Suns' Babby Gives Season-Ending Address
Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby met the local media at a team-sponsored luncheon at US Airways Center on Wednesday, fielding questions from reporters in an end-of-season address. The following are excerpts from that Q&A session.
(On the offseason strategy)
"We are going to move forward and we’re going to build this thing brick by brick, and all I ask of fans is to engage with us in the process and enjoy it as we grow. Enjoy Markieff Morris’ development and enjoy our draft choice this year. Watch this thing come together, and hopefully they’ll do that with us.
"We're not on any artificial time frame. If the opportunities are there, we’re going to seize them. But we’re going to make decisions that are going to put us in a position to be elite, which is about competing every year for a championship.
"I’m not interested in patching it up and getting good for a year or two without making progress. It may be that we make the decision to do a little of what we did last year, and wait a year and 'keep our powder dry,' and be as competitive as we can be. We’ll see how that plays out. But we’ve got to make decisions not only on what would be good for us today, but what’s going to be good for us tomorrow."
[Related: Markieff Morris on the Rookie Road]
(On Steve Nash)
"I think we absolutely made the right decision (to not trade Steve this year) and I think that he made the right decision (to not request a trade). I thought that he was a wonderful partner. He’s a free agent now, so it’s a different circumstance. He’s going to have a process. He’s got important decisions to make. And we will be full participants in that process. We’ve got to go down a road with him and see if we can find a common path, a path that makes sense for him and for us. Everybody here wants Steve Nash to retire as a Phoenix Sun and we are going to work very hard to work with him to see if that can happen. But it’s got to be good for him and for us, and he understands that.
"What I would say about it at this really early stage is that every indication that we have gotten from Steve is that not only is our spirit willing to make this happen, but his spirit is willing, as well. That doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. We respect his right to look around, but we will work hard with him to find common ground and we’ll see where it ends up.
"The one thing that I will tell you right now is that I’m not going to give 'weather reports.' I’m not going to be answering (reporters' questions) every week about where we are in the Steve Nash saga... I think that interferes with the purity of the process, and I have too much respect to go public with anything that we talk about. He has been a wonderful partner and we all understand how invaluable and important he is, and we need to be respectful of his process."
(On why the Suns chose not to trade Nash at the deadline and acquire pieces for rebuilding)
"A lot of people in my position, in Lance’s (Blanks) position or in Robert Sarver’s position might have gone that route, but we didn’t think that was right for our franchise. I thought it was more important to communicate to Steve at the outset of the season that he could stay so long as he was 'all in' on what we were trying to accomplish this year. I want to project certain values for this franchise. I want to treat players like him with respect, with loyalty and communicate to the NBA community how we are going to treat our players. So that’s the judgment that we made and I think we were rewarded by it.
"We didn’t make the playoffs, but we had an entertaining second half of the season and we got the chance to watch a Hall of Fame player and savor the year with him. But there is another aspect to it and I don’t think you can minimize this. What Steve Nash and Grant Hill give us as a franchise is invaluable. Nobody will ever be able to persuade me that Markieff Morris will not have a better career because he spent a year, or two or three with Steve Nash and Grant Hill. I look around the league and I see a lot of rudderless ships and I don’t want us to be another rudderless ship."
(On Alvin Gentry's status)
"I have known Alvin since he coached Grant in Detroit, so that’s a long time. When I got this job, one of the first things we did was extend him so that his contract was coterminous with mine. I did it because I thought it was grossly unfair to put him in a situation where he would be facing a lockout, and that could be his last year, because of the uncertainties around the collective bargaining agreement.
"First and foremost there is not even a scintilla of moment where anybody is questioning whether he will be our coach next year. Everybody knows he is going to be our coach and we’re delighted with the job he did this year, particularly the second half of the year.
"My view is if somebody has a three-year contract, you assess it at the end of three years. I’ve talked to Alvin about it, and he’s perfectly fine with that. There are a lot of very successful coaches in the league right now in the final year of their contract. So this notion that you have to always be one year ahead, you know, I don’t think is in his best interest. I don’t think it’s in our best interest. But it has absolutely nothing to do with his coaching ability or his performance and he understands that.
"He’s our coach, and he did a wonderful job – especially in the second half of this year. I thought that he and his coaching staff really navigated us through some really treacherous waters of the first half of that year, and put us in a position to make the playoffs.
