Complaints about whistles by Suns distract from their real problems

Mar 15, 2023, 4:39 PM | Updated: 5:01 pm
Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams, left, reacts to referee CJ Washington (12) during the first...

Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams, left, reacts to referee CJ Washington (12) during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The Suns don’t get the calls. You’ve been hearing that for decades.

Apparently, head coach Monty Williams agrees. He said as much after a recent loss to the Kings. He said it again after Tuesday’s loss to the Bucks, when Giannis shot 24 free throws, knocked out Torrey Craig’s tooth and cleared paths to the basket like a Buffalo snowplow.

Is he saying these things because they’re true? Or is he saying these things because he’s desperate to distract the audience from the real issues at hand?

Like, who are the Phoenix Suns? And what is he doing about it?

The recent loss of Kevin Durant and the accompanying three-game losing streak have revealed a few sizeable potholes on Planet Orange. The Suns have become a mediocre defensive team, highly susceptible to teams with good perimeter shooters. They were torched from beyond by the Kings and Warriors.

Their collective identity is a riddle wrapped in an enigma. Terrence Ross is a defensive liability. T.J. Warren suddenly looks disinterested in scoring, a shell of his former self. There’s way too much confusion among players 5-9 as to who should be doing what, when and where.

Alas, the Suns remain a painfully soft team. Whine about officials all you want, but after losing a championship to the Bucks in 2021, Williams promised from an NBA Finals podium that Deandre Ayton would grow from the experience. He vowed that Ayton would learn from having to defend Giannis over a six-game series.

It didn’t look like that on Tuesday when Ayton still couldn’t beat Giannis to the spot, unable to establish some rules of physicality; couldn’t stay out of foul trouble; and once again seemed broken by the end of the confrontation. Lather, rinse, repeat.

By now, Williams should be smart enough to try a different body or a different strategy with Giannis. Maybe goon up the game a bit, creating a spectacle the referees and the NBA cannot ignore. And whatever internal drama led to the bizarre separation with Jae Crowder, it’s a shame and an organizational failure he wasn’t wearing a Suns uniform on Tuesday, giving his former team what they are so badly lacking.

Truth is, the Suns are an anomaly. In their minds, it’s because they don’t get the calls. It’s because they have the rare superstar in Devin Booker who doesn’t get superstar treatment from the officials.

In the minds of others, the Suns are an anomaly because they are team of midrange shooters attempting to win a championship in an era of three-point bombers. A team that rarely offers little physicality in the paint, on either end of the floor.

Those two factors change the math dramatically. It changes their reputation among officials. It affects how many free throws the Suns shoot in an average NBA contest.

In the end, they are putting a lot of pressure on Durant to make everything better, to make everything work when it matters most. That was the point of the blockbuster trade in the first place. A point that has become painfully clear in his absence.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on Arizona Sports.


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