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Rise like a Phoenix! It's a simile full of cheese and a cliche that's used far too often. But in the case of THIS Phoenix Suns franchise, it might just be justified.

It's a well-known path that led this club to their current state of ruinous ashes. The mistakes are numerous. The decisions fateful. But that's the past and all that matters now is the future and as Mr. King so aptly stated, the most important decision is the replacement for the failed Lance Blanks.

Today, we get our first hints at who might be on that list and the names are intriguing to say the least, starting with Grant Hill.

Phoenix Suns, General Manager Lance Blanks part ways
The long-held internal hope that popular former Suns player Grant Hill, who plans on retiring, will patch up a strained relationship with Babby, his former agent, and return as GM has been resuscitated. Suns Ring of Honor member Charles Barkley has expressed hopes of being a GM and met Sarver for the first time this year, but the organization could not compete with his TNT salary.

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Grant Hill. The guy who once told me that he wanted to stay involved in basketball after his playing career was over. The guy whose family still resides in Phoenix. The man who would walk in the door with instant credibility and respect.

He's almost the perfect partner for Lon Babby and one would have to think that their long relationship could overcome a little blip that came after Lon (rightly) only offered Grant a one-year deal last summer.

But the story doesn't end there. Other names mentioned in Coro's report include:

[...]Milwaukee assistant GM Jeff Weltman to people with local ties like Tony Ronzone (USA Basketball scouting director and Dallas player personnel director), Eddie Johnson (Suns analyst) and David Griffin (Cleveland vice president of basketball operations) to experienced, out-of-work GMs like David Morway (Indiana fame) and Mark Warkentien (Denver).

It all makes you wonder if SB Nation's Tom Ziller is onto something when he wrote the following about the Suns situation:

A very odd straw on Lance Blanks' back ends his Suns career - SBNation.com
Basically, it looks like the Suns' bosses -- Babby and Sarver -- used Blanks as a hatchet man, and made sure he cut off his own legs in the process.

I scratch my head over this one.

Lon Babby is a very smart guy. I don't put it past him to look at the situation facing the team he took over and determine his first task was to clear the decks of all the mistakes his boss made in the Summer of Sarver (2010) and realize that the process was ALWAYS going to painful. Bringing in a fall guy to do the dirty work does make sense.

If that was his plan, he picked a perfect guy to bumble his way through the next few years while managing to avoid any fatal mistakes, namely taking on a massive contract for a player like Rudy Gay or Josh Smith.

Then again, it's easy to ascribe motives like this in hindsight and it implies a level of deceit and ruthlessness that I'd rather not put on Lon's head.

We can argue if the Suns should have started to rebuild two years sooner, but that horse is beaten, dead and buried. Now, the decks are clear and the Suns have assets to work with so they can...well, rise from the ashes. The idea that Grant Hill could be the guy to come in and lead that process is very promising indeed.

Sc-blanks

Today, the Phoenix Suns released a statement that Lance Blanks has left the organization.

I can't tell you how happy I am to hear this news. Lon Babby, recently extended for two more seasons as the President of Basketball Operations for the Phoenix Suns, has made the first huge step in the next phase of rebuilding the Suns.

Per the news release:

"Lance has been a trusted friend and colleague," said Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby. "I thank him personally and professionally for his hard work on behalf of the Suns. We will continue to prepare for the offseason even as we look for his replacement."

A press conference has been scheduled for NOON on Tuesday. Either Kris or I or both of us will be there.

This is the most excited I have felt since 2010, folks. I don't yet know how to put my feelings into words.

More analysis to come soon.

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It was a small step for Lon Babby, but the first big step for Suns-kind.

Now that Lon Babby has taken what I believe is the first step in the rebuilding of the Phoenix Suns, his next one will have to be even better.

Sure, it won't be difficult to find a General Manager with better results than Lance Blanks produced. Logic tells me they can't get worse than regressive win totals of 54 to 40 to 33 (in 66 games) to 25 in the last 4 seasons.

