Lon-babby

Babby's contract was set to expire after this season, but the Suns and owner Robert Sarver decided to lock him up before it got to that point.

Arizona Republic beat writer Paul Coro broke the news on Twitter.

#Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby agreed to a two-year extension to remain at the team's helm. More to come at azcentral.

— Paul Coro (@paulcoro) April 2, 2013

Now the team has sent out a press release confirming the extension including an official statement from Sarver:

"Lon has led our front office during this important transition period for the organization and he has my full support as we continue to rebuild," said Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver.

The release goes on to mention how Babby has placed on emphasis on the draft by citing the selections of Markieff Morris and Kendall Marshall as well as the numerous draft picks the Suns have acquired, and also mentions a focus on getting younger by listing the acquisitions of Goran Dragic, Marcin Gortat, Wesley Johnson, P.J. Tucker, Marcus Morris and Michael Beasley.

Babby himself put forth a statement in the release:

"I greatly appreciate the faith that Robert Sarver and the entire Suns organization have demonstrated with this new contract," said Babby. "We have begun the heavy lifting needed to rebuild our team. While the transition is often painful, I am entirely confident that we are taking the necessary steps to regain elite NBA status. I fully embrace the opportunity to continue on that path."

It appears from both quotes that Sarver is giving Babby the chance to finish what he started. There is some merit to this approach, as the Suns might as well let Babby attempt to get the team out of the hole he (and his predecessors) dug. The Suns chose to go with a (somewhat) full rebuild, and most times that involves getting worse before getting better. Well, the Suns got worse. Now it's time for the getting better part.

However, the examples of Babby's moves given above do not inspire confidence. Of those, I consider the acquisitions of Dragic, Gortat and Tucker good moves. The rest are at best neutral moves and at worst big mistakes. Based on the Twitter reaction from Suns fans, this is not a popular decision.

But none of that matters now. The Suns are moving forward with Babby at the helm and his version of the rebuild will continue.

Next on the agenda are the decisions on the futures of general manager Lance Blanks and interim head coach Lindsey Hunter. Dave has already written on this topic in depth, so check it out (just ignore the parts about Babby not being extended).

PHOENIX – The remaining portion of the Phoenix Suns’ 2012-13 season dictates two things clearly. It will dictate development to young players like Kendall Marshall, who the team drafted in the...

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Fans want absolutes. Is Lindsey Hunter the coach or not? Is Lon Babby the President/GM or not? Is Lance Blanks coming back to run the draft another time or two, or not?

The players want to know, too, but they are more focused on the summer break at this point or upcoming free agency.

I'm sure the ones most interested in knowing are Lindsey, Lon and Lance. But they can't afford to spend any time thinking about it (though you know they do anyway).

It's the fans who think about it way more than is probably healthy.

But whether Hunter is coming back next season matters not, at least not yet. First, the front office has to be in place with new contracts. Otherwise, why go through a coaching search that might have to be done all over again? No new GM or President is going to want to be saddled with a head coach he/she didn't pick.

Lindsey Hunter's interim head coaching contract most likely expires on the last day of the season, before Lon Babby's, and certainly before Lance Blanks. What happens to Hunter on April 18? Does he revert to player development coordinator again, pending a coaching search? Or is he released entirely from Suns employment? That call is Robert Sarver's to make, and it almost certainly won't be a decision to make Hunter the permanent coach with a brand new contract before a lot of other decisions are made.

Not if Sarver is still considering making changes in the front office.

Babby's contract does not expire until after the draft and the first month of free agency. Blanks' contract goes for another year beyond that, but we all know that only matters in context of paychecks. If Babby is gone, Blanks is certainly gone. If Babby stays, it's still possible that Blanks is out. I mean, just look at this roster he's assembled. The second-worst winning percentage in franchise history, folks.

"Every player on this team is a guy we wanted to be here," Babby said in preseason. He felt (and I felt as well, showing how much I know about chemistry and talent) that this team was more talented than last year's.

Blanks and Babby brought in NINE new players this season, returning only one guy given full starter's minutes all season long (Marcin Gortat). The others - Jared Dudley, Markieff Morris and Sebastian Telfair - all saw their minutes cut over the course of the season (Channing Frye missed the entire season with a heart condition).

This truly is Blanks and Babby's team. And Hunter is truly Blanks and Babby's coach.

"You've got to have that leadership," Lon Babby told KTAR/Arizonasports last week in a radio interview. "You're looking for that coach [to lead the team]."

"I don't want to speak prematurely," he admitted further, when prodded. "But I think we're getting some of that from Lindsey Hunter. We can talk about that at the appropriate time, but I do think we've made progress in some of that area.

"Is the leadership at the same level as it was before [with Nash and Hill]? No. We are constantly keeping our eye on that. You cannot have a rudderless ship, and we've got to make sure we don't have a rudderless ship. From right up here with me and Robert, on down to the locker room."

