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Dan Bickley

Point guard-filled Hall of Fame class symbolizes the Suns past and present

Class of 2018 inductees into the Basketball Hall of Fame, from right, Steve Nash, Grant Hill, and Charles "Lefty" Driesell grasp hands during a news conference at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018, in Springfield, Mass. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

The Suns have history. They make history. They are the first NBA franchise to have four former players inducted in the same Hall of Fame class.

The honor symbolizes the biggest problem on Planet Orange, where our next playoff berth seems as elusive as the missing championship banner. Where all of the best memories come from yesteryear.

Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Charlie Scott and Grant Hill are the latest example of our conundrum. Their inclusion into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, along with former executive Rick Welts, is a prestigious moment for the Valley’s original franchise. The party of five pushes the Suns’ Hall presence to 12 members.

The headliners are obvious. Nash and Kidd are two of the top 10 point guards in NBA history. One was as beloved as he was talented. The other, not so much. Each have their own place in Phoenix lore.

Nash was once drafted and traded because the team had too many point guards, when he was stuck on a depth chart behind Kidd and Kevin Johnson.

But Kidd fell out of favor following a domestic violence incident, an unpardonable sin to former owner Jerry Colangelo, who witnessed the same scourge under his own childhood roof.

Kidd was quickly traded to the Nets for Stephon Marbury, proving that Colangelo was the rare owner who stood by his principles, regardless of the name on the back of a jersey. And when he and son Bryan righted their original mistake, pushing Robert Sarver to reacquire Nash from Dallas, it ignited the last great era of Suns basketball.

Nash was the consummate underdog. His ball-handling wizardry was no surprise to those who watched him dribbling tennis balls down the hallways of Santa Clara, always looking for that edge. He left nothing on the court except one big regret:

He was one of the most accurate shooters in NBA history. And he recently admitted he should’ve shot more three-pointers in his second stint with Phoenix, pushing a revolutionary offense to the edge of chaos, just like they do today in Golden State.

That hurts.

Either way, the gluttony of point guards would become a reoccurring problem a few years later. The Suns imploded from unhappiness, a team unable to assimilate three rising stars: Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas. They have only just begun to recover.

The clashing of then and now, before and after, is once again defining the franchise. The Suns will fete and claim two Hall of Fame point guards on Friday while the current team has zero point guards capable of steering a legitimate NBA franchise.

The missing piece could lift a sagging franchise back to relevance. Or it could symbolize the dysfunction marking an eight-year absence from the postseason.

So far, the offseason has been good to the Suns. The team seemed to ace the draft. They made Devin Booker rich, effectively purchasing his short-term loyalty. They signed a tough veteran in Trevor Ariza. They hired a seasoned head coach who everyone seems to love. They traded away two of their darkest clouds, Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss.

But the departure of Knight leaves the team without a starting point guard. Optimists assume that general manager Ryan McDonough must have a player in mind or something up his sleeve, that he wouldn’t jeopardize the 2018-19 season just to jettison Knight.

There are tantalizing names that would electrify the Valley, like Damian Lillard, Kemba Walker or Terry Rozier. Or maybe they snag Lonzo Ball from the Lakers. Or maybe they bring back Dragic the same way they once reunited with Nash.

Or maybe the team is just winging it.

Veteran readers know I’m no fan of building for the future. Namely because the future doesn’t exist. Once it’s here, it’s the present. Everything behind is in the past, just memories and dust. Nothing beyond is guaranteed. And the teams that slow-grow their way into contention often step into unforeseen landmines and unintended consequences.

But if McDonough pulls off some kind of blockbuster, giving Booker the point guard he deserves, we could arrive at a pivotal moment in the Valley:

When the past and the present converge, giving Suns fans a team and a history worth cheering.

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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier