Many folks around the league have been reluctant to give the Suns their due for their rapid success the past 16+ months. Flukes, frauds, lucky, unsustainable, only win due to injuries... we’ve heard it all. Why is that exactly? I’ll take a stab at it.
The Phoenix Suns started off as a cute little story in the Bubble, rattling off 8 straight wins going a perfect 8-0. Despite that, they missed out on a chance at the play-in game. They fell just short sitting a half-game back of the Blazers (a team that played one more game than them) for the final spot in typical Suns fashion.
So, how did they go from a cute little Disney story (bubble pun intended) to hated frauds in just 12 months? Insert Chris Paul.
Betting on Phoenix
They gained a bit of respect around the league for that bubble run though, and simply put it was a big deal for their identity and culture to reach a state of competence. Some guy named Chris Paul saw what the Suns did in the Bubble (first hand at one point when they beat OKC) and said to himself, “I’ve seen enough, I want to be there. I want to play with Devin Booker”.
There were plenty of people that questioned the move at the time saying it was an “overpay” or “not worth it for either party”. Shortly after Paul landed in Phoenix, Jae Crowder received a facetime from Chris Paul and Devin Booker recruiting him to join them in the desert.
Jae turned down several offers and more guaranteed money to join this promising project of a team that was quickly on the rise. He later talked about how crazy people thought he was to join the young Suns squad, and well... they were wrong.
WHEN I MADE MY DECISION TO COME TO PHX EVERYBODY SAID I WAS CRAZY & PHX IS IRRELEVANT AND HAVENT BEEN IN PLAYOFFS IN 10YRS AND I WILL REGRET THIS DECISION.. NOW LOOK AT US.. AND STILL HAVE ALOT OF WORK TO DO.!! https://t.co/GnSuSam0xS— JAE CROWDER (@CJC9BOSS) March 29, 2021
Chris Paul and Jae Crowder saw something in Devin Booker. They saw budding elite complementary pieces on the rise in Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges. They saw the culture shift with Monty Williams and James Jones. Ultimately, they were rewarded for betting on Phoenix.
They’ve only gone 77-24 (76.2 winning percentage) in regular-season games since the Bubble, which is by far the best in the league.
“Skipping the line”
To me, this is the most important point when addressing what annoys other fanbases and why some media members find it so difficult to completely buy into this team.
Typically when teams make the finals, it’s a result that comes from years of struggling or tough playoff bouts. It’s either you take your lumps in the playoffs and fall short until you break through, or you’re a super team that did their job. Phoenix is neither of those things.
This is the best way I could put it in analogy form:
The Suns didn’t just skip the line with a FastPass, they kicked everyone off the ride and jumped on board in front of everyone.
Their expedited “rebuild” is nearly unprecedented. The only team in recent memory that compares in the slightest to their situation would be the 2019 Toronto Raptors with Kawhi Leonard — a very complete team that absolutely deserved their ring.
Long story short, they were a franchise that jumped from poverty to royalty in about a year. That just isn’t supposed to happen. That can’t happen. Right? Right?!
Paul & Crowder: You either love em’ or you hate em’
Along with “skipping the line” of teams that have been banging on the door trying to get in for years, they have a couple of players that might rub some people the wrong way.
Let’s start with Chris Paul.
Suns fans need to understand that this man has a long history of intense playoff battles over the years on different teams against many different teams in the Western Conference. He has certainly ruffled some feathers along the way with his ultra-competitive nature and theatrics on the court. He’s played 137 career playoff games. 137!
Hell, not just in the past but even last year Chris Paul upset multiple fan bases along the way to their incredible NBA Finals run. The same could be said for Jae Crowder, who salsa danced in front of the Lakers’ bench in Staples Center in the waning moments of Game 6.
Suns fans should know more than anyone that Jae is not afraid to mix it up whether in person or online after he and Devin Booker got into it on Instagram years ago.
He’s played the role he needs to play for Phoenix to perfection: the villain. He does all the dirty work, communicates at an elite level, and has played a major role to continue to build the culture that James Jones wants to establish in Phoenix.
Is Devin Booker actually good?
This was a real headline from a real major media outlet discussing Booker years ago. These were the kinds of takes floating around freely online from many individuals. Suns fans have remained a resilient bunch in fighting the good fight and holding multi-year grudges to those that took cheap shots at the young star.
Why is that relevant in this discussion? Well, many (not all) of those media members chose to double down on their Booker and/or Suns takes. It would’ve been easy to adapt, instead... they are now very quiet. You know who you are.
I’ll conclude this with the fact that the Phoenix Suns are the perfect basketball storm that has the media world confused and reluctant to give credit, and that’s fine!
I personally do not care much about what the mainstream media thinks about the team, but when it leaks into voting and takes awards and accolades from deserving players like Devin Booker (ASG) or Mikal Bridges (All-Defense), that’s where I draw the line.
Hey, world, like it or not... the Phoenix Suns are legitimate.