DAN BICKLEY

Suns stand atop NBA summit waiting to plant championship flag

Apr 11, 2022, 3:05 PM | Updated: 4:33 pm

History hasn’t been kind. Our four major professional sports franchises have competed for just five championships over 138 combined seasons in Arizona. Only one of them cashed the ticket.

The 2021-22 Suns represent more than a fleeting chance at glory.

They are our redemption.

They ended the regular season with 64 wins, eight better than their nearest NBA competitor. Even the 73-win Warriors didn’t enjoy that level of separation. In 2015-2016, the Warriors were only six games better than the Spurs.

With the playoffs beginning this week, the Suns are also heavy favorites to win that long-awaited championship. This is a new mindset for a region that once carried bulky inferiority and persecution complexes. This is an entirely new vibe.

We are not trying to climb a mountain. We are the team standing at the summit, defending it from all takers, waiting to plant a flag when it’s all over.

Charles Barkley’s Suns were great and all, but they were looking up at Michael Jordan. Steve Nash’s crew sparked a revolution, but they were also chasing a dynasty in San Antonio. Before making an improbable run to the Super Bowl, the Cardinals were 9-7 with a 40-point loss on the resume. And while the 2001 Diamondbacks won the World Series, staging a miraculous rally against the greatest relief pitcher in baseball history, their 92 regular-season victories only ranked fourth among division winners.

We’ve never been the heavy favorite. Not like we are now.

Expectations are massive. Anything less than an NBA championship would invalidate a team that recently set a franchise record for regular-season victories. That brings a new level of pressure.

But these Suns seem impervious to psychological barriers. They carry no fear of failure. The center position has been shored up with the additions of JaVale McGee and Bismack Biyombo. Devin Booker and Mikal Bridges have improved markedly from last season, and both are in contention for major individual awards. Cam Johnson was enjoying a breakout season before suffering a leg injury. Team chemistry is even better than it was in Chris Paul’s debut season. From head coach to backup point guard, they will strongly benefit from their extensive postseason experience gained in last year’s trip to the NBA Finals. And if Deandre Ayton plays with real force and urgency in the postseason, the Suns will make mincemeat of those who dare block their path.

The entire tournament might be more of a coronation than a competition.

Don’t fret or accuse me of casting an untimely jinx. Some teams are simply too good to be stalled out by curses, stern commissioners, bad luck and glowing predictions.

Besides, we’re due. It’s our time. And after all the Horry and all the gory, after all the misfortune marking our postseason history, wouldn’t it be nice to have a drama-free playoff for once?

Truth is, the NBA needs Phoenix to win a title as badly as the rest of us. The Suns are old-school in their collective mentality. They compete relentlessly. They treat every regular-season game with respect. They prefer a basketball court over the training room. They are good for the game.

Sadly, not every NBA outfit can say the same. When Commissioner Adam Silver recently said that too many of his star players aren’t fully committed to the rigors of regular season basketball, he wasn’t talking about the Suns.

The Suns are not the problem. They are the solution. They are a team most worthy of a parade. The biggest one we’ve ever seen.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6-10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

Dan Bickley

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.
3 days 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.
12 days 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?
14 days ago
Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks passes the ball against Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns...
Dan Bickley

Game 7: The greatest 2 words in sports, only if Phoenix Suns win

Game 7. Two of the greatest words in the vernacular of sports. Unless you cheer for the Suns. Buckle up, Valley sports fans.
15 days ago
(Screenshot)...
Dan Bickley

Suns G Devin Booker’s maniacal ambition shaped him for limelight

It’s clear that Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker must be the engine that powers this team to a championship. He must be that dude. The alpha.
16 days ago
Head coach Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns reacts during the second half of Game Five of the Wes...
Dan Bickley

Suns return to court like NBA champions in Game 5 win over Mavs

Order has been restored. Faith has been renewed. For the third time in the past two seasons, the Suns have prevailed in a pivotal Game 5.
17 days ago
Suns stand atop NBA summit waiting to plant championship flag