A sleepy start to the Suns' offseason was shaken awake by a front-page story in the New York Times wherein Suns president Rick Welts announced that he was gay.
In many walks of life and many business situations, this news would have been met with a shrug. But in big-time professional sports, such admissions still raise eyebrows, even with the sparkling track record of the 58-year-old Welts, who was the No. 3 man in the NBA offices and the brains behind the concept for All-Star Weekend before moving to the Suns in 2002.
Welts said the reaction to the story and his announcement has been overwhelmingly positive. He got texts from league heavyweights, such as close friends Bill Russell and Charles Barkley, and others who were quick to publicly back his decision.
Welts told NBA commissioner David Stern about his decision to go public the day before Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 for a gay slur he lobbed at a league official during the game. Bryant apologized and has pledged to go further in educating others about how poor his choice of words was.
Welts talked to Suns owner Robert Sarver about his decision before the story was published, and he also sought out the counsel of Suns guard Steve Nash before reaching his decision to go public.
Welts was not at the Suns' podium for the NBA draft lottery -- the team sent vice president of player programs Mark West to do the honors -- but he has made himself available to several media outlets to discuss his decision and how he hopes to mentor young people in the future.
For one night, it all came together when the Suns hit a franchise-record 22 3-pointers and stunned the Lakers in Los Angeles. Of course, the Suns came to rely on the long-range shot all season, and more often than not it let them down.
The Suns were 31-28 at the end of February with a good shot at making the playoffs. They won just seven of their next 22 games from that point, their worst 22-game sequence since Steve Nash came to the team to begin the 2004-05 season.
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