NBA Rumors: Suns 'Leaning Toward' Hiring James Jones as Full-Time GM

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistOctober 9, 2018

PHOENIX, AZ - MAY 14: James Jones of the Phoenix Suns talks to the media during the announcement of Igor Kokoskov as the new head coach at a press conference on May 14, 2018, at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)
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James Jones won three NBA championships as a player and may now have the chance to pursue his first title as a full-time general manager.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver is "leaning toward" making Jones the full-time general manager instead of just the interim replacement for the fired Ryan McDonough. Jones was previously the vice president of basketball operations when McDonough was still in the role.

Assuming Jones secures the position, he will be in charge of a front office under transition beyond just McDonough. Michael Scotto of The Athletic reported the team also fired director of scouting Courtney Witte and assistant general manager Pat Connelly.

The timing of McDonough's firing stood out, though, considering the regular season starts this month and he signed an extension with the team last offseason. He also helped hire head coach Igor Kokoskov, draft DeAndre Ayton No. 1 and acquire No. 10 pick Mikal Bridges in a draft-day trade with the Los Angeles Clippers.

Sarver explained the goal following the move in the team's announcement:

"Our focus in the short term is to prepare for the upcoming NBA season and to continue pursuing opportunities to strengthen our roster. Over the course of the season, we will explore both internal and external options as we look to restructure our basketball front office leadership. On behalf of the entire organization, I want to thank Ryan for his efforts and contributions during his five-plus years with the Suns. We wish him nothing but the best moving forward."

Jones is an internal candidate without much front-office experience, and Wojnarowski noted that "Sarver has never shown an inclination to spend for an experienced, successful top basketball executive and recruiting an elite candidate is only further complicated by Sarver's poor leadership reputation."

Wojnarowski went on to describe Sarver's tendency to yell at coaches, yell at members of the front office during negotiations and involve himself in basketball decisions.

Jones could help fix some of the communication issues that have apparently plagued the front office with Sarver since he played 14 seasons in the NBA and was an executive with the Players Association.

Many of the players around the league are familiar with him from his career, which should in theory help the Suns as they build relationships within and pursue free agents. Phoenix already has Ayton, Devin Booker, Bridges and Josh Jackson as a solid core, but Jones will have his work cut out for him in the new position.

After all, the Suns were 21-61 last season, marking the third straight campaign they finished with less than 30 wins. They last made the playoffs in the 2009-10 campaign and play in a daunting Western Conference.