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Center of the Sun: The Suns have Jenny Gumped us again

Your weekly roundup of Phoenix Suns news, rumors, notes and videos from the prior week plus a preview of the week to come.

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Denver Nuggets v Phoenix Suns - Game Six Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Somehow, every season, I forget the feeling.

Not the feeling of disappointment. Oh, no. The scars of season’s past are deeply embedded in my Suns soul and I re-visit their torn tissue often. The epic failures, the failed expectations. They are masochistic badges of honor we carry when we compare our fandom.

It is the feeling of emptiness following the completion of a season. One minute you are fully engaged, dissecting defensive schemes. The next moment the arena is empty, the seats are barren, and the players have cleared out their lockers.

Like Jenny Gump sheepishly leaving in the early morning, just like that, the season is gone.

While questions abound as to what they will do next, there is plenty to reflect upon when we explore what the 2022-23 version of the Phoenix Suns were. A team that could never quite get over the hump. A team that fought health. A team that swung for the fences, only to have hit a lazy can of corn into the outfield.

We will dissect this team, tear them apart, and rebuild them 40 different ways until next season. It’s all we have to replace the emptiness that has once again infiltrated our sports lives.

Game Recaps

Game 5, West Semifinals: Phoenix Suns @ Denver Nuggets (L, 118-102) RECAP

Game 6, West Semifinals: Phoenix Suns vs. Denver Nuggets (L, 125-100) RECAP

Highlights/Post Game Podcasts

#4 SUNS at #1 NUGGETS | FULL GAME 5 HIGHLIGHTS | May 9, 2023:

463. Game 5, West Semis Post Game Pod (Nuggets up 3-2):

#1 NUGGETS at #4 SUNS | FULL GAME 6 HIGHLIGHTS | May 11, 2023:

464. Game 6, West Semis Post Game Pod with Suns Geek (Nuggets win 4-2):

News & Notes

ESPN: How the Phoenix Suns could reshape their roster around Kevin Durant, Devin Booker

Fox Sports: Suns’ gamble on Durant-Booker tandem fails to pay dividends

Burn City Sports: Is the Monty Williams era over in Phoenix?

CBS Sports: Suns could move on from both Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton this summer, per report

Clutch Points: Bulls the ‘most interesting’ Deandre Ayton trade suitor, per rival GM

Hoops Hype: League-wide consensus that Deandre Ayton has played his last game with the Suns

Bleacher Report: Chris Paul Unsure About Suns Return amid Trade Rumors: ‘Unfortunately I’m Not the GM’

Arizona Sports: How will Suns respond to failings, then thread the needle in vital offseason?

Hoops Wire: Suns Fire Two Scouts, Front Office Executive

The Sports Rush: “I’ll Stay on My Side”: When Kevin Durant Curtly Dodged Possibility of Building a Superteam with LeBron James

SportsNaut: Phoenix Suns ‘linked’ to two prominent guards to replace Chris Paul

ESPN: Phoenix Suns fire coach Monty Williams after four seasons

The Athletic: Why the Suns fired Monty Williams: Mat Ishbia’s title push and another sour end

Arizona Sports: Suns head coach Monty Williams fired, how are fans reacting

The Spun: 3 Notable Coaches Being Mentioned For The Phoenix Suns Job

Quotes of the Week

“I’m just not a blame guy.” — Monty Williams

“It hurt. It hurt big-time.” — Cameron Payne

“No one ever wants to end this way.” — Monty Williams

“It was a brutal night. That’s for damn sure.” — Jock Landale

“We have a good foundation and infrastructure we can build on and move on from this.” — Kevin Durant

“If KD doesn’t get hurt in warmups, things may be different right now. We may still be playing. If we didn’t make the trade, things may be different. Who knows. We can’t live in the fantasy world. We’re not on Earth 2. We can’t play guessing games.” — Damion Lee

It’s a lot of people who would love to be in this situation. To be able to play basketball everyday. I’m 38 years old. You can call it what you want to, but I come in, I work hard every single day. I’m not going to act like I’m here by luck. I put the work in.” — Chris Paul

We are filled with gratitude for everything Monty has contributed to the Suns and to the Valley community.” — James Jones

This Week in Suns History

May 19, 1994

Let’s go back to a time when the Suns won a Game 6 rather than being embarrassed in one, shall we?

