Robert Sarver

Pacific Notes: Sarver, Lakers, Durant, Curry

The Suns just hired the much-sought after Monty Williams as their next head coach, have two young studs in guard Devin Booker and big man Deandre Ayton, and share the top odds in Tuesday’s lottery to obtain the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. In other words, owner Robert Sarver has run out of excuses, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic

The Suns have had a losing record in the past five consecutive seasons, and Sarver’s reputation continues to suffer as a result. The fact that the team shuffles through staff so quickly doesn’t help either, but as Rankin notes, the Steve Nash-era Suns were Sarver’s teams as well, so it’s not like Sarver can’t turn things around.

The first step? Reports are he admitted to making mistakes to Williams before the new head coach was hired, which gave Williams enough respect for the franchise to choose the Suns as his next landing spot. The next step? Hoping for good luck on Tuesday night.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • According to Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports, the Lakers would be best served by new ownership. The Buss family, particularly Jeanie Buss, has now overseen a sudden, public resignation from one of its all-time greats (Magic Johnson) and a protest by one of the league’s most die-hard fan bases. That, coupled with the Tyronn Lue fiasco, has created one of the most trying and embarrassing times in franchise history.
  • Despite the rumor mill cranking out the notion that Kevin Durant is headed elsewhere this summer, there is still a sense in Warriors‘ circles that Durant may stay in the Bay Area, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic.
  • Per Mark Medina of The Mercury News, the dislocated left middle finger of Warriors sharpshooting point guard Stephen Curry is still causing a lot of pain, and Curry and the medical staff of Golden State are still figuring out different ways to make the situation (i.e. splint, buddy tape) more manageable as the postseason moves forward.

Stein’s Latest: Lue, Suns, Cavaliers

Marc Stein’s newsletter is a must-read for all NBA fans and this week’s piece for The New York Times is filled with insight on this offseason’s coaching hires, among other nuggets. Here are the highlights from the piece:

  • Tyronn Lue, who is set to become the Lakers next coach, was not the unanimous first choice among the organization’s decision-makers, Stein hears. Some within the franchise worried about Lue aiding LeBron James‘ influence within the Lakers and Lue’s supporters were forced to wait until Monty Williams, who was hired by the Suns, was no longer available.
  • It appears Suns owner Robert Sarver wants to continue to have the loudest say over the team’s basketball operations. Sarver brought in Jeff Bower as an advisor this offseason without giving the executive any real decision-making power, Stein writes.
  • Phoenix hired Williams as its head coach in part because the front office hopes he can give the Suns a “strong voice and presence,” Stein adds. The organization envisions Williams establishing a winning culture and an improved reputation around the league.
  • The Cavaliers want to hire a young head coach who embraces analytics in an attempt to replicate Brooklyn’s rebuild under coach Kenny Atkinson and Atlanta’s setting with Lloyd Pierce. You can find our Cavaliers’ page here with the latest on their ongoing coaching search.

Suns Notes: Williams, Sarver, Coaching, Practice Facility

The Suns‘ hiring of Sixers assistant Monty Williams was well-received around the NBA this week, Gina Mizell details in a story for The Athletic.

Williams, who last served as a head coach with the Pelicans in 2015, is one of the most respected figures across the league. Aside from his basketball intellect, Williams demonstrated incredible courage, faith and strength when his wife of 26 years tragically passed away in a car accident two years ago.

The mark he left on many NBA figures, including players, coaches and executives, cannot be measured. It’s this kind of culture that piqued the interests of Suns GM James Jones and owner Robert Sarver, who pitched Williams on starting a new program and improving the culture of the team.

“They need him. They really need him there,” said Anthony Morrow, who played under Williams for two seasons. “He really likes the grind of building up the organization and building the culture.

“That’s the mentality that he’s gonna put in these guys’ heads. I think it’s gonna be special to watch after a while.”

