Posted on: June 25, 2010 11:06 pm
Edited on: June 26, 2010 1:17 am
Following a bizarre trend that apparently dictates that it's better to be devoid of leadership at the most critical time in franchise history, the Nets will be without the executive who led them to two Finals appearances and gave them the best chance of succeeding in free agency. Rod Thorn is stepping down as team president effective July 15, a person familiar with the situation confirmed to CBSSports.com Friday night.
You read that right: Thorn will be pulling the Summer of LeBron version of Kevin Pritchard's draft night, conducting the chase for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson -- a chase the franchise endured a payroll-gutting, 12-win season to engage in. When it's over, he's gone, according to the person with knowledge of the situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to announce the move.
While it was known that Thorn's contract was set to expire June 30, his departure is stunning considering his accomplishments and the importance of the free-agent negotiating period that begins July 1. Thorn has agreed to stay on until July 15 to help navigate free agency, but it's not clear what marquee player would choose to join the Nets in Newark, N.J., without knowing who's making the basketball decisions. The team won't move to its new digs in Brooklyn for two more years.
According to an executive with another team who is familiar with the situation, Thorn was asked to take a massive pay cut and balked. Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov may be a billionaire, but not when it comes to paying the person running his basketball team. "He wants a younger voice," the person said.
But that description contradicted a Bergen (N.J.) Record report early Saturday in which Jerry Colangelo was touted as the leading candidate to replace Thorn. The report, which hinted that Colangelo could have some role in the Nets' free-agent visit with James next week in Ohio, rekindled speculation that arose during All-Star weekend in Dallas. At that time, when Prokhorov's bid for the Nets was still being considered by the NBA's Board of Governors, Colangelo said he wasn't pursuing any jobs but would listen if the Nets called. The managing director of USA Basketball, Colangelo would be a key asset in the Nets' pursuit of James or other free agents from the 2008 Olympic team that won gold in Beijing.
Unlike the Cavaliers and Clippers, the Nets at least do have a coach in place -- and perhaps Avery Johnson is angling for personnel authority, given that he stressed his desire for such control in other job interviews this summer. But without Thorn and Kiki Vandeweghe, whom Prokhorov fired through the news media several weeks ago, the Nets will be without a credible basketball management figure at by far the most crucial point in the history of this meandering, mostly second-rate franchise.
Reached via text message Friday night, Thorn replied, "Right now, I have no comment."
The Nets are by no means the only team to gut itself of basketball intellect on the cusp of irreversibly important decisions. Suns owner Robert Sarver decided to cut ties with GM Steve Kerr at a time when Kerr and his assistant, David Griffin -- who also is departing -- were trying to negotiate an extension with star forward Amar'e Stoudemire. The Cavs decided to stumble into the most important month in Cleveland sports history -- and one that could change the NBA landscape forever -- without a coach or GM. Chris Grant, the replacement for former GM Danny Ferry, is indisputably talented but also has never been faced with circumstances as pressurized as possibly losing his city's biggest sports star since Jim Brown.
The Clippers, also entertaining false hope of luring major free agents, have yet to hire a coach. And the Trail Blazers -- though not free-agent players -- made a mockery of the GM profession Thursday when owner Paul Allen fired Pritchard an hour before the draft while instructing him to make his picks and trades before going home for good.
The only thing any of this proves, besides incompetence, is that there's no better job than being an unemployed or soon-to-be unemployed GM in the NBA. Either you're still getting paid by the team that fired you, which is good, or you're salivating over numerous job openings. Or both. But something you're not doing if you're a team without leadership is signing James or Wade as a free agent.
Posted on: June 24, 2010 7:57 pm
NEW YORK -- Stunning news came down moments before the NBA draft began Thursday night. No, LeBron James didn't try to reinstate his college eligibility and join John Calipari at Kentucky. Something more unbelievable: The Trail Blazers fired GM Kevin Pritchard, telling him an hour before the draft that it would be his last day of work for the team.
Jason Quick of the Oregonian first reported the firing, which is surprising only for its bizarre timing. Pritchard's right-hand man, former assistant GM Tom Penn, was fired in March, and the writing has been on the wall for Pritchard ever since. Pritchard, who along with Penn was responsible for building one of the most competitive and financially successful franchises in the NBA, will presumably make the 22nd and 44th picks in Thursday's draft -- which he spent months preparing for -- and then start looking for work. Penn has found work already, at least temporarily; he was at the Theater at Madison Square Garden Thursday night working as a salary-cap analyst on ESPN's draft telecast.
