Saturday, April 26, 2008

Ashes To Ashes, Suns to Suns

Someday, my kids will ask me, "What's the best basketball team you ever saw?"

And I will tell them, with all honest, the 2006-2007 Phoenix Suns. That team, when it was at its best, was better, in every way, from talent to energy to fun, than any team I've ever seen. There are teams that were more consistent, there were teams that played better defense. But when that team was at its absolute best, it was the best I've ever seen, in a non-literal, conceptual way. This is not meant to say that they are better than the Spurs at what counts in championship basketball, because they clearly were not. The didn't get the breaks they needed and were unable to get past San Antonio's combination of talent and coaching. But in those select games (the triple overtime versus the Nets, the late season Mavericks thrillers) were they played to their full potential (which San Antonio never allowed them to do thanks to great defense), they were the best team I've ever seen. That's not a fact, it's an opinion.

None of that wins championships.

Tonight was the philosophical end of an era. There will be Game 4 and possibly 5, but then it'll be official. Then the finger pointing, the cries for Mike D'Antoni's job will begin. The cries for Steve Kerr, for trades and accountability. And the truth is that this team simply lacked one essential thing to win last year. A break. It never got one, and so it panicked, and committed to a $40 million liability.

I blame Steve Kerr for this, if the question is to be asked, because it, alongside everything else about the Suns, doesn't matter. But I blame him for interjecting himself into the system, for demanding changes of D'Antoni's style, and for the worst trade of the season. A trade which I defended and tried to rationalize. But behind all of it was this same feeling. Something was lost. And instead of improving the team with a combination of role players with either defense and rebounding, or ball handling and scoring capabilities, he went out and got the biggest name possible. And that big name talked big right into a very impending first round exit.

I won't be able to forget the Suns. Not because I want to keep them in my heart, but because they will forever serve as a reminder that the teams that seem to hold everything a fan could want does not prosper. Teams with impeccable conservatism or unworldy talent do. And that's just the breaks.

So long, Suns.

It was fun.

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