Suns give GM James Jones contract extension

Suns general manager James Jones
Barry Gossage NBAE via Getty Images
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Suns general manager James Jones backed Suns owner Robert Sarver, who’s being investigated for allegedly making racist and sexist comments in operating the franchise and overseeing a toxic workplace.

Now, Sarver is backing Jones, who has earned support as the reigning and deserved Executive of the Year.

Suns release:

The Phoenix Suns today announced that the team has extended the contract of General Manager James Jones.

“We’re fortunate to have a great basketball mind leading this team. James not only has tremendous instinct for identifying talent, but he has an innate ability to compose a roster that is deep with complementary players who make each other better, on and off the court,” said Managing Partner Robert Sarver. “He came in with strongly-held beliefs on what it would take to nurture a championship culture and what it should mean to wear a Suns jersey. We promised fans an elite NBA franchise that would steal their hearts and make them proud and that’s what we have built under James’ leadership.”

Barely a year removed from his playing career, Jones was thrust atop Phoenix’s front office when Sarver fired Ryan McDonough just nine days before the season in 2018. Jones initially appeared to be in over his head. But the Suns stuck with him.

Their faith has been rewarded.

Jones convinced Chris Paul to join Phoenix and executed a trade for the star point guard, propelling the Suns into the 2021 NBA Finals. That signature move shines even among Jones’ other savvy additions, including Jae Crowder, Cameron Payne and Cameron Johnson (who was a shocking pick at No. 11 in the 2019 NBA Draft). Jones also helped lure Monty Williams, one of the league’s top coaches, when the Lakers had interest.

Though he inherited several key players – Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges – Jones has done a great job creating a winning culture in a place that lacked it. Jones was admired for his professionalism and communication as a player. Those skills have clearly translated, and Jones has found people – especially Williams and Paul – to further his values.

The Suns (37-9) have the NBA’s best record. They’re not quite championship favorites, but they’re squarely in contention.

By practically every measure, Jones is excelling.

This is not an easy job, either.

Jones’ track record is imperfect. His latest surprise draft pick, Jalen Smith No. 10 in 2020, hasn’t worked out (though Smith had a recent spurt of quality play). Jones’ resumé as an executive is still relatively short, leaving room for a fuller picture to emerge over time. He must still navigate Ayton’s high-stakes restricted free agency.

But considering how well Jones has done as a young executive learning as he went, the sky is the limit as he settles into this position.