Rah, rah, rah. The reshuffled NBA rolled out their “new look” rosters this month after the league, in the offseason, underwent a full frontal LeBronomy.
Teams are not just presenting themselves with new players but with entirely new — intentional or unintentional — team personalities. The Miami Heat and their Three Profiteers are viewed as collusive and bratty. Targets are on their backs. The Knicks finally revamped their roster then repulsed everyone, recalling the disgraced Isiah Thomas and unashamedly presaging his return, likely as future GM. No doubt many females on the MSG staff relish the thought of working under him. The Nets poured on the Russian dressing and the Spurs remain an Alamo of isolated, sanctified professional basketball. The Baby Bulls are coming of age. Phil, Kobe and the rest of the Lakers will play hard to get, showing little weakness as they plan to defend a title.
Yet to my mind, one of the more intriguing offseason moves was the hiring of former player “agent” Lon Babby as President of Basketball Operations for the Phoenix Suns. As an agent Babby was known for collecting high profile NBA clients who were top notch citizens off the court. Grant Hill was his first. Then came guys like Tim Duncan, Ray Allen; all good guys. That’s because Babby is a good guy. Instead of taking his 15% cut like most agents do, Babby – an attorney – simply charged an hourly rate like lawyers do. And, as an attorney, Babby was bound by a professional canon of ethics which requires the most expeditious and inexpensive resolutions for his clients. No secret, but no such canon of ethics exist for sports agents.
Is Babby’s ethical standard of handpicking excellent citizens transferable in his new job? Currently, the Suns roster has two Stanford grads, one Duke grad, a Northeastern alum and several four-year college guys. The team boasts former Babby clients – Josh Childress, Hedo Turkoglu and Grant Hill. Plus, there’s Steve Nash who, when he’s not reading Gabriel Garcia-Marquez novels or making sure Africa has potable water, is setting about as solid example for young athletes as anyone in modern sports.
“I wouldn’t call them ‘good guys’” Babby told me “but good character guys. Men of substance… Most of all they need to be tough and we need to win.”
Yeah, I know. You need to win. But while many other teams are creating team chemistry with questionable elements, Babby has collected rare gems who happen to be tough and effective basketball players. Everyone has that corny uncle who used to say, “If you can’t be good, be good at it.” The Phoenix Suns are good and good at it, and I believe there is a correlation between the two. And what’s wrong with managing professional sports franchise that way?