Phoenix Suns Team President and Chief Executive Officer Rick Welts announced his resignation from the team, reports the Arizona Republic. Welts has been affiliated with the Suns organization since 2002, running the business and marketing side of the team but not being involved in basketball operations.
His last day on the job will be September 15, after which he'll be replaced on an interim basis by General Counsel Jason Rowley until a permanent successor is selected.
Welts made news in May by publicly announcing that he is gay, a move that was met with support from the Suns organization and coincided with an anti-homophobia public service announcement featuring Suns players Grant Hill and Jared Dudley.
Welts told the Republic he's not leaving the Suns for another job in professional sports franchise management but rather that:
The most important thing for me is to get my personal and professional lives better aligned. They've probably never been aligned. I'm 58 years old and it's time to do that.
This isn't one of those departures to see greener pastures. It really is completely a personal situation. These guys have been tremendously accommodating and any other inference than that is absolutely crazy.
Here's wishing Rick Welts all the best in his future endeavors and thanking him not only for his service to the Suns, but for displaying a brand of courage that only one who has walked in his shoes can fully understand and appreciate.
At the same time, Rick Welts was an outstandingly talented sports marketer and savvy businessman. He worked 17 years in the NBA league office before joining the Suns, rising to the level of Chief Marketing Officer and President of NBA properties. He's been credited with creating the NBA's All-Star weekend, among other notable achievements. Let's not remember him solely as "oh yeah, he was the gay guy" when he is so much more than that.
As many of you have heard by now, there is growing optimism about a full NBA schedule this year. Ken Berger is reading unsaid words and facial expressions like a profiler. Chris Sheridan is citing unnamed sources. And then there's the phantom tweet from Roger Mason Jr, player rep for the Knicks, that was later deleted: "looking like a season".
My reaction? Depression.
As I read through the optimistic articles last night and this morning, instead of getting excited my heart sunk lower and lower into my chest.
I can see the frustration of a frenzied free agency period during which the Suns front office looks forlornly at its empty wallets and just watches along with me on the sideline. And I don't really want to watch a dozen teams around the NBA get better and another dozen to keep their hold on 50-win seasons and high playoff hopes, while the Suns struggle to beat the Clippers. And I'm not looking forward to watching Steve Nash deteriorate before my eyes over the course of an 82-game schedule again.
The 2011-2012 promises to play out nearly exactly like the last season. In fact, there's a greater chance of regression than progression. Nearly the entire 40-win roster is signed through at least next season, and there's no money for free agents. Couple that with your best trade chips being Mikeal Pietrus and Robin Lopez, you're in trouble. Big trouble.
Sorry to be the gloom and doom here, but every day that goes by without basketball is a day that further crystallizes the notion that it's time to start over.
You simply don't build a team with a foundation of aging stars and middling role players.
My depression began 3 days ago, when role-player-extraordinaire Jared Dudley said he was trying to recruit Channing Frye, Josh Childress and Aaron Brooks to play on his impact basketball team this September. Why a bunch of role players, Jared? Why not recruit an idle Suns star or two to join him?
Then I realized - there are no idle Suns stars to recruit! Let's run through the roster. Pietrus and Marcin Gortat are overseas. Vince Carter, Grant Hill and Steve Nash are too old to run with the younger pups. Markieff Morris is an unsigned rookie. Gani Lawal and Garrett Siler just aren't good enough. And Robin Lopez... well, that's an interesting name but who the hell knows? Maybe he's in Disneyland. Not one of those guys is an all-star talent*.
*note: Gortat may make an all-star game or two, but he's not a perennial all-star talent.
The impact basketball "league" will be flush with in-their-prime, veteran NBA players and up-and-coming kids. The best the Suns can possibly offer are Dudley, Childress, Brooks and Frye, otherwise known as the 6th-9th best guys on a contender. Ugh. Maybe Duds can recruit an all-star talent from another NBA team to be their fifth-wheel. But then again, if they're trying to prep for the Suns' 2011-2012 season, playing with a true all-star might be counter-productive.
As mentioned earlier, the Suns' roster is set pretty well in stone for this upcoming season unless Lon Babby can turn his trash (Lopez, Pietrus, minor FA money) into treasure (a new 2-guard). But even then, the rotation of last year's 40-win team will be largely the same at 4 of 5 positions.
Best case: 75-year old Nash/Hill combo survives 82 NBA games, rookie Markieff Morris plays like Horace Grant, Babby gets a fringe all-star to play 2-guard... and the Suns win 45 games, taking the 7th seed.
Worst case: Nash goes down at some point, Hill goes down at some point, Jason Richardson signs but disappoints, Morris plays like a rookie backup... and the Suns win an agonizing 35 games. Just good enough for a crappy lottery pick.
Yayyyy, 2011-2012 season... (sniffle)
As reported by our own Seth Pollack. He has an opt-out clause so he can come back when the lockout ends, but given that he's buried pretty low on the depth chart behind Channing Frye, Hakim Warrick and Markieff Morris, it might be a good idea for him to stay over there until more opportunity opens up for him in Phoenix.