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Thread: A positive example of turning around a franchise - Phoenix Suns

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    Default A positive example of turning around a franchise - Phoenix Suns

    Lengthy article, but a nice read on how the Suns are turning it around. The key philosophies are outlined. A lot of smart trades to acquire assets and flexibility. Very similar to the Morey strategy. It's interesting that McDonough also came from the Celtics organization.

    Oh, and they are strongly against tanking.... ;-)

    http://sports.yahoo.com/news/suns--s...025610267.html

    Suns' surprising season began with change in philosophy
    Adrian Wojnarowski By Adrian Wojnarowski
    December 23, 2013 9:56 PM
    Yahoo Sports
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    Goran Dragic, left, and Eric Bledsoe have helped lift the Suns into playoff contention. (Getty Images)
    Once the Western Conference finals runs were over, the hardest part for Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver had been eliminating the emotion and letting go. His franchise had prudently refused to invest long-term into Amar'e Stoudemire's defective knees, but Sarver stayed committed to rearming Steve Nash into his late 30s and resisted the reshaping of a long-term vision.

    For all the miscalculations compounding that choice, there been a steep price to pay for the Suns: bad contracts and bad actors, discombobulated parts and no clear path to restoring prominence.

    "For all successful people in business, I think that the notion of taking a step back to take a step forward is a foreign concept," Sarver told Yahoo Sports. "You simply don't say, 'We're going to go backward for a couple years,' in business. But pro sports – especially the NBA – is different, and it's set up to do just that.

    "I had a hard time stomaching the idea of rebuilding, and spent a couple of years trying to patch together a way that we could still capitalize on Steve's ability. I was a couple of years too late in really facing the music."

    Here it was early May, and Sarver sat inside his banking office across the street from U.S. Airways Center and let a 33-year-old Boston Celtics executive deliver him the path for chance in relentless detail. Ryan McDonough had a championship pedigree, a well-regarded draft record and the stomach to ask a prospective owner some tough, probing questions to make sure he even wanted this job.

    Sarver needed a top basketball executive, needed a plan and, maybe most of all, someone to restore his franchise's eroding credibility. When no one else had yet to invite McDonough to interview for a general manager job, Suns president Lon Babby had identified him and brought him to Sarver as a finalist. Now, Sarver listened to McDonough lay out everything – his ideas for trades and gathering draft picks, scouting and player development, coaching candidates and player nutrition. Every time Sarver asked a question, there came a crystalized and clear-minded answer. The Suns were a mess, but suddenly Sarver started to see a way out.


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    Suns owner Robert Sarver admits he might have been slow to rebuild the franchise's roster. (Getty Images)
    "Given his age, I was really surprised at Ryan's level of knowledge and confidence," Sarver said. "A lot of guys can get wishy-washy about their convictions when it comes to players and coaches, but he had such strong opinions – such conviction – of what he wanted to do. He had an absolute strategic vision for our franchise."
    Between his hiring of NBA Coach of the Year candidate Jeff Hornacek and the Suns' improbable 17-10 record to start the season, McDonough has flipped the core of a 25-win team into a promising young point guard and center (Eric Bledsoe and Miles Plumlee), secured two more first-round draft picks and cleared millions in salary-cap space. McDonough hatched the idea for the three-way deal to bring Bledsoe to the Suns and deliver Milwaukee's J.J. Redick in a sign-and-trade to the Clippers. "Ryan made that deal happen," Clippers GM and coach Doc Rivers told Yahoo Sports.

    When Indiana was determined to make a deal for Suns forward Luis Scola, McDonough never relented until he had Plumlee and the Pacers' first-round pick. McDonough had long scouted Plumlee, studied him closely in the summer league, and forever believed he was a starting NBA center.

    For now, everyone waits to watch how McDonough's two first-round picks, 7-footer Alex Len and guard Archie Goodwin, develop for the franchise. Beyond that pedestrian 2013 draft, judgment for this GM's regime comes closer with the starry 2014 draft class in which the Suns could hold four first-round picks.

    More than a mandate for a GM to bring on better talent, Sarver was determined for McDonough to change something else that had decayed his owner's franchise: "I needed to get a team with a GM and a coach who would have a good working relationship," Sarver told Yahoo Sports. "We had problems with Steve [Kerr] and Mike [D'Antoni], with Alvin [Gentry] and Lance [Blanks].

    "It puts too much stress on the team."

