Robert Sarver has taken a lot of flack over the years for being cheap. Selling draft picks, the botched Joe Johnson contract, cheap rosters, and forcing Kerr to trade Kurt Thomas in return for the honor of giving the Sonics two first round draft picks.
Not all of that criticism is fair, some is.
- I put a lot of the blame for those draft picks at D'Antoni's feet for his clearly stated desire not to develop rookies.
- Sarver himself admitted that he screwed up on the Joe Johnson deal and I was willing to forgive that rookie owner mistake.
- Paying a combined $16m in salary and luxury tax for Kurt Thomas to play 20 minutes a game in Mike D's system -- I'm not down with that either.
- And the Suns, contrary to the cheap reputation, paid the luxury tax for the last three seasons, unlike the majority of the league.
- And the bottom line, the Suns quickly turned things around and returned to the Western Conference Finals, earning back the trust of the fans and earning an extra $10m in playoff revenue for the team.
Now Kerr is gone and we are getting mixed messages why.
The highly reliable Johnny Ludden and Adrian Wojnarowski from Yahoo! Sports say that Kerr was asked to take a 10% pay cut, "as is being asked of other Suns staffers whose contracts are up at the end of the month" (via Coro blog).
Sarver, largely through his relationship with the Suns flagship radio station, is saying that Kerr was not asked to take a pay cut at all and Kerr denied his departure was in any way related to his contract negotiations.
The bottom line, with the history and reputation that hangs over this organization (some fair, some not): it is up to Sarver to prove that he's committed to winning and willing to pay for it.
The bar isn't Mark Cuban high, but if in fact Kerr was allowed to leave over a contract dispute, the repercussions will be felt for a long time in Phoenix and they start with Amare.
Whether giving Amare a max deal is the right thing to do or not, there's no way it will be seen outside the lens of this latest move. Sarver has backed his reputation in a corner and the only way out is to pay Amare. Unfortunately, giving Amare a 6-year deal worth approximately $125m might be the easy short-term answer that haunts the organization down the road if Amare doesn't deliver.
A real pickle.
One thing Sarver can do and fast is tear up Coach Gentry's contract, which paid him less than almost any other coach in the NBA. Gentry's earned the right to be paid at least near the league average and should be given a three year deal (his current deal has two years remaining).
Moving fast on a new contract for Alvin would go a long way towards demonstrating Sarver's commitment to paying for performance instead of cutting for savings.