clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Phoenix Suns franchise in a pile of muddy rubble, with no sunshine in sight

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns franchise - fourth winningest franchise in NBA history - has become one of the league's worst with little to no light at the end of the tunnel.

And, from the top down, they've got no one to blame but themselves. A team that continually strips itself of all its purple-and-orange loyalists can't expect anything better.

Robert Sarver, the managing partner of the ownership group, has finally run the team long enough to shape them in his image - a savvy businessman who sees employees as too easily replaced. The imported general manager appears better at scouting than team building. The imported coach seems better at inspirational speech-making than coaching. The team's imported best players may be better at injury rehab than actually playing.

Just six years ago, the Suns enjoyed their third Western Conference Finals in the first six seasons of Robert Sarver's ownership. That team was anchored by two-time MVP Steve Nash and multi-time All-Star Amare Stoudemire, both Suns draftees, and long time coach Alvin Gentry.

This after the franchise had won only ONE playoff series in the final nine years under Colangelo, before Sarver took over in 2004.

But cracks in the foundation were already there, and soon the exodus began.

Dozens of long-time, well-loved loyalists have left since 2010. Rick Welts. Steve Kerr. David Griffin. Alvin Gentry. Todd Quinter. Dan Majerle. And many, many more. All gone. And that's just the staffers.

Erstwhile president Lon Babby tried to apply some adhesive to the cracks in 2013. He and his staff hired an up-and-coming GM and tried to reprise the late-80s good feels with coaching staff that included Jeff Hornacek, Mark West and Kenny Gattison. But the glue only slowed down the erosion. When the dam burst, those late-80s feels washed away right with it.

Now the franchise is stuck floating in a muddy rubble.

One could conclude that a contributing factor in coach Earl Watson's permanent hiring is that hot coaching candidates like Tom Thibodeau, Luke Walton, Kenny Atkinson and Scott Brooks wanted nothing to do with the franchise in its current state. In a league where coaches last less than three years on average, you're already signing your own pink slip if you take a job with a meddling owner and shaky front office.

As player after player leaves, they publicly trash the organization in their wake. Former staffers don't go public like the players do, but the message is clear nonetheless: the Suns are in disarray and there is no end in sight. Current Suns leadership has zero loyalty to those who love the franchise, and there's nothing more damning than that.

To wit, most assume that the better Devin Booker gets, the more likely he will be disenfranchised and shown the door sooner than anyone expected.

So Earl Watson, Ryan McDonough and Robert Sarver are stuck with each other. And lifelong Suns fans are left to unfocus their eyes, rock back and forth, and pray for a miracle.

But where is that miracle coming from?

On the court, there is not a single face-of-the-franchise player on the roster, and there hasn't been since Steve Nash was traded in 2012 nearly half a decade ago. With enough squinting and finger-crossing, you might convince yourself the 19-year old Booker has that potential some day, but becoming an NBA superstar is difficult and rare for good reason.

Prior to 2012, the Suns enjoyed decades of having a Top 20 player on the roster. Connie Hawkins, Walter Davis, Tom Chambers, Kevin Johnson, Charles Barkley, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire would all have ranked among the best players in the game in their era.

Where does the franchise go from here?

While novice coach Earl Watson was given a long-term contract, he still has 'interim' written all over him. GM Ryan McDonough has 'lameduck' on his back. The Suns have a lot of draft picks this year, but it's reputed to be the worst draft in a decade.

Watson talks about building team chemistry this summer, which in itself is telling. Since when has an NBA team needed team-building and trust-building so desperately as this one?

The only guy guaranteed a job for as long as he wants it is managing partner Robert Sarver.

And we have no reason to think that Robert Sarver has the answers to bring this franchise back to sustained playoff success, let alone championship aspirations. Heck, there's hardly a reason to think he can pull the franchise out of this laughingstock territory all by himself without a lot of blind luck.

For the past twelve years, he's systematically replaced long-time, respected, loved, purple-and-orange-bleeding loyalists with unproven imports time and time again. And now twelve years later, he's reaping what he sowed.

Pray for a ton of blind luck, Suns fans. We need it.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Bright Side of the Sun Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Phoenix Suns news from Bright Side of the Sun