Posted: April 2, 2013
Remodeling is a painstaking process. It's not a quick one either. It's time
consuming and methodical. It starts by pulling out all the the current
fixtures, the carpet and the wall boards. Once you've exposed the studs and
the sub floor, you start to build up again, step by step, until you've
finished the beautiful renovations you can be proud of.
The same can be said for the rebuilding of a basketball franchise.
Sometimes, in order to build a playoff contender, you have to get back down
to a foundation that you can truly craft a new vision from. In the process
things might get a little dirty and even look a little ugly at times, but
you don't let the contractor walk when there's a job left to complete. As
Kanye said, sometimes you have to "crawl before you ball."
Thus is the case for Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby. With
his contract set to expire at the end of the season, Managing Partner Robert
Sarver decided to stick with the man who had crafted the team's current
vision, and give him a two-year extension to see how the finished product
will look. Likewise, Babby recommitted himself to the painstaking project he
started almost three years ago.
"It was a mutual decision," Babby said of his contract extension. "Robert
asked me to come back and I thought long and hard about whether I wanted to
continue. But I am a little bit prideful and felt like I wanted to see it
through. I may never make it to the Promised Land like Moses, but I wasn't
ready to give up at the beginning of the journey through the desert. It's a
gratifying job in many ways and it will be that much more gratifying when we
get where we're going, or at least begin to see the progress towards that
goal, which should happen as early as next year."
Babby is excited for the challenge, even if he has his own metaphor for how
to describe the current situation.
"It's a motion picture not a snapshot," he told Suns.com Tuesday afternoon. "If you took a snapshot right now, you'd say we're in bad shape. If you take
a look at the bigger picture, the motion picture, what the evolution was
over the last few years, how we got into a situation of having cap
flexibility, the moves we've made to get more draft choices and how that's
going to help us progress going forward, it gives you perspective. We're in
a painful stage of it, but you have to look at the pot of gold at the end of
While a 23-51 record obviously isn't where Babby or Sarver want to be at
this point in the 2012-13 season, they've made strides to lay the foundation
for the future. Many of those strides are in areas that fans rarely, if
ever, get a chance to see. They've upgraded the facilities for players,
given assistant coaches their own offices for the first time, increased the
training staff budget and equipment to ensure they remain the best in the
league, built up their analytics and scouting staff, not to mention many
other changes both large and small.
Babby does realize however that those behind-the-scenes adjustments and
enhancements aren't obvious to fans and that winning is what he and the
franchise will be judged on in the end. He also understands the reality that
losing isn't easy on anyone, especially the fans.
"Just hang with us," he said in his fourth-floor office after signing his
extension. "I know that's not an easy request. I greatly value the financial
commitment that many people make to come to our games, but I even more place
a value on the emotional commitment. That's what being a fan is. If you take
the journey with this group and the group represented by our 10 draft
choices over the next three years, and watch that group evolve and that core
reach a level of success, it's just going to be that much more gratifying."
And he's right. Being a sports fan is about the journey as much as the
destination. While Suns fans have yet to reach the pinnacle of the sport and
hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy, the 45-year journey has been fun. The
question is, why would you leave before it's complete?
It's a question that Babby asked himself, as he pondered the offer to remain
with the club through the 2014-15 season. In the end, he decided it was best
for him, his family and the organization.
"It's just a wonderful way to spend the final chapter of my career," he
said. "I'm just glad there are a few more pages in it."
Things may be a little dusty right now, the floorboards and wood beams may
be exposed, but it's all about building the foundation to move forward.
Babby has the blueprints and believes things are on schedule for the Suns'
"I'm not at all discouraged," he said confidently. "I know we're on the
right track. I've seen the things we're doing work over and over again. You
can't rush it."