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#pounditTuesday, December 7, 2021

Articles tagged: Phoenix Suns

Ex-Suns employees feel Robert Sarver’s wife sent them ‘threat’ messages

Robert Sarver in the stands

Robert Sarver’s wife has made her way into the headlines amid the recent allegations against the Phoenix Suns owner.

ESPN’s Baxter Holmes reported Tuesday that Penny Sarver sent messages to three former Suns employees over the weekend. Two messages came from an @pennsar account on Instagram and another was a text message from a phone number belonging to Penny Sarver. The former employees said that they considered the messages an attempt to intimidate them.

ESPN reviewed the messages, which each of the former Suns employees confirmed receiving, and revealed their contents.

“This is Penny Sarver,” said the first one. “I know a lot of bridges were burned between you and Robert and you are very bitter. I want to remind you that real lives are at stake here … Please put your hatred aside and realize the hurt you are causing by spreading lies and fabrications. Is your time in the spotlight that important? If something happens to one of my children, I will hold you and Earl Watson personally responsible. Think about your own child for a second and imagine the tables turned.”

“I am so terribly saddened that you would say such untrue things about my husband,” the second message read. “Your interpretation of what happened is so far from the truth. You are crushing my families lives. Thanks for that.”

“You are such a liar,” said the third message. “In your trying to destroy my husband with [your] lies — you have destroyed my family and children.”

One of the former employees was quoted in Holmes’ piece as saying, “I don’t know how to interpret it other than as a threat.”

When reached for comment by ESPN, Penny Sarver confirmed that she had indeed sent the messages.

“Over the weekend, I decided on my own to reach out to a few people to try to set the record straight and to share how disappointed and hurt I am by the lies that are circulating about my husband and the Suns organization,” she told ESPN. “I shared the betrayal that I felt and I touched on some of the pain that we are going through as a family. Any suggestion that I tried to ‘intimidate’ anyone is as silly as it is wrong and outrageous.”

The Sarvers have been married since 1996 and have three children.

The NBA has launched an investigation into Robert Sarver after an ESPN article accused him of racism and sexism during his 17-year tenure as Suns owner. The article was based on interviews with over 70 current and former employees of the team. Ex-Phoenix coach Earl Watson, who was mentioned specifically in one of Penny Sarver’s messages, was the only interviewee who was quoted by name in the article.

Photo: Jan 22, 2020; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver reacts against the Indiana Pacers in the first half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

NBA will launch investigation into Suns allegations

Robert Sarver in the stands

The NBA is set to look into the multiple allegations made against Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver and the organizational culture in a new ESPN report.

The long-awaited report that was published Thursday featured multiple allegations of racism and misogyny on Sarver’s part during his 17-year tenure as Suns owner. The reporting was based on interviews with over 70 current and former Suns employees.

Unsurprisingly, the league has taken notice of the report and announced plans for an investigation. Sarver acknowledged and welcomed the investigation in a statement.

This could certainly go on a while, but it could have severe consequences for Sarver if the reporting is found to be largely accurate.

The Suns have been in damage control mode since it emerged that the story was coming, and there was speculation before it was even published that it could lead to Sarver’s removal as owner. While it’s still too soon to tell if that will happen, there’s already some evidence that it might damage the Suns’ reputation around the league as long as Sarver remains in charge.

Photo: Jan 22, 2020; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver reacts against the Indiana Pacers in the first half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Draymond Green appears to respond to bombshell Robert Sarver-Suns story

Draymond Green during practice

Draymond Green is taking some time to offer an apparent response to the bombshell story about Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver.

ESPN’s Baxter Holmes published a long-awaited piece Thursday detailing the culture in the Suns organization during Sarver’s 17-year tenure as owner. The piece, which contained interviews with over 70 current and former Suns employees, had many allegations of racism and misogyny on Sarver’s part.