    As McDonough sold his candidacy to Sarver and Babby, he described his years of watching Celtics GM Danny Ainge and Rivers work together – the trust, the transparency and the constant communication. For where the modern NBA coach is trending, Hornacek is the prototype: no ego, but a steely confidence. He holds players accountable without humiliating them. When McDonough had ideas for the coaching staff, including well-regarded defensive coordinator Mike Longabardi out of Boston, and player development coach, Irv Roland, Hornacek embraced the candidates. He didn't need his guys; he needed the best available.

    McDonough and Hornacek were convinced of Bledsoe and Goran Dragic's ability to play together, and traveled to Slovenia in the summer to reaffirm it with Dragic. As much as anything, McDonough and Hornacek needed to change the behaviors inside and outside the locker room that had crumbled what had been a winning culture. From Michael Beasley's destructive act, to young players struggling to find structure and direction, the Suns had become a franchise in crisis.


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    Coach Jeff Hornacek and general manager Ryan McDonough have given the Suns a foundation to build upon. (Getty …
    "We wanted to clean up the nonsense, frankly, that had gone on here in years past," McDonough told Yahoo Sports.
    These are different times for the franchise, and the players will tell you: No more beer in the locker room, no more card playing on postgame flights – unless the Suns win. No more management in the locker room or stalking the practice court. In everything installed under the McDonough-Hornacek regime, "We have incentivized winning," McDonough said.

    For all the suspicions about the Suns chasing a draft lottery tanking strategy, McDonough made it clear to Babby and Sarver that he'd never be a part of it. In working with the Celtics, in studying the NBA, McDonough had learned that pursuing pingpong balls isn't a strategy to get out of the lottery – it's typically a ticket to return year after year.

    When the Celtics missed on Kevin Durant and Greg Oden in the 2007 lottery with the fifth overall pick, Ainge had the assets to make deals for Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett. The Celtics had cultivated young prospects and gathered picks to make the trades. McDonough was part of it all, as he had been the failed free-agent courtships to come play in those cold New England winters. For all of the Celtics' tradition and history, Phoenix has been a far more appealing professional and lifestyle destination for players.

    "To have a season where everything goes wrong and you're just hoping for the pingpong balls to bounce your way – and then hope you draft the right guy, who then turns into a great player – that's not something I'm comfortable doing and Jeff, Lon and ownership wanted no part of it," McDonough told Yahoo Sports.

    "We can keep drafting and adding to our talent, or we have six first-round picks over the next two years and could accelerate the process using picks and our cap space to trade for a star player.

    "We have max cap space next summer and we will be chasing the top guys. But if we don't get them, it won't be the end of the world. Then, we will hope to draft well and put together a group that might take a little longer to get to a contending level, but will have a longer timeline together."

    For those elsewhere uncertain McDonough had the experience and resolve to engineer such a dramatic turnaround, the Suns' own research into him made it so much easier to see. His father, Will, had been one of the great newspaper and TV reporters of modern sporting times for the Boston Globe and NBC Sports. Will McDonough was a force of a nature, a man whose relationships with the Red Auerbachs and Bill Parcells exposed his youngest son to the prisms of team building and sports business few young minds ever witness.

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    The Suns reached the Western Conference finals three times with Steve Nash. (USA Today)
    McDonough's brother, Sean, is one of the best TV play-by-play analysts in the industry. Another brother, Terry, has been a successful NFL personnel man for decades. From McDonough's comfort and understanding of life in the public arena, to his dogged scouting pursuit of Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley with the Celtics, Sarver and Babby believed they had tapped into the perfect pedigree for today's NBA.

    As much as anything, McDonough's temperament has found the balance between bold change and patient consideration. McDonough didn't come into the franchise and eviscerate staff. He listened. He offered opportunities. He honored the good work that had come before him. McDonough made his hires, including assistant GM Pat Connelly and scout Ronnie Lester, but he gave several other scouts a chance to prove themselves. Get on the road, do the job and let's evaluate everyone in a year.

    No one could see a 17-10 start in the Western Conference, a fifth seed at Christmas, but it's been vital for the franchise. The Suns are fun to watch again, the Bledsoe-Dragic backcourt a joy for a market with such a history of great guards and running basketball. "It took a while for our fans to get over trading Steve," Sarver said, "but people have done a 179-[degree turn] this year. They've embraced our young players, our entertaining style of play, and they love Jeff in this town."

    Most of all, Robert Sarver sees a chance for the Phoenix Suns now. People had been hard on him, including me, for the perception of his frugalness, but he's gone into the luxury tax twice and passed out expensive free-agent deals – even if some were ill-conceived – when he could've gutted these Suns in the post-Stoudemire era.

