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Video/quotes: James Jones on Sarver findings, Suns culture moving forward at Media Day

Jones spoke about the franchise’s future after Robert Sarver’s announcement he would be selling the team.

NBA: Phoenix Suns-Media Day
James Jones
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Here is what Phoenix Suns general manager James Jones said at the team’s Media Day on Monday morning.

On owner Robert Sarver’s decision to sell the team:

“I think I’m in agreement with selling the team. I think that’s the best outcome for everyone involved, the players, the staffers, everyone that was impacted on so many levels. It brings some closure to a long period of discomfort and uneasiness. But it also gives us a pivot point to continue to focus on raising the standards of our organization and leading by example. I think when you look at the findings and just processing them, you realize that we just did not hold up to a standard of excellence. Those behaviors, not just in a sport, but in society in general, those are behaviors that are unacceptable. And we got to hold ourself to a higher standard and we got to protect those that can’t protect themselves. So our focus this year is to continue on the progress we’ve made as an organization to continue to live out our winning behaviors (of) respect, resiliency and support. And I’m just grateful that our players and everyone involved can feel good about the outcome.”

On Suns starting point guard Chris Paul, Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James and Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green speaking out about the Sarver findings:

“I commend them. It’s a tough position to be in. We’re visible. I’d like to say a lot of times, just because you’re visible doesn’t mean you need to be public. Or just because you’re in public, it’s not always necessary to be visible. Those with a platform, those that are comfortable speaking out and can lead in that way, I commend them because it’s tough. You have to put yourself on the line, you open yourself up to criticism. But more importantly, you live by your values. And if your values can affect change, you should do it. And so I commend those guys for standing on what they believe and walking the talk. Standing behind it and leading out front.”

How the Suns are approaching their agreement with Jae Crowder for a trade:

“I’ll leave the nature of our conversations out of respect for personal and professional nature of those conversations. It’ll remain private but it’s an opportunity for us to navigate this and for our guys to step up. We’ve always said this is about the team. It’s never about one person, it’s never about one player. It’s a collective. So from our staff to our coaches, our fans, our community. This is a team thing for us, and this is just difficult situation we’ll navigate. But we’ll always do it with the utmost respect for our players. We’ll always do it with the utmost respect for those involved. And we’ll move forward and be better for it.”

If he felt it was necessary to have conversations with Suns coach Monty Williams or the players after the Sarver findings:

“Everyone reacts their own way but we’ve had plenty of private conversations. And I’m going to make sure those remain private, just for respect of all the parties involved. But we have those conversations continually. When you’re a part of a team, you have conversations on so many levels about so many things. All thoughts conversations guide you and as a group, I’m just encouraged that our guys can have those free conversations. But I definitely have to respect the privacy of what we talk about.”

On Crowder’s development to working for a trade:

“No. This is an ongoing conversation. And after fruitful and deliberate conversations, we just decided it was best that he wasn’t with us for training camp. What that means going forward, I don’t know, we don’t know. But as of right now, it allows us and affords us the opportunity to work on the guys that are here and focus on continuing to build the foundation that’ll carry through the rest of the season.”

On his reaction when he read the Sarver findings and his comments when the investigation began that it wasn’t the Sarver he knew:

“Most definitely. I empathize, I sympathize and I feel for them. When I made my statements last year, I stand by that’s my experience. And I didn’t — and I still to this day — I can’t speak for others and their experience. But now that we know, like I said, those things aren’t acceptable. They’re not cool. And I think those that have been impacted deserve our respect and our support. I’m here for that. But I won’t discount what I said, because it was my experience. But it’s also an opportunity to understand that we experience life on different levels, and I’m afforded in some instances the ability to not have to endure things. And when you’re in a leadership position, a lot of times that comes with it. So I’m committed and focused on making sure that those, I want to say, benefits that I receive as an executive and as a leader, I use those to protect those beneath me. This has been a process where we get a chance for those that have expressed their concerns, that have spoken out about the difficult things, that we acknowledge them. We support them, and more importantly, we give them the opportunity to change those dynamics, to change those environments. And I think we’ve done a good job of that but there’s so much more room for growth and we still have a long way to go, because this just isn’t an isolated incident within sport. Like I said, this is a societal issue. And if we can continue to clean these types of things up, I think it sets the example for everyone.”

On matching Suns starting center Deandre Ayton’s offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers:

“We’ve had plenty of conversations but we were clear since Day 1 that we wanted Deandre here. And the unique thing about sport is whenever you start talking about contracts, a lot of noise happens. People attribute things to you that you didn’t say, and I’m not on social media as much as many. But that is what I call a ‘noise box,’ where narratives start to go and people start to speculate. They speculated that we did not want Deandre, I think it was evident we were very proactive in matching and making sure that he stayed here in Phoenix. So we were consistent, and we’ll continue to be consistent. Our focus is to help him continue to grow and to help him establish himself as an All-Star. Because if he does that for us, we’re a pretty good team and I think we’ll have a very, very bright future for years to come.”

If he’s had any conversations with Sarver since the findings of the investigation and Sarver’s use of the ‘N’ word as reported in the investigation:

“I haven’t had any conversations with him since the investigation findings came out. I’m prohibited, we’re prohibited. No contact, no conversations at all, and that’s very clear. So I have not spoken with him. Secondly, the ‘N’ word is a touchy subject for so many people, but not for me. I just don’t believe that word is acceptable across the board. It’s not something that I’ve really — I mean, I just can’t accept that. The word was never directed towards me, but if it’s directed towards anyone, it’s wrong. The fact that I’m Black doesn’t —for me— I’m a kid from Miami, multicultural family. It’s just not a Black thing, it’s a people thing. It’s offensive. And so as much as I can, I try to make sure people understand this is just not a cultural thing. This is a people thing, but that word is not acceptable anywhere. And I just hope we can find a way to eliminate it from the vocabulary in general, because it means different things to different people. But just because you’re not the source of where it’s directed to doesn’t mean you can’t be offended by it. I know it’s kind of a deep answer, but that word is problematic. And so as much as we can do to eliminate it, I think we’re better for it.”

