Here we go!
Tuesday night begins the final exams for the Phoenix Suns season.
The Suns still have stretches of five of six on the road and a separate trip of four of five on the road coming in the next month. A geographically-ignorant schedule maker granted Phoenix a mid-March back-to-back between teams that are nowhere near each other -- T-Wolves and Hawks --and April opponents are 45 games above .500. As one final punch to the gut, the season ends on the road for four of the last five.
No matter what happens this year, the Suns have had a successful season. Right now, the Suns have an "A" headed into this stretch, but it's time for finals.
The Suns are a success because either they make the playoffs -- which no one in their right mind would have guessed -- or the players go into an off-season with a bad taste in their mouth. All summer the players will know what could have been accomplished with a little more attention to the small things throughout the season.
This is also the time of constant evaluation by Ryan McDonough. In this pressure-cooker of March and April, much will be revealed about the make-up of each individual. With the probability of three first round picks in 2014 -- and the possibility of four -- the opportunity for a dramatically different team taking the court in October not only exists but is also in the forefront of the mind of McDonough.
As the Celtics assistant general manager, Boston stockpiled young talent and turned it into Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and a championship. These last 23 games will expose which of these young players are definite keepers who embrace pressure.
If the Suns make the playoffs despite this insane closing schedule, Phoenix's rebuilding is almost over. Other teams will take notice. If they have to dump a star, Phoenix's players will be the most appealing, enhancing McDonough's chances of being the landing spot for those stars.
If the "big one" isn't available, that's not a problem. A playoff-caliber team could be adding three players from the second best draft this century.
History says a young team can't win enough games with that brutal schedule to make the playoffs. History also said this young of a team couldn't win 35 games. To this point, history hasn't repeated itself.