Lon Babby as seen by his former partner and clients


Lon Babby's preparation figures to be an asset for the Suns' basketball operations department. (Photo by Mike Schmitz/ValleyoftheSuns)

Lon Babby's preparation figures to be an asset for the Suns' basketball operations department. (Photo by Mike Schmitz/ValleyoftheSuns)

PHOENIX — After Thursday’s hiring of Lance Blanks, the Phoenix Suns’ unorthodox basketball operations department has been filled out at the top.

We know that Blanks will be the “basketball genius” playing the hunter role of scoping out talent while former player agent Lon Babby will be the skinner who negotiates deals and interprets the collective bargaining agreement.

But to really get a better sense of what the Suns are getting in their new president of basketball operations, I exchanged e-mails with Babby’s partner of 13 years at Williams & Connolly LLP, Jim Tanner, and spoke with a few current Suns who have been represented by his agency.

Just as Robert Sarver did in Babby’s introductory presser, Tanner often lauded Babby’s preparation as one of his biggest strengths.

“He is extremely well-prepared for this new role,” said Tanner, whose team will continue to represent all of Babby’s former clients. “Keep in mind that he started his sports career as general counsel of the Orioles, which should make his transition easier.  He’s been representing players for the past 16 years so he understands what motivates them and how they think.

“Obviously, he understands the demands and pressures of agents as well.  I would predict that this combination of experiences, coupled with his intelligence, negotiation skill and preparation, will serve him well as a Suns executive.”

The biggest decisions a basketball operations department must make revolve around player acquisitions.

When it comes to making trades and free agency signings, an NBA executive always must possess a Plan A, B, C and sometimes as far down as T, U, V. When your franchise player bolts to New York, you’ve got to weigh whether it makes more sense to save all your chips for the following summer or make a move right then and there for a Childress and a Turkoglu that can help now.

“One of the things that makes Lon such an effective negotiator is that he’s always extremely well-prepared,” Tanner said. “He spends a tremendous amount of time anticipating and thinking through every possible issue, problem, argument and question.  By the time a particular issue arises, he’s already thought of 10 different solutions.  He will absolutely expect the same level of thought and preparation from every member of his staff.”

At his presser, Babby spoke of raising the preparation level amongst the Phoenix front office. When somebody who has worked with him for 13 years corroborates that point, you would not expect the Suns to be initially clueless the next time they could gain a major trade exception from a departing player.

I also asked Tanner to tell me one thing about Babby that the average NBA fan wouldn’t know.

“He’s a very funny guy,” Tanner responded. “Lon works hard and has very high expectations of himself and those that work with him, but he can also be hilarious when the situation requires it.  I also think Alvin Gentry is pretty funny so I anticipate a lot of levity in addition to a lot of hard work in Phoenix.”

Josh Childress, who used to be represented by Tanner, sees Babby as the kind of executive who would be a good fit in an unconventional front office.

“Good negotiator. He’s a great thinker,” Childress said. “He thinks outside the box, and he’s a well-respected guy who you could trust, and that’s something I think can help any team.”

Hedo Turkoglu had been represented by Babby himself since he was a kid from Turkey trying out for NBA teams in advance of the 2000 Draft without knowing a lick of English or having any family or friends in this country.

They developed a long-standing personal and professional relationship the past decade as Turkoglu has bounced around from Sacramento to San Antonio to Orlando to Toronto and finally to Phoenix just as Babby was officially introduced as the head of the Suns’ basketball operations staff.

Turkoglu, who joins Grant Hill as former Babby clients in Phoenix, understandably applauded the Suns’ move to hire Babby for this important role.

“He’s a smart guy. He has a great personality, and he will have good relationships with everybody,” Turkoglu said. “He will need some time to get to know people, the city and all that. I think he will try to do his best like he did the past 10 years for me. I think he will have more opportunity to do good things for Phoenix.”

Tags: Lon Babby

  • Mel.

    "When it comes to making trades and free agency signings, an NBA executive always must possess a Plan A, B, C and sometimes as far down as T, U, V. When your franchise player bolts to New York, you’ve got to weigh whether it makes more sense to save all your chips for the following summer or make a move right then and there for a Childress and a Turkoglu that can help now."

    Thank you. I'm glad that all this flotsam about the Suns relegating themselves to the lottery and a big FA signing NEXT year in the wake of losing STAT has been put to rest; one only needs to consider the fortunes of New Jersey, the Clippers and the Knicks (Relatively speaking) in arguing that that logic is ridiculous.

    "Great, we didn't get Melo or Noah… but we've got 120 million dollars in freed up cap space and a roster packed with CBA and D-League talent. When's Lebron up for grabs again?"

  • Lloyd

    The model of having one person negotiating contracts and another bringing in talent and making trades is not exactly unique to sports.

    The very successful Dodgers of the O’Mally era would have the president Fred Claire and others doing the contracts and G.M. Al Campanis dealing with the player acquistion stuff.

    Also, in looking at the G.M. candidates, it appears to me that Blanks may have been more qualified than the others that I read about. He is a great hire.

  • Kyle Fleeger

    Who is Mel quoting about the Suns being left with D league and CBA players.

    I think the young core of Dragic, Dudley, Clark, Lawal, Robin Lopez could be great in the future and certainly gives the Suns a lot to work with in the future.

    I think Goran Dragic can be an elite point guard in this league because of his size and strength. Goran is bigger than most PG's and is a banger on the glass. I see him being able to be a Rajon Rondo with better shooting and less speed. Goran still likes to move it up and down the court quickly, but not with the ability of Rondo.

    Robin Lopez has shown that at 22 years old, his development could give the Suns a legit Center/PG combo to build around in future. Add some shooting, defense and a little youth in Shooting guard spot, and the Suns could have the foundation to a solid team for the next 5 years.

    Not even to mention the possibility of immediate success when you add Steve Nash, Jason Richardson, Josh Childress, Channing Frye and Grant Hill.

    The Suns will once again be deep, giving them the ability with this group to easily make the playoffs.

    However, in order for the Suns to perform as well as last year. Hedo Turkoglu is going to be the X Factor.

    We have a general idea of what to expect from all the players on the roster except Turkoglu. Was his decline indicative of getting older and slipping, or a disgruntled player on a bad team in a worse situation…. We won't know until probably January of 2011, but if Hedo is the player he was in 2008, the Suns could be VERY dangerous as a unit and will score TONS of points this year.

    Go Suns.

    Bright Future.

  • Mel.

    That’s less a quote and more a summary of some of the panic-button discussions that were getting thrown out here when STAT’s departure was official. ;)

  • KeZ

    We need to get Delonte “U betta have my donuts” West…….