Robert Sarver

Pacific Notes: Suns, Sarver, Westbrook, Clippers

An outbreak of COVID-19 may help explain the Suns‘ shocking loss to the Mavericks in Game 7 of their second-round series, according to Sam Amick and Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Six members of the organization, including one player, returned positive tests either late in the series or a day after the 123-90 defeat.

Assistant coach Bryan Gates tested positive following Game 6 and had to sit out the final game, the authors add, while some players said they weren’t feeling well before Game 7. The risk of COVID transmission prevented the Suns from having their traditional in-person exit interviews, which were replaced by a Zoom session involving the entire team.

The incident raises concerns that Phoenix wasn’t following league guidelines for testing. The Suns insist that all protocols were adhered to, although they declined to talk to Amick and Vardon for the story. A league spokesman said there’s “no evidence” of any rules violations by players or staff members.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • An independent investigation of Suns owner Robert Sarver involving workplace misconduct is nearing its end, NBA commissioner Adam Silver tells Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports. “It’s a complex investigation. There are hundreds of people who are involved and need to be interviewed,” Silver said. “And we also want to make sure we protect the rights of everyone involved. So these things by nature, I know what frustrates people, do seem to take a lot of time, but we’re certainly getting very close to the end.”
  • The Lakers have shifted their public statements about Russell Westbrook over the past two months and now seem resigned to having him on the roster next season, notes Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register. Darvin Ham talked to Westbrook about the need to sacrifice for the good of the team, but Goon points out that Westbrook is in a position to undermine the first-time head coach if he doesn’t heed Ham’s advice.
  • Former Wisconsin forward Vitto Brown, who played in Spain this season, was among the players at the Lakersfree agent mini-camp this week, tweets Dave McMenamin of ESPN.
  • The Clippers‘ new Intuit Dome, which is set to open in 2024, will feature the largest ever double-sided halo display in an arena setting, according to Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register.

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.”

Pacific Notes: DiVincenzo, Sarver, Wiseman, Powell

Kings guard Donte DiVincenzo is coming off his best game since being traded from Milwaukee to Sacramento at last month’s deadline. On Wednesday, facing his old Bucks team, he put up 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting (4-of-8 on threes), chipping in four rebounds and three steals.

According to James Ham of ESPN 1320 in Sacramento (Twitter link), head coach Alvin Gentry said after Wednesday’s game that there’s a good chance DiVincenzo will move permanently into the Kings’ starting lineup before the regular season is over. Gentry added that he almost made that move for Wednesday’s contest.

DiVincenzo started all 66 games he played in 2020/21 for Milwaukee, but has started just one of 31 games for the Bucks and Kings this season following his return from ankle surgery.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • A coalition of social justice activists is calling on the NBA to remove Robert Sarver as the owner of the Suns, writes Howard Beck of SI.com. The American Sports Accountability Project published a letter on its new website stating that the group is “profoundly disturbed by the reports of racism, misogyny and abusive behavior allegedly committed” by Sarver. An independent investigation into the allegations against Sarver is ongoing.
  • After playing three games in the G League, center James Wiseman was recalled to the NBA by the Warriors on Wednesday. He’s practicing with the team this week and could make his season debut with Golden State as early as Sunday, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic.
  • Clippers wing Norman Powell, who is recovering from a fractured left foot, had the boot removed from his foot this week, tweets Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. There’s still no guarantee that Powell, who last played on February 10, will be back before the regular season ends in 23 days.

Latest On Investigation Into Suns Owner Robert Sarver

Wachtell Lipton, the New York-based firm conducting the independent investigation into Suns owner Robert Sarver, has now interviewed more than 300 people as part of that probe, reports Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

One key figure still hasn’t been interviewed by the lawyers leading the investigation: Sarver himself. That’s expected to happen soon, according to Holmes, who says investigators are preparing to talk to the Suns’ owner.

Back in November, Holmes published a bombshell report in which a number of current and former Suns employees described a toxic workplace culture under Sarver, who was accused of racism and misogyny. The NBA quickly announced that it was launching an independent investigation into those accusations.

According to today’s report from Holmes, employees who have been interviewed by Wachtell Lipton have “confirmed a range of published allegations while introducing others.” Some of the interviewees have spoken to investigators multiple times, and some have provided the law firm with emails supporting their claims, Holmes writes.

It remains unclear when the investigation will conclude. According to Holmes, the lawyers involved have consistently told current and former employees that they’re in the “fact-finding” stage.

Phoenix’s players and coaches certainly haven’t let the ongoing investigation distract them on the court. The Suns’ 50-12 record this season gives them a 7.5-game cushion on the NBA’s second-best team (Golden State, at 43-20).

Suns Notes: Paul, Payne, McGee, Ayton, Sarver

Suns head coach Monty Williams enjoyed being involved in the All-Star festivities over the weekend, leading Team LeBron to a 163-160 victory in Sunday’s contest. However, he didn’t let the event distract him from preparing for life without Chris Paul after the break, as Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic writes. The All-NBA guard is expected to miss at least six-to-eight weeks due to a fractured thumb.