    Everything's changed for him now. The NBA has a new collective bargaining agreement that Sarver flatly says, "gives a franchise like the Suns hope that we can compete on a more level playing field with the Lakers." Which is why he had to change his thinking, why he had to embrace a different way with the Suns.

    "We've been close in Phoenix," Sarver said. "We've had a really good track record of winning. Now, we need to do the one thing that the Suns have never been able to do: Win it all. That's Ryan's mission here, and that's the goal for everyone here now."

    Here walked into the desert a 34-year-old out of New England – and just maybe, a little out of nowhere – who laid out something Robert Sarver desperately needed for these Suns: a delivery out of dysfunction, a path back to prominence.

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    Raptors Republic Superstar iblastoff's Avatar
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    correct me if im wrong as i don't know exactly what state the suns are in but:

    they traded away all of their core players in exchange for picks as a clear sign of rebuilding. even mcdonough clearly stated it would be a really slow move to the top and even he couldn't see this team playing the way it is now. their story is only positive because its completely surprising. 99% of the time moves like this would lead them to the lottery.

    in other words, isn't this what some people here are wanting from MU? trade away our core for more youth and picks? what exactly is the difference here?
    Last edited by iblastoff; Sat Dec 28th, 2013 at 07:05 PM.

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    Yeah, the Suns can bullshit about how they weren't planning to tank all they want, but the truth is simple: they traded for a bunch of young players who were all basically lousy and practically overnight all of those players started playing out-of-their-minds ball. Half the team has a PER that's 50% or more better than last year. That's lotto ticket odds of happening.

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    Suns are and will be stuck for ever at the middle of the Western conference. None of their players are stars and the amount of money they have to pay for these roles players to stick around will not allow them to get the star that they need to get to the next level.

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    Raptors Republic Superstar iblastoff's Avatar
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    Quote Jamshid wrote: View Post
    Suns are and will be stuck for ever at the middle of the Western conference. None of their players are stars and the amount of money they have to pay for these roles players to stick around will not allow them to get the star that they need to get to the next level.
    There is absolutely no way this poster is real. What is the trolling policy here?

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    Raptors Republic Starter Pele's Avatar
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    Quote iblastoff wrote: View Post
    correct me if im wrong as i don't know exactly what state the suns are in but:

    they traded away all of their core players in exchange for picks as a clear sign of rebuilding. even mcdonough clearly stated it would be a really slow move to the top and even he couldn't see this team playing the way it is now. their story is only positive because its completely surprising. 99% of the time moves like this would lead them to the lottery.

    in other words, isn't this what some people here are wanting from MU? trade away our core for more youth and picks? what exactly is the difference here?
    Stoudemire (31, wonky knees), Nash (39), Scola (33...as good as he'll ever be)....Lowry (27), Amir (26), Demar (24)...and these guys are the long-standing Rap veterans.

    The D'Antoni era Suns were obviously past their due date. The current Raptors, however, have some good pieces that could, if it all comes together right according to the Massaianic prophecies, could help build a contender.

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    Raptors Republic Superstar iblastoff's Avatar
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    Quote Pele wrote: View Post
    Stoudemire (31, wonky knees), Nash (39), Scola (33...as good as he'll ever be)....Lowry (27), Amir (26), Demar (24)...and these guys are the long-standing Rap veterans.

    The D'Antoni era Suns were obviously past their due date. The current Raptors, however, have some good pieces that could, if it all comes together right according to the Massaianic prophecies, could help build a contender.
    you left all the younger guys out. gortat, kendall marshall, brown, lee.

    i wouldn't say lowry is a long-standing rap veteran.

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    Raptors Republic Icon mcHAPPY's Avatar
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    Bullshit on the Phoenix against tanking.

    They tried their hardest.

    Problem is they have a lot of pieces that have gelled together and a lot of players getting an opportunity for the first time.... and making the most of it.
    "You don’t know the Bruno Caboclo......"
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    I doubt anyone in the Suns org. anticipated this team playing as well as it has. However, I think the key to the article was the hiring of a GM with a clear vision for the franchise, and then that GM executing trades that resulted in the collection of assets (picks and young prospects) that promote flexibility. They now have the cap space and assets that should allow them to build a team with or without a high lottery pick this upcoming draft.

    And, yes, this is EXACTLY what I want MU to do.

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    Quote iblastoff wrote: View Post
    There is absolutely no way this poster is real. What is the trolling policy here?
    WHY ?? Because you don't like what you read and hence it is trolling ?? loooool.

