New Suns GM Blanks takes charge, cites experience
Lance Blanks is back from Africa and on the job as new general manager of the Phoenix Suns, saying he will try to employ what he learned in a decade of front office jobs with the San Antonio Spurs and Cleveland Cavaliers.
Blanks was in Senegal as part of the Basketball Without Borders organization when Suns president Lon Babby chose him to oversee the team's player personnel operation. He started work in Phoenix this week and was introduced at a news conference on Wednesday.
Blanks said he's ''incredibly honored'' to take a top job with an already successful franchise and ''try to take it to higher ground.''
That would be an NBA championship, something that has eluded the Suns throughout their history.
Last season, coach Alvin Gentry led Phoenix to a surprising run to the Western Conference finals, where the Suns lost to the eventual NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers.
''It's pretty obvious that there's a great infrastructure in place to have success,'' Blanks said, ''so part of my job will be staying out of the way and not messing this thing up.''
The immediate job is a bit more challenging than that. The Suns have made a series of significant personnel changes following the departure of All-Star Amare Stoudemire, who opted out of the last year of his contract to sign with the New York Knicks.
Gentry, who said he has known Blanks for 21 years, said he is comfortable with the new roster, but acknowledged rebounding could be a problem. Blanks endorsed the Suns' high-octane offense, as long as some defense is included.
''I know Alvin has started to institute defense around here,'' Blanks said. ''They're saying that a lot more.''
Babby also is new to his job. Owner Robert Sarver hired the former agent after deciding to restructure the top of the Suns basketball operations department following Steve Kerr's decision not to return as vice president and general manager. Babby's first big chore was to find a general manager, and he liked Blanks immediately. The two discussed the job in Babby's Washington, D.C., office.
''When you sit down and talk to people in an intimate setting, you have a feel for whether or not it's going to work,'' Babby said, ''and it was so clear to me after our conversation that when I got on the phone and told Robert that I would like him to meet Lance, I knew we had found the right guy.''
While Babby is Blanks' boss, the president said he will be inclined to defer to Blanks on personnel issues.
''The reason Lance is here is because he meshes perfectly with my weaknesses,'' Babby said. ''Whoever has the final say, I think it's fair to say he will have the most influential voice on personnel matters.''
Blanks said he often jokingly tells friends he has succeeded on the coattails of Tim Duncan and LeBron James.
When asked about James' departure from Cleveland, Blanks was diplomatic.
''LeBron is 25 years old. My guess is, like us all, if we go back to that age there are things that we may or may not have done differently,'' Blanks said. ''I don't think it's for me to judge how that situation was handled, what he could have said, might have said, would have done differently. That's between LeBron, his supporters and his family.
Blanks called the issue ''water under the bridge.''
''It's time to move forward,'' he said. ''He had a great run in Cleveland. Personally I don't know that I'd be here today without some of the success he contributed there. I have nothing but the best things to say about LeBron and I wish him the best down in Miami.''