It’s time to discard expectations of championship-or-bust for Phoenix Suns

Mar 4, 2024, 6:32 PM | Updated: Mar 5, 2024, 12:34 pm

Kevin Durant #35 of the Phoenix Suns reacts during the second half of the NBA game at Footprint Cen...

Kevin Durant #35 of the Phoenix Suns reacts during the second half of the NBA game at Footprint Center on February 29, 2024 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Basketball teams can break your heart if you let them.  

In the Valley, we leave our doors wide open. 

But take solace, Suns fans. Our anger is just a defense mechanism shielding our fears. Our outrage over a Super Team in Name Only is merely proof of our deep-rooted passion for professional basketball. We are far more than your average NBA audience.   

We are so much part of the narrative that we have become part of the cast, but players in this Shakespearean basketball tragedy. 

Alas, there is plenty wrong with the Suns at the moment. Their focus and intensity wavers. The lack of a traditional point guard has produced a disconnected team that committed 40 turnovers in two basketball games over the weekend. Their leadership is suspect. Their offense is strangely impotent in clutch time minutes, easily dismantled by talented opponents.    

Meanwhile, their resistance on the other end of the floor is what you might expect when you hire a defensive-minded head coach to build a team on a trio of offensive superstars. Even worse, they are an injury-prone group that will likely produce the exact same script next season.  

And then there’s us. 

Our pathology isn’t complicated. The Suns were born in 1968 and are still missing a championship banner. We were once so naïve that 300,000 people showed up in 105-degree temperatures to celebrate a team that had just lost the 1993 NBA Finals. We have been through an emotional ringer ever since.   

But trauma and heartbreak are not battle scars in Arizona. They are festering wounds. And for our collective sanity, it’s time to discard expectations of championship-or-bust and trust our eyes. 

This is not the best roster in the NBA, as owner Mat Ishbia once promised. They are not an offensive juggernaut. To the contrary, they are often a plodding mess, extremely difficult on the eyes. It also feels like their chemistry and camaraderie is a bit off, maybe even dangerously deficient.   

This team is not the reward for all of our collective suffering. They are the epitome of our struggles.   

I believe this team missed an opportunity to install a different kind of offense leading into this season: a run-and-gun style reminiscent of the Seven Seconds or Less era, a system where the Suns would race up and down the court while shooting three-point shots with reckless abandon. Instead, they look like the Miami Heat in the first year with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, an offense spiced with too much deference among stars. And criticism is again percolating around head coach Frank Vogel for not putting his players in better position to succeed. 

My advice: put away the sense of victimhood and the overwhelming disappointment. It’s not over yet. Trust that Devin Booker will be back within two weeks. Hope that Kevin Durant’s current funk is a result of fatigue and the heavy minutes he’s accrued this season. Embrace what we all know in our gut: 

The Suns might be dangerous in the postseason. Or they might be burnt toast. In the end, it will all depend on the health of our Big Three, and whether they can survive the attrition of a two-month postseason. Which means the first thing that has to change is our luck as a basketball city, and that’s completely out of our control. 

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

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