Former Cleveland Cavaliers reserve James Jones, who alongside LeBron James has reached the past seven NBA Finals, was named vice president of basketball operations for the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday.
The move was announced by Suns owner Robert Sarver, who also revealed a contract extension, reportedly through the 2019-20 season, for 36-year-old general manager Ryan McDonough.
Jones, also 36, was a forward for the Suns from 2005-2007, helping the team to the 2006 Western Conference finals. He will report to McDonough and with him oversee all basketball-related matters, including trades, free agent deals and the NBA Draft.
His departure removes another familiar face around James on the Cavaliers roster as James ponders the coming season and what his team can do to overcome the Golden State Warriors, who beat Cleveland in the NBA Finals for the second time in three consecutive meetings for the title.
James, who has called Jones “the best teammate I’ve ever had,” led the Cavaliers in the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history from 3-1 down to win the best-of-seven series in 2016.
The Warriors won a rematch in five games last month.
James has reportedly been unsatisfied with the moves made by Cleveland to obtain off-season talent to better compete with the Kevin Durant-powered Warriors, notably missing out on deals for Jimmy Butler and Chris Paul after general manager David Griffin parted ways with the Cavs.
Jones, a former secretary-treasurer for the NBA players union, played alongside James for four seasons in Miami, resulting in two titles and four finals appearances, and the past three seasons in Cleveland. He also played as a backup forward for Indiana, Portland and Phoenix in his 14 NBA campaigns.
“We are thrilled to add James Jones to our staff,” said McDonough. “James has a wealth of experiences that will greatly benefit our organisation. He is a three-time NBA champion and has been one of the top executives with the National Basketball Players Association over the past few years.”
Jones averaged 7.8 points and 2.8 rebounds in 151 games with the Suns. He played in 48 regular-season games and eight playoff contests for the Cavaliers last season and has career averages of 5.2 points and 1.8 rebounds.
McDonough came to Phoenix after 10 seasons in basketball operations with the Boston Celtics, serving as assistant general manager for the final three and helping the team take the 2008 NBA title.
The Suns went 24-58 last season, the NBA’s second-worst record and worst in the Western Conference. Phoenix has not been to the NBA Playoffs since reaching the Western Conference finals in 2010. They haven’t reached the NBA Finals since 1993.
“We have laid the foundation for what we hope will become the next championship calibre Suns team,” McDonough said. “There is still a lot of work to be done to reach our ultimate goal of bringing a championship to Phoenix.”