Cheap. Penny-pinching. Incompetent.
Those are just a few of the adjectives that have been used to describe Phoenix Suns managing partner Robert Sarver since he became majority owner in 2004.
When it became clear that Sarver would basically act as Suns GM until the position was filled, I was struck with fear as the controlling owner lacks basketball knowledge and seemed unwilling to write checks entering one of the most important free agencies in Suns history.
I was convinced that if he was in control he would drive this franchise right into the ground.
Well, I was wrong.
What Sarver has been able to do in the last couple of weeks deserves major kudos. After the departure of Steve Kerr and Amare Stoudemire, the offseason was shaping up to be a money-saving summer.
He disrespected Alvin Gentry by exercising his team option, asked Kerr to take a pay cut, and the remainder of the offseason was expected to follow a similar pattern.
But with some help from Gentry, Sarver put on his GM hat and made some impressive acquisitions.
First he was able to agree with Hakim Warrick on a four-year deal worth about $18 million, which was a great value considering what other big men of his similar production have garnered this offseason.
But even at that point it seemed that Warrick was the cheap Amare replacement and the Suns would stand pat, playing out a less-heralded roster and waiting for Jason Richardson’s $14.4 million to come off the books after next season.
However, thanks to Stoudemire’s remaining loyalty to the Suns, Sarver was able to garner a $16.5 million trade exception from the Knicks in a sign-and-trade.
Even at this point I questioned if Sarver would use the exception, besides the $4 million that was to be used on Warrick of course.
But he shed his cheap label Sunday afternoon by going after Josh Childress and Hedo Turkoglo, and has now committed $109.1 million since July 1. And he was also able to shed Leandro Barbosa’s less-than-favorable contract along the way.
It clearly remains to be seen how these players will fit in Phoenix, but you can no longer question Sarver’s commitment to winning.
You can no longer call him cheap, or penny-pinching. These moves show that he is dedicated to at least trying to put a competitive basketball team on the court night in and night out.
But what’s even more impressive is that he found a way to do all of this without a general manager. How many owners have you heard of that can pull off four sign-and-trade deals in one summer without a GM?
There is no doubt he had a ton of people in his ear helping him out, but Sarver has proven that maybe he isn’t as incompetent as I originally thought.
Turkoglu and Childress are both terrific fits in the Suns’ system and should keep them competitive, while giving them something to build on for the future.
I was also worried about Sarver’s ability to evaluate a sufficient GM to fill Kerr’s shoes. But he’s using a somewhat unorthodox technique to lure in players and keep things running smoothly.
Rarely does a player agent get consideration for a GM spot, but Sarver has been in talks with Lon Babby, who is expected to head a spot in the Suns front office very soon.
Babby represents Turkoglu, and used to represent Childress, so you have to think that played a huge role in bringing both of those players to Phoenix.
Having a former player agent in the front office could be a secret weapon of sorts, as they have great relationships around the league and even better negotiating skills.
Another good move by Mr. Sarver.
He’s taken a ton of heat during his six years as Suns owner, and he really does deserve the majority of it. But after taking on the role of GM, bringing Warrick, Turkoglu and Childress to Phoenix, and implementing an uncommon strategy to lure new layers to the Suns, Sarver deserves some love for once.
After the last few weeks it’s no longer fair to call him cheap, penny-pinching and incompetent. Although only time will tell if these moves backfire, at the moment Sarver deserves some kudos rather than the thrashing he’s used to facing.
Tags: Robert Sarver