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Suns Weekly Aug 17: Scheduling, In-Season Tourney impacts on the Phoenix Suns

Formerly called Center of the Sun: 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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Minnesota Timberwolves v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns. (Formerly called Center of the Sun)

The Phoenix Suns official game schedule, including their group play ‘Cup games’ for the early-season ratings grab tournament, will come out later this week.

In a normal year, the Suns would play either three or four games against every West opponent and two games against every East opponent, with 41 at home and 41 on the road. The schedules are very balanced, with the only variant being which in-conference teams you play four times versus just three times.

This year will be a little different though. The NBA will only announce 80 of each team’s 82 games this week, with the remainder dependent on the In-Season Tournament. Tuesdays and Fridays in November will be counted as ‘Cup games’. The NBA is divided up into six groups and the Suns’ group includes four other teams: Memphis Grizzlies, Utah Jazz, LA Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers. One question we’ll find out this week: will the Suns play each of those teams two times, once at home, once on the road? Or will that be impossible to schedule properly? The team with the best record in those eight games ‘wins’ the Group and will participate in the Knockout Round in December.

Six group winners plus two next-best ‘wildcards’ will participate in the single-elimination Knockout Stage in December, with two of those games counting as regular season games. The NBA will fill out everyone else’s 82-schedule as they drop out of the tourney, with one exception: whoever makes the championship game would count as an 83rd regular season game.

There is money involved, of course, which will drive up competitiveness. And I’m not talking that crappy ‘All Star Game’ competitiveness, which also pays money. I’m talking somewhere between pre-playoffs jockeying and play-in do-or-die competitiveness. This In-Season tournament is gonna give light and meaning to teams playing well in November and December. Imagine last year’s Utah Jazz and healthy New Orleans Pelicans, or the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were among the best in the league last winter?

The players’ incentive to play hard is a triple whammy of fun: all these games are against rivals AND they count as regular season games AND they will pay out money if you make the Knockout Stage ($50,000 to $500,000 per player depending on how far you get).

If you don’t think this In-Season Tournament will work, you probably aren’t a (what we call) soccer fan. European Soccer has been successfully putting on in-season ‘Cup’ tournaments forever. Many of you may have been exposed to for the first time if you followed Ryan Reynolds’ Welcome to Wrexham on Netflix. Admittedly, it’s a tough concept for Americans to grasp — so tough the Ted Lasso series didn’t even bother to try.

We are supposed to find out early this week what each team’s Group Stage schedule will look like in November, and then the 80-game schedule will come out Thursday-ish.

So far, all we know of the Suns is that they will play Opening Night at Golden State, then two days later at the LA Lakers and on Christmas they will be hosting the Dallas Lukas. 77 more games will reveal themselves in the coming days.

Quotes of the Week

Cam Payne on being away from the Suns

“I miss Phoenix already. I wish I was in Phoenix still but hey, it is where it is, man. They’re trying to win a chip and I respect it. I feel like they could’ve won a chip with me though ‘cause like, I’m tough.”

Shawn Marion, on being put in the Suns Ring of Honor this season

“The fans in Phoenix are one of a kind and this city will always be a part of me. My time with the Suns was special.”

Amare Stoudemire, on being put in the Suns Ring of Honor this season

“I bleed purple and orange, making this a tremendous honor to be inducted. My best and most transformative years came in Phoenix with the Suns. I have so much love for Suns fans.”

Suns around the web

Udoka and Ayton were opponents at the prep level — Duane Rankin,

And now, this funny exchange between Paul George and Devin Booker — who don’t really like each other — in response to Klay Thompson admitting chanting ‘4 rings’ to Devin Booker was a bad idea amidst a 1-8 shooting game in a blowout loss to the Suns last November.

  • Which George apparently called ‘sorry ass’ on a later instagram post

Oy vey.

Check out Bright Side for all the latest Suns news, including our thoughts on Marion and STAT going in the Ring of Honor, the Suns opening week including visits to Golden State and the Lakers, and whether Mikal Bridges is the best player the Suns have ever traded.

Good Bright Side reads you probably missed

Each week I’ll highlight some Bright Side articles that didn’t get as many eyeballs as they should have. It’s worth your time to give these unique takes a look before they’re lost in the ether forever.


No transactions this past week.

And here’s the bottom line.

The Suns are now just a hair over the second apron if you only count the guaranteed money (i.e. only $300k of Goodwin and none of Ish Wainright).

Goodwin and Wainright would cost the Suns more than $13 million in salary and luxury tax charges if guaranteed, so don’t expect the Suns make any final decisions on those guys until they absolutely have to. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ish released before the season starts, and replaced (or re-signed) by a two-way that doesn’t count on luxury tax bills.

Important Future Dates

  • This week: NBA schedules are released
  • Aug. 31: Last day for teams to waive players and apply the stretch provision to their 2023-24 salaries.
  • Sept. 30: Training camp opens for teams participating in preseason games outside of North America
  • Oct. 3: Training camp opens for remaining teams
  • Oct. 5: Start of preseason
  • Oct. 20: End of preseason
  • Oct. 24: Start of 2023-24 regular season; Suns are @ the Warriors on NBA’s Opening Night on TNT to help open the 2023-24 NBA season.
  • Nov. 3: NBA In-Season Tournament begins
  • Dec. 7: NBA In-Season Tournament Semifinals
  • Dec. 9: NBA In-Season Tournament Finals
  • Feb. 16-18: NBA All-Star Weekend 2024
  • April 14: 2023-24 regular season ends

This week’s poll

It’s time to take a side.

At the beginning of this article. I explained the reasons these players will ball out for the In-Season Tournament a lot more than you might have originally thought they would. NBA players are incredibly competitive. Once the games tip off, the juices will be flowing for sure.

But it still doesn’t really matter, right? Shouldn’t a team just go about their business in the winter, doing whatever it takes to be healthy in May and June?


Should the Suns even care about the In-Season Tournament?

This poll is closed

  • 48%
    Of course! Early validation
    (65 votes)
  • 51%
    No way! It’s all about June, not November
    (69 votes)
134 votes total Vote Now

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