Suns GM downplays clash with O’Neal
by By Sam Amick, USA TODAY Sports
The Phoenix Suns have plenty of struggles to continue working through. A rift between general manager Lance Blanks and veteran big man Jermaine O’Neal, however, does not appear to be one of them.
Blanks, whose team is 13-28 overall and has lost 13 of its last 15 games, said reports of his heated verbal argument with O’Neal in the coach’s office Monday were overblown and in no way connected to the recent promotion of player development coach Lindsey Hunter to interim head coach. Former coach Alvin Gentry was, for all intents and purposes, fired on Jan. 18.
“There’s no acute issue,” Blanks told USA TODAY Sports of the argument with O’Neal first reported by Yahoo! Sports. “Our interaction had nothing to do with the coaching situation. I can tell you that, with one hundred percent certainty. The time that any reporters are going to put into it is going to be wasted time – unless they’re trying to create an issue for us.
“But if they’re coming at it in a fair sense of there being a story, there’s no story. JO and I are two competitive guys who had an argument, and that was it. We walked out (of the coach’s office where the argument took place) giving high-fives and brother hugs, and it’s over.”
O’Neal’s growing frustration with his role was reportedly the reason for the argument. After signing a one-year deal with the Suns last summer, O’Neal is averaging just 15.6 minutes per game in his 17th season. It’s his lowest mark in terms of playing time since his 1999-2000 season in Portland. According to the Arizona Republic, O’Neal missed practice on Tuesday with an “unstated medical issue” and will not make the trip to play at Sacramento on Wednesday.