The Golden State Warriors All-Star Green was mentioned specifically in the story. He was the subject of an anecdote from 2016 when the Warriors beat the Suns in a regular season game and Sarver proceeded to approach then-Phoenix coach Earl Watson.

Per Holmes:

After the loss, Suns majority owner Robert Sarver entered the coaches locker room, Watson told ESPN.

“You know, why does Draymond Green get to run up the court and say [N-word],” Sarver, who is white, allegedly said, repeating the N-word several times in a row.

“You can’t say that,” Watson, who is Black and Hispanic, told Sarver.

“Why?” Sarver replied. “Draymond Green says [N-word].”

“You can’t f—ing say that,” Watson said again.

For his part, Sarver disputed Watson’s characterization of the incident.

“This is absolutely untrue,” he said. “I remember the game and topic clearly. I, of course, never used the word myself. During this conversation, I said ‘N-word’ without saying the full word. The word itself never crossed my lips. Let me be crystal clear: I never once suggested on that night (or ever) that I should be able to say the N-word because a player or a Black person uses it.”

Sarver and his lawyers added that Sarver did not have that conversation with Watson but did have one with a Suns player who received a technical foul during the game for what they said was the use of the N-word. Sarver contended that he encouraged the player to appeal the technical foul because Green had used the word during the game. The league later rescinded the technical foul against the player.

Holmes’ article, which contains several other allegations about Sarver’s tenure (as well as Sarver’s responses), is worth reading in its entirety.

After the article was released, Green appeared to react to it on Twitter.

“But I was fined?? Lol smh,” said Green. “Sometimes you have to see deeper than the surface. Always layers…”

Green appears to be referring to the time that he was fined for saying on TNT that Suns guard Devin Booker needed to get out of Phoenix. Booker and the Suns went on to make the Finals last season, but Green clearly believes that his point still stands.

As for Sarver, we knew for weeks that this story was coming. It remains to be seen though what, if any, action the NBA will take in response to it.

Photo: Feb 20, 2020; San Francisco, California, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green (23) stands on the court before the game against the Houston Rockets at Chase Center. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Suns owner Robert Sarver facing removal amid accusations of racism, sexism?

Robert Sarver in the stands

The NBA may be bracing itself for a repeat of the Donald Sterling situation.

Jordan Schultz of Boardroom reported Friday that the league is preparing for a massive story accusing Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver of racism, sexism, and sexual harassment. Schultz added personal speculation that with enough evidence to support such claims, there could be a real chance that the NBA forcibly removes Sarver. Chris Mannix of Yahoo! Sports added that the story is a pending piece from ESPN.

The 59-year-old Sarver purchased the Suns back in 2004 for a then-record $401 million. He was recently in the news for his reported unwillingness to give a max extension to starting center Deandre Ayton after Phoenix’s NBA Finals berth last season.

The Suns released a statement in response to the anticipated report. They called the claims “completely baseless” and said that documentary evidence and eyewitness accounts would directly contradict those accusations. The statement also encouraged the public not to rush to judgment based on “lies, innuendo, and a false narrative.”

Sarver himself issued a statement as well. He said that he was “wholly shocked” by the accusations and found those claims to be “completely repugnant.” Sarver added that he rejected any form of racism or gender discrimination as well as any disparaging language to that effect. He categorically denied ever having used such language.

It is no secret that Sarver is an alleged cheapskate who is not very well liked around the league. Some of his former players have even accused him of not caring about the team. But these latest accusations definitely sound much more serious, despite the denials of Sarver and the organization. If true, they could ultimately lead to Sarver’s removal from the Suns, similar to how Sterling got ousted from the LA Clippers in 2014.

Photo: Jan 22, 2020; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver reacts against the Indiana Pacers in the first half at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Deandre Ayton unhappy with Suns after failed contract talks

Deandre Ayton in his Suns uniform

Deandre Ayton’s long-term future with the Phoenix Suns is unclear for multiple reasons after contract talks stopped Monday.

