Robert Sarver not so penny-pinching this offseason

Robert Sarver hasn't been as bad as usual this offseason, as he's committed to about $109.1 million in contracts.

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

  • djstratboy

    Sarver knows business. I don't like many of the moves in the past, But I know a good business man can learn from mistakes. Let's hope he doesn't need many more lessons.

  • Chad

    Agreed! I cursed Sarver under my breath & out loud several times over the last couple weeks. He has shown some promise the last few days. Lets hope he keeps it up. We aren't out of the woods yet. But this is a good deserved article. I just hope Sarver doesn't get a big head :)

  • Steve

    I don't think it would have been fair to ever call him cheap. How many times has the man paid the luxury tax? I don't necessarily like him, but I have never understood why anyone calls him cheap.

  • Mel.

    I'd also make mention of the fact that he came within four-million dollars and a few contract caveats of re-signing STAT, which was a move that–again–NONE of us were expecting. The fact that we lost Amar'e to the Knicks based on insurance guarantees over playing minutes is something that actually shows Sarver's paying more attention than any of us probably give him credit for.

    I'll miss STAT, but I'd be reaching for a rusty razorblade if Sarver had just kicked out the chocks and given him the deal that New York did.

  • Beesee

    Cheap, Penny-pinching – No. Incompetent – Yes. He refused to offer Stoudemire, a 22-9 player, a max contract for fear of the him regressing in the latter years of the contract. He subsequently trades a young player in LB when his trade value is at its absolute lowest for a near-max contract player in Turkoglu who has never even sniffed 22-9.

    Childress is a nice acquisition, but we could have gotten a lot more than Turk for LB had he waited till the season started.

  • Alex

    Say what you will about Amare's offensive game, but I think Sarver did a good job not overpaying him. He's a monster dunker and one of my favorite Suns ever but he doesn't rebound, doesn't play D, has a serious injury history and most importantly, benefits from playing with Nash. Guess who else will benefit from playing with Nash? Every player we just signed!

    On a side note, is Turkoglu still a lock to be in Phoenix next season now that Charlotte has backed out of the deal??

  • harvey

    I think, in retrospect, the reluctance with money had a lot to do with having to pay the luxury tax. Now that he can spend, without the luxury tax, because of the trade exemptions, and the overall salary structure, we are seeing that clearly he is willing to spend. As I said, looking back, one can see that a number of unpopular moves that were taken, (the infamous KT deal for e.g) were at times when the team was over the cap, and therefore paying a certain player more was tantamount to paying them "double".

  • sun also rises

    @ Beesee and what would your proposal have been? Give STAT a hundred million plus without any safety in case one of his rebuilt knees turns to dust in two years? Like Mel said, that’s a Knicks deal and the Knicks can live with it. I’ll always be a fan of Sun Tzu but Sarver offered him everything the Knicks did save for some chump change and Amare wasn’t having it. If STAT wants to believe that he can play for twenty million a year and be consistent (and be “the man” in NY, which is what this was all about) then I wish him the best of luck. But pinning that on Sarver is total BS.

  • Ace

    All the Suns need now is to make a deal to acquire David West from New Orleans or try to acquire next off season. Sarver would completely shave his incompetence if he is able to acquire West before the Season starts. Also, Suns need to make room for Scottie Reynolds (No more Griffin). Scottie has potential

  • Steve

    I’m not a huge fan of the Turkoglu move either, Beesee, but I think that calling Sarver incompetent is totally off-base. I know no one will believe me, but I never doubted Kerr when he was making all of those “boneheaded” decisions, and I’ve never doubted Sarver as an owner when everyone was calling him cheap, either. I’ve never, ever question his will to build a winner. Do you see him at games? He’s far more than your average, lower-bowl, snobbish, too-cool-to-cheer-for-my-team fan.

