DAN BICKLEY

Latest twist in another ragged Phoenix Suns season is hard to comprehend

Mar 2, 2020, 6:50 PM | Updated: 9:56 pm
Golden State Warriors guard Andrew Wiggins, left, shoots over Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton dur...

Golden State Warriors guard Andrew Wiggins, left, shoots over Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

Habituation is a psychological term. It describes people who cope with recurring trauma by viewing trauma as normal. Like 20-win NBA seasons, for instance.

Suns fans are proof.

We are all dulled by failure. Squashed versions of our former selves. We pine for 35 wins in a season because our standards have been smothered under a wet blanket, assaulted by some of the worst basketball on record. Our spine curves from the weight. Our shoulders sag with disappointment. Our collective fire burns us every time. We’re halfway to a lobotomy.

We are also among the last great stories in American sports fandom. We have a national identity and a message that commands empathy. We’ve had moments of great innovation, spawning a NBA revolution and a dynasty in Golden State.

We are also a hard-luck brand with chronic bouts of heartbreak. A franchise over 50 years old and still searching for its first championship banner. An organization marked by an all-time grandfather (Al McCoy) and one of the greatest house pets in history (Gorilla).

But unlike fans that felt cursed by malevolent gods (Boston, Chicago) or fans that simply grew up in the wrong city (Cleveland, Oakland), there is no explanation for our never-ending misfortune as basketball fans in Phoenix.

Just like there is no explanation how Devin Booker-Deandre Ayton-Ricky Rubio can lose home games to the Pistons and Warriors on consecutive nights.

The latest twist in another ragged season is hard to comprehend. It speaks to a stunning lack of concentration, effort and focus. It illuminates a fundamental lack of commitment and internal leadership. It reflects poorly on Booker, who is coming off the greatest individual achievement of his career. What does that say about him? About everyone in that room? About the general manager who put this team together? What exactly is going on here?

Even worse: After that ugly loss to the depleted Warriors, the aforementioned triumvirate bailed without speaking to the media, thereby making the strongest statement possible.

It means Booker, Ayton and Rubio were saving the team and the franchise from what they might’ve said if asked the right question. And from the moment that Kelly Oubre Jr. was declared out for the Clippers game with a knee injury, this whole season has taken a strange and terrible turn.

Like any dreaded curse, it never seems to end.

The first generation of Suns fans was scarred by the costliest coin flip in sports history. It reinforced a terrible message to sports fans in Phoenix: that luck matters in sports and we don’t have any.

The next generation featured the greatest showman to never wear a ring (Charles Barkley). Finally, Steve Nash, steering the Suns through a change in ownership, maestro of one of the greatest firework shows in NBA history. It lasted so long and ended so fast. Like a Greek tragedy.

Now, five months into a serious culture overhaul, the Suns have again regressed, losing their mission, their fight and their sense of pride. There are cloaks and daggers guarding Oubre’s health and Booker’s mindset. They helped derail a season that was careening toward success, subjected us to Brandon Knight, Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss in the role of cast-offs-turned-conquerors, effectively spitting in our faces.

Habituation.

When trauma becomes normal and normal becomes trauma. Better known as life on Planet Orange.

Penguin Air

Dan Bickley

Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) flips the ball in the air as Cardinals quarterback T...
Dan Bickley

Kyler Murray can begin carrying Cardinals, but they must ante up

We need Murray to carry the Cardinals, through their flaws and their weaknesses on defense, past DeAndre Hopkins’ six-game suspension.
15 days ago
Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns shoots the ball against the Dallas Mavericks in the first qua...
Dan Bickley

Can the Suns win a championship without Deandre Ayton next season?

The potential departure of restricted free agent Deandre Ayton begs the question of if the Phoenix Suns can still be elite without him.
22 days ago
Arizona Cardinals' Kyler Murray (1) participates during the team's NFL football practice, Wednesday...
Dan Bickley

Kyler Murray’s arrival at Cardinals OTAs gives Valley much-needed jolt

Some might say he showed up late to OTAs. But somehow, he arrived at exactly the right time, giving the Valley a much-needed jolt of energy.
28 days ago
Head coach Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns talks with Chris Paul #3 during the second half of th...
Dan Bickley

Focus should be on Chris Paul after Suns’ unexplained collapse

Monty Williams, according to multiple sources, had something of a fallout with Suns point guard Chris Paul.
1 month ago
Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns reacts during the first half in Game Seven of the 2022 NBA Play...
Dan Bickley

Suns’ humiliating Game 7 loss is 1 of the greatest collapses in NBA history

The Valley is not devastated. We are disgusted. We are humiliated. We just witnessed one of the greatest collapses in the history of the NBA.
1 month ago
DALLAS, TEXAS - MAY 12: Chris Paul #3 of the Phoenix Suns reacts after hitting his hand while takin...
Dan Bickley

Suns facing new crossroads ahead of Game 7 against Mavs

The Suns are at a new crossroads. They are at the dangerous intersection of survival and scorn. Lose Game 7 to the Mavs, what do they become?
2 months ago
Latest twist in another ragged Phoenix Suns season is hard to comprehend