Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.
Current Record: 37-30, 4th seed in the Western Conference
Offensive Rating: 114.3 (12th, ↑1)
Defensive Rating: 111.9 (6th, —)
Net Rating: +2.3 (9th, —)
Week 21. The week in which we were reminded that, no matter what, we are Phoenix Suns fans. I could begin with the emotional disappointment that I am feeling upon hearing the news and seeing the video of Kevin Durant rolling his ankle prior to his home debut on Wednesday. I’ll save that for the end of this piece.
Let’s explore what his absence means to the team for their final 15 games.
The Durant injury leaves the Suns in purgatory. There will be no working on potential postseason rotations. There will be no integration of multiple new players into the system. There will be no fine tuning.
The tagline for this season shouldn’t be #WeAreTheValley. It should be #WeAreWaiting. Hop on that, marketing team. It’ll look real nice on the back of a $55 shirt.
The Suns' tagline this season shouldn't be #WeAreTheValley, it should be #WeAreWaiting.— Suns JAM Session Podcast (@SunsJAM) March 12, 2023
Last off-season, we were waiting to see if the Phoenix Suns would sign Deandre Ayton to a long-term deal. Kevin Durant rumors began, and we were waiting to see if James Jones could orchestrate his arrival. Jae Crowder abruptly announced he didn’t want to play in Phoenix, so we were waiting to see what Jones would do to navigate that hurdle.
The season began.
We were waiting to see how Cameron Johnson’s insertion into the starting five would look and feel, but he got injured, so we were waiting for him to return. Devin Booker went down. Numerous other players went down (Chris Paul, Cameron Payne, Landry Shamet, DA for a small stint). We were waiting for them to return as well.
Now, we will be waiting to see what his team looks like with Kevin Durant...again. He might return until the postseason. That could be a dangerous time to try to figure yourself out. We are waiting for Phoenix to gain an identity.
In the meantime, we know we have a superstar and Devin Booker. He dropped 44 points in only 27:31 minutes against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday. He knew that it was a full house ready for the arrival of Kevin Durant, so he took it upon himself to give the crowd a show following the news of Durant’s absence.
“The city has been waiting on this,” Booker said, acknowledging the anticipation in the arena before the game on Wednesday. “It’s a big day. We’ll reschedule the party. I’m sure they’ll be back. People who missed out tonight, I tried to give them a little something to make it better, but we’re still anticipating his debut.”
Against stiffer competition on Saturday against the Kings, however, we witnessed a team that is searching for its identity in the clutch, especially on defense. The Suns can score. That’s not an issue. They average 10 points in the clutch, which is 4th best in the NBA.
Yet they give up 10.4 points, which is third worst.
No Durant means Torrey Craig fills his spot in the roster. And in the clutch. Craig has become a liability on defense when the game is on the line. The opposing team switches to get him involved, then cooks him. Craig is a team worst -45 in the clutch this season.
That’s the difference between this year and the last two seasons for Phoenix. With all of the waiting that has occurred for the Suns as the season, they still don’t know who they are. They still lack a consistent identity. Now they must limp through the final 15 games of the season, once again trying to establish an identity – most notably in the fourth quarter against plus teams – only to have it change when Durant returns.
It has been a topsy-turvy season, indeed. That being said, the team still remains in fourth place in the Western Conference. Through all of the waiting, they’ve persevered. Our hopes are that their perseverance pays off in the championship.
Player of the Week
36 points, 3 rebounds, 6 assists
66.7 FG%, 50 3PT%, 88.9 FT%
How can you not give it to Devin Booker? Sure, Chris Paul had 16 points and 16 assists against the Kings on Saturday and for stretches appear to be vintage CP3. But Devin Bookers is different.
He gave the disappointed crowd on Wednesday a show they’ll never forget. Partially because they spent a fat stack of cash to not see KD play, but partially because Booker was just so damn efficient. 44 points on 17-of-23 shooting.
What a G.
Phoenix Suns vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (W, 132-101) FULL RECAP
Phoenix Suns vs. Sacramento Kings (L, 128-119) FULL RECAP
Highlights/Post Game Podcasts
THUNDER at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | March 8, 2023:
433. Suns (37-29) vs. Thunder Post Game Pod:
KINGS at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | March 11, 2023:
434. Suns (37-30) vs. Kings Post Game Pod:
News & Notes
The Cold Wire: Jay Williams Explains How Kevin Durant’s Career Will Be Looked At With Suns
USA Today: Do Suns and Mavs represent best current NBA rivalry?
