It's preseason, but Phoenix Suns managing partner Robert Sarver was sufficiently miffed at the San Antonio Spurs organization to take the microphone during a fourth quarter timeout to address the fans and offer a gift for their trouble.
The Spurs announced earlier this week that coach Gregg Popovich and stars Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili were too tired to travel for the NBA-sanctioned event, and that starters Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter would be out due to nagging injuries as well.
"This isn't the game you paid your hard-earned money to see," he said to the crowd with about four minutes left in the game.
Sarver went on to tell the fans mail him back their ticket stub and he would send them a gift. Surely, the Suns will follow up with a public announcement of the exact details of the offer in the coming days.
But it's only a preseason game! Who cares, right?
Remember this is the Spurs franchise that beat the Suns in the playoffs in 2005, 2007 and 2008 to stop what might otherwise have been the greatest era of Suns basketball if not for the guys from the Alamo.
When the Suns finally swept the Spurs in 2010, the catharsis appeared to be each team's swan song as they faded into that good night. The Suns were about to be broken up by free agency and age, while the Spurs were just getting old. Tell me if you're heard that one before.
All the while, as the maddeningly consistent Spurs have been to the playoffs for 6,232 straight seasons and won five championships with Tim Duncan (1999, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2014), the Spurs have rested their stars when they damn well felt like it.
Last season, in one of his final acts as commissioner, David Stern fined the Spurs $250,000 for keeping their stars out of a nationally televised game.
"The result here is dictated by the totality of the facts in this case. The Spurs decided to make four of their top players unavailable for an early-season game that was the team's only regular-season visit to Miami. The team also did this without informing the Heat, the media, or the league office in a timely way. Under these circumstances, I have concluded that the Spurs did a disservice to the league and our fans."
As far back as 2005, Suns owner Robert Sarver has been frustrated with the Spurs for resting their stars in what many considered a big game. The Suns were the young upstart while the Spurs were the proven leaders. (sound familiar?). Sarver famously walked down the sideline making flapping his arms like chicken wings at coach Gregg Popovich.
"Our fans pay a lot of money," he said at the time. "Everyone was expecting a big-time game. I was disappointed."
That didn't stop Popovich from strategically resting his starters against the Suns, and other teams, in subsequent years. But it's been nine years since Sarver reacted so publicly.
Be on the lookout for details of the gift promotion for fans who attended the Thursday game, as compensation for putting up with the Spurs failing to bring their A team.
Here's (That's me sitting in the row right behind him as he grabs the mic. Not in the freeze frame. Once you start the video.)
And here's the mailing address: US Airways Center, 201 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix, AZ, 85004.
There was a lot to like about this game...
The Point Guardians of the Valley were unleashed tonight and they are here to rule the basketball landscape if they deem fit. When the Phoenix Suns went small the game changed dramatically as the speed, energy, and athleticism of Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, and Isaiah Thomas were too much for the short-handed San Antonio Spurs.
In the end the Suns coasted to a 121-90 final winning their last home pre-season game start to build some chemistry.
Early on the Suns were carried by Markiff Morris and Dragic as they combined for 17/24 points and 3/6 assists early on giving the team a slight edge after the first quarter. It was a rough start for Miles Plumlee as he missed his first three shot attempts and got into foul trouble, but turned things around in the second half. Other than a choppy first quarter this game was all Suns from the second quarter to the finish line.
Of course, it should have been as the Spurs only had one of their franchises Big Four in the Valley as Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Greg Popovich all did not make the trip along with Kawhi Leonard and Patty Mills.
Tony Parker played 22 minutes with 9 points and 4 assists with Ettore Messina coaching the team.
A 19-9 run to close the half and then an 18-7 run to start the third quarter sealed the deal for the Suns in this game. This game was another opportunity, no matter how depleted the Spurs roster was by design, to go out there and build some more chemistry with the new players and their roles. There is no denying the fact that the first three pre-season games were sloppy and not what the coach had ordered, despite the results.
This was a display of how the Suns can throw waves-and-waves of athletic scorers on the court to bring the energy, but more importantly they were doing it on the defensive end.
Overall the team finished with 17 steals led by Dragic's 3 that all seemed to lead to points in some way, shape, or form. The defense turns into offense philosophy was on full display. Not the, "run and score and the other team will eventually top out so we will win" strategy, an actual defense based gameplan that when clicking on all cylinders like tonight, can be daunting. The Point Guardians of the Valley were unleashed.
The steals turned into fast break points, 33 of them, and opened up the offense for so many things.
Everyone was hitting threes, Goran (1/2), Bledsoe (2/3), Thomas (4/5), Markieff (1/1), and even Archie Goodwin knocked down one. The 33 points from downtown and 29 fast-break points set a bench mark for how this team wants to play. Create havoc on defense, score in transition, and then when the opponents are on their heels knock down threes at a high rate.
For the game Dragic led the way with 20 points and 6 assists (23 minutes), Markieff right behind him with 17 points 7 rebounds (23), Bledsoe 16 points 6 assists (27), and Thomas with 15 points 5 assists (20).
Look, this was the rudderless version of the Spurs of course, for lack of a better description, they were the Austin Spurs tonight. In the end the Suns used this as a tune-up for the Point Guardians and gave the league a taste of what these three can do together.
Next Game: @ Los Angeles Lakers (1-3) Tuesday night at 7pm AZ Time