The Suns really appeared to be headed in the right direction at the beginning of the summer of 2014.
Have they become lost between then and now?
Eric Bledsoe's protracted contract negotiation cast a pall over the entire summer. A lack of communication between the parties, deafening silence from team Bledsoe, the intransigent demands of a max contract by Rich Paul and public negotiations which included terms of dollar amounts (and propaganda in the form of radio appearances by owner Robert Sarver) were just some of the highlights of a situation that became impossibly messy.
The Bledsoe situation may have been at least part of the impetus for the Isaiah Thomas insurance signing and Channing Frye departure. The latter part of that didn't end well. Frye publicly stated that the Suns low-balled him with an offer and that he didn't feel wanted.
P.J. Tucker was extended after a super extreme DUI, then got suspended for a game early in the season after missing the team bus.
A series of buzzer beating defeats at the hands of Blake Griffin, Khris Middleton, James Harden and DeMarcus Cousins seemed like the manifestation of some wicked imprecation and may have played at least a small role in derailing the season.
Marcus Morris had an embarrassing meltdown on the sideline in a game against the Timberwolves with an emotional tirade in the face of his head coach. The lack of a reprimand following the outburst led some to question the authority of Jeff Hornacek and his ability to discipline the team.
A rampant technical foul problem mushroomed to the point it received national attention. This led to a policy, that was later rescinded, in which players receiving technicals for arguing with referees would be benched. This actually was enforced in a loss to the Spurs when Tucker and Markieff were both sat down. After the game P.J. deflected blame for the loss.
Right before the trade deadline Goran Dragic dropped a bombshell on the Suns by impugning the probity of the front office and publicly stating he didn't trust them.
The Suns cleaned house after that, shipping off Dragic and Isaiah Thomas. Although the Suns wouldn't characterize the move as correction of a mistake and failed experiment, GM Ryan McDonough had recently commented that he constructed an imbalanced roster.
After the trade the Suns held a press conference where McDonough and President Lon Babby vehemently denied any kind of duplicitous conduct and famously proclaimed that Markieff Morris was a better player than Dragic (among other jabs).
Since the trade Brandon Knight has been abhorrent in six games for the Suns, committing 17 turnovers while posting a .474 TS% and -.03 WS/48.
Meanwhile, in six games on the Heat Dragic has committed just 11 turnovers with a .600 TS% and .173 WS/48 and Thomas just earned Player of the Week honors for the first time in his career for the Boston Celtics.
The Suns are 3-10 in their last 13 games and just suffered their first consecutive double digit losses of the season. They have all but mathematically played themselves out of the playoff race and will miss the postseason for the fifth straight year... matching the longest drought in franchise history.
During this stretch of putrescence, and after possibly their worst loss of the season, Markieff decided it would be a good idea to call out the fans for their lack of effort... because that's a winning battle. Sarver once again took to the radio for damage control.
After getting tossed in the Suns last game against the Miami Heat Markieff is currently leading the league in technical fouls (13), flagrant fouls (3) and ejections (2). Markieff and his brother, Marcus (9), are tied with the ignoble Matt Barnes and irksome Blake Griffin for most in the league among teammates.
The listless effort in the first half of Monday night's loss to Miami led to Jeff Hornacek calling his team out for being soft.
To top things off, prior to tonight's game against the Orlando Magic, Channing Frye once again questioned the integrity of the Suns front office.
It's been so bad I'm sure I'm forgetting things.
The events of the last two months, especially, have been so ugly they are reminiscent of the catastrophic failure of the Lance Blanks/Lindsey Hunter fiasco... a comparison you couldn't have convinced me I'd be making before this season. The damning nature of the comments by Frye and Dragic reminds me of the circumstances that surrounded Alvin Gentry leaving the team halfway through the 2012-13 season.
The problem with these types of situations is that these players/coach have more credibility and equity built up than the Suns front office. There are two sides to these breakups and the Suns aren't necessarily the bad guys, but in the court of public perception they are going to lose.
That type of reputation can't possibly help the Suns, even if it is unwarranted.
Then there's the Morris twins. These two somehow manage to be the cynosure of negative publicity on a team rife with it. It's gotten to the point where it isn't a matter of if, but when the next incident will surface. Marcus famously tweeted the word "foolishness" in response to an article by Bryan Gibberman suggesting the Suns should change their focus from short term winning to long term goals. Since then that word has become more emblematic of the season than the "Fuel the Fire" campaign the Suns launched.
These two are a case study of the inmates running the asylum and might not be the best fit for the Suns vision if they don't get their acts together.
After drawing rave reviews for his maneuvering up this point, McDonough is now placing a lot of faith in the future of Brandon Knight to quell doubts about a trade that some feel pushed the rebuilding process further down the road. For the first time, something seems like it might blow up spectacularly in his face.
Basically there have been issues raised at all organizational levels - front office (integrity), coaches (authority) and players (character, discipline, toughness).
I don't like the direction things have been headed in recently. The Suns are just a little too interesting for all the wrong reasons right now.
The confidence I have in the rebuilding process hasn't completely evaporated, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't wavering. I'd be lying if I said I fully trust the Suns...