The return of the 82-game regular season will help the Suns finish with another high seed in the Western Conference standings.
Teams including the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, and maybe the Golden State Warriors will be focused on resting the stars again. Entering next season, there will be plenty of talk about load management.
LeBron James of the Lakers learned his lesson last season in respecting the season like he should. The first half of the season should not matter to James as much as it did last year. I think he was trying to prove how much he cared and it backfired. Whether you believe he was really hurt or not, at the end of the Lakers first round exit, James knew that going into next season, his effort will be saved for the postseason. That too of Anthony Davis.
The game right now for the Lakers and the Clippers is to remain healthy. As much as we all go back and forth on this, the season now back to 82 games, will not matter to these teams. I honestly can’t believe we are back to an 82 game season, but of course- money.
Lakers, Clippers, and back to the grind are the Warriors. A team that was dismantled by injuries. They will be looking to rest Klay Thompson (when he does come back) and Steph Curry if they can manage to remain around .500 by the all-star break.
If you look at how the last years first round played out, the Lakers got their match-up against the Suns and it almost worked out for them. The Davis injury was a big blow and cost them any shot at contending in the series.
The Clippers know if they had Kawhi Leonard in the Western Conference Finals match-up against the Suns, they would have won. This is their mindset going into next season.
It’s disappointing but these three teams want nothing to do with the regular season, however the Suns are still growing as a team and using chemistry as an excuse to care. The luxury of sitting back and waiting for the playoffs is not an option. When Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton are guaranteed first or second team all-NBA, then that might be the Suns chance in cruising through the regular season.
Until then the Suns have to worry about teams in the Western Conference improving and trying to take them out on a nightly basis. Not like a date. Like, destroying them on the court and then celebrating on the town after.
That will be a thing, and the effort to close out games against lesser opponents like the Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves, and the Memphis Grizzlies will be straining. These three teams need to start making strides in the standings. Their rosters look good on paper, but just need the motivation. Playing against a finals contender from last year will do good enough to get them up to play their best game.
Younger players coming into the league playing on the lottery teams from last year look up to Booker now. We saw it with the Miami Heat’s Tyler Herro. The motivation to take on their role models will push them to levels they might not even know existed.
And of course, the San Antonio Spurs rookie Joshua Primo is waiting for his turn against Booker.
The Suns showed a true balance on the court last season. Now, every matchup next season, whether it is a lottery team or a contender, the story lines will be there.
That is motivation for the Suns. We know for now that Chris Paul and the Suns will not take a night off, and that is something the rest of the league that is trying to get better will look forward to.
The Suns want to be the team to take care of business against the teams they should beat.
One thing I am not worried about is the lack of respect the Suns will show their opponents. Only a fragment of last season, you could see the Suns let up on bad teams. This next season, the focus is to use the load management and the constant competition as a way to stay on top of the ladder in the west.