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    Raptors Republic Superstar iblastoff's Avatar
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    Quote Jamshid wrote: View Post
    WHY ?? Because you don't like what you read and hence it is trolling ?? loooool.
    Because what you posted makes no sense and you literally just make things up just for the sake of posting.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk HD

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    Quote iblastoff wrote: View Post
    Because what you posted makes no sense and you literally just make things up just for the sake of posting.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk HD
    It actually makes perfect sense when you think about what their draft position is going to be and how much they have to pay E.B and ... Do the calculations.

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    Raptors Republic Veteran white men can't jump's Avatar
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    Quote Jamshid wrote: View Post
    It actually makes perfect sense when you think about what their draft position is going to be and how much they have to pay E.B and ... Do the calculations.
    Kind of like us lacking a superstar? And whhat our draft position will be and what we'd have to pay Lowry to keep this team together? I question your objectivity....

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    Quote Jamshid wrote: View Post
    WHY ?? Because you don't like what you read and hence it is trolling ?? loooool.
    Because Luol Deng is not coming to town.

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    Raptors Republic Superstar iblastoff's Avatar
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    Quote Jamshid wrote: View Post
    It actually makes perfect sense when you think about what their draft position is going to be and how much they have to pay E.B and ... Do the calculations.
    The fact that you think Bledsoe is a role player makes pretty much anything you say = uh DOY.

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    Quote iblastoff wrote: View Post
    The fact that you think Bledsoe is a role player makes pretty much anything you say = uh DOY.
    LOOOOOl, Read the post again and you will get it. On the second thought, don't bother because your opinion does not really matter to me. Feel free to pay max money to Bledsoe type players and then try to win it all in West

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    Quote Jamshid wrote: View Post
    LOOOOOl, Read the post again and you will get it. On the second thought, don't bother because your opinion does not really matter to me. Feel free to pay max money to Bledsoe type players and then try to win it all in West
    First thing, Bledsoe is an All-Star player, 24 years old, and is a very good 2nd option on a good team. I don't think he can be a superstar on a championship team, but players like him don't come along very often, and he will likely get the 4 year-$58-62 million contract extension this summer, which is deserved. Secondly, who says they are going to keep all their role players? They have FOUR first-round picks this draft, and they have a bunch of young, cheap talent on their roster ( Miles Plumlee, Alex Len, Archie Goodwin, the Morris twins). It's obvious that they are in a similar situation as the Rockets were when they traded for Harden. Phoenix will likely look to package a bunch of their assets for a very good player, ala Kevin Love or Carmelo, or lower-level but still good players like Greg Monroe or Evan Turner. Either way, the Suns are in a prime position as they have so much flexibility (only 23 million dollars in salary guaranteed next year), and a bunch of picks, with young talent. To say they are stuck and will be stuck for ever in the middle of the Western Conference is delusional.

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    Quote Matt52 wrote: View Post
    Bullshit on the Phoenix against tanking.

    They tried their hardest.

    Problem is they have a lot of pieces that have gelled together and a lot of players getting an opportunity for the first time.... and making the most of it.

    Here ^ ...


    I recall last year this GM dumping everything for picks and placement in an upcoming draft.
    Now this article comes out quoting said GM about his stance on anti-tanking practices... Dickmove imo.

    Up until now his team is gelling together well, and the coach seems to have respect from the roster.

    However the ease of their November schedule has translated well for them into December, i mean 2 out 3 ain't bad against Utah i guess, and 1 of 2 vs Sacramento... oh yeah and they did beat the pelicans twice in November, so there's that.

    In all, their start to the season has been relatively easy in comparison to other mid-tier teams. Yes the west is convoluted with talent in comparison to the east and the level that Phoenix has competed at so far is not indicative of a team that is gunning for ping pong balls in july.

    So to sum up, let's ignore this article by Woj and realize that Jeff Hornaceck really has a good handle and vision for the type of talent set in front of him, and lets commend him for the job he's done as of yet, albeit, against mediocre opponentry. I turned that into a verb.

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    Raptors Republic Icon mcHAPPY's Avatar
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    Biggest issue Phoenix has is Len looks like a waste to the 2012-13 season.
    "You don’t know the Bruno Caboclo......"
    Bruno Caboclo

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    Quote Matt52 wrote: View Post
    Biggest issue Phoenix has is Len looks like a waste to the 2012-13 season.
    With extra high long-term bust potential. Drafting a big C with foot (specifically ankle) injuries so early on....And we're not talking sprains, we're talking stress fractures (at least for one of them, but surgeries on both). That's terrible for a guy who'd have to be putting stress on them for 82+ games a year.

    *Correction: Indeed stress fractures in both ankles....
    Last edited by white men can't jump; Sun Dec 29th, 2013 at 02:49 PM.

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