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Suns’ GM takes steps to define #TheTimeline

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With real numbers.

NBA: Phoenix Suns-Press Conference Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

I’m a very harsh critic of #TheTimeline. It’s not because I don’t understand the strategy. I get it. I like the plan. I’m on board. I don’t like how much of a distraction it has been from all the losing the Phoenix Suns have done recently. The team was bad. The team is bad. The team will be bad. I can accept all of this.

What I cannot accept is the refusal by many to define #TheTimeline. When did it start? Where are we in its lifetime? What dates are tied to certain expectations? Playoffs in “X,” legitimately competitive in the Western Conference by “Y,” that’s what I want to hear.

If you don’t want to hold your favorite team to the same standard, I won’t give you grief. We all value our time differently. But if the Suns have 15 wins at the All-Star break in two years I’ll sooner run through three seasons of Deadwood than stay invested in the team the rest of the season.

So I was prepared to slam Suns general manager Ryan McDonough when he sat down with SiriusXM NBA Radio to talk #TheTimeline at NBA Summer League in Las Vegas this week. He hedges his bets a little, but he said more than I think many suspected.

“I think our timeline depends on our young core. It’s really up to them,” McDonough said. “The last couple years have been rough in terms of wins and losses — winning in the mid-20s games. Now at the same time, Devin Booker has really improved and done historic things in his first two years in the NBA. Anytime you’re in a group of five in terms of points scored before your 21st birthday with Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, you’re on a good path obviously.”

This is about what I excepted. Absence of accountability, absence of definition. It’s the safe thing to say, particularly when Suns fans have blissfully found refuge in a hashtag. Why would McDonough extend himself more than he needs to. If you want to argue that his plan in general is a selfish one, to avoid expectations so as to get as much mileage out of his career in Phoenix as possible, I’ll hear that. That’s logical.

Then he said some numbers, and #TheTimeline became a little more real.

“We’re trying to take a patient and conservative approach and our thought process is that if we build this the right way, if we develop these players on the same timeline, that if and when we are good over the next couple years, we have a chance to be good 10 years after that because the core of our team for the most part is between 19 and 23 years old,” McDonough said.

I don’t like McD’s use of the word “if,” so I’m just going to choose to ignore it. Allow me to continue to look too closely at a benign July conservation.

“Good over the next couple years.” To me that means at least knocking on the door of the playoffs the final week of the season in 2019. I think that’s a little more than fair. After that it’s deal-breaker time. Missing the playoffs in 2020 would mean a decade without postseason play. Teams aren’t supposed to go a decade without postseason play. You’re talking about an all-time top five playoff drought.

If you’re content with watching this club win or lose, I’m in no place to tell you not to. That said, ignore fans from other teams in other sports that have been similarly irrelevant for extended periods of time. There’s no nobility in backing a loser. That’s one of the longest running sports myths.

Be empowered, Suns fans. Set expectations. Demand change. Value your time and money. This is the wrong time and place to extend the benefit of the doubt.

I’m all-in on #TheTimeline. I hope you are too. If not let’s talk about how awesome Deadwood was.