Arizona Sports Thanksgiving: 5 things fans can be thankful for

Nov 24, 2022, 10:15 AM | Updated: Dec 5, 2022, 4:08 pm

The 2022 calendar year has been full of unexpected surprises in the Arizona sports landscape.

Yet, through the ups and the downs, there’s a lot for fans to be thankful for across the board.

The Phoenix Suns are still great, the Arizona Coyotes have a small, albeit popular, new temporary arena and the Arizona Diamondbacks debuted the next wave of homegrown talent, to name a few.

Not to mention that COVID-19 isn’t a daily sports topic anymore.

While you’re having your third plate of Thanksgiving dinner, wondering what your local sports teams have that you should be thankful for, here are some things to consider.

Kyler’s here to stay

(Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

Believe it or not, Kyler Murray is already fifth all-time among the Cardinals’ drafted quarterbacks in games played with the organization.

He’ll also be the first to crack 60 games this century since Jake Plummer in 2002.

The No. 1 overall pick signed a five-year, $230.5 million extension this past summer that runs through 2028.

While 2022 hasn’t been perfect — and rather filled with drama — for Murray, he’s shown he can play at an MVP level in the past.

The remaining questions are whether Murray can sustain MVP-caliber play for a full season, if head coach Kliff Kingsbury can help him get there and what roster does GM Steve Keim need to field around him.

If a player plays long enough, they’ll have seasons where they find both ends of the hierarchy. This year, Murray and the Cardinals (4-7) have struggled to find consistent success.

But how soon we forget he led the team to the postseason last year for the first time in half a decade. And it’s not easy to find a franchise quarterback.

Dallas and drama didn’t down the Suns

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

What happened to the Suns in Game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals in May will never be forgotten. At home, with the NBA’s best record, losing by 33 points is something that’ll sit with fans, and players, for a while.

Let’s also add the offseason drama with the investigation and suspension of owner Robert Sarver for racism and misogyny in the workplace, plus the bizarre free agency of Deandre Ayton and the ongoing Jae Crowder trade situation.

The players were gifted several legitimate excuses to regress this season, and they have the best record in the Western Conference (11-6) entering Thanksgiving.

With Chris Paul currently sidelined, guard Devin Booker looks like an MVP candidate, while forward Mikal Bridges is scoring at a career-best 16.3 points per game and shooting 47.4% from three.

The team has withstood several speedbumps already and continues to perform.

New arena, new vibes, new team

(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Even though the Coyotes have only one point in their past four games, they’ve played well above expectations in the early stages of this season.

It took 29 games to reach 14 points a season ago, whereas it took 17 this season.

Arizona shares the new Mullett Arena with the Arizona State hockey team, and capacity is less than 5,000, but the Coyotes have played three of their four games close at home — including a win over the Florida Panthers.

Clayton Keller has scored on a career-best 20.6% of his shots and leads the team with 18 points as well.

Young outfield brightens D-backs’ future

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Arizona Diamondbacks had a 22-win improvement on their 2021 win total this past season, thanks in large part to their young outfield.

The trio of Jake McCarthy, Daulton Varsho and Corbin Carroll made a lot of noise offensively, while Varsho and Alek Thomas blossomed into two of the league’s best defensive outfielders.

The emergence of these young outfielders, coupled with the breakouts of first baseman Christian Walker and the 1-2 punch of right-handers Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly in the rotation, and D-backs fans have a lot to be happy about this holiday season.

A return to March Madness on the horizon?

(AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

The Arizona State Sun Devils men’s basketball team is 5-1 to start the season and already has a signature win under its belt.

After beating Michigan by 25 points, ASU went home and beat the brakes off of Grambling State by 31 points.

The backcourt of Frankie Collins and D.J. Horne have anchored the Sun Devils’ offensive attack, while Collins, Devan and Desmond Cambridge, as well as Warren Washington anchor the defensive side of the floor.

Forward Marcus Bagley has played only two games this season and ASU is 3-1 in his absence. This team may be legit and, if they are, could make its first NCAA tournament since 2018-19.

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Arizona Sports Thanksgiving: 5 things fans can be thankful for