The Christmas Eve edition of the podcast is all about the streaking Suns and sharing the holiday joy.
Sean Sullivan joins the show to discuss the Suns four game win streak and whether we have a good grasp on the identity of this up and down team. Following in the Christmas spirit we then hand out internet gifts to the players on the team. A look ahead and holiday discussion round things out.
Merry Christmas everybody!
Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol" is the inspiration for this Bright Side of the Sun version of the timeless classic. Enjoy, and Merry Christmas!
Back by popular demand (by which I mean not one person actually requested this) is another Bright Side of the Sun version of a Christmas classic. This time I take a stab, but hopefully not a butchering, at Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol."
Feel free to check out my previous offerings How Sarver Stole Christmas (Xmas 2012) and Yes, Suns fan, the Phoenix Suns can win a championship (Xmas 2013).
Ebenezer Scrooge - Robert Sarver
Bob Cratchit - Dave King
Fred - Ryan McDonough
Portly Gentleman - Lon Babby
Jacob Marley - Jerry Colangelo
Fezziwig -Steve Kerr
Belle - Joe Johnson
Tiny Tim - Dragic Is Magic (Tiny DiM)
Ghost of Christmas Past - Steve Nash
Ghost of Christmas Present - Goran Dragic
Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come - ???
It was a cold, bleak, biting Christmas Eve... well, not in Phoenix. It was actually a balmy 66 degrees. Dave King sat in the press anteroom at US Airways Center moiling away at his keyboard, typing until his fingers bled. It was another winter of discontent for fans of a once proud franchise. Young fans knew not the sweet taste of playoff victories... or any sort of postseason play. Patrons of the purple and orange were a glum lot.
Still, Dave sat by the lambent glow of his laptop, striving to infect the readers on Brightside with his irrational exuberance. As Dave labored, a silent brooding presence slunk down the hallway. It was the infamous Robert Sarver and prodigy GM Ryan McDonough.
"Merry Christmas!" chirped Dave in his most maple syrupy sweet tone.
"Bah!" said Sarver, "Humbug!"
"Merry Christmas!" sneered Sarver. " What reason have you to be merry? The Suns are mired in mediocrity."
"What reason have you to be morose?" replied Ryan. "Hope springs eternal. There is always hope for better days to come for the Phoenix Suns. We have already accomplished so much in our efforts to induce a renaissance in Suns' basketball."
"The fans don't seem to think so," snarled Sarver. "Attendance is down. Hope won't line my pockets, except with lint. If the fans don't like the product let them leave, and decrease the bandwagon population."
Up bounded Lon Babby as the trio conversed. With his ruddy cheeks and portly belly he resembled Kris Kringle... if he were a calculated lawyer.
"Merry Christmas!" Babby bubbled over."The holidays are a great time for us to show our gratitude for how fortunate we are and help spread the Christmas spirit to those in need. What do you all have planned for this festive occasion?"
"Planned for this day..." Sarver seethed. "This is just a farce invented to pick my pockets every December 25th. It's bad enough that the players get the day off, that Dave gets the day off. We could be selling holiday jerseys! Bah, I say! Christmas is a humbug."
With that, Sarver scuffled off into the shadows, leaving Ryan, Lon and Dave to lament poor Robert's dismissal of all things orange and Christmas.
Later that night, Sarver sat at home in solitude. For all his worldly possessions he was socially destitute. He mulled over the doldrums that afflicted his franchise and the turnstiles that no longer turned.
Then in the room there arose such a clatter that he swung his head wildly to see what was the matter. An apparition met his gaping gaze, a wraith that left him in tremulous awe.
But Sarver snapped out of it, he did not believe in ghosts or specters. He thought to himself that perhaps it had been something he ate. A bit of indigestion that could be cured with antacids and not an exorcism.
Then the spirit spoke.
"Sarver, look upon me," bellowed the spirit. "Do you not recognize me?"
Now Sarver was half hidden behind his chair. He peered at the phantasm and was struck by a revelation. The spirit was none other than former Suns' owner Jerry Colangelo.
"On, no. What has happened?" Sarver shook. "Why do you appear to me as such?"
"Because I gave up on my dreams," the spirit wailed. "I gave up on the fans. I gave up on the Phoenix Suns. My vision of bringing a championship to the valley went unrequited. I sold out... but all the money in the world didn't bring me happiness or peace. Now I am destined to roam the space between two worlds, a ghost who is haunted by the trappings of a misspent life."
