Minus owner Sarver, Suns return for another run at NBA title

Sep 25, 2022, 11:41 PM | Updated: Sep 26, 2022, 11:42 am
FILE - Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver gestures to Indiana Pacers' Danny Granger after Granger mis...

FILE - Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver gestures to Indiana Pacers' Danny Granger after Granger missed a shot during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 6, 2010 in Phoenix. Robert Sarver says he has started the process of selling the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury, a move that comes only eight days after he was suspended by the NBA over workplace misconduct including racist speech and hostile behavior toward employees. Sarver made the announcement Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022, saying selling “is the best course of action.” He has owned the teams since 2004. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

(AP Photo/Matt York, File)

PHOENIX (AP) — All-Stars Devin Booker and Chris Paul, along with freshly paid Deandre Ayton and coach Monty Williams, are back together for another run at an elusive NBA title.

One man who apparently won’t be along on the journey — team owner Robert Sarver.

The Suns met in downtown Phoenix on Monday for media day, less than a week after the embattled Sarver announced his intention to sell the team. Sarver was suspended one year and fined $10 million on Sept. 13 by the NBA over workplace misconduct that included racist speech and hostile behavior toward employees.

Sarver’s intention to sell seemed to diffuse tensions on what could have been a very awkward day — and season — for the Suns.

“I think it was on its way to being a distraction,” Booker said. “But now that he’s chosen to sell the team, I think we can move forward, focus on the goal that’s at hand and that’s playing basketball.”

The Suns have been one of the NBA’s elite teams over the past two seasons. They made the Finals in 2021 before losing to the Milwaukee Bucks in six games. Last season, they set the franchise record for regular-season wins before a lopsided Game 7 loss to the Dallas Mavericks knocked them out of the playoffs in the second round.

Since then, there’s been drama. There was speculation Ayton was moving on to another team. There was chatter the Suns wanted to make a move to acquire star Kevin Durant in a trade with the Nets. There was the unhappiness of starting forward Jae Crowder, who won’t be with the team during training camp.

But nothing was as disruptive as the Sarver situation.

A 10-month investigation into Sarver’s behavior confirmed he had used racist language, made sexually inappropriate comments, left some employees — male and female — feeling uncomfortable with his words and actions, and took part in what would be considered workplace bullying.

Booker, Paul and Williams all said reading the final report was difficult.

“It’s tough for me because that’s not the Robert Sarver I know,” Booker said. “It’s not the Robert Sarver that welcomed me to Phoenix with open arms, but at the same time, I’m not insensitive to everybody that’s involved with the situation. I understand everyone’s personal experience with other people is always going to be different.”

Suns GM James Jones said he doesn’t believe the Sarver situation will become a distraction.

“That’s called life,” Jones said. “I never forget that we’re playing the game of basketball. There’s a lot of things that go on in society and the day-to-day that people deal with that are much more stressful than the things we’re talking about in the context of sport.

“For us, it’s all about focus. We’re paid to be professionals, to be pros, to navigate these types of situations and still perform at a high level. I have no doubt my team will be able to do that.”

HAPPY AYTON

Ayton’s return to the organization was uncertain during the offseason, with the fifth-year forward eligible for a lucrative contract.

The Indiana Pacers made a max offer and the Suns matched it. Now he’s got a $133 million, four-year deal to remain with the organization that drafted him No. 1 overall.

“We were clear since Day 1 that we wanted Deandre here,” Jones said. “The unique thing about sport is whenever you start talking about contracts, a lot of noise happens. People attribute things to you that you didn’t say. I’m not on social media as much as many, but that’s what I call a ‘noise box’ where narratives start to go and people start to speculate.

“They speculated we did not want Deandre. But I think we were very proactive in matching (Indiana’s offer) and making sure that he stayed here in Phoenix.”

PAYNE MANAGEMENT

Cameron Payne was a key players for the Suns when they made their run to the Finals two years ago. He was also a big part of the team’s success during last year’s regular season, when they set the franchise record for wins.

