Phoenix Suns opened the preseason at Home at Footprint Center on Sunday night, and everyone in the Valley was anticipating what their team will look like coming off of a very tumultuous off-season.
It is no secrete what took place in the same building the last time this team was on their home floor, an embarrassing beat down from the Dallas Mavericks in a game 7 and lacked energy and desire to compete.
As much as everyone would like to put that game to rest and move on, it’s not going anywhere until this team starts to look like the 64-win team last year that was so connected as a group it was so visible they loved playing with each other.
The Suns as a unit have been off for five months after that game 7 debacle, and the fans are anticipating fire and desire brewing in the bellies of every last player to never allow that kind of a loss again.
Well, that hasn’t been the case thus far in the new season, as much as all the players and Coach answer questions that everything is okay, it is glaringly clear something is still lingering and has spilled over into the new season.
They are all doing the media PR dance and telling us all is well, but the old saying is still true “actions speak louder than words” we saw almost the exact same team from last year playing in a preseason game against an NBL team, and the results were almost the same.
The only reason the Suns were not down 30-40 like they were against the Mavericks in game 7, was because they were playing a non-NBA team. But for a team like the Suns to be an NBA Championship contender coming off a 64-win season, a 36ers 16-point lead is just as equivalent to the lead in that game 7.
The 36ers shot the lights out of the building like an NBA team at a blistering 55 percent from the field, and also 55 from the 3-point line which was where the game was won by the Australian team.
So what is the real problem with this Suns team? it is clear they do not look anything like the team that was a 64-win team and they still look just as disconnected as they were that embarrassing night on their home floor.
Here is an interesting untracked stat that might shed a little light on the main problem with the Suns.
There is a hand-dap count going on. (What does this mean?)
Much like Monty Williams and DeAndre Ayton hadn’t spoken since that game seven coming into a new season, there are two guys that have not dapped each other up during the open practice and the preseason game Sunday night.
How can a team that claims to like each other so much not be happy and excited to see each other again after five months, and not be eager to get back on the court to avenge the way that season ended last year?
The dap count for Chris Paul and DeAndre Ayton in two outings is a whopping 0, there has not been one on-court conversation between the two and that is alarming. It seems like the two are going out of their way to avoid each other, as in one instance they are standing right next to each other and both are looking in the opposite direction.
During the lay-up line I watched with my own eyes DeAndre Ayton slapped hands with everyone mostly, except Chris and Devin, and that was done intentionally. Apparently, whatever is going on, it is centered (no pun intended) around Ayton.
That is clear evidence that whatever had this team divided enough to quit during a major playoff game, is still going on and has not been resolved.
The Monty Williams and DA situation seem to still be lingering, as they had absolutely no interaction during practice or the game Sunday night against the 36ers.
If this is the way the Suns will be all year towards each other, then get ready for a very big step backward in competing for a championship in 2023.
These windows only stay open for so long and there is no time to continue in the drama that has been the Suns since game 6 of that Mavericks series. There are not too many Championship teams that make it that far without the group truly loving to play with each other. That was the Suns that won 64 games last year, but at the end of that season within a playoff series to get back to the Western Conference Finals on the line, something transpired in that locker room that was so bad it broke the bond of togetherness and the team looked divided and discombobulated.
One word comes to mind when you’re dealing with a lot of male testosterone in a group, and there is a falling out of sorts, that word is “disrespect” which can easily be the reason for the disconnect of the unit.
When a Coach as loved and respected as Monty Williams gets disrespected in front of everyone, it could rub some of the veterans in that locker room the wrong way. It’s all clear speculation of course, but perhaps as close as Chris Paul is with Monty, he came to his coach’s defense and put Ayton back in his place and that soured him and thus the unit divided.
Again, pure speculation, but one thing is certain, they are not telling us everything and there is something not right about this team.
A team can be all business and don’t necessarily have to like each other off the court as long as they all do their jobs on the court, but when you continue to see the lack of focus and desire while playing together, then there is a glaring issue that will continue to tear this organization apart.
One would think that after the Robert Sarver investigation conclusion, this team would draw closer together rather than apart.
That just simply has not been the case, and we as the media are not in the locker room and meeting rooms during the week, but most can see the obvious, that the Suns problems are not X’s and O’s, but whatever it is, it is clearly playing out before the eyes of the world.
One preseason game does not tell us what the season will be like, but if this team does not get back the comradery, continuity, and chemistry that allowed them to have fun winning 64 games, then this will be a long season, or perhaps at least until we get to January and the trade deadline.