If he ever heard Sarver say the word:

“No, never. And that’s not something I would stand for, so I would say something if it did.”

On how he navigates training camp and starting a season through the Suns’ preseason noise:

“That’s called life. I mean, I never forget that we’re playing the game of basketball. There are a lot of things that go on in society and the day-to-day that people deal with (that are) much more stressful than the things we’re talking about in the context of sport. But for all of us, it’s all about focus. We’re paid to be professionals, to be pros, to be able to navigate these types of situations and still perform at high level. I have no doubt that my team is able to do that, that’s the culture we’re building and that’s what we aspire to. So we take it one day at a time. We come into the gym every day, focused on, ‘How can we improve? How can we be a better team? How can we be a better collective?’ And if we do that over the course of an 82-game season and the playoffs, you’ll build the habits that’ll allow you to be resilient. And if you build those habits, they’ll serve you well when needed. But losing in the playoffs, unless you win the title, you lose. How you lose, unless you’re really fragile, it really stokes a fire and it helps you build better offseason habits so you can come back and not replicate that outcome. But it’s basketball. We’ve been doing it our entire lives, we do it with a smile. We love it. That’s the challenge that we signed up for when we picked up a basketball at the age of five and said we wanted this to be a profession. So we’ll just continue doing what we do. We’ll get better.”

On who he reports to in the organization:

“Sam Garvin is our interim governor. He’s phenomenal, great human being. So extremely supportive of us. He will be in that position but it’s on me to guide our basketball operations and make decisions that our going to help us reach our goals.”

On what struck him about the Sarver findings:

“I would say just a state of shock. Just personally, you just don’t want to see those findings. You don’t want that to be the narrative around your organization, around your group. You don’t want that to be the issue. So I’d say shock, a flurry of emotions, disappointment, sympathy, not anger. Because I understand that for some reason unfortunately, this is commonplace. And so I understand that. And so I’d say just a flurry of emotions but I think the biggest thing for me is the ability to transition to a more positive environment, to a better outcome to look forward with enthusiasm and excitement as we continue to try to build an environment that’s a model for franchises. And just not a basketball franchise but for sports franchises.”

On what went wrong for the Suns in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Dallas Mavericks:

“Make more shots, is one thing. But you have to give them credit. That was a tough series, it was seven games, back and forth, blowouts on both sides, great performances by players for both teams. They came out and they were really effective early, and we got behind and we couldn’t catch up. So I’d say the takeaway is just don’t get behind early. I think we’ve proven that when we’re upfront, when we’re out, we’re very, very tough to beat when we have a lead. But it’s one game. It’s one game and I know in sport, there’s so much emphasis placed on one game. But I’ll say it again, last year might have been disappointing but it was not a disappointment. Because our guys got better. I’ve seen every single one of our guys in the gym this summer, and they look phenomenal. And that is going to carry them forward. We’re a playoff team the last few years, we’ve won at a high level. That’s the story that we’re riding and it’s not finished.”

If he’s spoken to any of the players on trade speculation surrounding Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant:

“I talk to our guys constantly about the business of basketball. You’d be surprised, they come to us and talk about the business of basketball. They get it, they understand that our goal is to improve the team, and sometimes that requires you to look externally. But they’re so great as far as professionals, and they focus on hooping. They get it. It’s a privilege for most of us to play this game. They also understand that if teams are calling for you, it means that you must be doing something right. So it’s also a nod to them that their progress, their work is paying off and people are recognizing that they’re really good players.”

On his emotions through the Sarver investigation and how he got through it:

“I’m a father. I mean, when you’re a father and you’re a parent, you see the ultimate wave of emotions. And so I’ve been on this emotional pendulum my entire fatherhood life as I call it. That’s my experience. So when I’m dealing with someone, particularly in this instance, I can only live in the moment. And so from moment to moment trying to live by my values, which is being earnest, be honest, be of high integrity. Try to lead by example. When you see things that are countered to you or countered to what you believe, sometimes it can make you have self-doubt, like whether or not you’re seeing things clearly. So for me, that wave of emotion was just to be mindful of making sure that my behaviors are always above board at the highest level. Because that’s the thing that I can control. I can’t control the actions, behaviors of others. I can only control how I respond and how I lead with action and word. So for me, it’s to be conscious of that, and like I said, speak up on behalf of those that can’t. But more importantly, lead those that aren’t in a position to lead.”

If the Suns have enough with their roster to this point:

“I think there’s this narrative that when you’re trying to grow and develop as a team, you choose one track. Like, that’s not how it works. Like, we explore all avenues of improvement. Some are trade, a lot of it’s internal. Some are the draft. So there are many channels we use to improve our team, but the narrative that we don’t have enough is false. It’s not true. We have enough. We’re still a very good team and the thought that Durant would be here or somehow was in our control was also false. So I guess a long way of answering your question is, I believe in the group that we have. We have some really good players and no one sees that, and I’m fine with that. Because that means if they don’t see them, they’re in our gym behind closed doors putting in the work that’s going to lead us to a higher level.”

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