Confession: For the first time, I’m used to it.
I’ve been to thousands of sporting events. I’m not saying you should be impressed, just giving you a frame of reference when I tell you the greatest sporting event I’ve ever attended was Game 5, Western Conference Semifinals, Spurs at Suns.
On May 16, 2007, I had been a Phoenix resident for almost three months. I’m at US Airways Center one day after Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw were suspended by the NBA for “leaving the vicinity of the bench during an altercation.” The atmosphere was electric and toxic. Joy during the 47 minutes the Suns had the lead mixed with the anger the Spurs dared even show up in Phoenix versus the frozen shock of blowing an eight-point fourth-quarter lead.
Although I hated seeing the loss, I assumed this is what it was like to live in a great NBA city. Even though the Suns had never won a championship, I loved the expectation and payoff that Phoenix would always host NBA playoff games every May.
In June of 2010, Steve Kerr left as general manager due to differences of opinions with Robert Sarver. The Suns haven’t made the playoffs since. Kerr and his assistant GM got us six wins away from an NBA Championship. Now, they’re both four wins away from meeting again in the NBA Finals.
The 2011 playoffs made me nauseous. Although I knew when an owner replaces Amare with Hedo Turkoglu, Josh Childress and Hakim Warrick while hiring Lance Blanks to run the team it would ruin the organization for years, it was the realization that a team just went from Jason Richardson failing to box out Ron Artest to advance to the NBA Finals into free-fall completely out of the playoffs.
Six straight seasons without a trip to the playoffs. It hurts more if you spell it out: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and now 2016. Every year I get a little less angry at playoff time. My anger as a fan is real during the season, but this is the first year I’ve watched the NBA playoffs without wondering “WTH’s wrong with the Suns?” Now, I wonder, just how far away the playoffs are.