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A franchise-record 64-win regular season.
Devin Booker, All-NBA First Team and fourth-place MVP finish.
Mikal Bridges, NBA All-Defensive Team first team.
Monty Williams, NBA Coach of the Year.
Chris Paul, All-NBA third team.
Cam Johnson, third in sixth-man-of-the-year voting.
Best record in the NBA.
Odds-on favorite to win the title entering the playoffs.
On paper, it looked spectacular; an historically great regular season. All of the attention and accolades that the organization and its fans clamored for the previous year during their magical run to the NBA Finals came to fruition. This was the best chance for a championship in franchise history.
Despite all of the hype, hope and historical achievement, the Suns weren’t even good enough to win the West again, let alone the Larry O’Brien Trophy.
Almost two weeks after the season came to a befuddling conclusion in a Western Conference semifinals Game-7 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, Suns fans still find themselves wondering, “What the hell happened?”
We likely won’t ever have the complete picture. Hell, those inside the locker room might not even understand all of the aspects that led to their colossal collapse.
But is there a way to appropriately describe it? The band Lawrence might have come the closest with their song “False Alarms.”
Another near hit is another near miss
And I can smell the smoke, but it’s no cigar
I feel so close, yet I feel so far
And I’m getting sick and tired of these false alarms
In four lines, less than 40 words, the band somehow captures the decades of angst that accompany supporting the purple and orange. While being good is nice for a while, being good isn’t great. It isn’t reaching the ultimate goal. It’s an anesthetic that wears off after a period of time. That period of time is now in Phoenix.
After 54 years, the Suns have the fifth-highest winning percentage in NBA history and zero championships to show for it. The championship window is now for this team, and as we’ve learned the hard way in Phoenix over the decades, those windows can slam shut faster than the front door in the face of someone selling something at a house with a ‘No Solicitation’ sign.
The question is, how do you keep it open? During his end-of-season press conference, general manager James Jones preached the need for continuity and what felt like the status quo.
“We want to continue to keep our consistency, our continuity, and keep the guys that we have and continue to help those guys improve upon the things that we did this year,” Jones told reporters over Zoom. “The season didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but I think with a lot of internal improvement, we can progress forward.”
Sure, running it back is one option; an option predicated on signing Deandre Ayton to a max deal and hoping it is enough to quell whatever issues arose throughout the season between the starting center and the organization. This option also hinges on a large amount of internal growth from guys such as Cam Johnson, Mikal Bridges, Landry Shamet and the aforementioned Ayton.
That seems like a lot more question marks than answers.
This offseason seems like the time to swing for the fences. Time to find Chris Paul and Devin Booker a proper running mate. Time to cash in on the potential of some of their young players before they turn into what they’ll become in their NBA career. It’s time to bring in another star.
The team has signed contracts and made moves that give them the financial flexibility to get creative and acquire a difference-maker. The Mavs series should act as a wake-up call; a reminder that sometimes a team as currently constructed can’t finish the job, and that some guys just might not have the necessary skills or killer instinct to get it done.
Regular-season success isn’t the goal. In a world of load management, the play-in tournament and health and safety protocols, what happens after 82 games is meaningless. All that matters is getting into the playoffs and being hot at the right time.
It’s time for the Suns to stop accepting close but no cigar. It’s time to make a bold move. It’s time to be sick and tired of the false alarms.
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