Perhaps nobody was impacted more by Williams than consensus top-three player Kevin Durant, who lauded Williams’ courage and positive attitude shortly after news broke of him joining the Suns.

“I got to know the type of man he was. His coaching style is what it is because of the stuff he’s been through as a person and how he looks at life in general,” Durant said, as relayed by Mark Medina of The Mercury News. “He’s a leader and a teacher. I’m excited he’s back into coaching and walking those sidelines again.”

There’s more out of Phoenix today:

  • The Williams hiring will work best if team owner Robert Sarver keeps his distance, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic writes. The Suns’ win totals have steadily declined in the past five seasons under Sarver, going from 48 in 2014 to 19 this year. Sarver promised Williams that he would stand clear and allow him to develop his younger players in their meeting with Suns GM James Jones, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. 
  • Phoenix spoke with several more coaching candidates than what was originally reported, John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 tweets. The Suns, according to Gambadoro, spoke with roughly 10 other potential coaches before choosing to hire Williams.
  • Plans have officially been announced for the team’s new state-of-the-art practice facility, set to be built as part of a $230MM renovation deal for Talking Stick Resort Arena, according to Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. “There are extensive limitations to the player development and training space available in our nearly 30 year old arena,James Jones said in a press release. “The development of this stand-alone, secure and private facility will enhance our player health, development and wellness capabilities, and allow us to retain and attract the best basketball talent to the Valley for years to come.”

Suns Notes: Kokoskov, Ayton, Coaching Search

The Suns‘ decision to dismiss head coach Igor Kokoskov was more about the club’s direction and circumstances rather than its win-loss record, says John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter links). When Kokoskov was hired, there was an expectation that the Suns would look to contend for a playoff spot right away, but after regressing and getting younger in 2018/19, the club wants to start over with someone new.

As Gambadoro explains (via Twitter), the Suns figure to target a coach who is more of a player-development specialist than a tactician. Deandre Ayton‘s development, in particular, will be a primary focus for the club’s next coach, with Gambadoro suggesting (via Twitter) that the young center wasn’t always used in the right way during his rookie season.

While Monty Williams and David Vanterpool have been identified as the first two names on the Suns’ list of potential targets, the team is expected to talk to many candidates, according to Gambadoro, who notes that there’s no set timeline for a new hire.

Here’s more on the Suns:

  • Touching on another reason that Kokoskov was let go, Gambadoro tweets that Suns players liked the head coach, but felt as though assistant Joe Prunty was more in charge of the bench than Kokoskov was.
  • The Suns are about to employ their seventh head coach since the start of the 2012/13 season, and Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic argues that team owner Robert Sarver is to blame for the seemingly endless coaching turnover in Phoenix. All of the Suns’ dysfunction can be traced back to Sarver, according to Somers, who writes that the owner mistakenly believes he knows how to identify talent on the court and in the front office.
  • The Suns named James Jones as their permanent general manager and hired Jeff Bower as their senior VP of basketball operations the day after the regular season ended. Since then, Jones and Bower have yet to speak publicly. That has to change after the firing of Kokoskov, per Sean Deveney of Sporting News, who contends that the club owes it to its fans to explain the decision and discuss the franchise’s direction.

Suns Notes: Morant, Oubre, Warren, Bender

Suns owner Robert Sarver and many of the team’s front office executives attended the Ohio Valley Conference tournament, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter links).

That’s noteworthy because they were taking a closer look at Murray State sophomore guard Ja Morant. Interim GM James Jones, assistant GM Trevor Buckstein, director of player personnel Bubba Burrage and director of basketball analytics Jake Loos were also in attendance.

Phoenix currently has the second-worst record in the league behind only the Knicks. Morant is ranked third on ESPN’s Top 100 prospect list and first among point guards, a position of major need for the Suns. He scored 36 points against Belmont in the OVC title game to carry the Racers into the NCAA Tournament.

