In Phoenix, Lon Babby Blurs the Lines
But there's a particularly interesting wrinkle in Babby's Phoenix candidacy. On Sunday, the Suns reportedly agreed to trade away Leandro Barbosa and Dwayne Jones for the obscene contract of Hedo Turkoglu, who happens to be a Babby client, while also signing Josh Childress, a recent Babby client, to an exceedingly fair deal.
Everyone knows agents really run the NBA. But that's usually kept behind closed doors. With these moves, Babby is blurring the lines way too much.
Turkoglu has been disgruntled in Toronto after a really horrible season, his first after signing a five-year, $52.8 million contract with the Raptors. Fans in T-Dot were none too pleased with Turkoglu's alleged late-night lifestyle amid a tough, emotional and (worst of all) losing campaign for the Raptors.
That this season was the last gasp to keep star forward Chris Bosh surely contributed to the anti-Hedo caterwauling; when Turkoglu went on Turkish TV to request a trade, the backlash reached fever pitch.
The problem for Hedo and the Raptors, of course, is that Turkoglu is overpaid for the next four seasons, is 31 years old, and doesn't really seem to give a damn that he's throwing it all away. By the end of the season, given the solid talent available this summer in both trades and on the free agent market, it looked like the Raptors would be forced to eat another bad contract in order to lose the one they gave Hedo.
Instead, the Suns took on Hedo for the price of a more mild Barbosa and Jones. Hedo is, again, due $43.8 million over four years. Barbosa is due $14.7 million over two seasons, and Jones less than a million dollars for 2010-11. Also, Barbosa is younger and -- to many observers -- better than Hedo, at about a third the total salary commitment. It's a simply head-slapping deal for Phoenix, something only Hedo and his agent could love.
Therein lies the problem. While Sarver chooses his GM -- a search in which Babby, Hedo's agent, is said to be the favorite -- coach Alvin Gentry is making these major, impactful decisions for the Suns. Babby surely sees a grand opportunity to set Hedo up well, with a competitive team who boasts a superlative point guard (Steve Nash) and a breezy, personable coach (Gentry). Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo doesn't have to be asked twice to sign off on such an agreeable deal. So the only folks to convince are Gentry and -- one would assume -- Sarver.
In other words, one man who could soon be answering to the agent pitching the trade and another who wants to hire the agent.
I don't want to call it incestuous or self-serving, because Babby could very well feel Hedo is a good fit in Phoenix. (And maybe he is.) If Babby does take the job and Hedo doesn't work out, Babby himself will be the one left to clean up the mess. Only a self-assured jerk screams at a maid who spills milk, and while I may be a self-assured jerk (jury's out) I won't go there.
But at the very least, this is a remarkable blurring of the lines between a man serving as an agent for a player and as an agent for a team. Add in the odd Childress circumstances -- given the contract presented to Wesley Matthews, the sinewy Chill is being robbed by the Suns at six years and $30 million -- and it just gets even more suspicious. In the case of Hedo, Babby's client won at the expense of the team. In the case of Childress, the team won at the expense of Babby's recent client. Childress ought to be seriously assured the Phoenix deal was the best out there for him. If not, it's possible he's a pawn in one grand scheme executed by Babby, Sarver and the Suns.
Relevant if perpendicular note: if Babby is the choice in Phoenix, don't expect the team to go public until Luke Ridnour and possibly Tony Battie agree to deals. Both are Babby clients; once Babby officially takes the Phoenix job, he'll have to release all clients.