It’s one thing to lose in heartbreaking fashion, a la Mario Elie and his 1995 “kiss of death”. When that happens, although it hurts, you know that you are close. A roster tweak here, a coaching adjustment there. You have confidence that your team can run it back the following season.
It’s completely another to lose in the manner that the Phoenix Suns did in Game 7 of the 2022 Western Conference Finals at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks.
It begs the question, how do you recover from this?
This wasn’t just a Game 7 loss, which is something that you can put in the rearview and overcome. This was a legendary loss of epic proportions. Whenever anybody references the worst Game 7 losses in NBA history, coupled with the most disappointing seasons relative to expectations and execution in the postseason, this loss will be mentioned.
Devin Booker. Chris Paul. Deandre Ayton. Their names will forever be etched in stone with one of the most lopsided losses in NBA history.
Per @ESPNStatsInfo, Mavs’ blowout of Suns was most lopsided Game 7 road win since the Warriors over the St. Louis Bombers in 1948.— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) May 16, 2022
Losing happens in the postseason. Only one team ends the season with a win. Teams time and again look at the performance in the playoffs and do what they can to tweak the roster in an effort to try to make it better for another playoff run.
That’s what the Phoenix Suns did this past off-season. James Jones took a look at the roster, identified the weaknesses that cost the franchise a championship the NBA Finals, and brought in the personnel to address those deficiencies.
One thing you can’t address with personnel is the psyche of a team. And my assumption is the mental state of this team is bruised, battered, ashamed, and embarrassed. Or maybe that’s just us as a fan base. Perhaps Devin Booker was looking forward to spending some time with Kendall Jenner, sitting on a beach staring at a Kentucky blue ocean, and drinking a Corona without a care in the world.
As a fanbase, we are devastated. Crushed. Embarrassed. The laughing stock of the NBA. Everyone is taking their turns taking shots at the signs and their fanbase. And you know what? It’s warranted.
“Ain’t nobody afraid of anybody over there in Phoenix, man. Everybody in the league knows that.”— First Take (@FirstTake) May 16, 2022
.@patbev21, tell us how you really feel about the Suns pic.twitter.com/GlxSAXUrq5
So again, how do you recover from such a loss? If this team lost a close Game 7 in heartbreaking fashion to the Dallas Mavericks, although it would have hurt, the thought that this team could run it back again still existed.
But after such a pure and utter annihilation, the finger pointing began and the excuses began to spew. Ayton and Monty got into it on the sidelines. Chris Paul is hurt. Again. Booker choked.
The next three months will be interesting. Will Deandre Ayton, Jae Crowder, and or Cameron Payne ever don the purple and orange again? What will James Jones do in free agency to address the dire need of a tertiary ball handler who can create their own shot? Does Cameron Johnson get a rookie extension? Or does he press reset on the franchise, keeping only Devin Booker and Mikal Bridges?
Suns with expiring contracts next season:— Evan Sidery (@esidery) May 16, 2022
Jae Crowder = $10.2 million
Dario Saric = $9.2 million
Cam Payne = $6 million
Cam Johnson = $5.9 million
Torrey Craig = $5.1 million
Including potential sign-and-trade scenarios with Deandre Ayton, the Suns could make a serious move.
A week ago none of these questions would have existed. Something is broken. Something was broken all postseason. The lack of fight? The lack of aggression? The lack of pride? How do you bounce back from that as a team, an organization, and a fan base?
I am still in the five stages of grief right now. I navigated denial. That wasn’t hard. The Suns made it easy to accept that they were frauds. I’ve had my anger. Just listen to my podcast. Bargaining will happen when I begin to deep-dive into what moves we can make this offseason.
I am nowhere near acceptance.
Today is just depression.
What was so certain a week ago is once again a franchise clouded with doubt. The Suns have done this to us time and again. It’s one reason why I don’t understand why opposing franchises have such disdain for Phoenix. We’ve never won anything. We’ve never hurt anyone’s feelings. We just continually choke and disappoint, and typically do so in a memorably dramatic fashion.
Just like Sunday evening.
This wasn’t just a loss. This was a franchise defining moment. And, like all of Suns history — from the coin flip to Game 2022, and everything in between — we’re on the wrong side of it.