    Giving Amare max would have been a terrible move. Nothing has played out yet, so I can see that you still have reason to doubt, but since when has 22/9 been worth max money? LeBron gave 30/8/8 and Wade gave 26/7/5. That’s max. Kobe Bryant has won 5 championships. That’s max. What has Amare done? He’s gone to the WCF twice and failed twice. This last time was pathetic. Amare, for all his regular-season splendidness, was a dud in the playoffs. He didn’t play AWFUL. But he didn’t do what max guys do. Go out and win it for your team. Jason Richardson did that. Steve Nash did that. Grant Hill did that. Even Goran Dragic did that. Amare had very little to do with our playoff success, and he is not, nor will he ever be worth a max contract.

  • tom

    seems like the suns could have made a similar offer as Utah and acquired Al Jefferson – that would certainly give phoenix the low post option it desperately needs.

  • tom

    its not so much a question of the suns being cheap, but they’re basketball moves tend to be average – these will make the suns competitive, but not a contender.

  • DAG

    This is awesome. As a Suns fan I couldn't be happier. I mean anytime you can add 4 mediocre overpaid players with long term commitments in the same offseason you gotta do it.

    I mean when your team has zero players who can create there own shot, zero interior defense, zero parameter defense you gotta think championship.

  • DAG

    and yes, I use sarcasm to hide the pain.

  • Phil

    DAG, you are bing overly pessimistic. All the additions are good fits whose numbers will benefit from the Nash effect. The big concern is interior rebounding, as neither Hedo or Warrick have ever grabbed 7 a game and Lopez is not a 10 a game man yet either. But to say we play no defense is just wrong – Lopez, Dudley, Childress and Hill are all high quality defenders, and our wing rebounding is actually very good.

    As for creating your own shot, we haven't had one of those for years unless you count Nash, who can create his own or anyone elses shot. The vast majority of Amare's points did not come from creating his own shot – they came from the pick and roll or penetration from the PGs on the roster.

    As for overpaid, based on this offseason there is no reasonable argument for saying Warrick or Childress are overpaid. Hedo probably is unless he hooks into the Nash rejuvenation machine, but if delivers close to the last couple of years of Orlando production he will be value too.

    Overall the moves are the right ones to make if you want to make use of Nash while you still can – as said before if we sit tight this offseason you might as well trade Nash and start again

  • Steve

    @DAG – What great player did they have the opportunity to pick up? There were two GREAT players in this free agency that actually could have put the Suns in contention just by themselves. Wade and James. Other than that, it would have taken multiple pieces.

    They weren't going to win with Amare. The only way anybody is going to be winning championships in the near future is if they have one (or more) of the following guys on their team: Bryant, Wade, James, Howard, Durant. Other than that, I don't see it happening.

  • sun also rises

    More wisdom from DAG. Forget the agent we have at the top of our dogpile, Sarver obviously should have made this guy the head of b-ball operations.

    Alvin Gentry: "What should we do to replace Amare?"

    GM DAG: "Give up, it's over. Don't bother signing anyone else. We'll throw games for the next three years like the Knicks and Clippers and magically land a replacement or the number one draft pick. It's the only way to survive"

    Alvin Gentry: "Didn't you used to work at the Piggly Wiggly as a bagger?"

    GM DAG: "…"

  • DAG

    no, I’m being realistic. This team will be all sorts of mediocre. Yeah they probably pull 40+ wins and 6-8 seed. That’s realistic. No team similarly constituted as the Suns are in the history of the league has been a contender. It’s just reality.

    The Suns had many chances to add a piece that could put the Suns back in contention. Every move they made was a mistake. They didn’t pick-up a single good player, let alone a very good player which they lost in Amare. Every player they picked up has some talent, but they also have major holes. In the right situation as a complimentary player these players are positive additions. The problem is 1 star (Nash) and 1 good player (J Rich) and 10 complimentary players does not a good team make.

    That’s just reality.

  • Aaron Lone-Eagle

    I feel the decision to let STAT go was a good decision. I believe he was being too greedy and showed no loyalty to the organitation that drafted him. Also I believe he was a crutch. He could not play defense and took way too many plays off. For being a premier power forward, all he was, was a highlite reel. He was not a closer. I hope he is happy in New York all by himself. The Suns will be in the play-offs next year and the Knicks will miss out again. The Suns have somethoing the Knicks don’t and STAT is going to find that out real quick!! Gee would that be STEVE NASH!!! Have a nice career STAT!! Go SUNS!!