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The Suns wave the orange flag

The Suns played to lose. And guess what? They lost 103-88 at Utah.

We’re not exactly sure what the pregame whiteboard listed as the “Keys” Wednesday night, but, essentially, all that really needed to be written: “Goran Dragic: DNP-CD = L.”

Did not play – coach’s decision. Equals loss. That was the pep talk guaranteed to deliver.

Although, if we were sitting courtside and keeping the box score, the more accurate acronym would’ve read: DNT-TW: Did Not Try – To Win.

Indeed, an NBA franchise that has railed against its roster for mailing in games just licked a first-class stamp in Utah.

Let’s get this straight — the team expects the locker room to go all out, yet the front office just bailed out?

By not playing their best player, who was coming off the best overall game of his career (31 pts, 12 assists, 9 rebs), the Suns did not give their best effort, to be kind.

And this is how a franchise goes about establishing a culture where everyone leaves everything on the court?

Was Dragic dealing with injury? No. Playing his fourth game in five nights? Not even close. Turns out, the schedule graced the Suns with a couple of off-days prior to squaring off against the Jazz.

Now, were the Suns trying to win ping-pong balls? Shazam! It doesn’t take Paulie Percentages to realize that now we’re getting somewhere.

When the Jazz win, the Suns win. So, facing Utah Wednesday night, the Suns set out to lose. Which, in turn, they hope will result in a win-win on draft day — a pair of lottery picks.

See, if the Lakers miss the playoffs, the Suns gain the Lakers’ first round pick (not lottery protected) from the Steve Nash trade.

Thing is, it doesn’t take Herm Edwards to realize that if a team doesn’t play to win the game, then why would fans even begin to care about the game? Why should the media cover the game? (Hey, any chance that money-back guarantee policy still exists?)

At the very least, Wednesday night certainly wasn’t worthy of the regular season. More fitting would be if someone petitioned the league office to record the loss in the preseason standings.

Hit zoom out for a moment — are the Suns currently weighing the future of the franchise? No doubt. Right now, the Suns front office has decided that winning games is not nearly as important as winning ping-pong balls.

Two problems here: first, isn’t the very existence of the lottery system designed to prevent the intentional tanking of regular season games? Meaning, when someone does place that call to NBA headquarters, please ask for David Stern.

Second, what sort of message does playing to lose ultimately send? More importantly, what sort of team culture does that allow to flourish?

Earlier this week on Arizona Sports 620, Doug & Wolf asked Jared Dudley whether the Suns need a change in culture?

“Focus might be an issue, you hear the word ‘effort’ used a lot. And they’re basically saying ‘hey, it won’t be tolerated, we’re going to play through it consistently,'” Dudley said. “Any NBA team you should play for, you should always play hard, you should always play together, you should always play smart.”

Do what I say, not what I do. In parenting, there is a concept called modeling. Children see what their parents do and model their behavior after it.

The Phoenix Suns might be drilling into their players that a lack of effort “won’t be tolerated,” but their lineups say otherwise.