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Report: Robert Sarver Must Sign Off on Suns Trade for Player With Salary Above $10.8M

Adam WellsJanuary 3, 2023

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - OCTOBER 13: Phoenix Suns and Mercury owner Robert Sarver attends Game Two of the 2021 WNBA Finals at Footprint Center on October 13, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Mercury defeated the Sky 91-86 in overtime. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Robert Sarver might be suspended and in the process of selling the Phoenix Suns, but he still looms large over any potential transactions the front office might want to make before the Feb. 9 trade deadline.

Per ESPN's Brian Windhorst, one key provision of Sarver's suspension allows him to have "personal sign-off on any deal for a player with a salary that is more than the current 'average player salary'" of $10.8 million.

The provision also includes any luxury tax payments. The Suns are currently $16.9 million over the tax threshold and have an estimated tax bill of $34.9 million.

Sarver was suspended for one year and fined $10 million by the NBA in September following an investigation into allegations of racism and misogyny during his tenure as owner of the Suns and WNBA's Phoenix Mercury.

Per ESPN's Baxter Holmes, one of the provisions in Sarver's suspension is him not having any involvement "in the business, governance, or activities of either the NBA or WNBA, including attending or participating in meetings of either league's Board (and their associated Board committees)."

Soon after his suspension was announced, Sarver said in a statement released on Sept. 21 that he was beginning the process of selling the Suns and Mercury.

A group led by Mat Ishbia, United Wholesale Mortgage CEO, announced an agreement on Dec. 20 to purchase the Suns and Mercury for $4 billion.

Windhorst noted a transfer of ownership typically takes between 60 to 90 days, though this could be drawn out a little longer because it was announced before the holidays and while the league and National Basketball Players Association are still negotiating a collective bargaining agreement.

"That means the team might still be in this limbo in early February," Windhorst wrote. "But if Ishbia is nearing the finish line of getting control, his influence might loom larger than other ownership voices."

Using the initial Dec. 20 agreement date, there were 51 days before the trade deadline. The Suns figure to be active leading up to that point, particularly with Jae Crowder still sitting out as he seeks a trade elsewhere.

Crowder's $10.2 million salary this season falls below the average minimum player salary, but Windhorst added the Suns "have had talks about various multiplayer trades over the past few months that would all likely have to end up on Sarver's desk."

Sam Garvin, who has been the Suns' alternate governor since 2007, has been the acting governor during Sarver's suspension. James Jones was promoted to president of basketball operations in November.

The Suns have lost 12 of their last 17 games since starting the season 15-6. They are currently in eighth place in the Western Conference with a 20-18 record overall.