ESPN’s Windhorst: Suns’ Sarver still must sign off on most big trades

Jan 3, 2023, 11:34 AM
Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver attends Game Two of the 2021 WNBA Finals at Footprint ...
Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver attends Game Two of the 2021 WNBA Finals at Footprint Center on October 13, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Mercury defeated the Sky 91-86 in overtime. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

With the calendar flipped to 2023, the Phoenix Suns now have the Feb. 9 trade deadline clearly in view.

Forward Jae Crowder’s season-long absence as he and the team search for a way to separate hangs above the team led by president of basketball operations and GM James Jones. As losers of six of the last seven games, there is even more reason to believe the Suns will be open to making deals.

How has their pending ownership situation impacted that?

While Jones has maintained he is empowered to run the franchise as he has in the past, there are complicating factors stemming from the rules that govern suspended owner Robert Sarver’s involvement, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst has investigated.

Sarver, who has a pending agreement to sell the team to Mat Ishbia, does not have the ability to be involved in the day-to-day operations, but certain trades still must be approved by him.

Sarver still has to give personal sign-off on any deal for a player with a salary that is more than the current “average player salary,” multiple league sources confirmed to ESPN. This would include any luxury tax payments, which the Suns are currently projected to pay.

The current average player salary is $10.8 million. Crowder’s salary is $10.2 million. And the Suns, according to sources, have had talks about various multiplayer trades over the past few months that would all likely have to end up on Sarver’s desk.

While the Suns have acknowledged Sarver’s agreement to sell to Ishbia, Windhorst adds that an official ownership change that would put Ishbia in power to approve trades is not expected to happen before the Feb. 9 trade deadline.

The NBA must send the proposed sale to a vote by the other owners after a vetting process.

That entire process, according to Windhorst, usually takes 2-3 months, and the league is currently busy with other matters.

It’s in collective bargaining agreement talks after pushing back a previously agreed-upon deadline.

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