According to the Oregonian, owner Paul Allen informed Pritchard of his dismissal Thursday night and instructed him to conduct the draft before leaving the organization. The Portland GM opening now joins a few leadership black holes around the league. The Suns didn't renew GM Steve Kerr's contract, and assistant GM David Griffin decided to leave the organization after being informed that there would be a formal search for Kerr's replacement. Denver GM Mark Warkentien's contract expires Aug. 31, and the organization has made no efforts to re-sign him. Danny Ainge's future in Boston also is up in the air with the possibility that coach Doc Rivers could step down.
As for the gaping hole left in the Portland front office by Pritchard's classless dismissal, the question becomes: Who would want to work for a franchise that treats its people the way the Blazers have treated Pritchard and Penn? The lure of the Blazers' roster and rabid fan base will be a huge calling card for any potential candidate, but buyer beware. Apparently, the money isn't great, either. One of the points of contention that led to Pritchard's ouster was his displeasure with his approximately $1 million salary -- not much more than assistant GMs make in other cities and a quarter of coach Nate McMillan's compensation. Pritchard had one year remaining on his contract.
According to a person familiar with the Blazers' internal dynamics, one option would be to appoint team president Larry Miller, head of the team's business operations, to serve as the figurehead replacement for Pritchard and hire a competent No. 2 to handle the day-to-day basketball decisions.
Posted on: June 15, 2010 6:19 pm
Edited on: June 15, 2010 9:01 pm
LOS ANGELES -- Steve Kerr's stunning announcement Tuesday that he will not return as the Suns' president of basketball operations next season sent shockwaves through the team's No. 1 plan for this summer: retaining Amar'e Stoudemire.
Stoudemire has been open to exploring his options as an unrestricted free agent by opting out of his contract in the event an extension could not be reached with the Suns. But the departure of Kerr, who had been handling the early stages of the negotiation with Stoudemire's agent, Happy Walters, cast a cloud of uncertainty over the process.
A person familiar with Kerr's decision to step down and return to the television booth in Doug Collins' analyst spot with TNT said it unfolded over the past couple of the weeks and left a sour taste on both sides of the Stoudemire negotiation. Kerr's contract was set to expire after the June 24 draft, and it appears to be another episode of penny-pinching by owner Robert Sarver that spurred Kerr's decision to leave the organization only weeks after the Suns made a surprising run to the Western Conference finals. Kerr, according to sources, was asked to take a significant pay cut on his new deal, a slap in the face given the Suns' successful season.
But another person familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com that Kerr's decision also was related to frustration that Sarver had not yet committed to a full-length, maximum-salary contract for Stoudemire. The Suns have made several offers to Stoudemire this summer, but the person familiar with the situation said the parameters of the offers are "not where they need to be." Now, with the departure of Kerr -- who is trusted by both Stoudemire and Walters -- Stoudemire's future in Phoenix is more uncertain than ever.
As the situation unfolded Tuesday, it was not immediately clear whether Kerr's top lieutenant, assistant GM David Griffin, would be promoted to the No. 1 job or the Suns would orchestrate a search for Kerr's replacement.
Kerr's departure was first reported by the Arizona Republic and KTAR in Phoenix, the Suns' flagship radio station.
Several of Kerr's personnel moves fueled the Suns' run to the conference finals, including reversing course on his controversial acquisition of Shaquille O'Neal by trading him to Cleveland; acquiring Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley from Charlotte; and drafting Robin Lopez and Goran Dragic in 2008. All four players played prominent roles in the Suns' return to the Western Conference elite this season.
Stoudemire, who is working out and strategizing with his agent in Miami, will enter the final stages of his renegotiation with serious doubts about the direction of the organization. The Heat, with enough cap space to add a max free agent alongside Dwyane Wade, are among the most likely destinations for Stoudemire if he does not re-sign with Phoenix.
Posted on: May 30, 2010 2:36 am
PHOENIX – If this was Amar’e Stoudemire’s last game as a member of the Suns, it will be a tough one for both sides to carry with them into an offseason of uncertainty.
“I’m still not sure what the future holds right now,” Stoudemire said after scoring 27 points as the Suns were eliminated 111-103 by the Lakers in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals. “I’m just going to take a couple of days, enjoy the family and enjoy the rest and start figuring out what the next move is.”
It was too soon, the pain from the loss too raw, for Suns president Steve Kerr to even contemplate Stoudemire’s future.
“We’ll deal with that later,” said Kerr, who once the sting dissipates will be able to walk away from this season feeling positive about the organization’s future.
“I’m just really proud of all our guys, every single one of them – coaches, players,” Kerr said. “It was a fantastic season. It ended a little too soon, but that’s the way it goes.”
Asked what will stick with him as he evaluates the season, Kerr said, “The togetherness, the unity, the complete and total unselfishness. It’s just a great mix of youth and veterans and it was a lot of fun watching them try to work together. They have fun every day and they couldn’t wait to get to work.”
