For a long time the Phoenix Suns were the team to follow and see in the Valley.
If you were a sports fan, quite simply, you were a Suns fan.
Unfortunately for the state’s NBA team, that is no longer the case.
As the Suns finish up their sixth-straight playoff-less season, one that began with the marketing campaign, “We Are PHX,” the organization instead has seen PHX sort of distance itself from the struggling team.
Talking Stick Resort Arena has not exactly reminded anyone of basketball-crazed environment.
Much of the apathy is due to the saga surrounding forward Markieff Morris, whose public trade demands as well as shots at the organization and its fans really rubbed folks the wrong way.
“I think generally fans and the media — especially fans who have been long-time Suns fans — want a team they can connect with and relate to,” Suns GM Ryan McDonough told Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Wednesday. “And with what happened over the past six months or the past year-and-a-half, I think it damaged some of that, I think it damaged some of that relationship, I think we lost a little bit of that connection to the fans.
“And we apologize for that.”
While McDonough is understanding of why fans might have been a bit turned off from the team, he made sure to point out that there are reasons to be excited about the future with a bevvy of young players who are developing.
“Some of these guys who have a chance to grow into really good players and are getting an opportunity to play a lot of minutes at a really young age,” he said.
The third-year GM pointed to Devin Booker, Alex Len and T.J. Warren as examples.
The 13th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the 19-year-old Booker is averaging 10.5 points per game while making nearly 40 percent of his 3-point attempts. During the NBA All-Star Weekend he took part in the Rising Stars Game as well as the 3-point shootout.
Len, selected fifth overall in 2013, is averaging 7.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, while Warren, the 14th pick in the 2014 Draft, was chipping in 11 points per game before a foot injury sidelined him for the rest of the season.
“And then we’ll add a pick or two in this year’s draft,” McDonough added. “And to grow something that’s sustainable, I think those guys — our young guys — are some of our highest-character guys and some of the guys who connect best to the community, so I’m excited about that for the future.”
If things bounce the Suns’ way, they’ll win a lot of games and then, their fans back. But yes, that is something they will need to do.
“I do think the relationship has been damaged somewhat and I think and hope the fans will give us an opportunity to earn their trust back and win them back,” McDonough said. “Because as you guys know, we have great fans and great tradition here in Phoenix.”