Sunday, August 1, 2010
Updated: August 2, 12:45 PM ET
Sources: Bower part of Suns' search
By Marc Stein
At least two new candidates have emerged in the Phoenix Suns' search for a general manager to work under new head of basketball operations Lon Babby, according to sources close to the process.
Sources told ESPN.com that Babby is considering former New Orleans Hornets general manager Jeff Bower and Washington Wizards executive Tommy Sheppard along with Cleveland Cavaliers assistant general manager Lance Blanks, who interviewed Friday with the Suns.
One source said that the Suns have not abandoned their interest in Milwaukee Bucks assistant general manager Jeff Weltman, who according to a Yahoo Sports report last week has withdrawn from consideration to stay with the Bucks.
Babby declined comment about his current list of candidates when reached by ESPN.com, saying he does not want to discuss the process until it is complete.
Babby did tell the Arizona Republic last week that his search has essentially started over since San Antonio's Dell Demps -- after an aggressive push from Phoenix that included an overnight stay at owner Robert Sarver's house and a firm offer to work under Babby -- decided instead to accept the Hornets' offer to succeed Bower as their new GM.
Weltman and Los Angeles Lakers assistant general manager Ronnie Lester, who were interviewed before Sarver chose Babby to run his restructured front office, remain under consideration, the Republic reported Friday.
"It's not a horse race," Babby told the newspaper. "There are no frontrunners. We're going to have a thorough and systematic process, and it'll be at the end of that process that we'll move to evaluations.
"I've committed to myself and the candidates that I wouldn't move forward to a decision until I've completed the interviews. Therefore there can't be a frontrunner."
One source with knowledge of the Suns' thinking echoed the belief that Babby has been telling the candidates that he will not rush to a decision. The highly respected former player agent prefers a deliberate approach to remaking Phoenix's personnel team in the wake of the departures of the successful duo of Steve Kerr and David Griffin.
Babby said upon his hiring that he intends to hire someone with a more traditional basketball background as his No. 2 to ease the transition from the world of player representation.
Sarver acknowledged when he chose Babby to replace Kerr that selecting an agent to head a team's front office is "venturing outside the norm a little bit." But Sarver has said wants to form a personnel team that has expertise in negotiations, salary-cap matters and analytics in addition to pure personnel men.
"I'm going to play to my strengths. I know what I'm good at," Babby said at his introductory news conference. "I know what I'm not good at. I've never told anybody I was Red Auerbach. I have no expectation of taking the lead on those kind of talent evaluation questions. My first order of priority is to bring somebody in here who is a basketball genius."
Blanks was recently elevated to the second highest-ranking position in Cleveland's front office after the departure of Danny Ferry and the promotion of Chris Grant to general manager. Blanks was schooled in San Antonio's highly regarded organization before joining the Cavs.
Bower was fired by the Hornets earlier this month after a run of nearly 15 years with the organization in a variety of roles that ended last season with Bower serving as both coach and GM after the early season dismissal of Byron Scott.
Sheppard has served as a top aide to Ernie Grunfeld in Washington for the past seven seasons after a long stint in media relations and then basketball operations with the Denver Nuggets.
Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.