Moore: Phoenix Suns GM James Jones should pursue Kevin Durant with a deadline

·6 min read
James Jones
James Jones

They say a rumor isn’t a rumor if it doesn’t die. To that end, James Jones has to continue to seek any and all avenues to get Kevin Durant to the Phoenix Suns; but those considerations should come with a deadline or he risks fracturing a tight-knit and hugely successful team.

James Jones is facing a choice that could define his career.

Does he go after Kevin Durant or not?

The trade saga involving the most complete scorer in basketball history has played out all summer in reports from across the sports media landscape: Durant requested a trade to Phoenix or Miami. Brooklyn set the ransom higher than a pot dispensary. Durant demanded that Brooklyn fire coach Steve Nash and General Manager Sean Marks. Boston and Philadelphia joined the list of preferred destinations.

So what’s a GM like Jones to do?

Easy. Ask me! (I’ve never been in an NBA front office, but I did win a lot of titles on 2K back before Kanye West was a college dropout. No? When Justin Timberlake was still N’Sync? That doesn’t work either? Back when Chris Rock was still a pebble. You get the point.)

More: Kevin Durant trade speculation with Phoenix Suns renewed after report of Arizona visit

Here’s my take on all things KD:

QUESTION: Is Durant even worth it?

ANSWER: Yes. (Do I really need to say more than that?)

Remember, the goal is to win a championship. That’s the only step remaining for Jones to take as a league executive after elevating the Phoenix franchise from laughingstock to legit contender.

I believe that Durant plus Chris Paul, Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton is the most talented group you’ll find this side of an All-Star roster.

Q: How long is this thing going to play out?

A: I was always taught that a rumor isn’t a rumor if it doesn’t die. So, if Durant remains available, then Jones has to remain in pursuit, but only up to a point.

I’d advise him to set a date for Brooklyn to shoot or get off the free throw line.

Players and coaches have to know what they’re working with, eventually. Uncertainty will ruin a season.

Q: Is this destroying team chemistry for the Suns?

A: I don’t think so. These guys are professionals. Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, Jae Crowder and Landry Shamet all have had their names mentioned in trade talks. Bridges was traded before he ever played a game. Crowder and Shamet move so often they probably have side gigs setting up carnival rides. And Johnson is one of the most intelligent, mature and thoughtful players I’ve ever been around.

My guess is that they understand what’s going on and why.

Plus, Monty Williams and James Jones are straightforward communicators. That goes a long way toward preventing or soothing hurt feelings.

More: Kevin Durant trade updates: Rumors, speculation reignite around Brooklyn Nets, NBA star

Monty Williams
Monty Williams

Q: Can the Suns win it all if they don’t get Durant?

A: Yes. But it’s much harder. Think about the NBA champions over the last 20 years.

They’re most likely constellations of stars (the Heatles, the Warriors, the Big 3 Celtics).

The right mix of role players can win (the Raptors, the Mavericks, the “Best Five Alive” Pistons), but it’s not as common.

The only other way to do it is to be Gregg Popovich (who drafted guys nobody had ever heard of and turned them into stars.)

Jones tried the role player approach and got pretty close.

A search for guys like Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard takes years to pay off — assuming it works. (Rookies and youngsters in the NBA are notoriously unreliable.)

Adding Durant is the closest thing to a guarantee this side of a Men’s Warehouse commercial.

Q: Why are we even talking about this? Durant has four years and nearly $200 million left on his contract.

A: What are you, a team owner or something? An accountant? How about you get out of the man’s pockets for a second?

Look, the working man will never see that kind of money in his lifetime. I get that. And a contract is a contract. I get that, too. Plenty of people think he should shut up and be grateful for the position he’s in. Even retired guys who never make anything close to that kind of money.

More: Kevin Durant isn't the missing piece the Phoenix Suns need. This is everything they'd lose

Nov 27, 2021; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) controls the ball against Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson (23) during the second quarter at Barclays Center.
Nov 27, 2021; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) controls the ball against Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson (23) during the second quarter at Barclays Center.

But, for me, I love to see it when a player exercises his leverage over his employer. KD joined a squad that was supposed to have Kyrie Irving and James Harden. Between COVID-19 and Harden’s hamstring, it didn’t work out. (Plus, we have no idea what’s going on with Ben Simmons.)

So the situation that Durant was entering into isn’t the situation he’s in.

If you think he should stick it out, I get it.

But things change.

Q: So what leverage does he really have?

A: Plenty. He could start by refusing to go one step beyond his contractual requirements.

From there, he could say, professionally, of course, that he doesn’t have trust in his team’s direction and that he wants to see changes or he might retire.

(Not that Durant said that, but if he were to say it, I’d understand.)

Really, the only thing keeping most of us from walking away from our jobs is that we need the money, amirite? If he has the money to walk away, why not?

He has championships, Finals MVPs and a regular-season MVP. The only thing he has yet to play for is the approval of fans who are too diverse, biased and fickle for that ever to matter. No matter what he does, somebody will say it’s not enough.

I hope Brooklyn makes a move before it gets to that point, otherwise it would risk robbing fans of a chance to see a transcendent talent in person and on TV because of an owner being unreasonable or stubborn.

Trading Durant, frankly, is good for the league, and if it’s good for the league it’s good for Brooklyn.

Q: So, is it gonna happen? Is Durant coming to Phoenix?

A: I don’t know, I’m about to go get my butt kicked by a 12-year-old on the new 2K with Devin Booker on the cover. I haven’t had time for video games since I got serious about my career and started a family. The last game I played was Tetris.(Happy to report that I’ve still got it.)

Q: Would this really define Jones’ career?

A: A championship? Yes. It would.

More: Kevin Durant trade odds: Boston Celtics favored, Phoenix Suns not out of running for star

Reach Moore at gmoore@azcentral.com or 602-444-2236. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @SayingMoore.

There's plenty Moore where this came from. Subscribe for videos, columns, opinions and analysis from The Arizona Republic’s award-winning sports team. 

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Moore: Suns GM should pursue Kevin Durant, but with firm deadline