Babby gets 2-year extension as Suns president
APR 02, 2013 2:21p ET
In a Tuesday press release, the Suns announced that president of basketball operations Lon Babby – who’s been on the job since July 2010 – has agreed to a two-year contract extension.
“We have begun the heavy lifting needed to rebuild our team,” Babby, on the last year of his three-year deal, said in a small part of the statement provided by the team.
With what will be the second-worst record in team history placed on management’s shoulders, it should be interesting to find out who will be Babby’s spotters moving upward.
Interim coach Lindsey Hunter had the Suns at a reasonably competitive 8-11 under his watch until center Marcin Gortat injured his foot in the first quarter of a home loss to the Toronto Raptors. Without The Polish Hammer/Machine (and with limited availability from Jermaine O’Neal), the Suns are 2-12 since.
The third member of the band produced by owner Robert Sarver is general manager Lance Blanks, who has one more year left on a deal he was given shortly after Babby was hired.
Considered more of an unholy trinity by local members of the fourth estate still pining for the good, ol’ Seven-Seconds-Or-Less days, the reenlistment of Babby might seem to portend an automatic return for the other two.
I’m not as certain.
Although the Suns currently are registered as the worst team (by record) in the NBA’s Western Conference, the problem – in my opinion – isn’t Babby.
Sure, a lot of the blame for three consecutive trips to the lottery has been attached to him, but the first two seasons were spent tiptoeing through the minefield of Steve Nash’s final days in Phoenix.
Much of this clumsy transition from playoff team to fringe-lottery contender to rebuilding entity falls on the doorstep of Sarver, who – during the interlude between basketball operations hires – put his money on Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress and Hakim Warrick.
With agent-representation ties to the Turkoglu and Childress acquisitions from the summer of 2010, it was presumed that Babby was responsible. He’s denied this at every turn; at least he should be given credit for moving Turkoglu in the December 2010 deal that brought Gortat from Orlando.
Babby also presided over a sideways deal with the Houston Rockets that sent Goran Dragic and a late first-round pick to Texas in exchange for point guard Aaron Brooks.
With Sarver reportedly as the impetus, that trade was partially rehabilitated by rehiring the 26-year-old Dragic during the 2012 free-agency process.
Unfortunately (in my opinion), the Suns already had burned their 2012 late lottery pick on point guard Kendall Marshall. That followed the 2011 selection of power forward Markieff Morris, whose NBA start has been bypassed – in term of productivity and efficiency -- by a few players drafted after him.
With two drafts as major evidence, the assessment of basketball talent – under Babby’s purview, but not his area of expertise – has been the biggest issue over the past three years.
Blanks and his talent-evaluation crew did find P.J. Tucker, chose O’Neal for backup center duty and may have clicked with the addition of Wes Johnson. I even understood the signing of Michael Beasley, although giving a three-year contract to someone with a poor professional history, questionable focus and nothing close to a relentless, on-court nature rarely is wise.
But under Babby, the Suns have cap flexibility and a draft-pick lineup that might include a second lottery pick this summer if the Los Angeles Lakers don’t reach the playoffs.
And even though Blanks wasn’t the first person to be offered the general manager’s tag by Babby back in 2010, he is responsible for Blanks.
Getting a read on where Babby stands regarding Blanks and/or Hunter is difficult. A highly-regarded trial lawyer, the guy once defended John Hinckley. So pulling any between-the-lines insights during one-on-one chats isn’t any easier than doing so in press conferences.
With the opportunity to be effusive in regard to Hunter’s culture-changing potential during a recent interview with FOXSportsArizona.com, Babby was more concerned over the inconsistency of effort. That could fall on the interim coach or the young players acquired since Blanks took over.
With Blanks attached to Babby and Hunter connected with Blanks, the contractual dominoes would be expected to fall in a straight line.
But reading an established litigator for definitive clues seems tricky ... especially when Sarver has the final word.
With the Suns eyeballing the franchise’s highest draft pick in 26 years, getting it right is paramount. It's on Babby to make sure the responsibility for judging who should be taken is in the right hands.