Yahoo Sports: Who will emerge in a wide-open West after Kevin Durant’s injury and uncertainty around Grizzlies, Warriors?
Hoops Wire: Suns Trying to Stay Positive After Kevin Durant Injury
Fox Sports: DID SUNS NBA TITLE CHANCES TAKE A HIT AFTER KEVIN DURANT’S INJURY?
AZ Central: Chris Paul’s 3-point shot taking off for Phoenix Suns just in time for stretch run
Clutch Points: Cedric Ceballos gets brutally honest on Suns’ 1993 NBA Finals loss to Michael Jordan, Bulls
Arizona Sports: Suns wing Josh Okogie went through many emotions at NBA trade deadline
Quotes of the Week
“I look at it probably more than I want to admit.” — Monty Williams on looking at the standings
“When he’s able and ready, he will.” — Chris Paul
“We’ll reschedule the party.” — Devon Booker
“Obviously you don’t wanna see guys get hurt, but based on the way it looked, when I got the news yesterday, we were pretty happy that it wasn’t a break or anything like that.” — Monty Williams
“Goddamn it.” — Me, when I received the KD notification on my phone
“He came down like consecutive possessions, bucket, bucket, bucket. When people like that score like that, it’s real loud.” — Chris Paul on Malik Monk
“They score with the best of them, but we had so many ‘my bads’ and blown coverages.” — Monty Williams
Points scored via the fastbreak per game for Phoenix this season. Dead last in the NBA.
Injury Status Report
Landry Shamet (foot) is OUT
Kevin Durant (ankle) is OUT
This Week in Suns History
March 16, 1988
When you think of Phoenix Suns’ eras, you generally think of specific players. Dick Van Arsdale. Walter Davis. Chambers. Barkley. Nash. Booker. Within the context of those eras, there are secondary players who were just as important to the team and the organization. Westphal. Adams. KJ. Marion. Stoudemire. Paul.
The eras don’t cross over that much. Davis never played with Chambers. Barkley never played with Nash. One player that played with multiple eras and players was Kevin Johnson — my first favorite Sun — as he played with Phoenix for 12 seasons from 1988 to 2000. He played 246 games with Sir Charles and 105 games with Steve Nash.
Did you know that KJ played 28 games with Alvan Adams and 25 games with Walter Davis?
During Kevin Johnson’s rookie year in 1988, the Adams/Davis era was coming to end. Adams, despite playing in all 82 games that season, was in his 13th and final season in the NBA. Davis? Following much controversary, the Greyhound would become an unrestricted free agent at the end of that year and move on to Denver.
One of the highlights during their brief time together was a game against the Golden State Warriors in mid-March of 1988. The struggling Suns entered 17-44. The Warriors were even worse at 16-45. This surely wasn’t the ABC game of the week.
Phoenix would win the game, 118-112. Kevin Johnson would record his first career triple-double, dropping 14 points, 11 assists, and 10 rebounds. Third-year guard Chris Mullin went 15-of-24 and scored a then-career high 38 points.
Walter Davis scored 21 points and Alvan Adams hit four straight free throws in the final 17 seconds to secure the victory.
KJ would go 11-17 with Alvan Adams as a teammate, and many wondered what would have happened if they could have played one full season together. Johnson made everyone’s life easier on the court with his electric playmaking ability coupled with aggressive scoring style.
Monday, March 13 — Phoenix Suns @ Golden State Warriors
Tuesday, March 14 — Phoenix Suns vs. Milwaukee Bucks
Thursday, March 16 — Phoenix Suns vs. Orlando Magic
Sunday, March 19 — Phoenix Suns @ Oklahoma City Thunder
Week 22 presents a very unique set of obstacles as the scheduling gods begin to work against Phoenix. To this point, since the All-Star break, the Suns have played seven games in sixteen days. Next week it’s four games in seven days.
The week begins on Monday in San Francisco with a game against the Golden State Warriors, a team the Phoenix has defeated in their first three matchups thus far this season.
This could be a preview of a first round matchup, given the tumultuous state of the Western Conference standings. The Suns are currently nestled into the four seed, whereas the Warriors are precariously positioned at six. They are a half game behind the Los Angeles Clippers and one game ahead of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks.
This will impact the fragile standings in the West.
The Sun then travels back to Phoenix to play the Milwaukee Bucks at home the next night. Scheduled loss, anyone?
