The Phoenix Suns play Denver Wednesday night. The Nuggets have lost 16 of their last 18 games. Denver is the exact type of team that this collection of Suns players take for granted. It’s hard to understand how a team that has played in zero playoff games since its decision not to re-sign Amar’e Stoudemire would be in this situation.
The situation under question is not rebuilding. Any team losing Steve Nash and Stoudemire would need to rebuild.
The issue can be summed up simply, but an explanation leaves more questions than answers. Ever since Grant Hill left the team, there’s been a striking lack of intensity. Playing bad happens. It’s a part of life. Playing hard should be a prerequisite to be a Sun. It has not been for years.
The 2012-2015 Suns have shown a consistent lack of desperation. Sure, there are exceptions — Jared Dudley and P.J. Tucker before this year, Alex Len. Suns fans were told that a culture change was needed. When does the culture change include desire? The Suns over the last year have a stronger desire for shots, minutes and foul calls than they do floorburns and intensity.
The easy explanation is “youth.” That excuse has been oversold. At some point, most children who put their hand in a fire learn to stop putting their hand in the fire. At what point does that occur for the Phoenix Suns?
The Suns don’t have any “must-win” games. Winning should not be a goal for them because this isn’t a playoff team. The goal is player evaluation while not using a spreadsheet. Put your calculator away Mr. Analytics. Watch the beginning of every game and answer one question: who hates losing?
Every game from this point forward is a “must-compete” game. Every label available — lack of heart, unprofessional, no desire — is a waste of time. Standard Suns procedure is to gauge the opponent’s talent and give a guestimated amount of energy that it will take to be victorious. The level of arrogance to operate with that notion is appalling.
After watching Boston’s Marcus Smart dive on the floor in front of him to save a play, maybe Eric Bledsoe has realized what is needed. A 30+ point effort and then back-to-back 7-point games is par for the course when it comes to Markieff Morris’ effort. Closing out on three-point shooters is hard work, so the Suns prefer to watch and hope. Taking the ball out of the basket quickly has become more important than taking pride in defending one-on-one.
If the Phoenix Suns don’t run Denver out of the gym, excuse-makers will use words like “young,” “recent trades,” “lack of chemistry” and “didn’t go our way.” Another pathetic first half means none of those are the problem. If Denver scores over 50 points in the first half, you’ll know the Suns aren’t in a re-build because nothing was built to build again.