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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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As I watch the NBA playoffs this weekend, I am struck that the 2013-14 season for the Phoenix Suns has everything and nothing to do with the head coach.

The Phoenix Suns are at such a crossroads as a franchise, one year removed from separating themselves from aging stars and three days removed from the most painful of rebuilding seasons for any franchise. Not only are the Suns one of the four worst teams in the NBA, they have a roster devoid of all-star talent - present or future.

The bleak outlook could change quickly if everything lands into place this summer. Not into a contender or even a playoff participant, per se, but at least into a roster with an upside.

Adding a top-4 pick this summer and a young high-end talent in free agency or via trade isn't enough. You need another high-end talent in next summer's draft, maybe two, and voila you've got a roster with upside. Further development from the youth already on the Suns roster would help as well. The losing is much easier to swallow if you can see a better future on the horizon.

The Suns won't turn around this team in one summer. And it's not reasonable to expect that to happen.

"In the NBA, there's nothing overnight," Jared Dudley said when he came in to clean out his locker last Thursday. "These Suns draft picks in the next two years can set up you up for the next four years."

Four years is the length of a rookie contract, where the cost to pay a player can be far less than their on-court value. Of course, if you mess it up then the drought will be much longer than four years.

"We've got to nail it," President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby said to arizonasports-620 last week.

Lon Babby knows the franchise direction is different today than it was a year ago. It's not about wins as much as planning heavily for the future.

"The note now is the future and [player] development," he told Doug and Wolf. "And what do we need to do to continue to develop young talent, and what assets can we get whether it's more draft choices or young players."

It's an asset-collection business now. You need the biggest collection of assets you can get, in order to someday take that next step.

"If you look at now how people are getting these other stars," Dudley said. "You've got to have young talent to go trade for those. You can get a [James] Harden type, even though they gave up [veteran Kevin] Martin, they gave up picks. So if you want to get those guys you're gonna have to give up young assets that are talented, that they see potential."

The Phoenix Suns have gathered some assets, but they just aren't enough to beat out a team like Houston yet. Houston had a highly-regarded pair of guys at shooting guard to give back to OKC - veteran Kevin Martin on an expiring deal, and rookie Jeremy Lamb - plus a guaranteed lottery pick via Toronto (slotted at #12 in 2013).

It's possible the Suns could have bettered that offer by parting with both Jared Dudley and Marcin Gortat along with picks, but they weren't ready to write off the season at that point.

Clearly, if the Suns had the benefit of foresight they might have come to a different conclusion.

Maybe this year the Suns will make that plunge. Maybe they will trade any and all veterans for the promise of high-end youth, regardless of the win-loss column.

It's time to put the focus on the future, and acquiring picks and youth. Picks and youth come in exchange for veterans and their cap space.

Jared Dudley knows that's the way to go.

"We have some veterans that would be good trade bait for more of a playoff type team," he said.

Marcin Gortat knows it too. In the past, Gortat has lobbied for the return of key veterans. He wanted Steve Nash and Grant Hill back, as well as others.

But this season, he's not lobbying for the return of a key veteran that he tabbed as one shining light on a dark season.

"Listen, that's a tough question," Gortat replied, when I asked if he wanted O'Neal back next season. "I love him as a brother, as a player. He's a great great wonderful person.

"But for the organization, we need a lot of young guys. We need to go in the direction of rebuilding the team. I wish to have him but is it going to be good for our organization? I don't know. Two of the best things that happened to me this season was Jermaine O'Neal and Ralph Sampson."

With an upcoming season promising an injection of youth, and a focus on player development over wins, does it even matter who the coach is?

Yes, in a way.

The Suns don't need a veteran, battle-tested playoff coach. They need a younger guy who will hold these AAU graduates accountable, who will teach them the right way to prepare for and play every night the same as the night before. 100% effort 100% of the time.

Is that Lindsey Hunter? Maybe, maybe not.

I still think the bigger issue is the player evaluation staff. The guys who have to "nail it" this summer and next to re-set the trajectory of the franchise in an upward direction.

Maybe that's why the coaching decision is taking so long. By now they know if Hunter is their man or not. Maybe it's more about the rest of the front office than we are being led to believe.

Stay tuned.

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