The Bucks are an unbelievably challenging foe, as they lead the league with the best record at 48-19. They’re the best in the league in rebounding, opposing 2PT%, and clutch record. Milwaukee has won 19 of their last 21 games, and while Giannis is day-to-day with a hand issue, they beat Phoenix just 15 days ago without him.
It’s not the only time we’re going to see this scheduled-loss type of obstacle for the remainder of the season. Next week the same thing happens against the 76ers.
After a night off, the Suns will battle against the Orlando Magic. This should in theory be an easy matchup. The Magic sit with the 13th seed in the Eastern Conference standings with a 28-40 record. You have to be careful, however, as this team with rookie Paolo Banchero could be frisky.
The last game of Week 22 is the third of four meetings with the OKC Thunder. Feels like we’re seeing them a lot recently, eh? The Suns are 2-0 against them thus far and, despite the young and athletic talent that exists, Phoenix has handled Oklahoma City pretty well.
They don’t post much of a threat, but whenever you start to think like that, the NBA gods humble you.
By the end of Week 22, Phoenix will have just 9 games left in the regular season.
Weekly Prediction: 2-2
The Suns could run the table or lose just one game, but for reasons stated above about Phoenix in the clutch, I can see them dropping a close one. Or two.
What will the Suns record be in a action packed Week 22?
This poll is closed
Bringing it Home
We can’t have nice things.
I’ve done it before, and I’m sure I’ll do it again, but here comes another Band of Brothers reference. Yes, the best television ever created in a mini-series format. I’m not challenging The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, or The Wire to a TV duel; if you’re talking about a mini-series, Band of Brothers is it. I’m an Army guy, so just give me this one.
Episode Seven of BoB is titled, “The Breaking Point”, and it references the lowest point of the war for Easy Company, 506th as they are outside in the Ardennes forest during the winter of 1944. During continual shelling by Nazi artillery, Bill Guarnere and Joe Toye become critically injured. Their loss weighs heavily on the morale of the unit.
The news of Kevin Durant’s injury was like one of those shells whistling in and shattering the fan base’s spirits.
While we don’t know yet what the outcome of this injury will be and how this chapter in Phoenix Suns history will be written, it’s a story we know all too well.
- Cedric Ceballos injuring his knee in Game Six of the 1993 Western Conference Finals, rendering him unavailable for the 1993 NBA Finals against the greatest player of all time
- 55 games played with both Penny Hardaway and Jason Kidd on the court together
- Joe Johnson’ orbital bone.
- Steve Nash’s bloody nose and the hip check heard round the world. Two separate postseasons against the San Antonio Spurs, but two separate instances that resulted in failure.
- A Chris Paul shoulder, a Devin Booker pulled hamstring.
We can’t have nice things.
The list goes on and on; it’s too painful to recall each and every one. These are just a few of the moments in Suns’ history where we felt that uncomfortable bottomless pit in our stomachs. It’s one of despair and helplessness, surely felt by those in the Ardenne some 79 years ago.
Kevin Durant joined the Suns in one of the most potentially impactful trades in the history of the franchise. Potentially. He missed the first four games after joining Phoenix as recovered from an MCL injury. Meh. No big deal. Get him healthy.
He wowed us with his seamless addition to the starting lineup and averaged 26.7 points on 69% shooting. The excitement, the joy of gaining a superstar, and the exhilaration of knowing that his addition could finally help this torture franchise achieve the greatest goal was short-lived.
After Kevin Durant's injury, we wonder if perhaps the Sports Gods really do hate Arizona pic.twitter.com/WbIWsfUqD2— Bickley & Marotta Mornings on Arizona Sports (@Bickley_Marotta) March 9, 2023
We can’t have nice things.
Like Easy Company, 506th, we’re emotionally crushed. The wind is out of our sails. We’re broken. But the war goes on.
The Suns must regroup and prepare their assault on their version of the Belgian town of Foy. In this case, Foy is the rest of the regular season. Although they have suffered the loss of friends along the way, their confidence in themselves is what has enabled them to prevail.
Do the Suns have that same ability moving forward as we patiently wait for the arrival of KD once again?
And now, my emotional response to the situation
Why? Why do we have to go through this shit again? Why does it seem that every time we start to feel good about ourselves, this kind of thing happens? Why can’t we have nice things?!
The answers? Because such is sport. Because only one team wins every year. Because nothing good in life is easy. Because everything you want is on the other side of hard. Because life is unfair. Because life doesn’t care. Because resiliency is what matters. Because we must keep continuing to focus on the peaks ahead, rather than wallowing in the valleys that could consume us.
Whew. That felt good to purge. On to the next week…