The 50-year old Phoenix Suns franchise still owns the league’s 5th best winning percentage all time, but few fans can even clearly remember the last of the 29 playoff-qualifying teams eight seasons ago.
On Wednesday night, the Suns treated their fans with bookend franchise-worst 48 points losses to start and end the pre-Trade Deadline portion of their 2018-19 schedule, a schedule packed with nostalgia but quickly becoming a season the team would probably rather forget even happened.
On opening night four months ago, just hours after Suns managing partner Robert Sarver went on local radio to tout his Suns as a potential playoff team, he watched his team lose AT HOME by 48 points to the Portland Trail Blazers.
Now, 55 games later, Sarver got to watch his team lose by 48 points at home AGAIN, this time to the San Antonio Spurs, as they stumble into the trade deadline without any prospects for immediate improvement.
Not once in 49 seasons before this one did the lose any game by more than 44 points. Now they’ve done it twice in year 50.
“I think guys are embarrassed for all of us tonight,” veteran forward Jared Dudley said after the game. “I think the fans definitely earned an apology for the display. Everyone (in the stands) worked for their hard earned money, but for us to come in from top-to-bottom not prepared, not prepared to play at a high-level that you need to in the NBA is inexcusable.
“I think for us, you can use many excuses---back-to-back, Booker is out---but it’s definitely inexcusable.”
The 5-man starting lineup against the Spurs consisted of three 20 year olds and undersized 22 year old Tyler Ulis, along with veteran scorer T.J. Warren. The rest of the bench? Try two G-league call-ups and two rookie second round picks, plus Alex Len (still nursing ankle injury) and Troy Daniels.
The Suns are on their 6th point guard already this season, from Eric Bledsoe to Mike James to Tyler Ulis to Isaiah Canaan to Devin Booker and now Josh Gray. Bledsoe was disgruntled and traded after three games. Mike James was released after two months and now plays for the Pelicans. Isaiah Canaan, who replaced Mike James, snapped his ankle in half. Devin Booker, who posted 30 points and 10 assists in his second game after moving to the point, suffered severely strained ribs and has missed the last two games. Ulis left Wednesday’s game with another bout of back spasms.
So we are down to the ultimate basketball walk-on Josh Gray running the offense. Gray once paid $150 to participate in a D-League open tryout and three years later finds himself in the NBA taking 16 shots and posting 9 points, 7 assists, 4 steals and 4 rebounds in the awful loss.
The 20 year olds had a bad night. Rookie Josh Jackson missed 11 of his 17 shots. Starting big men Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss combined for 19 points and 16 rebounds, but their performances were less than acceptable.
“For myself, all the way down, no one held up their end of the bargain and that’s why we have to apologize,” said Dudley, who played just 6 minutes in the loss and took no shots.
Even the deep-bench rookies had awful games. Second round picks Davon Reed and Alec Peters collectively missed 12 of their 14 shots, including all 7 threes.
How do the Suns recover from this?
“We have  games left to try to carry-over for next year,” Dudley said, grasping at straws. “For us, it’s just you don’t want to use these games like last year just to throw up stats, just to be out there and then we are back to square one.
“We have to start making some improvements. Sometimes, it’s not just in the win-loss column, it’s how you play, style of play, good shot selection, good defense, know the rotation and that’s something that we are far behind.”
Let’s hope the Suns figure out how to compete for the rest of the year.