There is hope. It’s faint, barely making its presence known amidst the abyss that the city’s original sports staple finds itself in. I would be lying to you if I didn’t share in the skepticism of the so-called promise of progress after the worst season in franchise history since the team’s inception in 1968. I’m already overtly concerned that I’m relying too much on a 33 year old from Boston, a 21 year old prospect from Indiana, and the ever dastardly ping pong balls that inexplicably hold the threads to each franchise‘s fate at one point or another. So many things have to go right in a time where right is rare.
It’s a difficult time for many suns fans. This is not what they’re used to. Being dead last in the Western Conference, pining for ping pong balls, is not what they’re used to. They’re used to heartbreak. To either rooting for a Cinderella and coming up short, or a legitimate contender that suffers a few bad breaks at the worst possible time. They’re not used to rooting for a team that doesn’t even matter come May. Heartbreak is disheartening. Indifference is infuriating. In a city where losing is not expected, losing is not accepted, and heads have been called for, practically on speed dial.
"Saver" Sarver should sell, Babby should negotiate a ticket out of town, Blanks is living up to his surname. I’ve heard it all. Hell, I’ve said it all. There is no light brighter than the sun, and there is no burn darker than a scorned suns fan. We’ve been on the wrong side of the proverbial coin flip too many times to not be two-faced: We’ll lift you on our shoulders if you do well, and we’ll lift you over a three-story balcony if you fail. 45 years of See U Next Season will do that to you. The NBA Championship isn’t just a championship to us. It’s a catharsis. A release of all the volatile emotions reverberating throughout US Airways Center that is not only palpable, but suffocating.
You can feel it in the arena, as if there’s an anti-championship banner hanging over us, constantly reminding the franchise what it hasn’t accomplished. You’re a good franchise, but not elite, it keeps telling us, even though we have had a 45 year run that should be considered the class of the league compared to any team not named Celtics or Lakers. In my opinion, we have consistently put out a winning product on the floor better than any team in the history of the NBA. Always adapting to the trends and playing the aggressor, pulling off moves that other teams wouldn’t even begin to consider. All done to reach the pinnacle of this league that few teams, if any, have worked harder to climb.
Nowadays, the zenith is as far a climb this city has ever witnessed. We’ll have to climb just to earn the right to climb. It’s not a position the suns organization has experienced in four decades. The one man that was there then is not here now, although I’m sure he watches from the sidelines with as much vigor as I do. And yet, there’s hope. Even through all the blunders, the trades, the signings, the losses, the embarrassments, the vitriol, the hope that this can be turned around is there. Maybe it’s just naivety on our part; we call for heads because we’re not used to losing, and we just assume that the Phoenix Suns should be better because the Phoenix Suns have always been better. Maybe all the anger and outcry is a result of constantly coming up short time and time again, and now we have a reason to be justified. Maybe we keep calling for heads because we’re still hoping against all hope that the coin that was flipped on 1969 was called "heads" and we just haven’t been awarded yet. Curses are made to be broken after all.
In time, I no longer believed in curses. But over time, I lost all belief in my team. That changed on May 7th, 2013. Lance Blanks is gone, hi, bye, nice to know you. Lon Babby seems to have grown and admitted responsibility for his mistakes. Robert Sarver is not the same owner he was six years ago, and understands now the process we have to go through. And Ryan McDonough is the resulting solution, the white knight in shining armor if you want to go overboard with the hyperbole, the young scouting and analytics stalwart that has arrived to assemble the right pieces in a time where right is rare and find a way to finally reach the summit this franchise has fought for 45 years to reach.
I believe in Ryan McDonough.
I believe in Lon Babby.
I believe in Robert Sarver.
Most importantly of all, I believe in the Phoenix Suns, and know they will rise again. The dawn is coming.