As the NBA spins, the Phoenix Suns keep dragging

Think about how the NBA is consumed these days. Think about what gets the buzz and the eyeballs, and the clicks on social media. The l...


Think about how the NBA is consumed these days. Think about what gets the buzz and the eyeballs, and the clicks on social media.

The league doubles as a soap opera and a business deal feed. For many fans, that’s the appeal: all the hype about who hates who, which star player wants to make his way to another team, which front office executive has the boldest plan to resurrect a candor and is ready to respond to reporters – without attribution, of course.

Hence this year’s fascination with James Harden’s trade demands, Joel Embiid’s beef with Ben Simmons, Zion Williamson’s injured foot and eating habits, and whether Mayor Eric Adams will allow unvaccinated Kyrie Irving to play home in Brooklyn.

Hence the speculation about every member of the Los Angeles Lakers, the analysis of every statement by LeBron James, the job security of coach Frank Vogel. What’s wrong with Russell Westbrook and Jeanie Buss? At this rate, it won’t surprise me to see hype mongers on TV wondering if the Lakers should trade the team’s cook.

In a sports ecosystem that places such a high value on the sizzle, where does that leave the Phoenix Suns? The NBA is currently investigating allegations of racism and misogyny against team owner Robert Sarver, a high-stakes dispute that appears to have been lost in the whirlwind of minor drama.

Amidst it all, Phoenix’s no-fuss players and coaches have been impeccable. And underestimated.

It wouldn’t have seemed odd had Phoenix struggled to shake off last season’s NBA Finals slump against the Milwaukee Bucks. Spitting out a two-game lead on the biggest stage in sport isn’t exactly easy to put in the past. But Phoenix – led by head-down coach Monty Williams, the relentless will of Chris Paul and the courage and grace of his mentee, Devin Booker – did just that.

After hammering the Portland Trail Blazers by 30 points last week, the Suns became the first team in the league to reach 50 wins, which should come as no surprise since they had winning streaks of 18 and 10. games this season and are undefeated. in November.

Their 51-13 record through Sunday is eight and a half games better than the Eastern Conference-leading Miami Heat.

In the West, they are seven and a half games better than the second-placed Memphis Grizzlies.

Even with Paul sidelined most likely until the end of the month with a broken thumb, even with their top scorer Booker out with Covid-19 – and even after a rare stumbling loss on Sunday when the Suns were defeated , 132-122, by the Bucks — Phoenix seems unlikely to lose its grip on the seed and home-court advantage when the playoffs begin in April.

But unless you’re a die-hard NBA watcher, you probably don’t know how dominant the Suns have been this season or see them as a plucky team of overachievers with no way on earth to win a championship.

We’re just over a month away from the start of the NBA playoffs, where we’ll find out if the Suns can break into the public consciousness.

During Tuesday’s game against the Trail Blazers in Phoenix, the Suns paid tribute to their longtime radio announcer, Al McCoy, the NBA’s dean of broadcasters, who, at 88, has called Suns games since 1972. Think of all the memorable Suns players whose on-field brilliance he saw: Charles Barkley and Kevin Johnson, Paul Westphal and Alvan Adams, Steve Nash and Amar’e Stoudemire on the “Seven Seconds or Less Suns,” who helped revolutionize the modern game.

Phoenix came surprisingly close to a championship, making the NBA Finals three times, starting with the “Shot Heard Round the World” series against the Boston Celtics in 1976. (If you’re too young to remember, check Youtube for a treat.)

What other NBA franchise has Phoenix’s pedigree while lacking championship gear? They are the professional basketball version of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings, destined to always be very close to winning it all.

But this version of the Suns can write a new chapter. This team has a special mojo. “These guys all love each other and they just like to have fun playing together, and you don’t see that in sports anymore,” McCoy said during our chat last week. “A lot of teams, there’s always one or two guys who are upset about something – salary or playing time or whatever. But those guys stick together, and that’s how they play. .

It’s the natural order of the sports world: winning can undoubtedly attract attention even in today’s hyped world, but it means winning everything. That’s partly why we know more about the Lakers this season than the Suns: 17 championship trophies can make a franchise important to people.

The same goes for Golden State, a 21st century titan who has anchored itself in our collective synapses thanks to three NBA titles and five consecutive trips to the Finals. (It doesn’t hurt to have go-to stars like Steph Curry and Klay Thompson and a hype machine like Draymond Green, three players whose every other move and machination looks set to go viral.)

These championship teams each had a discernible style that each member seemed to respect. To win it all, the Suns will have to stay true to their own: a style of team that Williams, a former Spurs player who learned to coach under the watchful eye of Gregg Popovich, could have drawn directly from San’s glory years. Antonio.

Like those Spurs, everyone on the Suns has a role, everyone follows the script. The ball moves, moves and moves again. Seven Suns are averaging double digits this season. Two others score 9 points per game.

Those Spurs of yore were unflashy and filled with angst, drama and uncertainty. There was no soap opera story.

They just did the job. Tellingly, Spurs’ last championship was a stunning win over the Miami Heat in 2014. It came the season after losing a heartbreaker to the Heat in the Finals – courtesy of Ray Allen’s 3-point miracle.

The Suns are now trying to do something similar to those title-winning Spurs. Capturing an NBA championship after suffering a blistering loss is as difficult a task as it is in sports.

If the Suns end up winning it all, don’t expect them to get the attention and respect they deserve. More likely, a week later, fans will talk more about Zion Williamson’s weight, James Harden’s nightlife and whether LeBron James will bring his talents back to Cleveland anytime soon.

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Newsrust - US Top News: As the NBA spins, the Phoenix Suns keep dragging
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