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Historically bad season puts Suns in precarious position

Only one team in Phoenix Suns history has been worse than the 2012-13 version.

The first one.

The 1968-69 expansion Suns won just 16 games for head coach Johnny “Red” Kerr. They finished last in the Western Division.

The next year, Phoenix won 39 games and lost in the playoffs. They failed to reach the postseason each of the next five seasons, before going on that miracle run that saw them lose to the Boston Celtics in the 1976 NBA Finals.

So, what does this all mean for the team now? Absolutely nothing.

The truth is, we don’t have the faintest idea what will become of the Phoenix Suns.

Could their stockpile of draft picks and players on reasonable contracts lead to better days in the near future? Perhaps.

However, could a seemingly incompetent management group dig the team’s hole even deeper? Absolutely.

At this point in the season, with the Suns so far removed from the playoff conversation even Jim Mora is aghast at the suggestion, all there is to look forward to is an uncertain future that is off to a pretty rocky start.

Because it’s one thing for the mercurial Michael Beasley to call the franchise into question, but a completely different issue when a respected veteran like Luis Scola does so.

“We just don’t know how to play well,” he continued. “We don’t know how to play basketball and that’s why we lose. Until we learn how to play 48 minutes of basketball, we’re not going to win games. I’m surprised we won (23) games playing this way. Many of the games we won, we did the same thing. We just overcame it somehow. I’m also surprised we didn’t fix it. We saw the problem pretty much the first week and we couldn’t fix it. It’s very frustrating. It’s a bad year.”

The team’s clutch nine-game losing streak has helped the draft position immensely, and no matter how competitive you’d like to see the team be this year we all know the best thing for them to do is lose, and lose a lot.

But that does not mean one should be happy with the dumpster fire that the team has been of late.

Now, it’s not exactly fair to pin the bulk of the blame on interim head coach Lindsey Hunter. He is working with a roster he did not assemble and is trying to instill new schemes and ideas on the fly. Without the benefit of a training camp, it’s tough to a first-time coach having great success.

Besides, it’s not like the team was doing any better under Alvin Gentry. Fewer blowouts, sure, but who cares? A one-point loss counts the same in the standings as a 21-point loss.

Hunter has given little indication he’s part of the solution, but he’s not the problem, either.

The real issue is an apparent lack of direction on the court, as Hunter has had to bench players — players who figure to be part of the team’s future, mind you — at times due to lack of effort.

The team can talk about a “culture change” all it wants, but that’s really just words. Nothing will change until the talent on the roster is good enough, and it’s clear the one the Suns assembled is not.

Granted, it will look a bit different next season.

Wesley Johnson and Jermaine O’Neal are free agents, while Jared Dudley and Marcin Gortat may find their way to the trading block. Shannon Brown is not likely to return, and Luis Scola will be eligible to be dealt on July 1.

The only players who seem to be guaranteed a spot on the 2013-14 roster are Goran Dragic because he’s good, the Morris twins because it doesn’t hurt to have them around, P.J. Tucker because he’s useful, Kendall Marshall because he’s young and Michael Beasley because no one will trade for him.

Is that the type of core a team can build around? To borrow a metaphor from the Suns’ front office, is it a seed that, with a bit of water and nurturing, will eventually grow into a beautiful plant?

It’s possible, but how long do you have to wait?