We have more on the Suns:

  • Forward Kelly Oubre Jr. reached his starter criteria and is eligible for a $4.9MM qualifying offer, ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets. He met the criteria by averaging 2,000 minutes during the course of the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons. His cap hold of $9.6MM in the offseason remains the same, Marks adds. Oubre is averaging 16.1 PPG and 4.9 RPG in 28.8 MPG over 36 games since he was acquired from Washington.
  • It might be time for the Suns to shut down T.J. Warren, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes. Warren missed his 19th consecutive game on Sunday due to right ankle soreness. The injury can be more accurately characterized as a bone bruise, Rankin notes. Coach Igor Kokoskov indicated no decision had been made on Warren’s season status. “I don’t have that answer,” he said. “My approach is whoever is available to play, I’m going to try to use and incorporate in the game plan and the rotation and try to see if he can help us win games.”
  • Power forward Dragan Bender has seen his minutes uptick in Warren’s absence, Rankin points out in the same piece. Bender has averaged 16.0 MPG in five March games, though he has posted a modest stat line of 3.6 PPG and 2.8 RPG. Bender, the fourth pick of the 2016 draft, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer after the club declined his fourth-year option prior to the start of the season.

Suns Notes: Front Office, Sarver, J. Jones

In an interesting, in-depth piece for ESPN.com, Kevin Arnovitz explores the Suns‘ front office, going into detail on the messiness and dysfunction in Phoenix over the last several years. Within the story, Arnovitz makes the case that the Suns have “no discernible direction,” as the roster, front office, and coaching staff have all undergone frequent changes since the club’s last playoff berth in 2010.

Arnovitz’s report includes several notable notes and rumors on the Suns – plus a terrific story involving live goats – and is worth checking out in full, but here are a few of the highlights:

  • After speaking with nearly two dozen NBA insiders, including current and former Suns players and employees, Arnovitz suggests that there’s a general consensus on some of the factors plaguing the franchise. He describes them as follows: “An interventionist owner (Robert Sarver) with more authority than expertise, a front office marred by instability, an undermanned scouting department, and a dated facility that isolates the decision-makers from the players and coaches.”
  • While former Suns GM Ryan McDonough was described by Arnovitz’s sources as having a “deep knowledge of scouting and information-gathering,” his communication and people skills weren’t considered to be as strong. Arnovitz’s sources also believe McDonough tended to value job security over his personal convictions, and would be more likely to defer to Sarver than to forcefully argue his case on personnel matters.
  • The “final straw” for McDonough’s tenure in Phoenix was his inability to fill the point guard spot during this past offseason, sources tell Arnovitz.
  • While co-interim GM James Jones has received praise for his ability to communicate with players, he’s often not in attendance at strategy and scouting meetings, deferring to fellow co-interim GM Trevor Bukstein, who is more a cap specialist. While Jones tells Arnovitz that he doesn’t want to get in Bukstein’s way, Phoenix’s front office structure has confused rival teams, who aren’t necessarily sure whom to call when they want to do business with the Suns.
  • The Suns parted ways with several members of the scouting department when they dismissed McDonough in October, and haven’t replaced those execs and scouts, per Arnovitz. Jones has the authority to hire replacements, but has elected not to do so. “One thing to think about was whether or not the size of the scouting staff was adequate, and whether they were efficient or productive,” Jones said. “It’s more than having people flying all over the country just to say that we are visible and say we were there. If you’re utilizing more video and technology, you may not need as much manpower and man-hours.”
  • Although Arnovitz has spoken to some execs who agree with Jones’ stance on scouting, others believe it “denigrates the value of information that can be gathered on-site” at a time when lottery picks are Phoenix’s best road back to contention.

Suns’ James Jones Talks Rivers, Ariza, Oubre, PGs

League executives were puzzled by the Suns‘ decision to waive both Tyson Chandler and Austin Rivers so early in the season, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. As Windhorst observes, even though the Suns may be tanking and weren’t interested in taking on multiyear money, parting ways with Chandler and Rivers – who were both on expiring contracts – closes the door on possible trade opportunities at the deadline.

