Tag: Lon Babby

Los Angeles Lakers v Phoenix Suns, Game 4

Suns won’t offer contract extension to Robin Lopez


Wednesday’s Jan. 25 deadline for the Suns to offer a contract extension to center Robin Lopez will come and go without any action by the team, according to a report from Fox Sports Arizona:

“We reached out to (Lopez’s agent) Arn Tellem and let him know that we were willing to engage in discussions to see if there was any common ground that might make sense,” Babby said. “Their preference was to wait and see how things unfolded. We’re perfectly fine with that.

“We just wanted to make sure we made the appropriate overture. Everything was completely amicable.”

Babby had reached out to Lopez’s agent Arn Tellem to gauge what common ground might exist between the two sides, and prior to Tuesday’s home game Babby met with Lopez to assure him the deadline had not been ignored.

These comments from Babby confirm the original report on the matter from the Arizona Republic.

There’s no reason to lock up Lopez any earlier than necessary, and the Suns organization is handling this the right way — by being both up front and communicative with Lopez and his representation throughout the process. Phoenix will still retain the right to match any offers for Lopez this upcoming summer if they make a small qualifying offer to him in restricted free agency. And based on Lopez’s level of production and reduced role on the team thanks to the stellar play of Marcin Gortat, there’s no hurry to do so.

The team is also keeping in line with its recent strategy.

This past offseason, the Suns went bargain shopping to get talent on the cheap that would ideally provide production. But if those players didn’t fit, the ultimate cost would only be in the neighborhood of minimum salaries for just the current year. Shannon Brown, Ronnie Price, and Michael Redd all fall into this category.

No one knows for sure what the future holds for the Suns in terms of their most valuable personnel asset, Steve Nash. If Phoenix continues to drop home games against the league’s bottom-feeding clubs as it has in its last three contests (including Tuesday night to the Raptors), then the Suns and Nash may in fact finally reach that point where they agree it’s best for both parties to move on — Nash, to a contender, and the Suns, to a full-fledged rebuilding process.

It’s what everyone seems to want — except, of course, the parties who are involved.

With Nash, we’ll just have to wait; at the very least until the trade deadline this March, and quite possibly until the offseason this summer. But with Lopez, he’s now effectively in a contract year, and can prove his worth on the court with whatever minutes he is allowed. Either to his current team, or to potential suitors in the future.

Suns training camp notes: High hopes for Telfair, improvement for Lopez, dealing with Pietrus

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The Phoenix Suns are holding training camp in town this week at Grand Canyon University. Here are some notes from Sunday’s morning and evening practice sessions:

– The Suns were without Grant Hill, Sebastian Telfair, and Markieff Morris for their morning practice session, but had them on the floor for the evening session, once Vince Carter cleared waivers on Sunday afternoon. That left the team with only nine players, so Alvin Gentry drafted assistant coach Corey Gaines into duty to fill that 10th spot. So why Gaines, instead of assistant coach and former Suns star Dan Majerle? “We were trying to get a guy that could walk,” Gentry joked.

– Robin Lopez was a disappointment for the Suns last season, his ability to perform dramatically reduced due to injuries that he seemed slow to recover from. It’s a different story early in training camp, however, as Lopez has said he feels great, and has a lot more bounce in his game. Gentry agreed, and likes what he’s seen from him so far. “Without a doubt, you can see that he’s almost completely different than he was last year. I think athletically, even conditioning, I think his overall personality, everything has kind of changed. I do think that he feels like he’s healthy now, that was a major issue last year. He would not ever say that, but I don’t know. It just seems to me that he’s running better, he’s rebounding better, and he’s finishing better. So we’ll just see how that translates into games.”

– Steve Nash is used to having to mentor a new backup point guard in camp, as it’s something he’s done in the majority of his training camps with the Suns. Sebastian Telfair is this season’s new recruit, and Nash spoke briefly about him after Sunday morning’s session: “He’s someone who has a new opportunity, and a chance to, I think, not only have a big contribution for us, but in a way, kind of resurrect his career,” Nash said. “He’ll get a lot of opportunity to grow and learn, and be a big part of our team.”

Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby was optimistic about what Telfair would bring to the team, saying “This is an important spot for him, and I think he sees it that way. This is his chance to really shine and work with Steve. He came into the league with such high expectations, and they’re hard to ever meet those expectations. I think now he’s settled down, he’s mature, and I think we have a chance to catch lightning in a bottle.”

– Zabian Dowdell hasn’t yet participated in camp due to experiencing pain in one of his knees. It’s unfortunate, because Dowdell contributed at times last season, especially on the defensive end of the floor. He’ll still be given that opportunity, to compete for a lead backup guard role. But with Telfair and Shannon Brown now on the roster he’s going to be at least a step or two behind. Steve Nash sympathizes: “I feel bad for Z because he’s just not able to go right now,” Nash said. “And the season’s so short, hopefully he can get up to speed quickly because he did a lot of good things last year.”

– The Suns had a deal in place to send Mickael Pietrus to Toronto for a conditional second round draft pick, but it was cancelled once Pietrus was found to still be ailing from the knee injury which sidelined him for the last 12 regular season games last year. It’s clear the Suns do not want Pietrus on the team this year, yet Babby was diplomatic in discussing the issue on Sunday.

