This is the time of year in the NBA that is documented one frame at a time.
Look no further than the latest round of rumors about a potential Anthony Davis trade — we see clear outlines of what the Nets, Knicks, Celtics, Lakers, Clippers and Pelicans plan to do this summer. Some of that is the cost of doing business — if you’re on the phone, there’s someone on the other end of that call who is also liable to tell people about the conversation.
This information flow is also a byproduct of teams playing the leverage game. For instance, in Adrian Wojnarowski’s latest story on the Davis talks, he reports that the Lakers are playing it cautiously with the belief they can pry Davis away in free agency in 2020. That can be read at a surface level, meaning Los Angeles seriously is being passive during this round of negotiations, or as leverage.
By leaking their confidence that they can lure him in 2020, the Lakers could be trying to weaken the trade market for Davis, thereby making it easier to trade for him now.
These types of games are played to some degree across every roster over the summer. Except, notably, this year’s Suns.
Under James Jones, the team has not even publicized its draft workouts, which thanks to some Instagram sleuthing we know now likely includes Brandon Clarke and Coby White in addition to the team’s meeting in Lubbock, Texas, with Jarrett Culver.
The Suns also have not officially announced the hiring of a single assistant coach to work under Monty Williams, despite reports detailing a full bench.
More noteworthy than any of that, though, is the lack of bigger clues being leaked to reporters to control their fate this summer.
If Phoenix wanted to get involved as major players this summer, they could juke the rest of the league by blowing smoke about their interest in some player whom they actually don’t like. This could throw rival teams for a loop.
They could publicize widely that they are open for business at No. 6, which could sweeten the packages they are offered in draft-day trades. That could allow them to refill their barrel of assets and be active on draft night.
The fact that Jones and Co. have not been on the phone day by day with reporters does not indicate that they will be inactive, rather that they are disinterested in playing games through the media. It also indicates Jones may have a tighter hold on things in the front office than previous lead executives in Phoenix , as leaks have been less frequent under his leadership.
Major Suns reporting has come only from Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro this summer, making it hard to read a trail of bread crumbs that typically has materialized by this point during the NBA offseason.
This makes it difficult to get a sense of the Suns’ priorities, which in and of itself is a form of manipulation — if you don’t know what a team wants or what they are planning to do, they do have a form of control over the situation. While we don’t know how Jones views the roster or prospective free agents or draft picks, we know one thing by now: Jones is going to keep things in-house and doesn’t want to deal with nonsense.
Playing the media game has its benefits, including garnering trust from reporters and opposing teams by living up to your word. But Jones doesn’t appear to be interested much at all in playing it.
The murkiness of the Suns’ offseason plans will get a light shined on it next week, when the No. 6 pick is on the clock and Phoenix must make a decision. Until then, don’t expect to hear much of anything.