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Robert Sarver speaks on current state of Suns and future with state-of-the-art practice facility

The Suns’ managing partner spoke Wednesday at the ground-breaking ceremony for the team’s practice facility. It was the first time Sarver was available to the media since July 2017.

After a lengthy battle at the ballot box and a detailed planning process, the Suns on Wednesday unveiled the site of their new practice facility, where Managing Partner Robert Sarver addressed media and discussed why the facility will be important to the franchise.

The building, located just north of Camelback Road on the west side of 44th street, will have a beautiful view of Camelback Mountain and offer players and coaches a home away from home where they can train and prepare.

Play-by-play voice Kevin Ray hosted the event as dozens of community members and stakeholders in the project gathered around to celebrate a big step forward for both the Suns and Mercury clubs.

Building a championship team

Joined by general manager James Jones, City Council Member Sal DiCiccio and RED Development Chairman Mike Ebert, the owner said it is his goal for the practice facility to be meaningful to the team as well as the Phoenix community.

It was Sarver’s first appearance in front of media since July 2017, when he hired Jones as Vice President of Basketball Operations.

Jones spoke later, detailing the impact of a facility that players feel is an extension of the arena and a place where they have access and attention on a daily basis.

This is the type of circumstance where you have to feel like Jones’ perspective as a championship-caliber player while in the NBA is invaluable.

Sarver discusses the 2019-20 Suns for the first time

The owner said that after training camp, he told his kids, “We haven’t played a game yet, but I can tell that right now, we’re in a much better place.”

That vibe emanated from a coaching staff he lauded for being precise and educational as well as a group of veteran players who would help Monty Williams hold younger teammates accountable.

“The leadership we have in place and some of the players we brought in, just in training camp (you) could tell, a lot of those decisions are really gonna help us this year,” Sarver said.

Finding players who then fit the style Williams and his staff wanted to play became a priority. Jones and Sarver together with Williams — in what the owner called a “communication triangle” — targeted guys who brought positional length, shooting, basketball IQ and professionalism.

As we now know, out went T.J. Warren, Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender and the motley crew of G Leaguers at the end of the bench. In came Ricky Rubio, Aron Baynes, Dario Saric and a more competitive, serious group.

“When you look at the moves we made, while at the time many of them were not viewed favorably, there was a reason behind all of them,” Sarver said, “and I think our front office did a good job of matching what the coach needed to be successful in terms of player personnel.”

The future excites Sarver more thanks to the foundation laid this summer and during this 6-4 start:

“I’m really kind of more excited about it in the future because at the end of the day, you’re trying to get to the point where you can compete for a championship, but you’ve gotta take steps to get there, and to me, this step gives me hope that we’re headed in the right direction.”

Practice facility ‘will be a good recruiting tool’ for Suns

The degree to which the Suns were behind in terms of amenities for players really came to light when Trevor Ariza joined the team last season and threw a fit on his way out. Since then, many have seen the practice facility, announced soon after, as a way to compete with other NBA franchises in terms of attracting talent.

“There’s some things in here that will do that,” Sarver said, “and the biggest thing is going to be location. The location will be very close to where most of the free agents are going to want to live, and this whole indoor-outdoor aspect and the view looking at Camelback mountain is going to be really unique, so I think it can really help us.”

The owner is referring to the natural light that will shine upon the practice courts and throughout the facility, as well as in the future the entire complex, which will include a hotel and restaurants next to the facility.

Again, though, Sarver encouraged a deeper consideration of the progress the Suns want to make. A practice facility doesn’t cure all ills, nor is it the difference between signing a superstar and having them ignore you completely.

“Obviously, first and foremost, guys want to play with players they want to play with and coaches they want to play for,” Sarver said, “but then the community and the facilities and everything come right behind. So, I think it will be a good recruiting tool for us, and the more our players are working out here and engaged here, I think that word will spread rather quickly.”

Star players like Devin Booker were involved in the design process

After praising the “transformation” Booker has undergone this year as he heads toward superstar status in the NBA, Sarver said the fifth-year guard was a huge part of the planning process as the team developed the plans for the practice facility.

“We got the players involved early on,” Sarver said. “I’ve sat in design meetings with Deandre (Ayton) and Devin in terms of the floor plan, what they envision … We have involved our players in this process and we’re building something that they like and they want and they’re pretty excited about it.”

After 15 years owning the Suns, Sarver has many resources available to him when it comes to pulling ideas from around the NBA. Not only does he have two pro basketball lifers in Williams and Jones, but players across the league who have played in Phoenix and can give insight as to what does and doesn’t work at a practice facility.

“I kind of have to because I’m, what, 58 now, so maybe some of the things that are interesting to me aren’t interesting to someone 25 years old,” Sarver said. “They’re the ones that have to use it.

“A number of our players have been at other facilities and seen other facilities, so we got input from our coaching staff that have been at other facilities and input from players, and I got input from some former players that played for me as to what they liked about other facilities that they’re currently at and brought it all together.”

Everyone who spoke Wednesday preached the importance of so many parties coming together to create a facility that the team will benefit from and the community will gather around. The project is scheduled to be completed by Aug. 1, 2020, so we will see soon enough the effect it has on the Suns and east Phoenix.

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