Every year since Chris Paul joined the Phoenix Suns there seems to be a deflating stretch at some point for the Suns. The sky is falling. Panic. Everybody run! It’s happening again...
In 2020-21, the team started the Chris Paul-Devin Booker era with a rough 8-8 start where the starters just couldn’t seem to mesh well. If you all want a trip down memory lane, it was actually the bench that was holding the team together with a strong net rating, making up for the starters' inability to gel right away. They made the NBA Finals.
In 2021-22, it was the 1-3 start post-NBA Finals run where all the doom and gloom fans quickly pinned the Suns as “frauds being exposed”. They won 64 games... before bottoming out again in the playoffs, losing 4 of their last 5 to Dallas and taking on the mantle of “bad vibe Suns”.
This season, it looks like this five-game losing streak (just barely snapped on Thursday night against a supremely short-handed Clippers team) will be the bruise that most will hopefully forget or at least look-back and laugh at as James Jones makes improvements to the roster and the team gets healthy.
Yes, the losing streak is the worst it’s ever been in the CP3 era. It’s been ugly, there’s no way around it. On the other hand, this is also a period of games where they have been banged up with depleted depth to a point where there’s no hiding this from the front office. They need another creator and they need some wing depth.
Changes need to be made. This was apparent even before this losing streak began, and all this has done is shine a greater light on it.
These struggles could later prove to be a blessing in disguise.
Peaking at the right time: The Boston example
It’s not how high your peak is, it’s when you peak. The Suns learned that lesson last year, and many teams that have entered the playoffs with high expectations following an impressive regular season run have seen that same fate.
A prime example of the regular season not being the end-all-be-all is last year’s Boston Celtics. A team that made it to the Finals due to a second-half run that quieted the skeptics and saw them put their early season struggles behind them.
For those of you that do not recall, Boston was skidding into the new year heading into the December 31st New Year’s Eve matchup against the Phoenix Suns with a 16-19 record.
Rumors of Jaylen Brown being traded were swirling, and personnel changes to a new coaching staff had already hit the rumor cycle. Celtics fans were fed up with being “underachievers” to that point, and rightfully so.
I was in attendance for that game, and Boston fans were shockingly extremely nice to someone wearing Suns gear. One fan went on to say: “I’m jealous of what you guys have going on over there.”
Oh, how the tables turn. I’m sure they were pleased with how the second half of the season went, rattling off 35 wins in their final 46 games and securing the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference en route to an NBA Finals appearance.
No, this is not an example to compare the Suns to, but rather show that being a contender comes down to two things.
Number one. Are you healthy? Number two. Are you playing your best basketball when the playoffs start?
If Phoenix enters the playoffs on the right trajectory at or near full strength, then that’s all that really counts. They have nothing left to prove in the regular season, though home-court advantage would be nice.
It all comes down to getting healthy, making the right moves, and peaking in unison in crunch time.
Let’s all take a deep breath, Suns fans. Yes, it’s been torturous, but everything will be fine, health permitted.
Your move, James Jones.