||06-18-2010 11:27 PM
Sarver needs to take a step back
Courtside is too close for an NBA owner. Robert Sarver needs to back off. And if he can't afford the Suns, he needs to sell the team.
The drama is becoming ridiculous.
This is not to pick at old wounds, how the Suns owner once incensed Joe Johnson, how he wanted to low-ball Alvin Gentry, or how he asked Grant Hill to take a pay cut after playing 82 games for the first time in his life.
This is about repeating mistakes.
This is calling the same running play four consecutive times on the goal line and wondering why you can't score a touchdown.
In 2005-06, the Suns had remarkable chemistry. They reached the Western Conference finals without Amar'e Stoudemire. They were two wins from the NBA Finals and had found perfect working harmony between front office and locker room.
Then Sarver ushered out Bryan Colangelo, breaking the special bond he shared with Mike D'Antoni.
He made a general manager out of the overworked D'Antoni, who was coaching for Team USA that summer. He elevated the under-qualified David Griffin as his assistant. Together, they gave Boris Diaw $45 million. They arranged a midnight meeting with Marcus Banks in Las Vegas and paid him another $21 million.
Legend has it that Sarver trusted his staff enough to sign Banks sight unseen. And when Sarver finally met his new backup point guard, he couldn't believe Banks' diminutive stature.
On the brink of a championship, the Suns coughed up a hairball.
Now: Same thing. Two wins from the NBA Finals, Sarver had a special team with great camaraderie. He had the perfect synergy between general manager and coach, and once again, it didn't seem to carry much value.
As the season progressed, Sarver yearned for one playoff series in Phoenix, guaranteeing a minimum of two home playoff games. He received eight home dates. The postseason run generated an estimated $10.5 million of additional revenue and restored all the good will lost during the Shaquille O'Neal/Terry Porter debacle. So how could this happen?
Sarver isn't always cheap. There are times when he's absolutely charming. A parking-lot attendant told me Sarver once flipped him a $200 gift card for working hard in the heat. He recently picked up the bill for a trip to Nike headquarters, buying gear for low-level employees. He allowed Kerr to work from home whenever necessary. And for nearly three years, through all the nuisances and whispers, Kerr always saw the best in Sarver.
Until the culture of working under Sarver became too much: too much stress, too many battles over money, too much owner interference.
Don't believe the spin, or Kerr's sudden desire to be with his family. He had the perfect setup in Phoenix. He was actively negotiating an extension, and publicly thanking Gentry for making it all happen. And he's not the type to pass up shots at winning an NBA championship. Just ask Michael Jordan.
In the short term, Sarver will feel the brunt of public perception. A Stoudemire departure would further move the team in reverse, confirming Sarver (a) doesn't believe in the team he just sold you; (b) doesn't have the money to compete at a championship level; or (c) his appetite for a championship goes only so far. And on a current media tour, disgraced referee Tim Donaghy claimed that league officials still respond negatively to Sarver's omnipresence at games.
"No doubt about it," Donaghy said. "He's obviously a very vocal, animated individual. And he really got into the games. He certainly screamed and yelled at the referees every opportunity he got, especially during timeouts, in an extreme and animated way. And there's no doubt and no secret among referees that a couple went out of their way to stick it to him."
OK, we'll consider the source on that one. But too many easy-going men have thrown up their hands and bolted Sarver's employ. He has blown through three coaches and three general managers in six years. The culture of ownership clearly is a problem, and why Sarver needs to fade into the background, giving his staff necessary room to breathe and funds to operate.
Alas, he has done exactly what he swore he wouldn't, which is loitering around the basketball team, making basketball decisions. That must change moving forward. For everyone's good.
Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/sports/suns...#ixzz0rGIxELr6
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