The 5: Biggest Arizona sports storylines during a wild month of May
May doesn’t usually go like this around these parts.
The Phoenix Suns have never had a super favorable NBA Draft Lottery result until 2018. Their MLB counterparts, the Arizona Diamondbacks, tumbled despite entering the month on a tear.
The Arizona Cardinals haven’t drafted a franchise quarterback and let him run the first-team offense with such promise since … alright, you get it.
A lot happened in May.
Let’s look back at the biggest storylines and narratives for the pro sports teams in the Valley.
5. D-backs’ skid follows record start
Entering the month with a 20-8 record, the Diamondbacks floundered behind empty offensive performances for much of May.
Arizona went 8-19 to sit a game above .500 for the season heading into June, and the frustrations have spanned more beyond the batter’s box.
Injuries to outfielders A.J. Pollock (thumb) in the middle of the month and Steven Souza Jr. (pectoral) a week later hurt. Starting pitcher Robbie Ray was already placed on the 10-day disabled list on April 30, leaving Arizona down two starters after Taijuan Walker’s season ended with a UCL injury in mid-April, and finding Ray’s replacement, Clay Buchholz, hasn’t been easy.
Paul Goldschmidt’s season-long slump might have been broken up lately, yet he’s still slashing just .209/.326/.393 for the year.
The highlight of the month? Maybe Souza Jr. getting into it with the Dodgers in an 8-5, 12-inning victory.
4. Cardinals finally acquire a No. 2 cornerback
2017: Tramon Williams.
2016: Marcus Cooper
2015: Jerraud Powers
2014: Antonio Cromartie
Let’s just say that those were some of the main cornerbacks who have played alongside Patrick Peterson over the last four seasons for the Arizona Cardinals. Not all of them even held down the job the entire year.
That’s a thing of the past, at least in the dead months of this summer. General manager Steve Keim swung a trade to acquire cornerback Jamar Taylor from the Cleveland Browns at the cost of a 2020 sixth-round draft pick in mid-May.
While his performance and health must stand up through the preseason and season, Taylor is under contract for two more years, making him unique compared to what the Cardinals’ corner options have been in a long time.
3. Suns hire Igor Kokoskov as next head coach
An interview process that spanned two weeks after the end of the NBA season felt long.
That’s because the Suns vetted a double-digit number of head coaching candidates to replace interim Jay Triano and former head man Earl Watson. They excited fans by meeting with big-name coaches like Mike Budenholzer and David Fizdale before ultimately landing with Igor Kokoskov. Historically, it was unique considering he is the first coach born and raised in Europe to get an NBA head coaching gig.
But he feels his long NBA resume makes him an NBA coach through and through, and his connections to Phoenix — Kokoskov was a Phoenix assistant from 2008-2013 — and progressive offensive philosophies went over well considering the circumstances.
2. Josh Rosen’s perception in Arizona — and out of it
While Josh Rosen was drafted 10th overall by the Cardinals in April, it took until May for the weird narratives to unfold.
An NFL evaluator anonymously told ESPN that nobody likes Rosen after a Browns executive publicly expressed an odd evaluation of the UCLA quarterback based on a conversation that he had with the Bruins’ volleyball team.
Coaches, however, couldn’t praise him much more. Former Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said Rosen has a shot to win the starting job and believes he’s the most NFL-ready rookie signal-caller, and former UCLA coach Jim Mora also expressed heaps of confidence in Rosen’s future.
To the people it matters within the Cardinals’ organization, things lean in the same direction. First-year coach Steve Wilks, who has allowed Rosen to play with the first team with expected starter Sam Bradford taking it easy, has said it wouldn’t be a long shot for Rosen to challenge for the starting quarterback job.
1. Lottery lands Suns atop NBA Draft order
Nothing hit Arizona sports fans in like the Suns’ luck going the way of the odds.
After putting together the worst season in the NBA, Phoenix earned a top NBA Draft selection via the lottery process, and now it’s a matter of the Suns deciding what to do with the pick.
The majority of fans want general manager Ryan McDonough to keep the pick and select Arizona Wildcats product Deandre Ayton, but the center isn’t the only option. Slovenian wing Luka Doncic is potentially the next-best option.
On top of it, the always-circulating NBA rumor-mill planted the thought of Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns hitting the trading block, joining apparently dissatisfied San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard there. Could the Suns have a shot at trading for either with the top overall pick, plus other assets?