But the backup guard fell out of favor during last year’s playoff run, losing his regular spot in the rotation.

It’ll be interesting to see what he does in his fourth season with the franchise. The 28-year-old averaged more than 10 points per game during the regular season last year.

JAE’S AWAY

It appears starting forward Jae Crowder won’t be back with the Suns despite being under contract for this season. The team has released a statement saying the veteran won’t be with the team when training camp opens Tuesday.

The 32-year-old averaged 9.4 points and 5.0 rebounds per game last season, providing 3-point shooting, rebounding and toughness.

NEW GUYS

The Suns should be very similar in terms of the starting lineup, but the bench could look quite a bit different.

Guards Josh Okogie, Duane Washington Jr., Frank Jackson and forwards Damion Lee, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Jock Landale were all added during the offseason. The team also welcomes back forward Dario Saric, who missed all last season after tearing an ACL during the Finals in 2021.

___

More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Emily Fox of the U.S., center, leads a string of teammates against New Zealand during their women's...
Associated Press

US forward Alex Morgan supports transgender kids in sports

Forward Alex Morgan says the U.S. national team should have internal discussions about whether to play exhibition games in states that restrict transgender kids from participating in sports. The team is currently preparing for the SheBelieves Cup, a round-robin tournament with Canada, Brazil and Japan that starts next week. Matches are scheduled in Florida and […]
16 hours ago
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a news conference ahead of the Super Bowl 57 football ...
Associated Press

NFL Commissioner Goodell tackles diversity, concussions

PHOENIX (AP) — From diversity to concussions, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reiterated the league is still looking for improvement. As for officiating, he says: “it’s never been better.” Goodell addressed those topics and more, including the Washington Commanders’ investigation, flex scheduling and international play in his annual Super Bowl news conference Wednesday. DeMeco Ryans became […]
16 hours ago
CORRECT ID TO MICHAEL SKUBALA , NOT SIMON HOOPER  - Leeds United's interim head coach Michael Skuba...
Associated Press

Man United stages fightback to draw 2-2 with Leeds in EPL

MANCHESTER, England (AP) — Manchester United fought back from a two-goal deficit to draw 2-2 with Leeds in the Premier League on Wednesday. Substitute Jadon Sancho rescued a point for Erik ten Hag’s team, which missed the chance to move level on points with second-place Manchester City. Leeds fired Jesse Marsch on Monday. It is […]
16 hours ago
Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones speaks to the media during the NFL football Super B...
Associated Press

Chiefs’ Jones sets sack standard for Kansas City defense

PHOENIX (AP) — Chris Jones claims to have very little memory of a relatively benign game in 2017, when the Kansas City Chiefs welcomed the Philadelphia Eagles to Arrowhead Stadium for the second game of the regular season. Jason Kelce remembers it quite well. The veteran Philadelphia center spent the afternoon lining up alongside Isaac […]
2 days ago
Buffalo Bills' Damar Hamlin speaks after being introduced as the winner of the Alan Page Community ...
Associated Press

Hamlin appears during Super Bowl event to receive award

PHOENIX (AP) — Damar Hamlin made a brief appearance in Phoenix during Super Bowl week to receive the NFLPA’s Alan Page Community Award. The Buffalo Bills safety received the award at the Phoenix Convention Center on Wednesday, a little over a month after he went into cardiac arrest and needed to be resuscitated on the […]
2 days ago
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes answers a question during an NFL football Super Bowl...
Associated Press

Chiefs’ Mahomes says ankle will be ready for Super Bowl

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes says he’s “definitely in a better spot” when it comes to his ailing right ankle than he was for the AFC championship game, and the All-Pro quarterback doesn’t expect to be limited by it when he leads the Kansas City Chiefs against the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl. […]
2 days ago
Minus owner Sarver, Suns return for another run at NBA title