“We had a transaction that we couldn’t consummate, and we’ll keep working at it,” Babby said. “So he’s still part of this team and will be treated with respect as we try to get him healthy.”

Healthy enough to package out of town in another deal, most likely.

– Marcus Landry was invited to Suns camp, and was expected to be there by Sunday at the latest. But Lon Babby said that Landry hasn’t yet received clearance from FIBA to participate, so the Suns are still waiting. Babby expects Landry to be cleared in the next day or so and to have him in camp hopefully early this week.

Trading Nash might be bad business for Phoenix

Steve Nash

The basic team building model in the NBA has been pretty easy to understand — you’re either a contending team or building to get there, and if you’re a contending team whose championship window has closed you blow it up and start over with young players. It takes a few years (maybe more than a few) but you rebuild.

The Phoenix Suns are not contenders. But they are not blowing it up and trading away Steve Nash, either.

And there are reasons for that, team executives told the Arizona Republic (via Valley of the Suns). Sound business reasons.

From a business perspective, however, there is no debate. Trading Nash would be disastrous. This isn’t Green Bay, Pittsburgh or Boston. Irrelevance here is a death sentence.

“Phoenix can be a tough market,” (Suns President Rick) Welts said….

Welts said that (team GM Lon) Babby, in his first year with the franchise, was amazed by the negative reaction to the Suns’ 40-42 record this past season.

“For a lot of markets that’s a really successful team,” Welts said. “But the success we’ve had comes with higher standards in terms of people’s expectations. There’s more anxiety when the team isn’t solidly winning more than half of its games. Does it factor in for us? It does. Historically we’ve never torn down this team to build it back up again. Some people will say that’s the reason we’ve never won a championship.”

Suns officials ran the numbers and it showed that when a team blew up its core after reaching the conference finals it took about a decade to get back. (Over at The Point Forward, Zach Lowe took a longer look at that.) That is a long down time in a market where most of the people are transplants with loyalty to a team from back home. They’ll come watch the Suns if the Suns are good, but when they are bad they stay away. The Suns can’t afford that.

All of which is to say, you think it would be the right thing for the Suns to trade Nash, to do so now and get young players and picks to start rebuilding. But the Suns don’t see it that way at all.

Of course, their other risk is that Nash just walks away after his contract is up in the summer of 2012 and they get nothing. But don’t look for them to trade him soon, it would be bad business.

Suns now have more time to decide on Vince Carter’s contract

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The Phoenix Suns and Vince Carter have agreed to extend the deadline that would make his contract become fully guaranteed, according to a team press release. Originally, the Suns had until June 30 to decide whether they would waive him for $4 million, or keep him on the books for next season for the full amount of his guaranteed contract: an astronomical $18 million.

“This change gives us additional time and flexibility to make a decision on Vince’s contract,” said Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby.

When you’re talking $18 million for Vince Carter, there is only one decision here, and it had been previously reported that Phoenix had already made it. And deadline extension or not, it’s the same one the team will make when the time comes again.

Letting Carter go and not committing to that ridiculous salary in these extremely uncertain financial times for the league — with a lockout quickly approaching and a new, lower salary cap structure in place whenever a new collective bargaining agreement does get done — is really the only option. But the extension, with the new deadline for the Suns now standing at the start of the 2011-2012 free agency period, does allow Phoenix to explore trade scenarios which can include Carter’s contract for next season.

Any deal involving big names must include players whose contracts closely match on the salary side, and $18 million gives the Suns almost unlimited options in pursuing whomever they choose.

Now, as for whether or not another team would be willing to take on Vince Carter at $18 million for next season, well, of course, that doesn’t seem very likely. Then again, neither did the Wizards being able to get out from under Gilbert Arenas’ monster contract, which had around $60 million remaining when they dealt him to the Orlando Magic last December.

So, while it remains doubtful that the Suns will be able to convince another team to commit to Carter at that price for next season, there is still a chance, however slim. This move simply buys the team some extra time to do so.

Suns president apologizes to fans for team’s play

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Tuesday night, a reeling Denver Nuggets team blew out the Phoenix Suns (that loss would have gotten a lot more attention if the Cavs hadn’t been historically bad and LeBron hadn’t tweeted about it). That loss was the Suns eighth in their last 10 games.

Wednesday morning, Suns president Lon Babby went on his weekly radio segment (on KTAR-AM, 620) and apologized to Suns fans, then reiterated those statements later to the Arizona Republic.

“If you’re a fan that’s a season-ticket holder or someone who comes and invests in our franchise or if you’re vested emotionally, you have to be feeling what I’m feeling when I watched that game,” Babby said later Wednesday. “You have to be feeling what I’m feeling when I watched that game. You’re disappointed that we’re not competing. It would be wrong of me to sugarcoat that so I felt owed it to people to be candid.

“It’s not acceptable to us any more than it is to any of you….”

“I don’t think we’re playing up to the level of our talent,” said Babby, who said the difference in team chemistry is “stark because you’re comparing to what was last year, which was magical.”

Wednesday night the Suns picked up an overtime win against the New Jersey Nets.

But that was one game against a bad team. Suns fans, sorry to tell you this, but you need to get used to it — this is what the first phase of rebuilding looks like. Keeping Steve Nash can help mitigate the pain for a while, while trading him away soon can help speed up the rebuilding process. You can choose.

But the losing, that may be going on for a little bit.