A very odd straw on Lance Blanks' back ends his Suns career

Christian Petersen

Lance Blanks was dismissed by the Suns on Monday for ... picking Lindsey Hunter?

If recently-fired Phoenix Suns general manager Lance Blanks made all of those decisions for the team since 2010, Lance Blanks has not had a good run. The question is whether Blanks made all of those decisions. By the time he was on board, the Suns had let Amar'e Stoudemire leave in free agency, had stunningly traded for Hedo Turkoglu and had signed Hakim Warrick and Josh Childress to deals hilarious in retrospect. So, you know, Blanks was dealing with a bad deck from the start. But at least he had Steve Nash and, against all odds, a competitive team.

Blanks' latest moves -- or the Suns' front office's latest moves, we should say -- have, however, been ... bad. There is no excuse for making Michael Beasley your major offseason acquisition. (OK, so Goran Dragic was actually the major acquisition, and he was pretty good ... for the worst team in the West.) Blanks traded for Wesley Johnson. Doesn't Blanks know that according to the Corey Brewer Rule, Johnson is three years away from being decent? It's in the NBA rulebook!

So on the balance, I don't blame Lon Babby or Robert Sarver or Sarver's wife's handbag for excusing Blanks, if in fact he was the driving force on the above moves. But the story coming out of Phoenix is that the key to Blanks' ouster wasn't the franchise-worst record or the fact that this awful team has a chunky payroll and a league-average age or all those bad personnel decisions. It's that he's been fired because he made a bad decision to promote front office dude Lindsey Hunter to interim head coach over a couple of actual assistant coaches with experience, including perennial head coach bridesmaid Elston Turner.

This is like cutting Adam Morrison because of his mustache. I mean, yeah, it's not good. But it's a relatively small not-good thing among a host of important, impactful bad things.

No one was going to coach the Suns to respectability after the team canned popular (in the locker room, at least) Alvin Gentry. The roster is hideous. Further, Hunter openly tanked by benching a healthy Dragic late in the season. This was stunningly an unpopular decision in the locker room! And there's no question he had buy-in from the front office. Coaches, particularly interim coaches, don't tank without consent unless they are really really really foolish. The fact that Hunter did it multiple games and basically announced it confirms that he had clearance.

So ... we have an interim coach with no experience openly tanking and we're surprised the team didn't ... get more wins? I'm trying hard to understand what Blanks' bosses thought was going to happen. The Suns were going to tank for two games, find the resolve within themselves to fight another day and end the season on a winning streak? With Michael Beasley leading the way? Come on.

Basically, it looks like the Suns' bosses -- Babby and Sarver -- used Blanks as a hatchet man, and made sure he cut off his own legs in the process. It's his own fault for not successfully advocating for a rebuild before the team's best asset, a healthy Steve Nash, became a free agent. Blanks doesn't really seem to deserve one of the 30 coveted GM positions at this point. But it sure looks like Babby used him here to do the dirty work.

Now, a new GM with a clean slate can come in and clean up the mess; it couldn't possibly get worse (could it?). The new GM will get to pick a whole new staff in the offseason, something for which Blanks never had the luxury. He'll also get to go through a season with no expectations, which is frankly where the Suns should have been this season.

Again, Blanks didn't do a good job to transition the Suns to the post-Nash era by any account. But he's not alone in fault in Phoenix.

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