The future is bright for the young core of Goran Dragic, Jared Dudley, Robin Lopez, Channing Frye, Louis Amundson and even first-round pick Earl Clark, who didn’t play in the series. But everything the Suns do between now and the start of next season will be predicated on Stoudemire’s imminent leap into the unrestricted free-agent market. Stoudemire has said he will opt out of his contract, and reiterated Saturday night that there’s only a 50-50 chance that he stays in Phoenix.
“Absolutely still there,” he said. “But I’m pretty sure there will be a conversation between myself and the organization and my family and we’ll figure out what the best scenario is and make a smart decision.”
Dialogue between the Suns and Stoudemire’s agent, Happy Walters, remains open. But Kerr wasn’t ready to focus on the most important aspect of the Suns’ offseason – not this soon.
“A year ago, nobody knew how good Dragic would be, how good Lopez would be,” Kerr said. “Jared Dudley and those guys stepping up and delivering for us really has solidified our future – which is important because two years ago, we were looking old and we were looking like we could be in some trouble. So it’s been gratifying to watch those guys grow.”
Now comes the hard part: Keeping them together.
Posted on: February 16, 2009 4:04 pm
PHOENIX – The worst-kept secret in the NBA became official Monday afternoon when Suns president Steve Kerr announced he was replacing fired coach Terry Porter with assistant Alvin Gentry.
“I’ve signed a multi-week contract,” Gentry joked, referring to the interim tag his appointment carries with it.
How many more weeks are left on Kerr’s contract, by the way?
With that statement, Gentry unwittingly touched on the state of flux that continues to engulf the organization. Kerr said the coaching change does not preclude any changes to the roster before Thursday’s trade deadline. He’s still taking and placing calls, with the crux of the matter being whether Phoenix finishes the season with the roster intact, tries to make a trade that will improve it in the short term, or buckle to financial pressures and dump salary in a move toward the future.
“I know you all are waiting for me to say we’re not going to trade anybody,” Kerr said. “But this is the NBA. This is business as usual.”
Business as usual for the Suns, anyway.
While Kerr said his intention is to “keep what we have and go forward and see what we can do with it,” he left out the part about whether everyone in the organization wants to do that. There have been strong indications in recent weeks that managing partner Robert Sarver is pushing for financially motivated trades that would dump salary and clear cap space for the future. I can’t imagine Sarver is eager to keep the roster intact after eating about $4 million of Porter’s contract only 51 games into it.
So the dysfunction continues, and Kerr is next with the bull’s eye on his chest. Asked how he likes his job, he smiled and said, “Just peachy.”
Just another day in paradise.
Posted on: February 14, 2009 4:43 am
Edited on: February 15, 2009 4:27 am
PHOENIX -- Terry Porter's job, like the Phoenix Suns' roster, has been hanging in the balance for several weeks. As Suns managing partner Robert Sarver grapples with which direction to take next, there is a "good chance" assistant Alvin Gentry will take over the head coaching job, a person with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com.
That decision, like the fate of Amare Stoudemire, Shaquille O'Neal, and numerous other players, is in the hands of the fickle Sarver, who denied Friday that Porter's job is in danger.
“No, no. That’s an erroneous rumor,” Sarver told the Arizona Republic when asked about a New York Post report that Porter would be fired and replaced by team president Steve Kerr.
But the Suns have been discussing every aspect of their flatlining organization for several weeks, including whether to dump salary and trade either Stoudemire or O'Neal and whether to abandon the failed experiment of replacing Mike D'Antoni with Porter, a defensive-minded coach saddled with frustrated players forced to play a dramatically different style than the up-tempo one that was good for 58 wins per season over the past four years.
The person with knowledge of discussions about Porter's job security stressed that nothing is certain until Sarver actually signs off on it.
"Everything's fluid until the moment it actually happens," the person said.
UPDATE: In fact, urgency within the organization to make a coaching change appears to have overshadowed efforts to make a major trade before Thursday's deadline. According to a person with knowledge of the situation, Sarver leaned hard on Kerr to seriously consider moving to the bench, but Kerr managed to avert such an untenable situation. He wants to coach someday, but the Suns' situation is too dysfunctional for learning on the job. With no ideal offer on the table for Stoudemire, Kerr now appears focused on making the right coaching decision, with Gentry the most sensible candidate -- at least in the short term. The Suns may consider expanding their search for a long-term replacement if Porter is fired or reassigned.
The appeal of Gentry is two-fold -- his experience and ties to the D'Antoni regime. His familiarity with the D'Antoni offensive system in which the Suns thrived would appeal to Steve Nash and Stoudemire, both of whom could be reinvigorated by the change.
