Two years ago the Phoenix Suns were a bit of a punchline, a franchise lacking both direction and leadership.
Nowadays they have each of those things. They have a young, talented roster with a bright general manager and a very solid head coach.
In time, they may very well end the team’s soon-to-be five-year playoff drought and get the franchise back to its elite, contender-level status.
But until then, the Phoenix Suns need to grow up and let their performance speak for them.
It starts at the top.
Less than two weeks ago, Suns president of basketball operations Lon Babby had some unkind words for Goran Dragic, who said he lost trust in the front office for going back on promises. The same day, that bright GM, Ryan McDonough, said Dragic and his agent handled the entire situation in an unprofessional matter.
“I guess I’ll put it this way,” McDonough said then. “There are some players who look at whatever is best for the team and are willing to sacrifice and are willing to play any role asked as long as it leads to winning — and a guy like P.J. Tucker comes to mind in that regard.
“And then there are other players who would like to win but that win if it’s on their terms and they can play the role they want and get their touches and get money — get the most money at the end of the day. That’s what’s most important to him. I just wish guys would say that, just tell the truth and say that instead of saying we’re liars and dishonest.”
To be fair to McDonough (and Babby), it’s likely that Dragic wasn’t 100 percent honest or accurate with his allegations about the Suns and how they treated him. At the same time, though, it’s not a stretch to believe that there may have been some misleading of the guard, especially with the roster moves that followed his breakout 2013-14 season.
Regardless, while the Suns may very well have been justifiably hurt and offended by what their former guard said, the appropriate response would have been something along the lines of, “We disagree with what Goran said about our organization but we wish him luck in Miami.”
It’s called taking the high road, and it’s the very path a front office should go down.
Just more than a week later, it was a player who stuck his foot in his mouth, when Markieff Morris called out Suns fans following a dreadful loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
“I don’t think we have a home court advantage,” he said following a game in which the Suns scored a franchise-worst 24 first-half points en route to a 27-point loss. “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.”
Morris went on to say the team needs fans to win games, that he (and his teammates) expect more from Planet Orange. Where he’s wrong is that any fan who spent their money on a ticket to be at the game did their job. From there, it’s up to the players to give that fan something to cheer about.
In short, do your job and they’ll do “theirs.”
However, given his boss’ penchant for saying things they probably shouldn’t. In fact, Morris isn’t the first member of the organization to publically call out their paying customers, so perhaps it should come as no surprise that Morris — an emotional player — did the same.
Morris’ comments highlight a problem that Vince Marotta so aptly pointed out: This Suns team is really difficult to like.
It has really been a season-long problem, and frustrating given how very enjoyable last season was.
This week, in defense of Morris and his blasting of the team’s fans, you will likely hear something to the tune of how he should not have said what he did but the team’s youth leads to incidents like this. Morris is 25, and the average age of the team itself is 25.9.
Of the eight players who receive regular minutes (Eric Bledsoe, Gerald Green, Brandon Knight, Alex Len, the Morris twins, P.J. Tucker and Brandan Wright), the number drops to 25.5.
Young? Sure. But given that most of the players were top players at big-time universities and have been in the league for at least a few seasons, you have to wonder when youth stops being an excuse.
Two years ago, the Phoenix Suns were a franchise in disarray, winning just 25 games with a roster lacking any kind of star and with little potential to get there.
Since then, they have become a team with an abundance of talent and a stockpile of draft picks.
Roster-wise, they are far removed from the disaster that they were. Front office-wise, they appear to have a much better setup with capable people running the show.
But mentality-wise, they are still in that same place. The organization has taken cheap shots at former players, had a couple off-court issues and struggled to maintain its composure during games, leading to one of the highest totals of technical fouls in the NBA.
Far too often this season the Suns have made the wrong decision. Far too often, they have not been the better man.
And until they stop doing that, they will not be a better team.