“Naturally, you have to,” Williams said of preparing to play for Paul’s absence. “I’ve had meetings with our coaches about what we’re going to do going forward. Different lineups. Rotations. How we’re going to play. Chris is a huge part of what we do. And so we’re not going to try to replace him. We’re just going to try to play the same way and keep our standard at a high level and I’m grateful for the depth that we.”

Examining the impact of Paul’s injury on the Suns, Cole Huff of The Athletic suggests it might not be a disaster for the team. Huff believes Phoenix – which has a 6.5-game lead for the West’s No. 1 seed – can hang onto the top spot in the West, and points out that even if Paul’s absence extends into the first round of the playoffs, the team would still be heavy favorites against a No. 8 seed.

Here are a few more notes on the Suns:

  • After previously reporting that the Suns expected Cameron Payne to return from his right wrist injury in the first game after the All-Star break, John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter link) now says the veteran point guard may need a few more days before he’s back on the court. With both Payne and Paul sidelined, Devin Booker, Aaron Holiday, and Elfrid Payton figure to take on more ball-handling responsibilities.
  • Noting that JaVale McGee and Deandre Ayton have been two of the NBA’s most effective pick-and-roll big men so far this season, Zach Harper of The Athletic wonders how their production might be affected with Paul not in the lineup.
  • Speaking to reporters at All-Star Weekend, NBA commissioner Adam Silver didn’t provide an update on the league’s investigation into Suns owner Robert Sarver, simply stating that it’s “ongoing.” However, general manager James Jones said he believes the probe should be completed “soon,” Rankin writes for The Arizona Republic.

Adam Silver Says Sixers Aren’t Being Investigated For Tampering In Harden Trade

There were some complaints around the league regarding the circumstances that led to the Sixers’ trade for James Harden, but the team isn’t under investigation for tampering, writes Joe Varden of The Athletic.

Some executives in rival front offices considered asking for tampering charges based on suspicions that Philadelphia was talking to Harden about signing in the offseason if a trade with the Nets couldn’t be completed, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported recently. Harden has a close relationship with Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and chief executive officer Tad Brown from his time in Houston, and he’s a friend of co-owner Michael Rubin.

[RELATED: Sixers/Harden Chatter Raises Tampering Suspicions]

NBA commissioner Adam Silver addressed the situation tonight during his annual All-Star Weekend press conference and confirmed that no investigation is being conducted.

“It’s no secret that I’ve expressed my unhappiness with public trade demands,” Silver said. “I think you’re dealing with a situation where you have players with literally a unique skill on the planet, and that’s always going to give them leverage. And you have teams with leverage. … I mean there may be tools that we can think of to create stronger incentives for players to comply with those agreements, but there’s no silver bullet here, that we’re going to go in and collectively bargain and say, ‘now we fix this problem.’”

Silver touched on numerous other topics during the media session:

  • He continues to express optimism about an in-season tournament, saying the play-in tourney has helped build momentum for change, Varden adds. “In some ways, the players have been more receptive to the possibility of an in-season tournament because the play-in has been a bit more successful,” Silver said.
  • Silver expressed concern about the situation involving Rockets guard John Wall, saying, “Of course I think it’s a problem when players are paid not to play,” tweets Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Wall hasn’t played at all this season under a mutual agreement with the rebuilding team.
  • With COVID-19 regulations easing around the country, Silver hopes a resolution can be reached involving the New York City vaccine mandate that has prevented Nets guard Kyrie Irving from playing in home games, tweets Tim Bontemps of ESPN.
  • Silver confirmed that the investigation into the Suns organization and owner Robert Sarver is still ongoing, but didn’t offer any updates, according to Bontemps (Twitter link).
  • Silver said no regular-season games will be played in Europe next year, but some teams may travel there during the preseason, Bontemps adds (via Twitter).
  • The halftime ceremony for Sunday’s All-Star Game will honor the 75th anniversary team, and Silver expects about 50 of the 61 living members to be on hand, tweets Marc Stein of Substack.

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.”

Pacific Notes: Davis, Winslow, Sarver, Paul

The Lakers are hopeful Anthony Davis will return to action on Wednesday, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register writes. Davis has missed the last two game with left knee soreness. Los Angeles begins a three-game road trip at Dallas.