It's up to Robert Sarver to decide how strong and true the rudder named "Babby and Blanks" has become. Lon is careful to use "we" in any context of team evaluation. He is not alone on his island, and doesn't want to be portrayed that way. Blanks made the call on Hunter and the last two draft picks (Morris and Marshall). According to Babby, all of them made the call on Gentry and on the team itself last summer and for the past three years.

But if it's a question of bringing in new talent evaluators or losing his job, will he break ties from Blanks and Hunter? Will he care about the job enough to compromise character and integrity? Who knows.

It's also unknown WHEN the decisions will start being made, beginning with Lon Babby.

It's certainly possible that Sarver rides out this current front office through July since they are already under contract, but is that likely? Is it likely he has a new staff inherit the work of the prior regime without the opportunity to shape the roster before their first season in power?

Sounds crazy, but he's done it twice before. He did it in the disastrous summer of 2010, when Babby and Blanks were not hired until the heavy lifting had been done already, absolving them of any blame but also castrating them for 1/3 of their contracts. He also kind of did it in 2006 when Bryan Colangelo went to Toronto. Sarver simply promoted D'Antoni to GM without engaging in a GM search.

The only time he hired a President/GM in a timely fashion (ie. before the draft and free agency) was in 2007, when he hired minority owner and broadcaster Steve Kerr to run the front office ahead of longtime assistant GM Dave Griffin. But that wasn't under the gun. He simply stripped the tag from Mike D'Antoni and put a rookie in place.

So sure, it's possible that Sarver won't hire a new permanent front office until late summer, after the heavy lifting once again. He clearly doesn't (or, at least, didn't) think a permanent, veteran GM is vitally important during the draft and free agency.

We can assume Sarver and Babby will have a heart to heart on Babby's next contract when the season ends, and not much beyond it. The smart play is to decompress a bit and wait a couple weeks before sitting back down to discuss their future. That way, you're not working on adrenaline. That's what got Mike D'Antoni in trouble. He quit before stepping back a bit.

But if it's Lon's decision, he will have them collect their thoughts a bit before making any decisions.

"I have made some notes in a journal that I keep," Babby told me two weeks ago. "So that when I sit down with Robert I'm not going on what happened that day but on what happened all along. And hopefully Robert will do the same."

If the two decide to part ways, though, don't put it past them to keep Babby in the office until his contract ends. Babby is a man of integrity who values honoring contracts. It's certainly possible he and Blanks remain in their positions until Babby's ends.

Which just delays the hiring of the new President, new GM and new coach until late summer.

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The Suns Gorilla has long been known to put out "maximum effort" on the basketball court. For more than almost 40 years, he has run around, leapt, flipped and generally done whatever it takes to rile up the US Airways crowds at otherwise dull events.

Basically, exactly what the Suns need when the shot clock is running.

Practices are closed to the public, but hush-hush rumors abound among people "in the know" that the Gorilla was out the on the court, running drills to show the players out how match his level of effort every second he's out there.

He wasn't barking orders, I assume, since he has no voice. So I can imagine him animatedly gesturing players into position throughout the drills.

After practice, Suns brass was reportedly so impressed that the Gorilla has been retained as "Effort Coordinator" for the remainder of the season.

Details, attribution and actual facts to follow soon.

Stay tuned!

UPDATE: April Fools!!

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In addition to the Jays, I was able to see games featuring Duke, Georgetown and San Diego State and the NBA Draft prospects those teams featured. I also was treated to the show put on by Dunk City (No. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast for those that don't follow the tournament), but that's a different story.

Potential First Round Picks in Philly: Otto Porter, Mason Plumlee, Jamaal Franklin, Doug McDermott

Potential Second Round Picks/Summer League Invites: Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly, Gregory Echenique, Chase Tapley, Amath M'Baye

First, here is my take on the potential lottery picks.

OTTO PORTER

  • School, Class: Georgetown, Sophomore
  • Position: Small Forward
  • Measurables: 6-foot-8, 205 pounds
  • Projection: DraftExpress - 8, NBADraftInsider - 4

Quote: "During the recruiting process, I knew we were getting a player that was extremely versatile, that I thought would be able to have success in a lot of different areas on the basketball court at both ends ... He's continued to progress, he's gotten better ... He's a person that can control a game in many different facets." - Georgetown head coach John Thompson III

As a possible top five pick and potential target for the Suns, Porter was the player I was most excited to see. I was counting on seeing two games of him considering his Georgetown team was a No. 2 seed taking on a lowly No. 15 seed in the FGCU Eagles. Unfortunately, Dunk City had other plans and Porter was sent home early. But I still got to see one game from Porter, and although it wasn't his best, I came away impressed.

