft and free agency until a GM is found. Roeser and Del Negro have had discussions about possible candidates, and Sacks is one of many names the Clippers are considering, according to three league executives who spoke with Turner. Let's break down the rest of the list:

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