In a discussion with Gina Mizell of The Athletic, interim co-general manager James Jones indirectly addressed those criticisms, explaining that Phoenix wants to do right by players. “We should be a place where every party, everyone involved, feels invested and feels connected,” Jones said. In the case of Rivers, Jones said that the team and Rivers’ camp mutually agreed that it “would be best if he found an opportunity that fit him better.”

Jones also weighed in on a handful of other subjects during conversations with Mizell and Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic, so we’ll round up some of his most noteworthy comments here:

On whether it was true that team owner Robert Sarver wouldn’t allow Trevor Ariza to be sent to the Lakers:

“No. Throughout all of this, Robert has been adamant that his focus is on what helps the Suns grow and be the best. That was inaccurate. Actually, if something could have worked out, Robert would have been a huge proponent, just because of that investment and understanding that Trevor and his family are (based) on the West Coast. If we can do right for both parties, it should make sense. There’s no reason why you wouldn’t do something that benefits both parties.”

On what he expects Kelly Oubre to bring to the Suns:

“Exactly what he’s demonstrated in the past. He’s young, but he’s experienced. He’s played in a lot of games. He’s played in the playoffs. He’s had tremendous success against some of the best players in the Eastern Conference, some of the best players in the NBA as a whole. His athleticism, his activity, just his competitiveness is something that, as we look at building the identity of this team, those are the foundational characteristics of all the players that we target. Do they play hard? Do they compete? Are they selfless? Do they sacrifice to win? He embodies that, and that’s why we’re excited to have him.”

On what happened with last Friday’s failed three-team trade involving the Wizards and Grizzlies:

“I’ll leave it as just a miscommunication. Going forward, we’re excited to have Kelly. Through everything, we have Kelly. We have a guy we know fits with us and we’re excited about.”

On the Suns’ ongoing search for an answer at point guard:

“For us, as free agency hit (during the 2018 offseason), you talk about that tier of starting caliber point guards, they chose other destinations that were a better fit and better suited to compete right now. As far as trades, I always say it takes two to tango. That’s not something you can control.

“For us at that position, we need someone who will compete defensively, can be impactful and can play well off our other perimeters… [De’Anthony Melton]’s been doing that and we’ll keep pushing him to get better.”

Robert Sarver: Suns Won’t Move Out Of Phoenix

Suns owner Robert Sarver delivered an important message to fans on Thursday, denying that he’ll move his team out of Phoenix if Talking Stick Resort Arena doesn’t undergo a $230MM upgrade.

“The Phoenix Suns are not leaving Phoenix,” Sarver said. “I am 100% committed, and have been for the last four years, to find a solution to keep them in downtown Phoenix where they belong.”

A Suns city council member told Laurie Roberts of the Arizona Republic that Sarver threatened to take the team to Seattle or Las Vegas if the new arena deal isn’t approved, but the council member has since walked his comments back on the two cities, according to Roberts. However, Suns CEO and President Jason Rowley acknowledged the possibility of moving the team somewhere else in the Valley or out of state only as a last resort.

Sarver purchased the Suns for $401MM back in 2004. The franchise has made the postseason just five times in that span, with their last appearance coming during the 2009-10 season. They have the league’s worst record at 4-24 through 28 games.

“I’m a strong proponent — as evident by the term sheet I signed last week — that we should renovate the Talking Stick Resort Arena and once again restore it to a world-class facility,” Sarver said. “In addition, it is important for the Phoenix Suns to build a first-class practice facility so the players of the Suns and Phoenix Mercury can continue to develop. I am 100% all-in on keeping this team right here where we stand, and I want to make sure that message comes across crystal clear.” 

Talking Stick Resort Arena — formerly known as the US Airways Center — has been the home of the Suns since 1992. The Phoenix city council will vote on January 23 on the proposal, which could also extend the Suns’ contract to play in the arena until 2032, according to Fox 10 Phoenix.