The 25 wins were the fewest since the Suns inaugural season in 1968, but many would argue that this past season was the very worst in franchise history. By the end of the season, not a single player wants to be part of a repeat. Not one player wanted the season to continue as it was going.

Goran Dragic said they needed changes. Jared Dudley suggested that everyone on the roster ought to be used as trade bait to get younger talent.

Michael Beasley said the season was very frustrating. Exiled Shannon Brown said he was lied to about playing time opening back up for him. Marcin Gortat said he wouldn't ask great friend, mentor and free agent Jermaine O'Neal to come back.

Behind the scenes, fingers pointed in the general direction of Lance Blanks.

Reportedly, it was Blanks who championed many of the worst (in retrospect) decisions in the past three years. Blanks reportedly felt Goran Dragic wasn't even the second-best PG on the roster in 2011. Blanks targeted Michael Beasley as their #1 free agent. Blanks said Luke Zeller was the best shooter in the world. Blanks tabbed Lindsey Hunter to coach the squad this spring after Alvin Gentry couldn't get them into playoff contention. Blanks somehow made himself invisible to the public and media, leaving media duty to Gentry, Hunter and Babby. In a rare occurrence after the Gentry firing, Blanks said he'd expected no worse than being 10th in the West, but maybe as high as 6th.

The first big step has been taken - the step of acceptance.

To credit the organization, they have not shied away from admitting mistakes. Managing Partner Robert Sarver admitted in 2008 his biggest early mistake was botching the Joe Johnson situation back in 2005 and 2006. Later that spring of 2008, he and Steve Kerr admitted the failure of Terry Porter, eating more than $5 million of his $7.5 million contract.

In the summer of 2009, they offloaded the failed Shaquille O'Neal contract and ate about $10 million of Ben Wallace's contract to let him walk away. After failed signings in 2010, they quickly found a taker for Hedo Turkoglu after only about 20 games. Two summers later, they ate the last $22 million of Josh Childress' 5-year contract to clear cap space for new players.

In the spring of 2011, they traded young PG Goran Dragic and Orlando's just-acquired #1 pick to Houston for Aaron Brooks. A year later, they re-signed Goran Dragic to bring him back where he belonged in the valley. The re-signing was reportedly all Robert Sarver, apparently in a parking lot while Eric Gordon was being wooed inside.

And they finally stopped trading draft picks away, rather acquiring additional ones on top of their own.

There have been a lot of mistakes, but there have also been a lot of examples of admitting those mistakes.

They have now admitted yet another mistake. Lance Blanks is gone, and rookie head coach Lindsey Hunter is sure to follow (though I do still think he did a yeoman's job this spring in very difficult circumstances).

The problem to date hasn't been an inability to admit mistakes.

The problem has been an inability to make great decisions in the wake of those mistakes.

The Suns have yet another chance to hit a home run now. Qualified candidates won't be beating down the doors at US Airways Center. Phil Jackson didn't hop on a plane on Monday night. Neither will many of the other experienced big-name front office guys. The Suns have run their reputation ragged.

But Lon Babby has been good at convincing people the Suns are a destination, and he's got to be at his best in these next few weeks to recruit his next big front office surperstar.

The Suns have a good situation to sell:

  • a rebuilding program with public expectation to lose a lot of games for another year or two
  • 10 draft picks in the next 3 years
  • a top-5 pick in two months
  • lots of cap space to be had
  • solid veterans with trade value
  • not a single "untouchable" player on the roster

Babby's next step is his biggest yet.

"We have to nail it," he said to arizonasports-620 last week in reference to this rebuild.

To everyone's relief that begins with a new GM and a new coach.

In 2012-13, the Phoenix Suns got it so wrong, they actually got it right. That is of course, if the next move is to actually rebuild. Over the previous two seasons, team management assembled rosters...

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In a shocking turn as we enter the summer, the Phoenix Suns and general manager Lance Blanks are going their separate ways, the team announced Monday in a press release. Blanks and the team had a...

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