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Robert Sarver: Bubble Suns learned confidence, consistency

Owner of the Phoenix Suns, Robert Sarver during the NBA game against the Charlotte Bobcats at US Airways Center on December 19, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Suns owner Robert Sarver saw his team gain value from the NBA bubble experience in a number of ways, regardless of the outcome between the Brooklyn Nets and Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night that will decide if Phoenix continues playing this season.

For the young Suns, it was an impactful experience for the players in two significant ways, Sarver told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo.

“They gave our players confidence they could compete with the best,” Sarver said after Phoenix beat the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday to finish an 8-0 performance in seeding games.

“They got a taste of and a feel for what type of focus and effort it takes to win consistently.”

Consistent the Suns were. They went into the 22-team bubble looking like the least-likely squad to be the talk of it. But as Devin Booker pushed the gas pedal even more, other teammates came with him.

Sarver saw Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson blossom with confidence on the wing. He watched head coach Monty Williams push all the right buttons, changing up his rotations that led to bench players Dario Saric, Cam Payne and Jevon Carter slide flawlessly into roles that impacted each game, especially pushing Phoenix over the top in the ugly wins.

“I knew we would compete hard and I knew we would take advantage of the opportunity,” Sarver said. “Playing against high-quality opponents really helped our team develop, I think.”

It also gave the coaching staff and front office eight more games to evaluate the roster, even though Kelly Oubre Jr. and Aron Baynes, two important pieces, did not play in the restart after coronavirus stopped the season in March.

And much is uncertain in the year ahead.

The extra eight games gave Phoenix confidence that its inner-looking focus on development is working. With a lot of unknowns this coming offseason, that gives the Suns the affirmation they can continue to improve with this core group even if financial constraints limit every NBA team.

“We don’t have a good handle on what the (salary) cap is going to be heading into next season,” Sarver said. “Relative to other teams, we will have some cap space. I think we’ll always look at ways to improve our roster. Our best way to get better is for our young core to get better.”

Sarver credited Williams’ communication skills for the buy-in and culture change that happened before everyone’s eyes. There’s a lot of value in that, and that’s why Sarver was not fretting the Blazers’ outcome against the Nets before they tipped Thursday.

“In some ways, my feeling is kind of the same,” he said of how that could change the Suns’ run. “We can’t be responsible for other teams and whether other teams win and lose other than us. I’m very happy with what we accomplished.”


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