Phoenix Suns may be younger, but they’re not any more likable
What happened Saturday night at US Airways Center will go down as one of the uglier nights in Phoenix Suns’ history.
It was just “one of those games.”
The Suns, still very much in contention for one of the Western Conference’s eight playoff spots, stunk up the joint, losing 101-74 to the defending World Champion San Antonio Spurs in front of a sellout crowd of 18,055.
Phoenix set a franchise record for lowest-scoring first half, posting 24 points in the game’s first 24 minutes. They shot 18.6 percent from the floor and had as many turnovers (eight) as they did baskets.
Things weren’t much better in the third quarter. The Suns scored just 17 points, hitting 5-of-21 field goal attempts. After 36 minutes, they trailed 75-41.
Like I said, it was ugly. But over the course of an 82-game schedule, all teams have games that they’d like to forget. The Golden State Warriors, who have won over 80 percent of their games this season, lost to the lowly Los Angeles Lakers. The Eastern Conference’s top team, the Atlanta Hawks, got blown out by a mediocre Milwaukee team by 30 points the day after Christmas.
Even the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls, a team that posted an NBA all-time best mark of 72-10, suffered a 32-point blowout at the hands of the New York Knicks.
What matters is how you respond. That Chicago team responded by reeling off 18 wins in their next 21 regular-season games and running roughshod over the opposition in winning their fourth NBA title.
“I don’t think we have a home court advantage,” forward Markieff Morris said. “It doesn’t feel like a home court advantage at all. Some games are going to be bad. You can’t win every game, you know, that comes along with sports.
“Nobody wins every game but we need the support to know we need as a team to know our fans are going to be behind us and I don’t feel like, this year, that they’re behind us.”
Calling out the fans for their lack of support in a game when the entire team basically put forth a 36-minute-long full-body dry heave is one of the silliest things I’ve ever heard.
And if it seems like the fans aren’t behind you this year, Markieff, there’s a reason for that. They’re not.
Suns fans gravitate toward superstars, overachievers, hustlers, goofballs and winners. That’s been the case for 47 years. This year’s roster, especially after the exit of forward Channing Frye via free agency and Goran Dragic by trade, is mostly void of any player who falls into even one of those categories.
That’s not to say there aren’t good players on this team. There are. Eric Bledsoe is developing into a very good point guard, but he’s not a superstar. Morris, himself, has shown great improvement over his four years in the league. But he’s also a guy who refused to talk to the media following the best game of his career — one where he outplayed LeBron James in a win over the Cleveland Cavaliers in January. He apologized for it a day later at the request of team officials.
That’s the Suns’ issue right now. It’s not a likable team. They’re young, yes. They’ve stockpiled draft picks and assets in hopes of building a championship-caliber team down the road. That’s all good.
In the present, however, fans want to support players they can connect with and relate to, and those guys just aren’t around right now.
A team leader would have been right to address the fans following Saturday night’s debacle. But instead of attacking them and projecting responsibility for a less-than-flat effort, maybe an apology would have been nice? Because while you were earning nearly $100,000 for that game, Markieff, those fans “who don’t have your back” actually paid to sit through it.