Suns’ James Jones focused on player development, not win totals

Oct 12, 2018, 1:18 PM | Updated: 2:55 pm
(Photo: Kellan Olson/ArizonaSports)...
(Photo: Kellan Olson/ArizonaSports)
(Photo: Kellan Olson/ArizonaSports)

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns are adamant they want to start competing and bumping up their win total significantly.

Owner Robert Sarver said as much Monday on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station, the same day he fired general manager Ryan McDonough.

“I think we’re at the end of a rebuild,” he said on Burns & Gambo. “For me, the switch has flipped and it’s now time to start figuring out how to win.”

In his first time speaking since being named interim general manager — along with assistant general manager Trevor Bukstein –, vice president of basketball operations James Jones’ quotes on Friday reflected a team still in a rebuild.

“Our focus as a team is to develop,” Jones said when asked about the team’s stated goal to be one of the most improved teams in the NBA this season. “It’s not wins and losses. We can’t define our season based on a win-loss total. We do know that our young guys need to improve.”

That point also came off a question directed at the team’s current point guard situation lacking a starting-caliber floor general. As preseason play has shown, the Suns are going to struggle to improve from 21 wins into the 30s with that current group.

Instead, Jones said he’s focused on the bigger picture of the roster as a whole.

“I try to remind everyone that we have Devin [Booker] and we have Deandre [Ayton] and ultimately in this game you need very good playmakers,” he said. “A point guard is extremely important to us but it’s a five-man game and if we can find ways to put our guys in positions to be successful, collectively as a whole we’ll figure that out.”

Jones’ answers on the point guard reflection did not reflect a front office member concerned about the position.

“We’ve rotated our point guards (in the preseason) and some have had tremendous success,” he said.  “They’ve had their ups and their downs, but coach Igor (Kokoskov) is adamant that we have enough playmakers to figure it out. We’ll continue to look to improve and strengthen our team, but right now, we like our young guys.”

Jones, who has held a front office role for 15 months, will run the team alongside Bukstein on a temporary basis. The three-time NBA champion feels they have a great relationship and work well off each other.

“He’s passionate for this,” Jones said of Bukstein. “He’s probably one of the best salary cap guys in the NBA. He’s had tremendous experience with it over the last nine years and that’s his area so we’re a good tandem because we both know each other’s strengths and we respect each other’s weaknesses.”

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Suns were “leaning toward the eventual hiring” of Jones as the permanent GM hire. When he was asked if he was interested in the position, Jones said he isn’t focused on that.

“Titles don’t mean anything to me,” Jones said. “The only title that matters is an NBA title and if that means I can help this team in my current role or in another role, I’m all for it.”

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