Ayton and the Suns halted talks on Monday after failing to agree to a contract extension. Monday marks the deadline for the 2018 draft class to sign long-term extensions, and the failure to get Ayton signed means he will be eligible for restricted free agency next summer.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Ayton is notably unhappy with how negotiations have gone with the Suns. The center had been adamant about asking for a full five-year max contract worth $172.5 million, but Phoenix was never willing to make that offer. The Suns briefly raised the contract of a shorter three- or four-year max deal, but never formally offered it. The organization has been consistent in the belief that it does not view Ayton as a max player.

Ayton is said to be unhappy with the franchise over this valuation. There is some fear that his relationship with coach Monty Williams could even suffer, as the center’s maturity will be tested playing out a contract year for a franchise he’s currently displeased with.

Ayton’s case can be bolstered by the fact that the Suns’ stance is viewed with surprise around the rest of the league. That also indicates Ayton should have a robust market next summer, and Phoenix may face a real battle to keep him.

The former No. 1 pick has made clear that respect is a major factor for him. The fact that the organization doesn’t view him as a max player can definitely be taken as a sign of disrespect. That’s even more true after Ayton averaged 15.8 points and 11.8 rebounds en route to the NBA Finals in last year’s playoffs.

Photo: Jan 3, 2020; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) against the New York Knicks at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Deandre Ayton gets worrisome news with Suns contract situation

Deandre Ayton in his Suns uniform

Just months after being the starting center for an NBA Finals team, Deandre Ayton is getting some troubling news about his contract situation.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Monday that extension talks between Ayton and the Phoenix Suns have ended without a deal. Wojnarowski adds that Ayton had been expecting a max contract but that Suns owner Robert Sarver failed to offer it.

Monday marked the deadline for the 2018 draft class to receive extensions from their respective teams. Dallas’ Luka Doncic, Denver’s Michael Porter Jr., and Oklahoma City’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander all came away with max extensions. Ayton’s Suns teammate Mikal Bridges also just got a four-year, $90 million extension from the team (albeit after a lengthy limbo period).

Now that the former No. 1 overall pick Ayton has failed to reach a deal with the Suns, he will become a restricted free agent next offseason. Ayton did recently sound frustrated about his contract negotiations. Now there is the very real possibility that he could leave Phoenix next summer, especially if he feels disrespected that they did not value him as a max-level player.

Photo: Jan 3, 2020; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) against the New York Knicks at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Suns forward has concerning quote about contract situation with team

Mikal Bridges

Deandre Ayton apparently is not the only Phoenix Suns player whose contract situation the team may be bungling right now.

Suns forward Mikal Bridges spoke with reporters on Friday and sounded disheartened about not yet receiving an extension.

“I sit there, just wait every day, keep improving and don’t let it get to me,” he said, per Kellan Olson of The Arizona Republic. “Just gotta wait. I’ve tried to prove as much as I can as time goes on.

“I just want to be here, man,” Bridges went on. “That’s what the whole thing is. I want to be here and it’s up to those guys. Deadline is close so we’ll see.”

The deadline for the Suns to extend Bridges, a fourth-year player, is Oct. 18. That is also the deadline for them to extend Ayton, who was a member of the same draft class. Should Phoenix fail to reach an agreement with either player, they will hit restricted free agency next offseason.

The 25-year-old Bridges earned his keep with the Suns last year. He posted career-highs of 13.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists a game on an elite 42.5 percent from deep. Bridges’ length and ability to check dynamic wing scorers also helped anchor Phoenix’s defense during their NBA Finals run.

These comments from Bridges are pretty concerning though, and Ayton’s situation does not sound much better either. That means the Suns run the risk of alienating (and maybe eventually losing) two starters from last year’s Finals squad. But making the team’s players feel insulted would not be out of character for Suns owner Robert Sarver.

