Arizona Sports’ top headlines of 2017: The year of the NBA trade rumor
Thank the Phoenix Suns for making 2017 all about the trade rumor.
Or maybe don’t thank them.
While the Suns ultimately traded starting point guard Eric Bledsoe, the franchise kept its name in the headlines throughout the 2017 calendar year. Often times, all the talk didn’t lead to massive changes.
But people were interested. To put a bow on 2017, we looked at what our readers read most. Then, we skimmed off stories that weren’t breaking news — sorry jersey unveilings, a shredded referee and obsessive Blaine Gabbert interest from our readers. We also didn’t include stories that were redundant.
With the number of readers on each story guiding us, here are the top headlines of the year 2017 in Arizona sports.
The D-backs’ playoff push aided by J.D. Martinez’s historic season was among the most-followed stories of the year. Still, when it became officially official on Sept. 24, readers needed to see it on their computer screens to believe it.
The Cardinals’ 2010 second-round pick who hadn’t played in the NFL since 2013 because of suspensions was cleared by the league to return, but after meeting with the linebacker, they ultimately decided to part ways.
Then 20 years old, Devin Booker turned the Boston crowd in his favor March 24 by dropping 70 points on the Celtics. It was wild. And when the NBA’s Instagram account posted a picture of the Suns celebrating the guard’s historic game, Boston forward Jae Crowder wrote: “NEVER SEEN SO MANY GUYS HAPPY AFTER AN ‘L.'” In a fine example of the power of the NBA’s social media footprint, Booker responded: “you can’t guard me.” Suns fans loved it.
It begins. The Suns popped up as a team involved in many significant talks as stars like Paul George and Kyrie Irving hit the trade block. After Irving requested a trade, he was not only a logical target of the Suns. Phoenix was also a potential third party to potential blockbusters as Paul George and Jimmy Butler emerged as other players looking for new homes.
So that was odd. Rumored to be chasing an NFL coach, Arizona State Vice President for University Athletics and Athletics Director Ray Anderson instead tabbed the ESPN analyst that was last on the sideline in 2008 with the Kansas City Chiefs. When the deal was made official, ASU touted a new leadership model structured like an NFL team to help Edwards’ football program.
Despite a rebound 7-5 season and win over rival Arizona to cap it off, ASU fired Graham after his sixth season on the job.
Under then-president Phil Jackson, the New York Knicks were open to trading star big man Kristaps Porzingis. One option: Taking back Phoenix’s Booker. Of course, the Suns wanted Porzingis … but to pair him with Booker. Jackson was later relieved of his duties.
The Captain called it a career after 21 NHL Seasons, but not after an unfortunate breakup with the only franchise he’s ever known.
It wasn’t a pretty trip to London. The Cardinals saw their starting quarterback leave with a broken arm in a 33-0 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, and it put Palmer’s future in question heading into the offseason.
It’s easy to forget Johnson had this knee injury last season on the first day of 2017 before the wrist injury in Week 1 of this season that had him miss the rest of the season.
Glendale hosted Gonzaga, South Carolina, Oregon and North Carolina in the Final Four. The Tar Heels beat the Zags 71-65 in the national championship game, but the 77,612 in attendance for the semifinal games fell just short of the record.
In what turned into one of the bright spots for Arizona this season, the trade up to draft Baker out of Washington ended up paying dividends for a banged up secondary.
After sending a tweet that read “I Dont wanna be here” Bledsoe said he was referring to a hair salon. His general manager thought it was about his spot on the Suns. Ryan McDonough sent Bledsoe home, then weeks later traded him to the Milwaukee Bucks for a protected draft pick and center Greg Monroe.
The longest-tenured Cardinal left the nest as a free agent this offseason. Despite what was apparently a reasonable offer from Arizona, Calais Campbell signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars and put together arguably his best season yet.
Two 40-point losses and three games into the year, Phoenix cut ties with coach Earl Watson and replaced him with interim Jay Triano.
Sun Devil Nation didn’t know whether Manny Wilkins or Blake Barnett would win the starting quarterback battle, but they reacted with interest when Bryce Perkins left. He since committed to play at Virginia.
Eventually signed as the third-string quarterback, Gabbert watched from the sidelines as Arizona put together a shaky start to the year. Behind an injury-battered offensive line, Gabbert was thrust into a starting role midway through the year and stayed there for five games before backup Drew Stanton reclaimed his starting spot in Week 16.
In what was an odd side story of the Suns shutting down Bledsoe in the backend of 2016-17, the team asked Brandon Knight to play after he’d sat since the All-Star break. But he’d begun going through offseason workout regiments to stay in shape, and the team ruled him out with back issues when he said he was unable to play. McDonough later said it was blown out of proportion, but Knight didn’t suit up again in 2016-17 before tearing his ACL in the offseason.
Narrator: They didn’t.
This didn’t go down, either, but the prospects of Phoenix landing one of the best big men in the NBA took over until Cousins was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans on All-Star weekend. Cousins and New Orleans are still feeling one another out, but his impending free agency this upcoming offseason could put him right back into the market for a new team soon, along with potentially more rumors of interest from the Suns.
- Jamal Crawford helps Suns with addition of another ball handler, scorer
- Suns’ Devin Booker: There’s new energy in locker room, arena
- Nike releases animated commercial on Suns star Devin Booker
- After strong opener, Suns’ Kokoskov sees room for growth defensively
- What to know about new Cardinals offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich