Jones: Woj doesn’t know what’s going on inside Suns’ building

Feb 27, 2019, 4:24 PM

Phoenix Suns interim GM James Jones sits during an interview with The Doug & Wolf Show on 98.7 ...

Phoenix Suns interim GM James Jones sits during an interview with The Doug & Wolf Show on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Feb. 11, 2019. (Arizona Sports/Matt Layman)

(Arizona Sports/Matt Layman)

Phoenix Suns co-interim general manager James Jones took issue with at least one of ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski’s comments from a two-minute segment that aired on Tuesday.

Wojnarowski touched on a number of topics about the struggling franchise, but saying “there’s not a lot of scouting going on in Phoenix” was a direct criticism of the team’s current front office leader.

“I can’t control when people try to take shots. But I don’t talk to Woj. He doesn’t know what goes on inside the building,” Jones told Burns & Gambo Wednesday on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “That’s his opinion but it’s totally inaccurate.

“We do have 10-plus scouts. Our guys were on the road this week – Kentucky, Virginia, Murray State, Carolina, ACC schools, Pac-(12) schools. We placed a major emphasis on practices, video scouting and live-game scouting because we know this is a very important draft.”

Perception has hurt Phoenix because the team has not hired a permanent GM or formally announced hires for vacancies due to a series of firings. The Suns let former GM Ryan McDonough go nine days before the start of the regular season as well as several of his trusted personnel evaluators.

Assistant GM Pat Connelly, director of scouting Courtney Witte, director of international scouting Emilio Kovacic and Northern Arizona Suns GM Louis Lehman were all fired.

Jones had worked with that group for a year, his first in an NBA front office and first since retiring as a player.

Phoenix replaced McDonough by promoting Jones, the former VP of basketball operations, and former assistant GM Trevor Bukstein. The Suns have added one notable scout, former player Ronnie Price, to their staff.

The lack of hirings, of course, might be because Jones and Bukstein are working through a season-long evaluation period as interim leaders.

John Gambadoro of 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station reported Wednesday that the Suns’ interview process to find the permanent front office leader is underway. Jones and Bukstein remain in the mix to retain leadership roles in some capacity.

Jones has said his focus is on the NBA roster rather than prioritizing the draft. Maybe that’s why he’s not on the road as much as other GMs — that was one of Wojnarowski’s examples of what he called Jones’ “unorthodox view toward the NBA Draft.”

The co-interim GM said after the trade deadline that the Suns’ draft scouting priorities lie in the players that will fit this team, in this market.

“The draft is a crap-shoot, but the more you can hone in and identify the types of players that will work for your franchise, I think it makes it easier to dedicate your hours acquiring those guys and not really focusing on every single player that’s available,” Jones said. “You really want to drill down and focus on players you think can thrive in this market.”

Jones touched on that belief again with Burns & Gambo on Wednesday.

“Although we’re doing it differently than we had in the past, I think it was warranted,” he said. “You know we hadn’t had great success scouting the draft, so using technology and being focused on the areas of need we have for our team this year, that’s where we’ve placed our focus.

“Like all things, people on the outside don’t know what goes on inside and they guess. But it’s inaccurate.”

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