Suns co-interim general manager James Jones has made his M.O. known during his relatively short stint in the front office. He wants to build relationships with players, develop a culture that breeds winning and is in no hurry to overhaul the locker room for the sake of change.
Apparently that, along with the relationship the two fostered over seven seasons as teammates, has put Jones in the sights of Lakers superstar LeBron James as part of LeBron’s quest to one day own an NBA team. A new story over at The Athletic documents the series of moves LeBron has already made to set himself up to one day own a team and even goes so far as to list a couple of candidates for the GM position should LeBron pull it off:
“LeBron has an idea about whom he might hire as his first general manager, mentioning former Miami and Cleveland teammate James Jones, who’s now the interim GM in Phoenix. Brandon Weems, a childhood friend of LeBron, is a front-office executive with the Cavaliers. LeBron seeks to empower those close to him — always has.”
Sure, it feels like a throwaway line intended mostly to show just how thoroughly LeBron has considered his post-playing career empire, but it fits, right? Jones already garnered a ton of attention this year thanks to the way he has handled veteran players, particularly as it relates to his relationship with James.
First, it was the Suns’ decision to buy out Tyson Chandler just three weeks into the regular season rather than keep him as a potential trade piece with the flexibility to eventually buy him out in February anyway. Chandler, of course, ended up as a key rotation piece with LeBron’s Lakers, solving their frontcourt depth issues for a time.
This favor, depending on whom you believe, may have ruffled the feathers of owner Robert Sarver when it came time to trade the next disgruntled veteran, Trevor Ariza, in December.
Per source, Suns owner Robert Sarver was adamant that he would not send Trevor Ariza to the Lakers, so Phoenix pivoted to other options. Wizards desperate for toughness/defensive grit, and would have had difficulty re-signing Oubre next summer.— David Aldridge (@davidaldridgedc) December 15, 2018
Sarver was reportedly anxious because of the backlash from the Chandler situation and didn’t want to do another deal with Los Angeles, for fear of the Jones-LeBron relationship becoming even more magnified. Yet Ariza indeed did prefer the Lakers and certainly would have helped the team due to their lack of shooting at forward.
At the February trade deadline, the similarities between how Jones and LeBron see the business of the game showed up again. LeBron went on an Instagram rant about the injustice of the Mavericks trading Harrison Barnes mid-game despite some saying Barnes knew a trade was possible and chose to play. The next day, Jones insisted to Phoenix media he does not see players as “assets” but rather as people working toward a goal of winning.
"Those contracts probably could've helped us potentially, but we still would've had the opportunity, the resources to execute a major trade. I don't regret not having that. If we didn't use it and that wasn't a reality or something realistic, it's a moot point." #Suns James Jones pic.twitter.com/eumHghh3IG— Duane Rankin (@DuaneRankin) February 8, 2019
So, certainly we know Jones and LeBron developed a fantastic relationship while they played together, marching to seven straight NBA Finals while Jones rose to prominence off the court in the Players Association and ultimately with the job in Phoenix while James cemented himself in the GOAT conversation.
The fact that Jones is on LeBron’s radar for a GM position that, considering LeBron has three years left on his current NBA contract, is several years away and is no more than a dream at this point, shows how strong that connection is to this day.