Excitement sparks the crisp winter air in Phoenix, Arizona. The bandwagon is beginning to fill. The city and fanbase are anxiously awaiting the new season. The Phoenix Suns, a team mired in mediocrity for a decade, have reasons to be enthusiastic. James Jones traded for an All-Star, signed a solid 3-and-D player in Jae Crowder, and solidified the bench.
These moves bring expectations for the Suns as national talking heads have the slated to make the playoffs from the first time since Larry King Live was on the air. The team will face the challenge of being expected to perform. They will have to navigate the deep Western Conference to do so.
Last week we learned what the schedule would look like. Thankfully it is to be balanced, not Pacific-division heavy. 72 games, 42 versus Western Conference foes, 30 versus Eastern Conference teams. Imagine having to play the Lakers, Clippers, and Warriors 4 times in a 72-game season.
The next question is when the games will take place?
The NBA is releasing only half of the season schedule in an effort to allow COVID-19 flexibility. Adam Silver, smart once again. The first benchmark is the Christmas Day scheduling, considered to be the holy grail of NBA television.
The NBA released the Christmas Day schedule yesterday:
ESPN Sources: Tentative Christmas Day Schedule pic.twitter.com/MId025HKvB— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 2, 2020
Much to our dismay, absent was the name “Suns” in orange. There will be no unwrapping of gifts followed by Phoenix basketball on Christmas this season. There will be no ignoring your family while watching the game. Alas, there will be no spiked egg nog while watching Devin Booker and the Fellas trying to lead us to victory.
The Suns’ Twitter account, in usual satiric fashion, let us know how they felt shortly thereafter.
Snubbed. The Suns continue their streak of not playing on Christmas Day, with the last time doing so being on December 25, 2009.
Okay, there is still Opening Night, right? The second most important night for NBA scheduling is the first night of the season. It is the night when we proverbially take the bottle of champagne and smash it against the ship, celebrating the launch of the U.S.S. 2020-21 NBA Season.
Remember two years ago when the NBA blessed the Suns with a matchup against the Dallas Mavericks on Opening Night? Ayton vs. Luka? Yeah, that was a fun ‘lil 21-point whooping the Suns put on Dallas (too bad the Suns lost the next 7 in a row...).
Surely the Suns would get some love from the NBA, right? They’ve been listening to the talking heads too, right?
Well, there you have it. No Christmas. No Opening Night.
Here is where that “expectation” word resurfaces. Expectations can breed frustration if channeled incorrectly.
Do we expect the NBA to give the Suns some love? Of course. We believe James Jones has built something special in the desert. We have the guy who is on the State Farm commercials running point for our team. Devin Booker is dating a girl who has 142 million followers on Instagram.
Remember: the Suns haven’t really done anything yet.
An 8-0 run the Bubble, albeit satisfying and noteworthy, does not trump a decade of lottery picks. If the Suns want to play in primetime, they will have to earn it. Fans: don’t let your illusions of grandeur cloud your appreciation for what James Jones put together. We haven’t earned a playoff spot. We haven’t earned prime time games. We’re on the path to success, but we haven’t arrived there. Yet.
I’m kinda cool continuing to fly under the radar. I like being an underdog.— David Kevin (@theIVpointplay) December 2, 2020
If expectations are too high, we are doomed to be disappointed. Like @theIVpointplay states above, I like being the underdog. I like not getting an Opening Day match up. I’m good with missing out on the fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la games.
Doubt us. Forget us. Let our play do the talking. The opportunity to be successful is there; let us execute. Winning cures all. Especially expectations.