"In every exit interview, we asked for candid and honest feedback, and to a player they love playing for him and they love his ability to be mad one night and come back the next morning and be himself, be in a good mood to keep the team on an even keel. He has tremendous people skills and communication skills."
[Video: Suns Exit Interviews]
(On his own role as president of basketball operations)
"I get up every day, look around and see this whole community of people who care about whether we succeed or not. That is a daunting responsibility, but I welcome it. I’m just doing the best I can, making as many right decisions as I can. I appreciate the opportunity. "You know, always lurking back there, with all of you guys, is just this question about our ownership and about Robert. My experience with him (only reinforces) that I’ve made the right decision to give up a 35-year law practice to come here and try this, because he is really, really smart. He’s really, really committed to us succeeding. I’m learning a lot from him. I’m not saying every day is malted milk (laughs). It’s not. But most importantly to me, he’s a person of impeccable integrity. That’s really what I care most about. So I want to succeed for ownership, I want to succeed for the 200 people that work in this building and, most importantly, I want to succeed for our fan base."
(On the status of Aaron Brooks)
"We got a little bit of bad luck, frankly, because he went to China. He had no way of knowing that the lockout was going to end the next week. So we lost the ability to have him on our team last year. And we got further bad luck with the new collective bargaining agreement, because of the fact that he wasn’t on our team, we lost the ability to use him in a sign-and-trade. That minimizes our flexibility and his flexibility going forward."
[Related: Blanks Visits Brooks in China]
"He’s an important asset. He’s going to be a restricted (free-agent). We’ll qualify him (with an offer) and preserve our rights, and we’ll just have to see how it all plays out. A lot of people ask me about the trade we made (to acquire Brooks in February 2011), and, you know, and I think we made a lot of good decisions. If that one turns out to be wrong, so be it. We have to wait to judge it."
(On Robin Lopez)
"Last year, he took on a lot of water, and we took the position that we needed to help him this year. I think in retrospect, it was clear that it took him a long time to recover from those medical issues, physical issues, he had last year. But the second half of this year, particularly after the All-Star break, he was excellent. He is, again, going to be a restricted free-agent, and the message I would send out is that it is quite likely, if not certain, that we’re going to match (any offers he receives), because he’s an important asset to us. He gave us a lot down the stretch this year, and, you know, what we need is rim protection. He gives us that and we don’t really have that from anybody else.
"I thought he had a good second half of the year, in particular. He’s got to get more consistent, but I thought he made a lot of progress this year. And I thought it vindicated our decision to stick with him."
(On the NBA's new amnesty clause)
"It’s a weapon and we will use it if it makes sense. We won’t use it just for the sake of using it. We have it available to us throughout the collective bargaining agreement for any player that was on our roster last year, and if it allows us to do something we otherwise wouldn’t be able to do, I’m sure we would consider it. But we’re not going to do it just for the heck of it."
(On wanting Grant Hill back)
"Yeah, for sure... I’ve said it before, you can’t even begin to calculate the impact that he has on this franchise on and off the court. I don’t look forward to the day that I’m not working with him. It’ll be the first time in 17, 18, 19 years. Some way or another I’ll be working with him, and I hope he can play. If he wants to play again, hopefully he’ll be able to.
"There's a guy (Hill) that had the choice of really playing anywhere he wanted (this past season), and he chose to play here. That’s, I think, as great an endorsement of what we’re doing here – our ownership, our management, our fan base and our community here – as anything. So I take great comfort in that. I don’t want to speak for Grant. He may want to go through that (free-agency) process again, but I would be extremely disappointed if he played somewhere else."
(On areas that need improvement)
"First and foremost, I think we need to find another dynamic weapon on offense – wherever that might be, whether it’s on the wing or down low. We need to have someone, ideally, who we can throw the ball to in the post and score. We need to improve our rebounding. We need to continue to make progress on defense. We need to get younger – whether Steve and Grant are here or not, because they’re getting older. I think we need to get more athletic, and I think we accomplished that with Shannon Brown. And we need to do a better job with player development. We need to make sure our players are progressing. I said to Markieff that this is the most important summer of his career. He’s got to come back a better player. If he doesn’t come back a better player than when he left, then that’s on him. But it’s also on us to give him that kind of development. We have to get better with what we have, but those are some of the areas where we need improvement."