Phoenix Suns in shock as Robert Sarver saga hangs over team entering season

PHOENIX – The Suns are beginning a new chapter with owner Robert Sarver planning to sell the team, but media day sentiment showed the team is still in shock.

Sarver announced his intentions last week following the results of an NBA probe. The details of the report, which confirmed Sarver had a history of racist, sexist, and misogynist acts, seemed to shake the organization.

At the end of the line, the most important voices in the organization arrived at the podium with grim faces and the complete absence of the excitement that a media day usually inspires.

“I was incredulous,” said coach Monty Williams. “When you see the bullet points and then go through, um, you start thinking about how these things affect people.”

“I would say just a state of shock,” said general manager James Jones. “You don’t want that across the organization. They don’t want that to be the problem.”

“It was tough, just like everyone else, reading all the different things,” said star guard Chris Paul. “It was more about the things that people have to endure at work.”

“It’s tough for me because this isn’t the Robert Sarver I know, it’s not the Robert that welcomed me to Phoenix with open arms,” ​​said Devin Booker, the Suns’ longest-serving player. entering its eighth season.

“But at the same time, I’m not insensitive to everyone involved in the situation. I understand that everyone’s personal experiences with other people will always be different.”

The corroboration of the report of Sarver’s repeated use of the N-word, brought to light by an ESPN investigation released last year, seemed to strike the strongest chord.

“That word, I don’t like it, never have it. Especially when I was younger and learning what that word means. I learned how demeaning it was to humanity, not just black people,” Williams said. “And when I saw the report I wasn’t happy about it, frankly disgusted. It is not a word that is repeated over and over again. And when you read the report, you read the bullet points and you see it over and over again. By the way, it bothers you.”

Jones said he had no contact with Sarver, following the NBA’s punishment, which banned the team for a year. Paul said he was in regular contact with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver before and after the verdict was announced.

It was just one of the issues tugging at the team’s mojo from last year’s 64-win season, which had been reduced to a footnote.

Veteran striker Jae Crowder asked not to come to the training camp and the Suns announced they had granted the request on Sunday. Crowder was informed over the summer that he could lose his starting job this season, sources said, prompting him to request a swap. The Suns had been in talks about it all summer but haven’t found a deal yet. But it seems clear that his time with the team is over.

“Jae brought a number of intangibles to the team that I think all of our guys would talk about him like that,” Williams said. “At the same time these things are happening and you have to shift and move forward. I fully support James and how we are dealing with it.”

There was also the complete lack of enthusiasm that emanated from Deandre Ayton, who signed a four-year, $133 million offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers that the Suns quickly matched. It ended a year-long period of tense talks between Ayton and the Suns over his future and there appeared to be some scars.

“I just left it to my agents and trusted my team,” said the normally cheerful Ayton flatly. “I don’t want to take steps back.”

During the offseason, Jones and Williams both signed renewals to stay with the franchise long-term. As did Booker, who signed a $224 million extension that committed him to the Suns through 2028. The team are also returning the core of the squad as they won a league-best 64 games last season and it is now clear that Sarver will no longer be a distraction.

But no positivity came from these movements. In the first 90 minutes of the interviews, the only time a smile appeared was when Booker made a joke about being on the cover of the NBA 2K video game.

That’s not even including the team’s brief discussions about the Kevin Durant trade, which never moved forward, and the team’s disastrous Game 7 home loss to the Dallas Mavericks last May, which sparked a largely uncomfortable offseason.

“We’ve all grown and learned and certainly had a chance to see lights and different perspectives,” Williams said. “And it was just one of those summers that, honestly, you’ll never forget.”

https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/34671318/phoenix-suns-shock-robert-sarver-saga-hangs-team-entering-season Phoenix Suns in shock as Robert Sarver saga hangs over team entering season

Emma Bowman

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