Porter told the Arizona Republic Friday that neither Sarver nor Kerr had spoken to him about losing his job.
Gentry, previously a head coach with the Clippers, Pistons, and Heat, is a holdover from D'Antoni's staff who didn't join the former Suns coach on the Knicks' bench in New York. Gentry was viewed by some as a logical replacement when D'Antoni left amid disagreements with management over the direction of the Suns' roster following Kerr's decision to trade Shawn Marion to Miami for Shaquille O'Neal in February 2008.
If Sarver goes through with the decision to fire Porter and replace him with Gentry, he would be repudiating Kerr's decision to hire Porter in the first place. It is a point that was not lost on longtime Suns executive Jerry Colangelo, who seemed to implicate Kerr in the Suns' current struggles when he spoke Friday at a Basketball Hall of Fame news conference.
"When Steve Kerr selected Terry Porter, that was his guy," Colangelo said. "He had the faith and confidence in him. It’s either worked out or hasn’t or it’s something that’s being questioned right now. Steve has to be responsive to that one way or the other. Terry’s a good guy. He’s worked hard at it. He inherited a team in transition. People have to be held accountable, and those making those decisions should consider all of that."
Posted on: February 13, 2009 7:39 pm
PHOENIX -- Amare Stoudemire was right about one thing Friday when he said, "It's going to be an interesting 10 days." He just had his dates wrong. The trade deadline is six days away, and by Thursday we'll know if Stoudemire is staying or going.
As of now, Stoudemire said he's handicapping it at 60-40.
"Sixty keeping me, and 40 not keeping me," Stoudemire said. "Teams are asking about me and wanting me, so that's a good thing."
Stoudemire attracted one of the biggest crowds at the All-Star media session Friday, and for good reason. His team is furiously trying to reshape itself yet again by trading either Stoudemire or Shaquille O'Neal by Thursday. Stoudemire said he's been told by management that the reasons are financial.
"From a financial standpoint, it'll help them afford certain players," Stoudemire said. "I'm not sure if they're giving up on the season or still trying to win a championship. Not sure."
Speculation also continues to swirl about the future of Suns coach Terry Porter, whose job status has been the subject of organizational discussion for several weeks. But someone who still has a lot of clout in the Suns organization, Jerry Colangelo, made it pretty clear Friday that he feels Porter shouldn't be the only person held accountable.
"When Steve Kerr selected Terry Porter, that was his guy," said Colangelo, speaking at the news conference announcing the 2009 Basketball Hall of Fame finalists. "He had the faith and confidence in him. It’s either worked out or hasn’t or it’s something that’s being questioned right now. Steve has to be responsive to that one way or the other. Terry’s a good guy. He’s worked hard at it. He inherited a team in transition. People have to be held accountable, and those making those decisions should consider all of that."
Colangelo, the architect of Team USA's gold-medal performance at the Summer Olympics in Beijing last summer, is an oddly positioned figure in these All-Star festivities. Having spent much of his professional life grooming the Suns into a class organization, he envisioned an All-Star weekend here that would celebrate not only the success of his city, but also the franchise. Instead, the Suns are in turmoil.
"That’s a hard thing to swallow after giving birth to the franchise and being so intimately involved in it after 40 years," Colangelo said. "There’s turmoil right now. There’s transition. There’s a lot of rumors and speculation regarding a coaching change and trades. For certain, because of the age of the players, there’s instability right now. A lot of things could happen in all of those areas. The only two people who can really comment and say something constructive about it are (managing partner) Robert Sarver and Steve Kerr. There’s a lot of stuff circulating and it appears there could be some things happening."
Posted on: February 13, 2009 11:44 am
Edited on: February 13, 2009 9:22 pm
PHOENIX -- Ready to get the All-Star coverage going. Nope, not much going on. Just reports that Bulls G.M. John Paxson will resign after the trade deadline and that Suns president Steve Kerr may replace Terry Porter as coach.
If the reports are accurate, too little, too late on both counts.
Anyway, Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf is shooting down the Paxson report in the New York Post, calling it "not credible." The Post also had the item on Kerr.
Just wondering: If your G.M. is resigning, wouldn't you want him to resign before the trade deadline, so he doesn't make any more bad trades?
We'll be following up on these and other issues throughout the day. There's also the trade rumor of the day -- the Nets and Mavericks discussing a deal that would reunite Jason Kidd with Vince Carter. Interesting. Will let you know about that one.
UPDATE: I can confirm with my own eyes that Paxson is still on the job, having seen him walking around a downtown hotel where NBA business is being conducted. He politely declined to discuss his job status. More on that as it unfolds.
As for the Mavs-Nets situation, "nothing going on right now" on that front, a person with knowledge of the talks said.