Tuesday afternoon, on an off-day for the Phoenix Suns, James Jones made himself available to the media following Monday’s announcement that he had been promoted to President of Basketball Operations, while retaining his responsibility of General Manager as well.
To start his time, Jones spoke about what new responsibilities might come with the new, weightier title:
“Not a lot changes, but my focus on not just the Suns, but also the Mercury, my efforts to continue to bolster both teams will continue. That’s something that I’ve done since I’ve been here, but more of a formal role. It just allows me the freedom mentally to dedicate more time to kind of the macro vision for the franchise as well as continuing to be a steward of the micro cycle of this team. So it’s an honor, honestly, but to me it’s just another day at the office”
I don’t think I knew that the two sides of the NBA squad and WNBA squad were so closely tied like that to the extent of Jones being a main decision-maker for both. He later added that he doesn’t foresee any personnel changes coming soon, like another general manager for example.
Jones spoke about Chris Paul and the status of his heel injury. Jones — with a smile — insisted that Paul is “close” and that “he’s been looking good” but explains that the team is taking a more long-term approach. He explained that the team waits for injured players to be 100% ready to play “without restrictions” before they’re able to be out there.
He also made sure to reassure media that “it’s just a sore heel... I’ve always tried to be honest and direct. If there was something more we would tell you, but it’s just a sore heel.”
Jones spoke to the ownership situation, saying that working with interim governor Sam Garvin has gone smoothly, and that he’s “aware” of the sale process as that’s playing out; added that there’s a sense of excitement but that they’re focused more on trying to win games.
There are a couple other questions we knew we’d get, and one is the Jae Crowder situation, which is as murky as ever. Jones explains:
“I just haven’t been able to get a deal done. It’s the NBA... there’s no window (yet) where they say, ‘Hey, all deals are done here...’ Other than that, it’s just finding the right fit, and we just haven’t been able to find that yet.”
Jones gave a strong vote of confidence for the players, coaches, and staff members that are in the building and committed to the organization, and he points to them as the source of his patience in trying to find that right fit for a Crowder trade.
He added later that he doesn’t believe Crowder’s value depreciates over the time that he’s missing, and that he doesn’t believe it’s a unique situation. “These conversations happen behind the scenes. It’s just that he’s not playing.”
On the Cam Johnson extension talks that fell through and his thoughts heading into another restricted free agency, Jones said:
“I haven’t even thought about that. We addressed our free agency situation with Cam, we didn’t get a deal done, and we agreed that he’s someone that we love and value. So there will just be another conversation going forward.
“For us right now, it’s getting him healthy, so that he can return to form and play the way he was playing before he got injured.”
He spoke about the importance of guys like Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton.
With Booker, Jones expressed that Booker’s gone from a “really talented young player dying to win” to “a key to an extended run of winning.” Jones says Booker is “rightfully in the MVP conversation and without him we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
On Ayton, Jones spoke about how satisfying it is to see him grow and mature and how his “command of the system” has helped newcomers like Jock Landale.
Down the stretch of his availability, Jones talked about how he “didn’t come in here with any notions of what he would become” starting as a member of Ryan McDonough’s front office.
He downplayed his new title as President with “The NBA title is the only title that matters.”
He called the team “special” earlier on. Jones is 100% all in on the Suns, and I’m 100% all in on the direction he’s led the franchise.