What a total buzzkill! In light of some of the rampant negativity around here lately, as well as a few reader complaints about said negativity, I was planning to spend my lunch hour today writing an inspiring, uplifting post on how awesome it was for the Suns to stand pat at the trade deadline. I even had the perfect title picked out - Once More Into the Breach, inspired by a comment yesterday about how this season now feels like one last stand for the Suns as currently constructed. But, now we hear that Amare is out for eight weeks, which means the Gentry Era--at least in its present form--is over before it ever really started. Where is Boris Diaw when we need him?
I'll start by saying major props to Robert Sarver for giving this team one last shot at glory before the likely overhaul to come in the summer. After so many missteps, I am proud of the way the trade deadline was handled. By choosing basketball over money and temporarily reinstating the run-and-gun philosophy, the Suns front office offered "D'Antoni system" fans like me a chance to bid goodbye to the Seven Seconds or Less era with dignity. That the plan has apparently backfired does not in any way change that.
But, now what?
Without Amare--or Diaw to step in a la 2005-06--the Suns are basically the Warriors of 2006-07. You remember them, right? The team that eeked its way into the playoffs, and brought down the 67-win, top-seeded Mavericks in the first round? The Suns even have two of the players from that team in Jason Richardson (who is now in danger of suffering a bloated stomach from all the Nash feeds he'll get to "eat") and Matt Barnes. What the Suns do not have is an arena full of fans so starved for any semblance of success that merely getting into the playoffs is reason enough to wear yellow "We Believe" shirts and cheer so loudly you can hear it 10 states over. It's completely understandable. Given the Suns recent past success, scrapping for an 8th seed is about as exciting as watching the Suns beat up on the undermanned Clippers--awesome only in an "our expectations are now so low we'll take anything" kind of a way. It's simply not possible at this time for Suns fans to be jazzed about merely getting invited to the show. And that is why I think this team is bound for the lottery this time. There's nothing left to accomplish that they haven't already done better, grander, and with far more excitement in 2005-06 (or in Richardson and Barnes' case, 2006-07).
Does that mean the Suns should now tank the season? There's certainly an argument for it, and I suspect that 90% of the teams in the league facing the exact circumstances the Suns are in--having a pick this year, but not next--would go for it in hopes of pulling a Portland and landing the next Greg Oden (which hasn't exactly worked out so well for the Blazers thus far, come to think of it). Personally, I hope the Suns continue their way into the breach. I hate tanking. It's against the spirit of good sportsmanship. Winning a championship this season was always a Hail Mary. Amare's absence doesn't change that. Here's hoping the Suns will fight like the Texans at the Alamo--certain to fail, but with a valiant effort that inspires the troops, and leads to greater things down the road.