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Dan Bickley

If NBA relents, home-court advantage could push the Suns over the top

Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder (99). (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

The Suns should have a secret weapon entering the 2021 NBA playoffs.

You.

It could make all the difference in the world.

On Wednesday, the Diamondbacks announced they are lifting all seating restrictions on May 25, around the same time Chase Field closes its roof for the summer. The Arizona Rattlers announced they will play at 100% fan capacity, and their indoor football season begins on May 16.

This should be an encouraging development for a Suns team that would sell every playoff ticket it can print, hosting the hungriest, most appreciative fan base in the NBA postseason.

But that’s not necessarily the case.

Like the PGA Tour, the NBA is still exerting a level of control over fan gatherings and percentage of capacity. Unlike Major League Baseball, they are not leaving attendance issues in the hands of regional municipalities. That’s a loss around here.

In Arizona, there are currently zero legislative restrictions preventing the Suns from flinging open their doors. It’s the NBA limiting their numbers.

The Suns started by allowing 1,500 fans per game. They are currently operating around half-capacity. It’s better than nothing, but this policy is sheer madness when a baseball team that literally resides next door can sell every ticket in the building. Or when the Rattlers play in the same building as the Suns and have zero restrictions.

Yet the one Arizona team that could ride a home-court advantage to their first NBA championship in 54 years can’t do the same?

Ridiculous.

Surely, the Suns are lobbying the NBA for relief, given the freedom afforded other professional sports franchises in town. And hopefully, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will be a little more sensitive to the conditions on Planet Orange than his predecessor, David Stern, who couldn’t believe the palaver or hide his indifference for the Phoenix fan base.

It has been 11 years since the Suns were in the playoffs. Judging by the game-night intensity on social media, local fans clearly need an outlet for their passion. The Suns are also sentimental favorites entering the NBA postseason. They have been through a decade of ownership dysfunction. They are a tribute to the enduring greatness of Chris Paul. They feature a team full of lovable players, like Mikal Bridges and others. They share the basketball. They really like each other.

On paper, they have a real shot at reaching the NBA Finals. They are currently playing at the 26th slowest pace in the NBA, which means they’ll already be acclimated in a sport that always slows down when the playoffs begin. They have two closers in Paul and Devin Booker. They are a top 10 team on both ends of the floor. They are stocked with good shooters.

A full house and an electric crowd could put them over the top. Especially given their youth and inexperience.

The Suns are full of young players who have never felt what Phoenix sounds like as a rabid basketball town. They are also a team that has eschewed load management, refusing to rest key players down the stretch. They are a team that could use an energy boost in the weeks ahead.

Can you imagine how these Suns might respond if they truly knew how we really feel about them? If they learned why legends like Jerry Colangelo and Al McCoy insist that we are a basketball town at heart? If they experienced firsthand why Steve Nash and Charles Barkley fell in love with the city of Phoenix?

We could might make the Suns simply unbeatable in the playoffs. If we’re allowed to buy tickets.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.


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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier