The narrative as it pertains to the 2013-14 Phoenix Suns has changed in a matter of months.
Once thought to be one of the bottom-feeder teams competing for the services of top college prospects like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle, a little more than a quarter of the way through the season, the Suns are being hailed as ‘the best story in the league.’
As it currently stands, Phoenix heads into Friday night’s contest in Denver with a 14-10 record and the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference.
Despite gutting the roster of its veteran assets, general manager Ryan McDonough has constructed a team that’s been dynamic (leads the league in fast-break points), fun to watch and most importantly, successful.
Although the Suns have won their fair share of games based on effort more so than talent, the question remains as to whether or not that model can survive the marathon that is the NBA season.
Team president Lon Babby was a guest on Arizona Sports 620’s Dan Bickley Show with Vince Marotta Wednesday and took a stab at responding to that very question.
“I don’t think we know the answer to that,” Babby said. “I think we’re talented, how talented remains to be seen. I do think you can win a lot of games on effort. If you look at what we’ve accomplished so far, we are 6-6 on the road. That’s what good teams have to do. We have played a number of good teams — Oklahoma City, San Antonio now twice, Portland three times and Miami for about three-and-a-half quarters — and played them evenly. I think that’s encouraging. But there is not a whole lot of margin [for error].
“We’ve also learned when we don’t play with that kind of intensity, we aren’t very good. I agree it’s a long season, but we’re making progress and our guys are getting better all the time. That’s what’s fun about it. I think if we keep the effort level up we can compete with anybody. How many wins does that translate to? Only time will tell.”
While a lot can change in 58 games, Babby pointed to the fact that the Suns still have 24 contests against teams from the far inferior East Conference on their schedule as a source of optimism as they head into the dog days of winter.
On top of that, Babby believes Phoenix has already done plenty — even despite close losses to the league’s elite NBA teams like Wednesday’s 108-101 defeat to the Spurs — to prove that it may in fact be a good team in its own right.
“We already feel validated in terms of our performance over the course of the first quarter of the season,” said Babby. “If you look at it, we were good in the [Las Vegas] Summer League. We were good in preseason. And now, we’ve been good for 24 games. At some point, you have to say, ‘Hey, we’re a pretty good team.’ I think we feel that way. I think our players feel that way. Our coaches feel that way.
“We don’t go into these games with a hope and a prayer. We go in thinking if we play our hardest and we play smartly, we have a great chance to win.”