Pacific Notes: Rondo, David, Clippers, Sarver

Lakers point guard Rajon Rondo will be examined by a hand specialist on Thursday to determine the next course of action for his injury, Mike Bresnahan of Spectrum SportsNet tweets. Rondo didn’t travel with the team to its road game against Houston. He broke his right hand nearly a month ago and underwent surgery on November 15th. He was given a 4-to-5 week timetable for his recovery but has continued to experience swelling during the healing process.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • A former Kings executive has agreed to plead guilty for funneling $13.4MM from two of the team’s sponsors and spending it on beachfront homes in Southern California, Sam Stanton of the Sacramento Bee reports. Jeffrey David, the team’s former chief revenue officer, agreed to a deal in which all of the money diverted from the Golden 1 Credit Union and Kaiser Permanente will be recouped. Prosecutors plan to argue for a sentence of 8 1/2 years, while his attorneys are expected to argue that he should serve no more than two years. David held a similar position with the Heat when the scheme was uncovered. The funds that were diverted came from advertising contracts the companies signed with the team.
  • Ample cap space, a free-spending owner in Steve Ballmer and some quality pieces already in place are the main reasons why top-level free agents will seriously consider the Clippers, Steven Loung of Sportsnet.ca argues. The Clippers have been keeping close tabs on the top two free agents next summer, Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard.
  • Phoenix city council members should take Suns owner Robert Sarver’s threat to move the team with a grain of salt, Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic opines. Sarver has dropped hints he’d consider moving the team to Las Vegas or Seattle if the team’s current arena isn’t upgraded. Sarver and his partners should pay more for those renovations, according to Somers, and the City of Phoenix shouldn’t buckle under his idle threat. Any move would have to be approved by the NBA’s Board of Governors and Sarver isn’t well-liked among his peers, Somers adds.

Suns Notes: Arena, Griffin, Ownership, Warren

Responding to news that a Phoenix City Council vote on funding for arena renovations was set to be postponed in order to accommodate public hearings on the proposal, Suns president and CEO Jason Rowley issued a statement today, which reads as follows:

“We have learned that a request has been made to continue the agenda item on the arena renovation until a council meeting on January 23. We very much look forward to publicly discussing the many ways in which Talking Stick Resort Arena benefits Downtown Phoenix and our community at large, and answering any question the Council and their constituents may have about the arena and the proposed renovation.”

Rowley’s statement also included an indirect response to rumors that owner Robert Sarver has threatened to move the franchise to Seattle or Las Vegas if the Suns can’t reach an agreement with the city of Phoenix on funding for the arena renovations.

“Our priority remains being in Downtown Phoenix long term, and we’re excited about the opportunity that lies ahead,” Rowley said.

Here’s more on the Suns:

  • Bob Young of The Athletic makes the case for why the Suns should make former Cavaliers GM David Griffin their next head of basketball operations after firing Ryan McDonough earlier this fall. Young also reports within that story that some of Sarver’s minority partners  are “understandably disgruntled about the direction of the team.” However, the structure of Phoenix’s ownership group means there’s little they can do.
  • Despite having failed to crack the 24-win mark since the 2014/15 season, the Suns are still building from the ground up and don’t appear to be on the verge of reaching the next stage of their rebuilding process, as Gina Mizell of The Athletic details. “We don’t have a foundation to maintain,” head coach Igor Kokoskov said. “We have nothing to polish. We have to build.”
  • Elsewhere in Mizell’s story, she notes that there have been multiple instances this season where players forgot what to run or didn’t execute a play as intended during out-of-timeout sets. Ryan Anderson said he has asked Kokoskov to reiterate a play in case his younger teammates “are afraid that they’re gonna appear to not be locked in” if they make a similar request.
  • Suns forward T.J. Warren was fined $15K for directing inappropriate language toward a referee following his ejection on Monday, the league announced today in a press release. It was Warren’s first game back from an ankle injury.