Georgetown's public practice was one of the more boring ones that I watched on Thursday, as John Thompson III kept things simple for his team with some basic skill work. The one thing I took away from it was that Porter has really put in a lot of work on his shot. He was a 22.6 percent 3-point shooter a year ago as a freshman, but he knocked down almost every shot he took in practice, from all over the floor.

In the Hoyas' game against FGCU, I got to see less of the shooting and more of everything else. The bad part is Porter had one of his worst shooting percentages of the season, going just 5-17 from the field and 2-6 from downtown for 13 points. However, these numbers are way below his averages of 48.0 and 42.2 percent and I'm writing this off as a just bad game, albeit at the worst possible time. He even missed a couple bunnies that normally are an easy two.

There was one great sequence in the second half where it looked like he was finally coming alive. He threw down a nice dunk, hit a 3-pointer on the next possession, made a nice pass for an assist on the possession after that and then broke up an alley-oop on the other end. It was an impressive sequence showing off a variety of Porter's skills, but just when it looked like he was taking over, the Hoyas stopped going to him.

However, despite his offensive struggles, he was still able to put up a double-double and I was very impressed with his rebounding ability. He has great length, good hands and a nose for the ball, which are essential traits in any great rebounder. He pulled down nine of his 11 boards in the first half, and although he only had two offensive rebounds in the game, he was in position for several more had he gotten better bounces off the rim. Rebounding should continue to be a plus for him at the next level.

He didn't really impact the game in a big way in any other area, although he did make some nice passes on offense and make a few plays on defense.

Overall, Porter appears to be a very versatile prospect who can contribute in multiple ways. I don't think he's a franchise changer or even a number one option. However, I do think he is going to be a very solid starter and perhaps an All-Star one day. Tayshaun Prince, Nicolas Batum and Andre Iguodala are players I would compare him to.

Final Thoughts: Porter didn't have his best game, but based on what I've seen I would be in favor of the Suns drafting him somewhere in the 4-8 range. He's not our franchise player, but he is a great piece to have on the team as the rebuild continues.

MASON PLUMLEE

  • School, Class: Duke, Senior
  • Position: Power Forward/Center
  • Measurables: 6-foot-11, 245 pounds
  • Projection: DX - 12, NDI - 11

Quote: "Mason has just developed; he's worked really hard since last spring to develop a better offensive game inside, and he's got good touch, and one of the key things he does out there is pass ... he's had a really great year for us." - Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski

Plumlee is a prospect the Suns might have an interest in if they receive a late lottery pick from the Lakers. He is an athletic big with good size and a game that took a huge step forward this year.

I hadn't paid very much attention to Plumlee's free-throw stroke before, but that was the thing that stuck out to me most in Duke's public practice. He has a weird hitch before his release, and I'm surprised he's even a 67 percent free-throw shooter.

Unlike Georgetown, Duke managed to win their second round game against Albany so I got two looks at him.

Plumlee was too big and strong for the Great Danes to handle, and he finished with 23 points and eight rebounds, missing just two of his 11 shot attempts. However, I didn't feel like he was as dominant as his numbers would lead you to believe. Plumlee did show a nice sky-hook, and he threw down a couple impressive alley-oops (they threw him a third but the ball was over the cylinder when he grabbed it). However, he struggled with the Danes doubling him in the post in the first half and ended up with four turnovers. A lot of his baskets were also due more to his guards penetrating and collapsing the defense than anything he did. He just had to wait under the basket for the pass and finish.

In the second game against Creighton, Plumlee was pretty much a nonfactor as he was neutralized by Gregory Echenique. Plumlee finished with a pedestrian 10 points and five rebounds, while dealing with foul trouble all game. Plumlee only took seven shots, largely due to Echenique's defense. Plumlee simply could not move Echenique and get the post position he wanted, and he didn't even try all that hard. As Creighton head coach Greg McDermott put it, "I didn't think Plumlee wanted any part of Gregory down there." Echenique is about as strong as any player in college basketball, but Plumlee's inability to assert himself against good defense is troubling.

Plumlee does appear to have decent handles and is a pretty good passer for a big man, which is a plus. There was one play against Albany where Plumlee went to work posting up, drew a double-team and threw a pretty behind-the-head pass to his wide open teammate near the basket, who unfortunately missed and cost him the assist.

Overall, Plumlee is a solid player. He's a great athlete who can finish around the basket and rebound at a high rate. However, while his back-to-the-basket game has drastically improved, I don't believe he's going to be a consistent go-to option in the post in at the NBA level. He's a role player, and I don't think he will ever be much more than a decent starter. I think he's comparable to players like Kris Humphries, Meyers Leonard and Jason Thompson.

Final Thoughts: If the Suns get the Lakers' pick (likely No. 14), Plumlee is one of the players worth considering, particularly if they choose a wing with their own pick. However, if a player with more upside is available I'd have no problem passing on him.

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