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Entry date: 2-3-2022 - The Little Team That Could - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

I stayed up late, for me, on Monday night watching the Suns play the Brooklyn Nets. As I was watching the game, I couldn’t help but think of how I wished each team was fully healthy for this matchup. The Nets were missing Kevin Durant who is the best scorer in the league and a few other players, and the Suns were missing two key bench players, Landry Shamet and Cameron Payne. The Suns also had Deandre Ayton and Jae Crowder just coming off injuries, so they weren’t firing on all cylinders, either.

I think these could be the two teams in the finals. If anyone in the east has a chance to fend off the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks, the Nets could put it together. The Miami Heat look pretty good, too, but I don’t know that they have the size to beat either the Bucks or the Nets. I also don’t think the 76ers have enough players to get to the finals, but they are certainly very good. The Bulls are good, too, but again, I just don’t think they have enough.

I’m not saying the Suns are a lock, either, to come out of the west. As a lifelong Suns fan, I know how this team can let you down. I have fleeting memories of the 1976 championship series. I was six years old, but I remember how excited my dad was about the games against the Celtics and how disappointed people were at the outcome. On my knickknack shelf at home, I even have a copy of “The Little Team That Could…And Damn Near Did” by Joe Gilmartin which reminds me that I need to read it again. I don’t think I’ve read it since grade school.

Growing up, Al Bianchi was my little league coach one year and I remember my dad talking about the ring Bianchi had made after that Suns/Celtics series that said, “Fuck You Richie Powers” on it. Great stuff, for sure, and I was sad to see that Coach Bianchi died a few years ago. I wonder what his son, Luc, who was my teammate on the Lions back in 1978(maybe 77) is doing now?

Anyway, I have experienced joy and pain with the Suns for a little over 45 years now. I was at game 6 of the western conference finals in 1979 when the Suns were up 3-2 over the Seattle Supersonics but Gar Heard missed the shot at the end of the game that would have sent them to the finals against a very depleted Washington Bullets. I was there when Cotton Fitzsimmons’ underdog Kansas City Kings beat the loaded Suns in 1981, which was the first time the Suns ever won the Pacific division and/or had the best record in the conference.

The Suns have had some really good, even great, teams but this year’s team is the best one they have had.

Sure, the first year with Charles Barkley was amazing and I even got to go to his first game as a Suns player (and the first game in their current arena) thanks to my mom in 1992. It was my birthday, and it was one of many memorable birthdays I’ve been lucky enough to have in my time. I loved watching that team, too, but when I think of them compared to the current team, I think this team would beat them although I’m not sure who would get the most minutes guarding Barkley. That’s a fun one to think about, though, and I would love to hear some of your thoughts about it.

The year (1994/95) Danny Manning blew out his knee was another heartbreaking time to be a Suns fan. They were cruising until that injury occurred and I still believe a healthy Manning would have propelled them past the Rockets. I remember watching that game when Manning got hurt and just dying inside a little. What could have been.

This team, though, led by Chris Paul and Devin Booker, is just good. Scary good. They control games and seem to feed off the runs the other teams are making lately to get that extra gear going. It’s stressful because the games are tight sometimes when it seems like they shouldn’t be and it’s also stressful because I keep waiting for the bottom to drop out. I keep waiting for them to be the old Suns, or worse, the Cardinals.

I do a lot of reading about the Suns, of course, and follow the fan chat on, too. I miss the old fan board. There were some good discussions on there. Many of the hardcore fans from that site migrated over to RealGm, but there are a lot of trolls, too. The general board gives the Suns no credit and it is infuriating.

Being a lifelong fan of any Arizona sports team requires you to be objective.

You must be, or it will consume you to live and die with Valley teams. If you remain objective, though, and can call it as you see it, you can survive with sanity intact. These current Suns are the best team in basketball even though they are 1-2 against the Golden State Warriors. If Booker hadn’t hurt himself in that first game, though, the Suns would have beaten them back-to-back in those first two games. The Christmas Day game was an anomaly, I think, and the Suns got caught up in the holiday moment and let the Warriors sneak away with one.

I’m looking forward to the next slate of games starting with tonight’s game in Atlanta. The Hawks are going to try to punch the Suns in the mouth and regain a little swagger, I think. Their games last year were so fun to watch. I think the Suns can keep their win streak going, but most of all, they just need to get healthy. After Atlanta tonight, I am keen to see how they do against the Wizards (Saturday) then the Bulls and Sixers back-to-back on Monday and Tuesday of next week.

If things go dark in my writing over some of those days, it could very well be that the Suns haven’t played well on their road trip. I think the boys will be up for it, though.

Go Suns! See you tomorrow.

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