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Retired James Jones joins Suns prepped for VP of basketball ops job

Suns owner Robert Sarver announces the hire of James Jones as VP of basketball operations on July 19, 2017. (Photo: Kellan Olson/ArizonaSports)
LISTEN: Ryan McDonough, Suns GM

James Jones’ first press conference as the Suns’ new vice president of basketball operations doubled as his retirement announcement.

Skipping a more formal event for the latter in itself displayed what should be a seamless transition for the 14-year NBA veteran rather than concern over his credentials, as sudden of a move as it appeared.

For the past few seasons, Phoenix GM Ryan McDonough, whose contract was extended through the 2019-20 season on Wednesday, and owner Robert Sarver had inquired about James joining their front office when the players’ free agency period began.

Finally, the timing was right.

After seven straight trips to the NBA Finals with LeBron James’ Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers teams, Jones finally felt it was time to join what he called “the other side.”

“I knew at some point that I’d have to let it go. I wanted it to be on my terms and I wanted it to be at a point where I could be at peace with my basketball career,” Jones said Wednesday. “If you’re on the outside, you may wonder why. Why forgo an opportunity to compete for championships? But I see this as an opportunity to compete for championships. I like where the organization is. That’s why this opportunity was unique and why I felt it was important to really assess it.

“I just knew this was the right time to come back home, and I consider this home.”

The resume extends beyond basketball.

Jones said ever since a tough conversation with his mother as a freshman struggling through a social studies course in high school, he’s committed himself to learning the business of basketball.

McDonough cited Jones’ experience as the National Basketball Players Association treasurer and his experience negotiating the most recent Collective Bargaining Agreement as a key piece of his resume. Sarver added that dating back to Jones’ time with Phoenix in 2005-07, he was a numbers guy who discussed real estate with the team’s owner.

“You’re talking about a very high-level guy, a high-level thinker who brings a wealth of experience,” McDonough told The Blitz on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station. “As we looked at it, we said, ‘wow, he really brings a number of different things in the form of one person who has a great feel for players and teams around the league.'”

Jones will be among the top decision-makers, joining McDonough, assistant GMs Pat Connelly and Trevor Buckstein, and Sarver. He will be involved in free agency, trade and draft decisions. He’ll also be a mentor for the team’s current players.

As a longtime teammate of soon-to-be free agent James, questions at Jones’ introductory press conference of course linked his new role to the Suns’ recruiting efforts on the free agency front.

“James has a real good knowledge and network to help us understand the players who we want to bring in whether it’s through free agents and trades, and evaluate talent, and I also think he’ll be helpful in recruiting, but I don’t think it’ll be his primary role,” Sarver said.

“James is intimately familiar with what it takes to win a championship.”

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