PHOENIX – The Suns are moving into a new chapter as owner Robert Sarver plans to sell the team, but the mood at media day showed a team still in shock.
Sarver announced his intention last week following the results of the NBA’s investigation. Details of the report, which found Sarver had a history of racism, sexism and wrongdoing, appear to have shaken the organization.
Down the line, key voices in the organization arrived at the meeting with grim faces and a complete absence of the excitement that a media day normally generates.
“I couldn’t believe it,” coach Monty Williams said. “When you see the bullet points and you get into that, um, you start thinking about how these things affect people.”
“I’m just shocked,” said general manager James Jones. “You don’t want that around the organization. You don’t want that to be an issue.”
“It was hard to read all the different things, just like everybody else,” All-Star guard Chris Paul said. “It was more like the things people had to endure in the workplace.”
“It’s hard for me because it’s not the Robert Sarver that I know, it’s not the Robert that welcomes me to Phoenix with open arms,” said longtime Suns player Devin Booker, who is entering his eighth season.
“But at the same time, I am not indifferent to all the people involved in the situation. I understand that everyone’s personal experience with other people will always be different.”
The report’s confirmation of Sarver’s frequent use of the N-word, which was highlighted in an ESPN investigation released last year, seems to strike a chord.
“This word, I don’t like it, I never have. Especially when I was young and I learned what this word means. I learned how it degrades not only black people, but humanity,” Williams said. “And when I saw the report, I wasn’t happy, actually, I was disgusted. It’s not a word you repeat all the time. And when you read the report, you read the bullet points and you see it over and over again in that. Way, it’s disturbing.
Jones said he had no contact with Sarver, who has been suspended from the team for one year following the NBA suspension. Paul said he regularly met with NBA commissioner Adam Silver before and after the decision was announced.
It was just one issue that reduced the team’s mojo from last year’s 64-win season to a footnote.
Veteran forward Jae Crowder asked not to come to training camp, and the Suns announced Sunday that they granted the request. Crowder was told over the summer that he could lose his starting job this season, sources said, prompting him to request a trade. The Suns had discussions about him over the summer but have yet to come to an agreement. But his time with the team seems clear.
“Jae brings a lot of intangibles to the team, I think all of our guys talk about him that way,” Williams said. “At the same time these things happen and you have to move on and move forward. I’m fully behind James and how we deal with this.”
There was also a complete lack of enthusiasm coming from Deandre Ayton, who signed a four-year, $133 million deal with the Indiana Pacers, who the Suns quickly matched with. A year of tense talks between Ayton and the Suns about his future are over, and it appears there are some scars.
“I let my agents handle it and I trusted my team,” Ayton said to his usual jovial self. “I don’t want to take any steps back.”
During the offseason, Jones and Williams both signed extensions to stay long-term with the franchise. As did Booker, who signed a $224 million extension with the Suns through 2028. Instead of winning a league-best 64 games last season, the team is returning the core of its roster. Be a distraction.
But there was no positivity after those moves. In the first 90 interviews, the only time Booker cracked a smile was when he joked about being on the cover of the NBA 2K video game.
That doesn’t even cover the team’s brief discussions about trading Kevin Durant, who never progressed, and the team’s disastrous Game 7 home loss to the Dallas Mavericks last May that started off a very disappointing season.
“We’ve all grown and learned and had the opportunity to see lights and different perspectives for sure,” Williams said. “And honestly, it’s one of those summers you’ll never forget.”