What a week for the Phoenix Suns. I am exhausted from just watching it unfold. Even the circus show of the Alvin Gentry firing two years ago came nowhere close to the utter craziness of these past five days.
And when crazy jumps into the middle of a tenuous situation, no one comes out unscathed.
Goran Dragic unexpectedly breathed his dragon fire right onto the scalps of General Manager Ryan McDonough and President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby. He blasted the Suns in an epic media scrum that no one saw coming. I mean, no one.
In response the Suns, fueled by the fire of self-righteous indignation, picked up a pair of blow torches and burned the landscape with a fury that turned what was once a rare harmonious relationship into nothing but a pile of ash.
Now we are left to wonder when a Phoenix can rise reborn from these ashes. Will it be years before the Suns franchise recovers from this devastation? Months? Or just days?
This time last week, as the All-Star weekend was going full throttle, small rumors leaked out that the Phoenix Suns were gauging interest in their best player Goran Dragic, the reigning NBA Most Improved Player and third-team All NBA selection. The league's trade deadline was just six days away and the three-headed-monster just wasn't working. The Suns were making everyone on the roster available in the right deal.
Rumor had it the Suns wanted a young, potential All Star and a future draft pick, at the least. But rumor also had it the Suns wanted to keep Goran long term, as long as he wanted to stay in purple and orange.
I, for one, took Goran for granted that he wanted to stay. He appeared happy last year in that combo role with Eric Bledsoe. The Suns won two-thirds of their games together. Just four months ago, Goran was stumping for Bledsoe to get re-signed and said during the World Cup that he planned to re-sign with the Suns himself.
But then he returned from a Hawaiian vacation with his and his agents' family and dropped the bomb on the Suns he would absolutely not re-sign with the team, and that he should be traded in the coming days. He no longer had any interest sharing point guard duties with Bledsoe or Thomas.
The Suns were floored by the veracity of the comments but not surprised by the message. They complied even though Dragic's representatives made the process as painful as they could to force the Suns to trade with a team of Dragic's choosing. A rumored trade with Sacramento fell through when the Dragic camp wouldn't commit long-term. Same with Houston. Only the Knicks, Lakers and Heat - severely lacking of real assets - were given the green light by Dragic's camp.
The eventual trade with the Heat was the best of the worst.
What's left behind
Besides the players, what's left behind are a bunch of bruised egos. Everyone is angry, to varying degrees. The Suns front office had to make changes to the roster, and were only emboldened by the fire lit on their backsides by the Dragon.
In the process of remaking the roster in the span of a few days, the Suns hit the reboot button on the rebuild. They may be painting this as a reload, but any time you swap an All-NBA player, a Sixth Man of the Year candidate and a primo draft pick for cap space, youth and even further-down-the-road picks, you've hit the reset button.
Sure, new Suns player Brandon Knight (just turned 23) might eventually turn out to be the best player or pick swapped on Thursday, as Ryan McDonough claims. Goran Dragic might regress back to career norms and eventually start to wear down from a lifetime of year-round play. Isaiah Thomas may be addition by subtraction. And the Laker pick might drop down to a middling pick if the Lakers have a good summer.
But it's just as likely that the Dragon - currently the best player traded on Thursday in any Suns transaction - remains the best for years to come and adds All-Star bids and playoff wins to his resume. And it's quite possible the upcoming Lakers pick becomes a star. And who knows if Isaiah Thomas might shake the doubters and prove himself a full time NBA starter, a perennial 20/6 guy on the cusp of All-Star consideration.
We won't know the answer to these questions for a while.
In the meantime, embrace the reset on the rebuilding phase, Suns fans. And don't get attached to any of these players or you'll get burned again. All is not perfect. In the aftermath of the trades, you still have the same handful of players who have been causing trouble since last summer.
Ryan McDonough is right that the team should be about "us, our and we" rather than "I, me and my". Sure, some of that me-first has been traded away. Lost in DragonGate is that Isaiah Thomas was previously the most vocal on wanting more minutes and a bigger role, and in a more professional way he shared his frustration with being misled about his role on the Suns. Both he and Dragic are now gone.
But still dressing in the locker room are a handful of other guys who were also complaining about their roles or chaffing at the sacrifices they were being asked to make.
Beyond that, don't forget TechGate. Don't forget the coach/player fight on the sidelines in the middle of a game. Don't forget the disconnect between players, front office and coach regarding the constant whining to the refs.
Those problems still exist, and they are perfect evidence that this roster, this core, is still not set.
There is no leader in this clubhouse who will hold players accountable for their professionalism and sacrifice. Leaving all that work to the coaching staff eventually becomes counter-productive as the players start to tune them out.
More changes will come this summer. In the meantime, let's hope the team finds some balance and gets some run for the kids so the front office knows who to trade and who to keep this summer.