The NBA is full of guarantees. Shaq WILL insult just about every other player who even claims to play the center position in the League. Rip Hamilton IS cash money coming off of screens. Charles Barkley WILL make you laugh. The commentator in Cleveland will NEVER get tired of shouting ‘LEBRON THROWING THE HAMMER DOWN!’ There are many guarantees, but perhaps the most cast iron and absolute is the Phoenix Suns ability to entertain.
This entertainment can manifest itself in many forms but usually it is in 140 point outbursts where defence is disregarded and points mean prizes. It is perhaps fitting that as we continue toward the end of the regular season Phoenix has the entire NBA holding its breath as a result of a soap opera style cliff hanger that only the Suns could pull of: a ‘will they, wont they’ stumble toward the post season worthy of America’s finest melo-dramas.
Things were starting to look brighter for Phoenix. Despite lying in 9th in West’s standings, the Suns were on a hot winning streak, 5 games; their longest of the season. They were gaining on a faltering Dallas and it seemed inevitable that Nash and Co would squeeze into the second season.
If only it was that simple. In the Valley of the Sun simple efficiency is not the done thing. They prefer sporadic genius to sustained grind. So, now, fresh off of a 3 game losing streak, they drop back to 3 and a half games behind Dallas. Of those losses 2 were to playoff calibre teams, Portland and Utah. The third however was against Sacramento last night. The Kings are statistically the worst team in the NBA. Yet they beat Phoenix and in so doing may have spoilt the big playoff party for the Sunds.
However, as bad as the Suns were last night, the playoff door is still slightly ajar. They have 8 games to play, only 3 of these are against playoff teams: Houston, New Orleans, and of course, the Dallas Mavericks. The other 5 games provide the Suns with hope: Sacramento (again), Memphis (twice), Minnesota and Golden State.
The other reason for optimism lies in Dallas’s schedule: 9 games left, 6 of which are against playoff teams. Miami, Phoenix, Utah, New Orleans (twice) and Houston all stand lie between Dallas and the post season. 3.5 games back, but Dallas must be secretly cautious, especially with Minnesota the only sub .500 team in their final 6 games.
It seems inconceivable that either of these franchises will miss out on the playoffs this season. But it will happen. And one of them will be in the lottery for the fist time in what seems like forever. Surely, for either team, the lottery spells destruction. It is hardly likely that a Mavericks failure will be met with patience by Mr Cuban. Wide scale changes will surely occur. And Phoenix will almost certainly press the re-building button which will in all likelihood usher in a substantial period of basement dwelling as young pieces are given some time to develop a la Portland.
That would seem the most likely course for Phoenix. But the Suns are hardly known for following the script.
Everything will change.