Wow. There's a LOT to chew over in this report from Ric Bucher. Not only does Bucher report that Milwaukee Bucks assistant GM Jeff Weltman is the front-runner for the Phoenix Suns GM job, but he buried the lede on the Robert Sarver front.
Bucher's source also puts the blame for Blanks on Sarver's shoulder (something I'd never heard before and take with a grain of salt) and goes on to suggest that Banker Bob might just be ready to cash out on his investment in the Phoenix Suns franchise.
Here's the report:
Ric Bucher's post on San Antonio Spurs | Latest updates on Sulia
Jeff Weltman, as has been reported, is the frontrunner to be the Phoenix Suns' next GM, and one source said he was team president Lon Babby's preference when he first joined the Suns but that owner Robert Sarver was eager to tap the San Antonio Spurs' braintrust and therefore preferred the now-deposed Lance Blanks. The bigger question is, how much longer will Sarver be calling the shots? One source says the increased evaluation of franchises inspired by the Seattle-Sacramento fight over the Kings has Sarver wondering if it's time to cash out.
So first, let's tackle the Sarver selling thing which I think is the bigger story.
Sarver was the lead guy in a group that purchased the Suns from Jerry Colangelo in 2004 for a reported $400m (give or take a couple of million dollar hamburgers). The Kings valuation in the Maloof sale is at least $525m and could end up closer to $550m when the dust settles.
That's a pretty hefty increase and something that has to make Sarver take notice. He's on the NBA's Finance Committee and has seen all the details of the Kings transaction. If the Kings are worth that much, how much would the Suns be worth?
It's VERY important to note that this is one rumor from one source. We've heard whispers over the years that Robert wasn't in it for the long haul and would be open to selling but that's still very thin gruel.
I also am of the opinion that Sarver has taken far more grief (mostly from the national media) than deserved.
He's OBVIOUSLY made mistakes when it comes to both business and player decisions but he's no slum lord (I see you Donald Sterling) and it baffles me that super-rich, large market Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf doesn't get raked over the coals for being "cheap" while Sarver (whose team did pay the luxury tax for several years while in contention) does.
So, let me just say this about the potential of Sarver selling --- sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know. How would you feel about Chris Hansen and his Seattle crew setting their eyes on your Suns should they strike out on moving the Kings to the Emerald City?
Anyway, it's something to file away and chew over for the time being until we get more info one way or another. And one would think this report might prompt some kind of response from Bob. Then again, Sarver's words and actions haven't always been in alignment (how's that for tact!).
Weltman is the assistant GM in Milwaukee and has reportedly been given permission to interview with the Suns. He's been with the Bucks for five years (since April 2008) and recently signed an extension in his current job. He has a long NBA resume which you can read here.
Perhaps most intriguing about Weltman is his propensity for analytics which, you will kindly recall, is a focus for Babby during this "Summer of Analytics".
Frank Madden from Brew Hoop said this about Weltman and the possibility of him coming to Phoenix:
The Bucks' front office has deservedly taken plenty of heat for the Bucks' lack of results over the past five years, but Weltman might be the person they can least afford to lose. In my interactions with him I've found him to be approachable and open-minded, and he's generally considered to be a very analytical guy with a strong knowledge of the CBA.
On the flip side, Weltman has been with the Bucks for five years and that franchise hasn't exactly blown the doors of the NBA. At some point in the future, certainly if Weltman is hired by the Suns, we'll explore his team's draft record in more detail. But never forget -- Joe Alexander.
Are we having fun yet?
When Grant Hill left the Phoenix Suns last summer, he expressed surprise on the local radio waves. He had wanted to return to the Suns, having settled into a community where his wife and kids still reside a year later.
Phoenix is a great city in which to live, one of the "top five destinations in the NBA", according to Jared Dudley last fall.
Staying in Phoenix for the sake of a family who set roots in the Valley was theme over the past year while the team experienced major turnover. Not only did Steve Nash lament having to move away from the family, so did Grant Hill and later Sebastian Telfair. Jared Dudley has a family here too, and always wanted to stay in town.
During his press conference announcing the ouster of GM Lance Blanks, Suns President of Basketball Operations admitted the Suns handled the roster turnover poorly (and coaching staff turnover, for that matter).
Lon Babby said the Suns "lost our way a little bit", later adding to Doug and Wolf on arizonasports/620: "We should have been more respectful of what had been accomplished here. We weren't as sensitive as we should have been. It's not going to be like that going forward."
Might that mean a return of some of the previously ousted loyalists?
Certainly, Babby believes the Suns lost leadership this season. "Is the leadership at the same level as it was before? No."
"I'm 40 - come on," he said to the Orlando beat reporter last month in reference to returning for another season.
Could Babby be itching to call Grant Hill soon?
"I love Grant Hill," Babby said of Hill last week on the radio show. "I worked with him for 17 years. Those relationships are always strained when you move into different positions. That's the reality of it.
"I have said many times that I would always look forward to the opportunity of working with Grant in any capacity. That doesn't necessarily mean that he's a candidate for this [General Manager] job. But if he wants to come back and rejoin this organization I would be open and willing and excited about talk to him about it, and see if there was something that made some sense.
"Any time you have an opportunity to add that kind of manpower in your organization you have to sit up in your chair and think about it and talk about it."
Don't expect anything soon, and don't expect Hill to jump at the chance to join the Suns organization again. But Hill's family still lives in town, with no intention to move. That's a big draw - big enough for Hill to want to stay with the Suns last year even with Nash moving on.
But Hill is still under contract with the Clippers, who have no intention to take summer vacation before mid June if they can help it.
"I'm guessing he's going to unavailable for the next couple of months," Babby said.
Jason Collins made the announcement in a Sports Illustrated story, which can be found online here, where he details his experience as it has led to this watershed day.
"I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay," said Collins.
"I didn't set out to be the first openly gay athlete playing in a major American team sport. But since I am, I'm happy to start the conversation. I wish I wasn't the kid in the classroom raising his hand and saying, "I'm different." If I had my way, someone else would have already done this. Nobody has, which is why I'm raising my hand."
I, for one, think it's about time. Jason Collins, brother of former Sun and future ring of honor inductee Jarron Collins, should be applauded for his decision. I have both friends and family members that are in same sex relationships. Their sexuality in no way affects my relationship with any of them. It never even enters the discussion.
People are sure to have different opinions and leanings on a topic like this, but I am a proponent of people being able to live their lives how they would like to as long as they aren't impinging on the rights of others. Hopefully this helps pave the way for other athletes, and people in general, to live their lives without the fear of being eschewed or shunned.
Change often doesn't happen without resistance or controversy, but today... change happened.