Owners of teams in our major sports leagues must be thinking today is like their birthday, Christmas and Hanukkah all rolled into one.
With today's news of 2 Billion dollars being doled out to purchase the Los Angeles Clippers, the second fiddle step-sisters in southern California.. the actual value of all NBA franchises has to be climbing faster than the thermometer is here in the valley. These teams are like property in San Francisco. The longer you sit on it, the more valuable it becomes.
June 30th, 2004. The Suns Sell for 401 Million
Our local NBA owner, one Mr. Robert Sarver put together a team of investors on a mission back in 2004 to purchase his home team. As one of Tucson's most successful and wealthiest citizens, the NBA team just north on the I-10 had peaked his interest since he was young, and he now had the means and opportunity to seize it. A quick Google search reminds me that the Sarver group was able to successfully obtain our beloved Phoenix Suns for the staggering figure of $401,000,000. That's 401 Million with an M. A huge sum no doubt, but a sum that today must make his group feel like they are sitting on the biggest PowerBall jackpot in history. LITERALLY.
The Sarver group faced major obstacles at the beginning. Not just in learning the ins and outs of running an NBA team and all that goes with it, but replacing a legend in our city. Jerry Colangelo made the Suns number one in our hearts, and made downtown Phoenix a much better place to live and play once the AWA opened in 1993. My grandparents lived downtown when I was a kid. "Don't go outside please, you might not come back" was a common phrase. The civic boom that started with the downtown sports complex revolutionized our urban community. Jerry did amazing things for the sport of basketball, the NBA, and for his city until he and his investment partners cashed in themselves. They walked away with a profit north of $350 Million when they sold the team in '04 to the Sarver group.
The new ownership era begins
Taking over for Jerry Colangelo was probably akin to how some kid in the Bronx is going to feel next year replacing #2 in the Yankee infield. Big shoes to feel indeed. Luckily for Mr. Sarver and for all of us a scraggly haired, undersized Canadian kid decided to come back to Phoenix and revolutionize the league.
The honeymoon of 7 seconds or less sadly ended, with a long list of frustration. Trading Rondo and Deng among others only to see them excel didn't feel good. Selling draft picks for money to sign players like Marcus Banks wasn't fun. Watching Joe Johnson leave a core of Amare, Steve and Shawn was really a bummer. Not to mention Robert Horry, David Stern or Bruce Bowen.
Once the inevitable began and the front office stopped trying to plug holes with putty like they did with Hedo, Hakim and others it was time to start over. The front office, obviously driven by the proud and motivated owner gave it one more shot with the Michael Beasley/ Wes Johnson salvation project but that quickly fizzled to rock bottom.
Horny, McD and the Sarver salvation of 2013
2013 seemed like the start of a long tedious process. We'd be the Kings, or the Cavs. Inevitably festering for a few years with a bad roster hoping to cash in at the right time and land a star in the draft. A star who could lead us back to relevance. Then the amazing happened. Robert Sarver, the subject of constant scrutiny from fans and media types alike for being aloof and cheap made moves. He dumped Lance Blanks and he jettisoned Lindsey Hunter. He hired a young prodigy named Ryan McDonough and gave him the reins to start rebuilding. The two of them brought in a former gunslinger in short shorts as our next head coach. He was another piece in the puzzle that fit perfectly.
We all know what happened next. We stole Gerald Green and Miles Plumlee away from arguably the best forward to ever play. Larry knows basketball, but he thought a year of Luis Scola was better than those two guys and their first round pick. We moved the Polish Machine for another pick to officially start the slow rebuild. The slow process of turnaround rolled on when everything came together. They committed highway robbery on these same 2 Billion dollar Clips with the trade for Eric Bledsoe. Goran Dragic morphed into an absolute beast. (The same Goran Dragic that Robert Sarver signed in the parking lot blocking a potential Raymond Felton disaster.) It was literally an unforgettable season and the most fun I've had since that first magical Nash season.
2014-2015 Time to go all in.
So here we sit today. The questions of Kevin Love. What to do with the restricted Eric Bledsoe and with our plethora of draft picks? These are much better questions to be asking than all assumed we'd be just one year into this process. I don't know what the best course of action is and my opinion doesn't matter. All I ask is this. If the Clippers sold for 2 billion dollars where does that leave the Suns? If the least desirable team in the league, the Milwaukee Bucks sold for $550 Million last month would we sell for $900 Million? $1.4 Billion? Only time will tell.
What I do know is we are worth much more than Mr. Sarver and his team payed just 10 years ago for this team. Which means if I know Robert Sarver like I think I do, he'll spend to win. He didn't buy the team he cheered for while going to Sabino High just to turn a profit. He has the fire and he wants a shiny ring. After today's news everyone knows he absolutely has the money.
The young Suns have the foundation together with the generals to get them over the hump. Our GM and our coach are ready to lead, and our leaders on the floor are ready to win. Now is the time to go for it. Spend your money. Cash in on the savings from the Okafor insurance money. Spend like a kid who just got his allowance, but spend wisely. Resign Eric Bledsoe outright or match any offer even if that puts us into the luxury tax. You can't complain about taxes when you literally might be sitting on a billion dollars worth of equity. Use some of that future profit and go all in.
So Mr. Sarver think about this. Phoenix deserves a champion. The fans deserve one. If you open your bank account to help make this happen, you will forever go down as the one who brought the hardware here. The banner in the rafters, your name in the Ring of Honor awaits. Be smart with our assets and our future but spend what it takes. Let young Ryan McDonough borrow your AMEX for awhile. I'm ready for some confetti.