Photo: Feb 8, 2020; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Mikal Bridges (25) high fives fans while entering the court for the game against the Denver Nuggets at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Deandre Ayton opens up about contract drama with Suns

Deandre Ayton in his Suns uniform

Amid a worrisome contract stalemate with the Phoenix Suns, Deandre Ayton is offering his first public comments on the matter.

The former No. 1 overall pick spoke with reporters on Tuesday and took a moment to address his contract situation.

“I love Phoenix but I’m really disappointed that we haven’t really gotten a deal done yet,” said Ayton, per Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. “I mean, we were two wins away from a championship. I just really want to be respected, to be honest. Be respected like my peers are being respected by their teams and just keep it like that. I’ll just let them handle it in the most professional way possible and just control what I can control.”

The 23-year-old Ayton’s numbers (14.4 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per game last season) do not quite pop off the page. But he proved his worth during Phoenix’s Finals run, posting the best playoff net rating on the team (per Basketball Reference) and outplaying almost every center he faced.

Ayton is eligible for a max rookie extension this offseason, which fellow 2018 draftees such as Luka Doncic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Michael Porter Jr. have all already gotten from their respective teams. But the jury is still out on how Ayton would fare independent of the shot creation abilities of teammates Chris Paul and Devin Booker. That probably helps explain why the Suns are still reluctant to give him that max extension.

Photo: Jan 3, 2020; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) against the New York Knicks at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Alleged reason why Suns passed on Luka Doncic revealed

Luka Doncic bringing the ball up the floor

The Phoenix Suns made the NBA Finals last season, but their fans probably still wonder what could have been if the team drafted Luka Doncic in 2018.

ESPN’s Tim MacMahon said recently on “The Hoop Collective” podcast that Suns owner Robert Sarver was the one behind the decision to take Deandre Ayton over Doncic.

“I’ve been told by multiple people who were with the Phoenix organization that [picking Ayton] was a total Robert Sarver move,” said MacMahon. “It sure wasn’t [then-Suns coach] Igor [Kokoskov]. He wanted them obviously to get Luka, and to put a big offer on the table for Clint Capela.”

MacMahon’s co-host, Brian Windhorst, added that Ayton attended college at the University of Arizona, where Sarver is “a proud alum.”

Kokoskov, who is now an assistant coach for Doncic’s Dallas Mavericks, was certainly no stranger to Doncic’s talent. He coached Doncic on the Slovenian national team, winning the EuroBasket title in 2017 with a teenage Doncic.

The Ayton pick worked out to an extent for Phoenix, as he was indispensable to their run to the 2021 Finals. But that run was largely viewed as a one-year blip that the Suns took advantage of thanks to a profusion of injuries in the West. Passing on Ayton, a future potential All-Star, to draft Doncic, a future potential MVP, might have given them a more sustainable championship window. Ironically enough, the Suns themselves do not even think that Ayton is a truly elite player, which is causing friction in their contract negotiations right now.

Report: Deandre Ayton, Suns in contract dispute

Deandre Ayton

Deandre Ayton is eligible for a maximum rookie contract extension this offseason, and the assumption has been that the Phoenix Suns will eventually give it to him. At the moment, a deal is not looking likely.

The Suns are reluctant to offer Ayton a max extension, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports. Ayton is eligible for a $172.5 million extension, with escalators that could reach $207 million. The deadline to complete extensions on rookie contracts is Oct. 18.

According to Wojnarowski, Phoenix’s ownership does not believe Ayton is in the same class as some of his peers who were also drafted in 2018. Trae Young, Luka Doncic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Michael Porter Jr. have all signed max extensions, and Ayton does not intend to take anything less.

Ayton, 23, has improved significantly over the last two years under head coach Monty Williams. The former No. 1 overall pick averaged 14.4 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game last season. He seemed to take his game to a new level while playing alongside Chris Paul, who signed a four-year, $120 million deal to return to the Suns this offseason.

If Ayton does not sign an extension, he will become a restricted free agent next summer.