Phoenix Suns Experience Change At All Levels Of The Organization

Lots of change in this here picture

News surrounding the Phoenix Suns has been hot and heavy these past few weeks, and Friday was no exception. Friday brought us changes in the Suns roster, front office and TV voices all in one day, while rumors continued of Suns coaching wanderlust and a future "star" player's interest.

Certainly, if you are a fan of change then this summer is your panacea.

Last year's opening night starting lineup will probably return only Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley on opening night of the 2012-13 season. In-with-the-new includes Goran Dragic, Michael Beasley and Luis Scola to the starting unit.

Last year's backups on opening night will return only Shannon Brown, Sebastian Telfair and Markieff Morris, to be joined by Channing Frye, Kendall Marshall, Wes Johnson, P.J. Tucker and an as-yet-unnamed backup C.

Last year's all-too-often game-calling duo were Tom Leander and Scott Williams. Leander has now been re-focused on studio shows (pre, halftime and post) while Scott Williams has left the organization entirely. Next year's play-by-play man is Marv Albert's younger brother, Steve Albert who has a long career of announcing NBA and boxing. Joining him will be more of Eddie Johnson and a little of Ann Myers-Drysdale.

And in the Suns' front office, the curious hiring of Brad Casper - a very successful businessman who'd hardly ever even been to a Suns game - has been put out to pasture. Casper replaced Rick Welts after Welts moved to California to be closer to his partner, a "coming out" that was unprecedented in major mens' sports. Previously, Welts made a name for himself as the guy who started the Suns' annual outdoor preseason game in Indian Wells. Nine months later, Casper left to pursue other interests and the Suns promoted a guy who's been with the team for years: Jason Rowley.

And that's not all. Oh no, that is not all.

The coaching staff will change as well. Former lead assistant and big-man coach Bill Cartwright has left the organization. Guys like Mark West and Lindsey Hunter have joined the player-development ranks along with Corey Gaines, who right now is coaching the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury.

Defensive coordinator Elston Turner is one of four finalists for the Portland head coaching job, while player-development staffer Lindsey Hunter was a finalist for the Orlando job until they hired Jacque Vaughn. It's quite possible that Hunter will be snatched up for a full-time coaching position this summer, in either Portland or Orlando.

Phew, lots of change. Luckily for us, Sarver, Babby, Blanks, Treloar and Gentry remain entrenched in their positions, though the latter four's contracts are all up in a year.

Changes may not stop coming for a while.

Housekeeping

The Suns' trade of Robin Lopez and Hakim Warrick was held up by a completely different reason than I had surmised. It would be easy to blame someone else for this, but I cannot. When I heard that the 3-team trade was being held up for issues of legality under the CBA, I combed the cbafaq.com for clues. There's actually a FAQ answer that deals specifically with "when a player cannot be traded".

Once I did the numbers and realized New Orleans is now "over the cap" after re-signing Eric Gordon using his Bird Rights, and after previously acquiring Ryan Anderson and Brad Miller, the article pretty much wrote itself. Teams "over the cap" have more restrictions than those under the cap. One of those restrictions is that once you receive a player in trade, you cannot re-trade that player along with any other players (aggregation) for two months. The Hornets were trying to send Brad Miller (just acquired 11 days before) along with Dyson in the deal.

Another trade limitation to teams over the cap is that they must send out somewhat similar salaries than they receive - within 150% plus $100,000. Without the ability to aggregate Miller's salary with another player, there appeared to be no way New Orleans could meet the salary-matching demand with the players they proposed.

Apparently, the latter rule applied to the Hornets, but not the former.

In the media conference call that took place after the trade was made final, Lon Babby clarified how the trade was legal.

Apparently, when it comes to "under the cap", "over the cap" and "over the apron", it's all about timing.

At the time New Orleans acquired Brad Miiler, they were "under the cap". This was before the Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon signings. So, apparently, Brad Miller was able to be re-traded with other players immediately and any time thereafter. Once given, that ability to aggregate him with others is immutable, even if the team moves into another cap classification later.

When the trade went down, the Hornets were by that time "over the cap", so they had to meet the salary-matching rules. But that was easy as long as they could package Miller's $5.1 with another player.

Bingo, the trade was legal as soon as it was proposed.

These guys are smart, I tell ya.

The holdup, apparently, was the haggling over the first-round pick the Suns would receive from Minnesota. It's complicated and I'm sure it took a lot of negotiation to get it right.

Suns-minny-first-rounder_medium

Looks clean on the surface, like the Suns are going to pick real soon, but the way I read that tweet (and Babby's explanation on the conference call) was that Memphis' pick only come into play if Minnesota would otherwise be sending us theirs.

So root for Minnesota to play really well next season!

James Harden answers an obvious question with an obvious answer

The Suns' pursuit of Eric Gordon failed this summer, but that may just have been a trial run for next summer anyway. The Suns offered restricted free agent Gordon a max-level extension on July 3, 2012 and may do the same with either James Harden or Serge Ibaka in 2013.

Except that the Suns may have a lot more luck next year. New Orleans matched the Gordon offer because Gordon was their only star player and they were way under the salary cap at the time. NOLA had no choice, and no real reason to make one anyway.

Oklahoma City, on the other hand, has a HUGE choice to make. They already have Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook on max extensions, giving the latter player their one and only 5-year-extension contract. It would be impossible to sign both Harden and Ibaka to max extensions of their own.

Questions abound whether OKC can convince both Harden and Ibaka to take less than they can get (ie. MAX) on the open market before next summer to stay in OKC as the third and fourth fiddles. Both are eligible for contract extensions this fall, and both will probably say "no thanks" to anything less than the max (starting at no less than $13.7 million).

Harden, for his part, is taking this in stride. In the first of likely many questions about his future, he handled a query by the Republic's Dan Bickley last week just as expected.

"Yeah," he said about maybe signing with the Suns next summer. "Of course. I love it there. My mom lives there still. So that's definitely my second home as far as my comfort level and going to school there. But obviously, I'm with the Thunder right now and what we have is special."

That's Harden ratcheting up the pressure on OKC to pony up. Ibaka will likely do the same, and at least one of these guys will most certainly be traded by next July 1 before they can reach free agency. The Suns have 6 first-round draft picks in the next 3 years (10 overall), young players Marshall and Morris along with a plethora of tradeable contracts on short term.

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