If the Phoenix Suns are trying to emulate other NBA franchises, the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder would not be bad examples.
The Spurs, as we all know, have been one of the league’s elite franchise for a decade and a half, while the Thunder appear poised to carry the torch for the foreseeable future.
“I think those are exactly what you try to accomplish,” Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby told Arizona Sports 620’s Doug and Wolf Wednesday. “What they have done brilliantly in San Antonio is, first of all, build a team around the personality of their franchise player, which was Tim Duncan.”
Babby pointed to the relationship between Duncan and head coach Gregg Popovich as being equivalent between the one Red Auerbach shared with Bill Russell, and said it’s “a blessing when you have a player and a coach who can accomplish that.”
Of course, Babby noted the Suns are not going to be able to draft a Tim Duncan. However, the Spurs have done an excellent job of creating a system that is easy to assimilate into, and it leads to players seemingly performing above their capabilities.
“If you look at the personnel they have you can see that,” he said. “They have defined roles, they have an understanding of what they’re supposed to do.”
Babby has long maintained that is the goal in Phoenix, and that while the team may not be winning games this year, the foundation of a promising future is hopefully being put in place.
“One of my favorite quotes the last couple of weeks is Kevin Durant, when they were here, commenting on where we were relative to where they were, and he reminded people in his rookie year they were 3-30 at one point,” Babby said. “But that what they were doing and what he looks back on now and appreciates is that they were being taught.
“And the lessons they learned then are the very lessons that are holding them in such good stead now, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to accomplish.”
The Suns are 19-39 and tied for last in the Western Conference, so they’ve got a ways to go. But while it may take time and the team will need a little bit of luck, the blueprint is out there to be followed.
“If you ask me who is the quintessential model for what we’re trying to accomplish, it’s that culture,” he said. “We’re not necessarily going to play that way and we’re not going to have a Tim Duncan to be sure, but you know you’ve got it right that when you plug in parts they all seem to work.”