Soccer fans are just now hearing about Robert Sarver, the majority owner of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns who is trying to purchase a controlling interest in Scottish giants Rangers FC. Sarver made his fortune founding the National Bank of Arizona, which he turned into the biggest independent bank in the state before selling it. He’s also on the board of trustees for the Sarver Heart Center, which employees a multitude of top physicians in the fight against heart disease.
The 53-year-old is a very smart and compassionate businessman and has even protested Arizona’s brazen immigration laws by having his team wear jerseys with “Los Suns” as their name. Unfortunately, there’s also the team owner side to Sarver, one that’s made him very much hated by Suns fans who’ve endured some of the most mind-numbing and pocket-fattening moves in the NBA.
Here’s what Rangers fans can look forward to:
With a core of future hall of famer Steve Nash, explosive power forward Amar’e Stoudamire and all around standout Shawn Marion, Phoenix’s “seven seconds or less” team (referring to how quick it scored in relation to the 24-second shot-clock) gave Sarver title-contending core for four seasons starting in 2004-05. Presented with opportunities to add missing pieces and turn his team into a dynasty, Sarver instead cut corners.
In 2004, his Suns traded the seventh pick in NBA Draft (who would become Luol Deng – a great contributor for Chicago) for Jackson Vroman (not so great), cash and a future first round pick. The team also could have also used the pick on Andre Iguodala, a Mr. Do It All who would have formed a tenacious defensive front court along side Marion. The Suns missed out on two all-star talents but didn’t have to pay a first round pick.
In 2006, the Suns selected Rajon Rondo, an enigmatic point guard with a penchant for hating everyone. Sarver’s team then traded him to the Boston Celtics for money and a 2007 first round pick. That first round pick from 2007? Used on a promising Spanish guard, Rudy Fernandez … who was also essentially traded for money. A year later, Rondo won an NBA title in Boston.
There was also that time in 2005 when the Suns let Joe Johnson, who at that time could have been argued as a top-tier shooting guard, leave for the Atlanta Hawks over a $833,333 difference in annual salary during contract negotiations. Then there was the whole trading Kurt Thomas, an occasional starter, and two draft picks in 2007 to the San Antonio Spurs in a blatant salary dump.
When he did spend money, it didn’t work out so well, either, giving big over-priced deals to players such as Hakim Warrick, Josh Childress and Michael Beasley – players who have combined for zero all-star appearances between them. When the Suns were great, Sarver basically torpedoed them to irrelevance. When they became irrelevant, Sarver’s team spent foolishly to try and recover.
To be fair, though, Phoenix has turned things around. The Suns are a good team once again, even in a super competitive Western Conference. He’s made some commendable moves the past few years, the most important of which may have been hiring general manager Ryan McDonagh. With a new core of talented young players, Sarver’s shown he’s willing to spend money.
All in all, he could continue his reformation into an intelligent owner; or, you know, continue the legacy of the last Rangers ownership until the team is wiped away from the face of the Earth. There’s a reason Suns fans hate Robert Sarver, but there’s also reason for hope.