After a lengthy NBA-commissioned investigation into workplace misconduct, which was revealed in a very depressing ESPN article by Baxter Holmes, the NBA announced a relatively lenient sentence for Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury owner Robert Sarver. Holmes reported yesterday that Sarver would be fined $10 million and suspended for a year as governor of both teams. Of course, should the Mercury or Suns (both finalists in their respective leagues in 2021) win a title in the interim of Sarver’s suspension, he’ll still get that hardware.
The owner of the Phoenix Suns team has been fined sizable, although it’s only a ticket in the grand scheme of his vast wealth. Sarver’s years of suspension (and his response to it) seem a little generous. Donald Sterling was forced to sell his team for similar inappropriate behavior.
Los Angeles Lakers All-Star LeBron James took to Twitter today to offer his criticism of the agreement, and here at All Lakers we see no lies:
Jacob is right. Owning an NBA team is a privilege Sarver no longer deserves.
Sarver should be forced to sell the Suns. And really, that’s hardly a penalty, either: Phoenix was recently valued at $1.8 billion, about $1.4 billion more than Sarver paid in 2004 to raise the team super-rich, and of course they love all the visibility and sporting merriment that accompany the gig, so surely Sarver would lament such a fate. Too bad. James is absolutely right: someone with Sarver’s proven history of misconduct doesn’t deserve to own a sports team. He should take his money and go home.
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The consequences of the leniency of the NBA decision are still ongoing. When asked what appears to be a different set of penalty standards for Sarver than would be awarded to an employee by Sports Illustrated’s Howard Beck, league commissioner Adam Silver spoke as if team owners were somehow exempt from the same consequences:
Of course, former Clippers owner Donald Sterling was essentially pushed out of the league over a riotous phone call in 2014, though he too had a history of bad behavior. Whatever Clippers fans were there certainly didn’t miss him.
Silver tried to distinguish between Sterling’s egregious behavior and Sarver’s during the same press:
For the same reason, forcing Sarver out of the NBA and WNBA really wouldn’t be a huge loss to Suns fans. Aside from the fact that he exhibited racist and misogynist behavior for 18 years, Sarver was also notoriously tight-fisted during his tenure as franchise owner. He tried to convince GM Bryan Colangelo, the architect of the Nash/Stoudemire/Marion-era Suns, to take a significant pay cut, essentially forcing Colangelo to leave the company. Let’s take a look at his most outrageous curmudgeons on the pitch.
Most notoriously, after a standoff with free agent Joe Johnson, Sarver sent the eventual seven-time All-Star wing to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for forward Boris Diaw and future draft pick-turned-center Robin Lopez. Sarver also had a hilarious habit of kicking the can on first-round draft picks. In this case, Diaw became a pretty useful roleplayer in Phoenix and Lopez became a useful roleplayer, although Lopez didn’t last very long in Phoenix. Sarver also sent the No. 7 in 2004 (the Chicago Bulls picked two-time Duke All-Star Luol Deng) for the No. 21 in 2005 and Jackson Vroman, then he sent that No. 21 pick in 2005 (the Nate Robinson, who became a three-time Slam Dunk Champion) and Quentin Richardson for Kurt Thomas, the #57 pick (who became longtime starting center Marcin Gortat) for the Magic for Cash. Next, Sarver mailed the No. 21 pick in 2006 (who became four-time All-Star and two-time champion Rajon Rondo), Brian Grant and cash for the No. 24 pick in 2007. Invariably, he next mailed the No. 24 pick in 2007 (Rudy Fernandez) for cash, and also in 2007 he traded Kurt Thomas (acquired in that 2005 draft day deal) and two future first-round picks for a second-round pick.
Thankfully, the Lakers have one of the nicest majority owners in the league. Though Jeanie Buss may not have the basketball acumen that her father, Dr. Jerry Buss showed (she recently claimed that Russell Westbrook was the Lakers’ best player last season because he was the healthiest), she is widely regarded as a kind and decent person. That should matter.