The Phoenix Suns full schedule dropped on Friday with a relative thud.
To my minimal surprise, the Suns only have three scheduled ‘national TV’ games this season, down from 4 last season. That’s only a minimal surprise though, because the Suns are one of 11 teams with 3 or fewer national games and the Suns haven’t shown any reason to be one of the top 20 ratings draws in the league yet.
Now of course, those networks have the ability to pivot as the season unfolds and shift coverage to the more interesting teams as they emerge, so maybe the Suns will earn more national time.
One of those national games is on ESPN on opening night. Which does nothing but fill me with dread, given the Suns track records on opening night in recent seasons.
Opening night 2018: ??
Star rookie Deandre Ayton gets to face Luka Doncic’s Mavericks here at Talking Stick Resort Arena in a final, once-and-for-all showdown to know who’s the better prospect. jkjk
Unfortunately, he won’t have much help from his teammates. The only thing Deandre’s teammates know on opening night is lose big.
None of the Suns roster players have ever experienced winning at home on Opening Night in a Suns uniform.
In fact, none have played in a game that didn’t become an embarrassing blowout loss. (T.J. Warren was a rookie in 2014, the last time the Suns won on opening night, but did not suit up.)
Let that sink in while we recap the last three seasons’ opening nights.
Opening night 2017: a 48-point loss
Suns managing partner Robert Sarver infamously went on the radio the afternoon of October 17, 2018 to predict a season of success and playoff contention.
A few hours later, the Suns lost AT HOME by 48 points to the Portland Trail Blazers, on their way to a 21-61 record anyone could have seen coming if they’d taken off the purple-colored glasses.
And, frankly, it could have been worse. To commemorate the kick off of their 50th season as a franchise, the Suns got down by a disgusting 53 points with 4:21 left in the game and only avoided a 50+ point loss thanks to Mike James’ three pointer with 8 seconds to go.
Media row derisively expected the Blazers to score in that last 8 seconds to secure a coveted “50 at 50” lede, but the Blazers dribbled out the clock instead.
The Suns had the supposed veteran leadership of Eric Bledsoe and Tyson Chandler in the starting lineup, along with budding star Devin Booker, star rookie Josh Jackson and “Tony Buckets” T.J. Warren.
They were down by 8 after one, 25 at halftime, 43 by the end of the third, and 48 when the final buzzer sounded.
I asked Booker, coach Earl Watson and sage veteran locker room mentor Jared Dudley after the game if they saw any signs of this impending collapse coming and they all flatly denied it.
Best player (Bledsoe at the time) and coach (Watson) formally quit the team after three games, but it was clear in hindsight they’d quit the team before the season started.
Opening night 2016: a 19-point loss
The opened the 2016-17 campaign with a bad loss at home to a bad team in the Sacramento Kings.
No one expected the Kings or Suns in the playoffs, so you’d think the excitement of a home game against a bad team would energize the Suns. Nope.
The Kings were up by 11 after one and by 19 at halftime, rendering the second half of the game meaningless.
Kings star center DeMarcus Cousins ONLY HAD TO PLAY 24 MINUTES in the Kings win. Matt Barnes — yeah THAT Matt Barnes — pumped in 14 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists off the bench.
This was a Kings team that finished just 32-50 while the Suns finished 24-58.
The Suns starting lineup that night had THREE leader-y veterans in Jared Dudley, Eric Bledsoe and Tyson Chandler, along with Tony Buckets and 19-year old Booker. Plus there was potential 6th-man-of-the-year Brandon Knight coming off the bench!
Opening night 2015: a 16-point loss
Sensing a pattern yet?
This time, it was a blowout loss to the Dallas Mavericks, a team that was supposed to be worse than the Suns that year.
The Suns were down by 9 at halftime and by 22 by the end of the third, with a lead as big as 27 points mid-way through the third quarter.
Mavericks star player Dirk Nowitzki only had to play 20 minutes in this one. The Mavs had EIGHT players score in double figures that game — led by none other than Ray Felton and Devin Harris — a sign that the Suns had zero clue and even zero-er energy on opening night.
This was a Suns team coming off a thrilling 48-win season, coming up just short of the playoffs with a coach who’d finished second in the Coach of the Year voting and a GM who’d finished second in Executive of the Year voting, both in their first year on the job
And they were boasting a rotation that got people excited: Bledsoe, Knight and
the Morrii poutin’ Keef, sage “glue” mentors in Tyson Chandler and P.J. Tucker, plus rookie Devin Booker, sophomore Tony Buckets Isaiah Thomas , Gerald Green and Mirza Teletovic driving the ‘Chuck Wagon’ off the bench.
*Sorry for mixing up the roster here. Fixed.
And that’s it folks.
No one on the Suns roster has experienced even a competitive loss on opening night, let alone a win.
We can only hope rookie coach Igor Kokoskov has his guys in a better frame of mind to start the season than Earl Watson or Jeff Hornacek had.