“We did an ultrasound on it,” Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said. “Everything is structurally intact. Just taking another day, with the two days off before the next game, and hopefully we’ll put this behind us.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Clippers forward Justise Winslow had a productive 15-minute stint against Orlando on Saturday, contributing nine points and five rebounds. Winslow has been waiting patiently for opportunities, Mirjam Swanson of the Orange County Register writes. “Just sticking with it, the ups and downs, staying steady, not too high, not too low,” he said. “Really practicing what I preach, putting the work in, staying steady, staying ready, staying ready for my time, so it felt good just to make all the winning plays that I did (Saturday), just go out there and impact the game.” Winslow is in the first year of a two-year, $8MM deal.
  • Former Suns employees who signed nondisclosure agreements have begun scheduling and participating in interviews regarding the league’s investigation of owner Robert Sarver, according to Baxter Holmes of ESPN. The lawyers informed the former employees they would be released from the agreements in order to speak freely on the investigation. The league announced in early November they would investigate Sarver’s conduct and whether a toxic work environment existed within the organization.
  • It has been 10 years since then-commissioner David Stern voided a trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers. Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times takes a look back at the circumstances surrounding the voided trade and the aftermath of the decision, which resulted in Paul landing with the Clippers.

Pacific Notes: Kings, Sarver, Suns, Iger, Payton

The Kings haven’t exactly turned their season around since firing head coach Luke Walton on November 21. They had nice wins over Portland and the Lakers last week, but lost at home to a Philadelphia team missing all its starters last Monday, were blown out by a Memphis team without Ja Morant on Sunday, and lost to a LeBron James-less Lakers team on Tuesday.

Up by 12 points in the second quarter on Tuesday, the Kings were outscored by 34 in the second half and ultimately fell 117-92, prompting new head coach Alvin Gentry to express his unhappiness in his post-game presser.

“The second half was a disaster and an embarrassment, and as the coach of this team, I want to apologize to every Kings fan out there because you do not deserve this,” Gentry said, per Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. “You deserve much, much better and we’ll find guys who will give you better.”

Post-game press conferences criticizing the Kings’ performance are nothing new for this year’s team — veteran center Tristan Thompson has ripped Sacramento’s play on multiple occasions. However, it hasn’t seemed to have had much of an effect on the 8-14 squad.

Gentry’s promise to the fans that the Kings will “find guys who will give you better” may be an indication that he intends to make changes to the lineup or rotation. If the club doesn’t start winning more, it could be just a matter of time until a more drastic roster shakeup occurs.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Baxter Holmes of ESPN provides an update on the investigation into Suns owner Robert Sarver, noting that the firm conducting the probe has begun scheduling and conducting in-person interviews with current and former team employees. However, as Holmes outlines, former employees who signed non-disclosure agreements are still seeking assurances about their ability to speak freely to investigators without facing legal consequences.
  • There’s no indication yet that the investigation into Sarver will result in him having to sell the Suns. However, reports from Matthew Belloni of Puck.news and Abigail Gentrup of Front Office Sports identify former Disney CEO Bob Iger as someone who would be interested in buying the franchise if the opportunity arises.
  • Speaking to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, veteran guard Gary Payton II expressed appreciation to the Warriors for recognizing the value in his skill set and giving him a chance to play a regular role this season. “Golden State understands what I bring to the table, my defensive skills, my off-ball cutting, screening, being able to play the dunker and just take open shots when they present themselves,” Payton said. “There are a lot of guys, like Draymond (Green), that can do a lot of different things and help win games. Not every player is going to score 30, and, I obviously don’t shoot like f–king Steph Curry, but I do damn near everything else elite. It just took one organization to understand that and realize that.”

Suns Notes: Kaminsky, Ayton, Sarver, Smith

The stress reaction that Suns big man Frank Kaminsky suffered in his right knee won’t keep him out for the rest of the season, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Kaminsky didn’t join the team for its current four-game road trip as doctors are trying to determine the best way to deal with the injury.

“We’re going to miss him for sure, but we’re hopeful he can get back sooner rather than later,” coach Monty Williams said. “He’s a huge part of our team, culture and we just have to wait and see, but just feel for him cause he was playing so well.” 

Kaminsky is coming off one of the most productive stretches of his career. When starting center Deandre Ayton missed six games with a right leg injury, Kaminsky averaged 14.6 points per game in that stretch, including a career-best 31-point outing. He averaged just 6.6 PPG in 15.2 minutes per night last season for Phoenix, but his role has expanded with Dario Saric rehabbing a torn ACL.

There’s more from Phoenix:

  • Ayton was upset over not getting an extension before the deadline, but he has put aside any hard feelings because the Suns are winning, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype states in a podcast with Rankin on several Suns-related topics. Ayton felt disrespected to be left out while some of his teammates were extended, Rankin reveals, but as long as he keeps playing well, he’ll be in position to demand a huge contract next summer.
  • Also on the podcast, Rankin says the investigation of owner Robert Sarver will likely last for several months. He notes that it’s being done by the same law firm that recently investigated the Mavericks, which took about eight months to complete. Rankin says the players have talked about the allegations against Sarver and are doing their best to prevent them from becoming a distraction.
  • Questions about Jalen Smith‘s work ethic led to the Suns’ decision not to pick up his third-year option, Rankin adds. It’s significant that when Ayton was sidelined, most of his minutes went to Kaminsky instead of the 2020 lottery pick. Rankin notes that Smith has an unusual combination of skills and the Suns don’t have a G League affiliate where he can develop his talents.