1994 was a redemption year for the Suns. Following a 4-2 loss in the 1993 NBA Finals, Phoenix looked to take advantage of a Jordan-less NBA in 1994. After sweeping the Golden State Warrior in the First Round, they squared off against the league MVP, Hakeem Olajuwon, and the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Semifinals.

The Rockets were the #2 seed in the west, having gone 58-24 in the regular season. The stars had aligned for both teams as the #1 overall seed, the Seattle SuperSonics, were ousted in the First Round by the #8 Denver Nuggets. The winner of the series between the Suns and Rockets has the inside track to a title run.

The Suns jumped out to a 2-0 lead, winning both games in Houston, but faltered over the next three as they dropped both home games in Phoenix and Game 5 in Houston. Facing elimination, the Suns returned to America West Arena for Game 6.

After a 3-point lead at the half, Phoenix emerged from the locker room focused. They outscored the Rockets by 7 points in the third and 4 points in the fourth. Kevin Johnson scored 28 points and had 13 assists, Charles Barkley had 18 points and 15 rebounds, and A.C. Green’s 22 points and 10 rebounds was the icing on the cake.

Phoenix won Game 6, 103-89 and forced a decisive Game 7.


That Game 7? We won’t talk about that...

Important Future Dates

May 16: NBA Draft Lottery.

June 1: NBA Finals begin.

June 22: NBA Draft.

June 29: Final day for teams to make qualifying offers to restricted free agents.

June 30: Teams can begin negotiating with free agents at 6:00 pm ET.

July 1: Official start of the 2023-24 NBA league year. Moratorium period begins. Restricted free agents can sign an offer sheet. Teams can begin signing players to rookie scale contracts, minimum salary contracts, and two-way contracts. Teams can begin exercising the third- or fourth-year team options for 2024-25 on rookie scale contracts.

July 6: Free agency moratorium period ends (10.01 am ET). Teams can begin officially signing players, extending players, and completing trades. The two-day period for matching an RFA offer sheet signed during the moratorium begins.

July 7-17: NBA Summer League (Las Vegas).

July 13: Last day for teams to unilaterally withdraw qualifying offers to restricted free agents.

August TBD: NBA schedule released.

August 31: Last day for teams to waive players and apply the stretch provision to their 2023-24 salaries.

September 5: Last day for teams to issue required tenders to unsigned second-round picks; those players become free agents on September 6 if not tendered.

Late September: (specific dates TBA) Training camps open.

October 24: 2023-24 NBA season begins.

Bringing it Home

I mentioned above the emptiness that has set in following the completion of the season. That is the natural reaction in the days following a breakup, in which your natural rhythms are altered. Phoenix once again left us, opting to enjoy their date with summer without giving us a ring.

I will note this, however. As the fourth quarter of Game 6 progressed, and the realization that the journey was ending, I had a much different feeling. Granted, I was at the game and on my third 24-ounce Dos Equis. So maybe this is the beer that was talking, and I didn’t feel empty because I was full of over-priced suds.

Like Star Wars Episode IV, I felt a new hope.

The state of a franchise, despite the continual disappointment, is in a great place. The team possesses two of the top 15 players in the NBA at its core. They have a new owner who is dedicated to winning and putting forth a product that the fans can be proud of while simultaneously acknowledging the importance of the fan experience.

The emptiness was filled almost instantly with the news that Monty Williams would no longer be the coach of the team. Do I agree with the move? Yes and no. Yes, we need a change. No, I don’t know if it needed to happen with the the head coach this year.

Regardless, the new hope I had for the 2023-24 season was instantly fortified. This will be a memorable offseason for Phoenix, especially with Mat Ishbia at the helm.

The postseason Devin Booker put together, which will go down as the greatest single postseason run in Phoenix Suns’ history, is appealing to those looking to join a winner. He displayed his killer mentality, his efficient scoring, and his ability to be a big game player. Kevin Durant is someone who the majority of the NBA has grown up idolizing. Not yet at the end of his prime (despite what you might think following his postseason run), he too is somebody who will draw the attention of those in free agency.

The math will be tough to make it all work, especially considering the construction of the new collective-bargaining agreement. But again, the Suns have an owner that not only wants to win, but is willing to invest in the team to do so. He lacks the fragility that this franchise operated on for the past 20 years.

Yes, the season is over. We don’t have any Suns basketball to watch until October. But this off-season will be exciting. It will be transforming. It gives us reason to have hope.

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