Suns GM James Jones talks impact of pending team sale, Ayton-Williams blowup

Dec 22, 2022, 8:22 AM | Updated: 8:28 am
General manager James Jones of the Phoenix Suns looks on after the game against the Miami Heat at F...
General manager James Jones of the Phoenix Suns looks on after the game against the Miami Heat at FTX Arena on March 09, 2022 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The Phoenix Suns are set to have a new owner pending league approval, as mortgage lender Mat Ishbia agreed to purchase a majority stake from Robert Sarver on Tuesday.

What does that mean in the short term for a Suns squad looking to win a championship this year?

General manager and president of player operations James Jones said Wednesday on Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo the development will allow the Suns to move forward, and he thinks he’ll get more clarity on new ownership expectations at some point.

When exactly remains to be seen.

“I think it’ll be status quo for a minute,” Jones said. “I mean, those are conversations we’ll eventually have. So I expect to get some clarity. I just don’t know the timing of it. It could be from day one, ‘This is where we want to take a franchise,’ it could be ‘Hey, let’s sit back and evaluate and see how it progresses before we decide what we do next.’

“So in any event, it’ll just be an opportunity for us to move forward and to kind of focus a little bit more on basketball and not be distracted by some of the things off the court.”

Ishbia, the chairman and CEO of United Wholesale Mortgage, will serve as the team governor and his brother, Justin, will be the alternate governor.

Mat Ishbia said in a statement he is confident the Suns and Phoenix Mercury can find the same success on the court that he’s sustained in business.

Jones noted the ongoing search for a buyer after Sarver announced he would sell the team in September has not hampered the GM’s abilities to make deals.

He admitted, though, the sale was something other teams thought about and a small factor in discussions.

“Evidently, when you’re where we are, not just us but the other franchises and counterparts, they think about what’s the likelihood something will be able to get done. So it ices it, it chills it a little bit. But as far as business, we’ve been able to have the conversations and focus on the things we think can improve the team. And we’ll continue to do so going forward.”

‘Guys are good’ after Deandre Ayton blowup with Monty Williams

Deandre Ayton and head coach Monty Williams were featured exchanging harsh words with one another in the closing moments Tuesday of a Suns loss against the Wizards that ended Washington’s 10-game winning streak.

To Jones, it’s understandable why that stuck out.

“It’s something good for the cameras,” the GM said. “I mean, our locker room postgame, our locker room immediately after guys had a chance to cool down was where it typically is. When we lose, guys are typically dejected and focused on how they can improve. I mean, it’s a storyline that sounds good, but our guys are good.”

Williams and Ayton had been involved in a tense exchange to end the 2021-22 campaign in the Game 7 loss to the Dallas Mavericks during the Western Conference Semifinals.

That storyline carried into this offseason. Ayton re-signed but at media day showed frustration about Williams’ lack of communication with him all summer.

It took some time, but they appeared to have put any disagreements past them. Jones believes they’ve done so this time as well.

“When players play poorly and they show no emotion, people get upset and say, ‘Oh, these guys don’t care,'” the GM said.

“For us, it’s a part of competing at a high level. Our guys are not robots, we don’t want them to be robots. .. I do know our guys compete. That’s why you do see frustration.”

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