A couple weeks back word came out that Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver had no plans to sell the team. So, we went to Facebook and asked Suns fans “What — if anything — can Sarver do to change your opinion about him as an owner?”
There were more than 150 responses, and the majority said something to the effect of “nothing” or “sell the team.”
Well Suns fans, it’s time to come to grips with the fact that Sarver ain’t going anywhere. For better or worse, he’s going to be the one calling the shots.
Perhaps that does not have to be a terrible thing, as he understands the franchise might be better off with him calling as few shots as possible.
“I’ve jumped the gun before to spend money to sign guys that slowed us down in the rebuilding process,” Sarver told Arizona Sports 620’s Burns and Gambo Thursday.
Sarver must have been talking about the summer of 2010, which saw the team bring Josh Childress, Hakim Warrick and Hedo Turkoglu on board, along with the re-signing of Channing Frye to a deal that was, it’s fair to say, a bit on the steep side.
The last few seasons have seen Sarver restructure the front office as well as hire two general managers. The first hire, Lance Blanks, didn’t work out.
But the second one — Ryan McDonough — has been universally praised by nearly everyone in the basketball community. If he’s as smart and capable as everyone says, then the team may yet have the guy in place who can get them back on track.
The rebuild will take time, though, as the former Celtics executive is taking over a team that had the worst record in the Western Conference and will be picking near the top of what is regarded to be a weak draft.
It’s a far cry from where the Suns used to be, even as recently as just a few years ago.
Sarver’s first few seasons saw an unprecedented level of success, while his last few have seen unprecedented levels of failure. Some questionable decisions may have cost the team a shot at a title, whereas some bad decisions have led them to where they are today. It’s why fans refuse to give the owner the benefit of the doubt.
And they shouldn’t.
But, at the same time, there should be some willingness to see if Sarver has turned a corner in his growth as an owner.
We’ve seen it happen before.
For years the Bidwill family was known for being cheap. Their best players would leave town as soon as they could, and the amenities the athletes were afforded could have been afforded by most of us. Arizona was not a desirable place to play, and the team was a perennial loser because of it.
Then the Cardinals got their stadium.
Michael Bidwill, who has taken over for his father Bill, has changed everything. Suddenly players view Arizona as a viable destination, and even those who leave, like Karlos Dansby, are more than happy to return.
That’s a testament to the work Bidwill has done, be it of his own doing or by putting the right people in place and letting them do their jobs.
So Sarver’s transformation, if in fact he has undergone one, is not exactly unprecedented.
In an Arizona Republic article by Dan Bickley, Sarver said, “I’m definitely a better owner today than I was nine years ago, even two, three years ago,” Sarver said. “I’m realistic enough and honest enough to accept the fact that I need to learn and evolve.
“There are times in the past when we’ve used salary cap space wisely. But a lot of the times when we haven’t used cap space wisely happened when I was involved in the process.”
It seems like Sarver is ready to let his basketball people make the basketball decisions. President of Basketball Oerations Lon Babby and new general manager Ryan McDonough have quite the task ahead of them, and the owner has no plans of micromanaging or getting in the way.
“Our goal is to try to get back to elite status, which we had three years where we competed, say, we were a top five or six team and we had a legitimate chance to compete to win a championship,” Sarver told the radio show. “We want to get back to that; we don’t want to get back to where we’re locked into mediocrity.”
At the very least Sarver, who says the organization can communicate better, is saying the right things.
And maybe…just maybe…that means he’s about to start doing the right things, too.