I’ve been advocating that the Phoenix Suns bottom out for years.
Actually, it’s been about six years.
When Amar’e Stoudemire left for New York following the team’s 2010 Western Conference Finals run, it signaled the end of an era. Sure, Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Jason Richardson and others were still on board, but you just knew that without STAT, the team’s window — which was really open from 2004 until then — had closed.
And that was fine.
Every team not named the Spurs has a limited time in which it can expect to contend, and though the Suns were never able to reach the NBA Finals during theirs, we all knew it would, as all good things do, at some point come to an end.
The way I and many others saw it was that once it did, it was imperative the team move on from that era as quickly as possible in order to ensure it would not take long for the next great Suns team to be constructed.
Hence, bottoming out, landing a high draft pick or two and, hopefully, having enough to contend once again.
Six years later, it looks like the team has finally done what I’ve asked.
The team has reached the All-Star break with a 14-40 record. The Suns have lost 24 of their last 26 games and have given little reason to believe they’ll turn things around. They mercifully fired their head coach, and depending on what happens by the Feb. 18 trade deadline, could very well be embracing the tank.
If this season was all about the record and subsequent high draft pick, I’d see what’s happening as a smashing success.
But unfortunately, the Suns have not stopped at just being a bad basketball team.
What happened with Markieff Morris and Archie Goodwin during a timeout in Wednesday night’s loss to the Golden State Warriors was about as bad a look as the team could provide. With the understanding that sometimes players and coaches get emotional (see Sean Miller vs. Kaleb Tarczewski, Anquan Boldin vs. Todd Haley, etc.) and that it’s normally not that big of a deal, in the case of the Suns, it kind of is.
Morris’ track record of malfeasance with the team means everything he does will and should be magnified. This incident came at a time when he and the Suns could use all the goodwill they can get, and it served to reaffirm their status as a league laughingstock.
Once the crown jewel of the Valley sports scene, the Suns are now a franchise in disarray. It seems as though every move they have made over the last two seasons has been the wrong one, and instead of getting them closer to the Larry O’Brien Trophy, they instead have never been further away from it.
The juxtaposition with the Cardinals, who while the Suns have fallen have risen to new heights, has to be astonishing for anyone who grew up in Arizona during the 90s.
Gone are the days of a sold-out arena with insane scalper ticket prices my father was willing to pay once per season in order to get me to a game (in ’95 it was Game 7 vs. the Rockets and from then on I loathed Mario Elie). Gone are the days of the Party at the Plaza, an event that was a celebration of the Suns.
Gone are the days of the Suns being the talk of the town — at least in a positive way.
In their place is a time in which the fan base, quite simply, has at best become angry over what’s happening, and at worst simply lost interest in what the local professional basketball team is doing.
Last week, former Suns great Charles Barkley went on national TV and ripped the organization.
Lost amid his hilarious rant was this line:
“Look at them empty seats, man. The best fans fans in the world get to watch this trash.”
Barkley, who makes his home in Arizona, remembers the days when he was helping fill up the arena. He, like the rest of us, also likely remembers the :07 or Less Suns who made the Suns the NBA’s most entertaining team night in and night out.
Back then you did not want to miss a game, but those good times are now a distant memory Suns fans are forced to tightly cling to.
Is this rock bottom? Hopefully, because I shudder at the thought of what could be worse.