Do The Phoenix Suns Have What It Takes To Win A Championship
Will this finally be the season for the Phoenix Suns? This seems to be talk of the town these days in Phoenix and in other places. Will this be the season that the Suns conquer their adversity and become NBA champions? The Suns have appeared in two NBA championships in their 38 year old franchise and have been defeated both times. The first turn up was in 1976 against the Boston Celtics and the last was in 1993 against the Chicago Bulls. They also keep up the record for the longest consecutive seasons of not winning a championship which is at 38 years. Has any NBA franchise faced the setbacks and disappointments that this team has been by in their complete existence?
It all started in 1969, which was their first season, and the year I was born. The coin toss was between the Milwaukee Bucks and Phoenix Suns for the overall number one pick in the draft and the rights to Lew Alcindor (later known as Kareem Abdul Jabbar). Milwaukee won the coin toss and rights to one of the greatest NBA players to ever step on the court. The Phoenix Suns picked Neal Walk as the number two selection. Neal who??? The start of the team’s destiny had begun.
Several other setbacks happened for this franchise. There was the huge drug scandal in 1987 which caused a shakeup in the team list and negative publicity around the NBA world. There was the NBA championship in 1993 which had Charles Barkley and the Suns so close to sending Michael Jordan and the Bulls to a seventh game. It was John Paxson’s three point shot after a steal by Jordan that ended the Suns season. The following two seasons were already more disappointing when the heavily favorite Suns were on verge of eliminating the Houston Rockets each season only to produce one of the worst choke jobs of all time two years in a row. In 1994 the Suns were up 2 games to none with victories on the road against the Rockets. They end up losing the series despite having home court advantage. In 1995, the Suns were up 3 games to 1 game with home court advantage and lost three straight games to allow the Rockets to improvement to the NBA finals.
The Charles Barkley days were numbered in Phoenix and he was traded away. The team had to rebuild and start all over again. One of the few bright spots was selecting two very talented young players from the drafts. The first selection was Shawn Marion from UNLV who was drafted in 1999 and the other was Amare Stoudemire who was drafted in 2002. Finally, in the summer of 2004 the Suns picked up Steve Nash from the Dallas Mavericks. Nash was a proven point guard that had the reputation of being a great playmaker. He also had a great sense of the fast break game that new Suns coach Mike D Antoni had been preaching since his days in Italy. That season they turned around everything and became one of the most improved NBA teams of all time. They improved their season record from 29-53 to 62-20. Steve Nash was voted the NBA most valuable player and had excelled in this high octane offense. However, despite having an NBA best record they were defeated by the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals.
The Suns felt that they needed to enhance their defense and rebounding in order to compete with the Spurs and Mavericks. They acquired Kurt Thomas and Raja Bell, who were known as two tough defensive players. Another big misfortune happened that off season. Amare Stoudemire, who was now considered the most dominating big man in the game, suffered an injury that would keep him out for the complete 2006 season. The Suns, who were heavy favorites to win the NBA championship in 2006, were now expected to be only a possible playoff contender. Despite the absence of Stoudemire, the Suns nevertheless managed to get 54 wins the following season. They already reached the Western Conference Finals once again only to lose to the Dallas Mavericks. Steve Nash won his second straight MVP award.
In the offseason, the Suns were not going to make any personal changes and were hopeful that Amare would return back from microfracture surgery to his old form. As he struggled early on in the season, he made enormous leaps forward and improved his game drastically. He would ultimately be chosen to his second all star game. The Suns would go on to finish the regular season with 61 victories and their third straight division title.
That brings us to where we are today, which is the 2007 playoffs. The Suns have once again excelled in the regular season and will now try to reach the NBA finals for the third time. Expectations of this team are by the roof. According to many Suns fans and players, achieving anything less than an NBA championship would average that the season was deemed a failure. It could possibly already rule to major rebuilding this off season. The reason for these high expectations is that this is arguably the best Suns team assembled ever plus the fact that all players are healthy.
The complete philosophy of the Suns system is run and gun led by the bright point guard in Steve Nash. The difference between this Suns team and the Suns teams of the last two seasons is that they have additional more defense and rebounding. These were two meaningful variables missing from the equation that prevented this team from advancing to the NBA finals. This season the team is completely healthy and ready to make a push. It will not be an easy road to the finals as they will be facing the San Antonio Spurs in the second round. The Spurs are the only team in the NBA that knows how to slow this Suns offense down. Time can only tell whether the Phoenix Suns have what it takes to be the NBA champs this season, but the chances are better than ever.