"Tonight you will be visited by three spirits. Heed their warnings. It is too late for me. In this afterlife I will reap what I have sown, but it is not too late for you. Change your ways, Sarver, or your fate will be sealed like mine!"
And with that the spirit's ephemeral appearance abruptly ended as it vanished into the thin air it had formed out of.
Sarver was dumbstruck.
Sarver didn't know what to think. Was he going crazy? The scene that had played out was much more than just an upset stomach or overactive imagination. He anxiously pondered over the warning that Jerry's ghost had given him, that he would be visited by three spirits. He nervously fidgeted, beside himself in a state of discombobulation.
Then, with a whistle and a rush of air the first of the spirits arrived. The poor wizened figure was lurched over, its back grotesquely disfigured and contorted. It raised its head and stared deep into Sarver's soul with a steely gaze.
The spirit was Steve Nash.
Sarver was stupefied.
"I am the ghost of Seasons Past," moaned Steve. "You must revisit what has led you to this point. I am your reluctant guide."
"But Steve," Sarver implored. "I meant you no ill will by sending you to the Lakers. Remember, it was you who wanted to be closer to your family."
"Silence!" boomed the spirit. "Your perfidy to the fans of the Phoenix Suns was deeply rooted before allowing a franchise figurehead to finish his career for the team's most bitter enemy. Now let us look upon your misdeeds as owner!"
Then with a whirl Sarver was swept up and he howled as his life flashed before his eyes. He abruptly came to rest in the year 2004. Sarver knew why the spirit had brought him here... to relive the botched contract negotiations with Joe Johnson.
Johnson had just come off of a breakout season for the Phoenix Suns and was amenable to working out a new contract before his rookie deal expired next season. Unfortunately, the sides were a few million dollars off and no deal was consummated. Johnson felt jilted by the whole process and eventually persuaded the team to trade him to the Atlanta Hawks.
What could have been a beautiful marriage with rings and banners ended up in an ugly divorce. Johnson realized that Sarver would never value him as much as he did his money.
Then the vision flashed forward to 2007. Sarver saw his old confidant and trusted adviser Steve Kerr hard at work. There was a time Sarver had delighted in Kerr's potential.
Then Sarver realized what Kerr was doing. He was finalizing the deal that sent Kurt Thomas and two first round picks (one that became Serge Ibaka) to Seatte for a trade exception and cap relief. The deal was a staggering blow to the franchise in both the short and long term.
Sarver realized he had let the business side of basketball poison his judgment at exactly the wrong moments.
A montage of painful memories flooded Sarver as he relived the departures of Shawn Marion, Steve Kerr and Amar'e Stoudemire. He wept as he witnessed the exciting team that captured the emotions of a fervid fanbase being eviscerated and stripped down to Steve Nash's rotting carcass.
"Spirit!" cried out Sarver in a broken voice. "Remove me from this place."
"I told you we must revisit your transgressions," scolded the spirit. "That they are what they are, do not blame me!"
Sarver sank to his pitiful knees, sobbing uncontrollably. He slowly steadied himself and wiped the bubbles of snot from his nose and the rivulets of tears from his cheeks. He opened his eyes and he was back in his house.
Sarver was distraught. After the torment that the first spirit had subjected him to he feared for his sanity with two spirits yet to come. He cowered in the corner, awaiting his unwanted visitor.
Suddenly there was a brilliant flash.
"I am the Ghost of Seasons Present," proclaimed the spirit. "Look upon me!"
Sarver obediently raised his head. Shockingly, the figure before him was none other than Goran Dragic. But the boyish smile that seemed permanently affixed to Goran's face was conspicuously absent. Instead Dragic looked pained, as he was crunched over... apparently being crushed by a huge weight that rested on his shoulders.
"Goran, it's you! My friend!" Sarver sighed in relief. "Remember when you came back to the Suns' family. We were able to work out the deal in the parking lot. What a great time that was!"
"Stop, Sarver!" commanded the spirit. "All is not well on the eve of this greatest of days. I am burdened with the weight of carrying a franchise in turmoil. Subjugated to a lesser role as we piece together a mismatched roster. My devotion to the Suns is being sorely tested."
"Everywhere the faith in the Suns is being tested. Look upon what you have wrought."
The room melted around Sarver with the ceiling dripping into puddles that pooled on the floor. Sarver rubbed his eyes and found himself transported into Ryan McDonough's office. Lon sat with Ryan as the two conversed.
"I realize that Robert is the owner and is going to be involved in the inner workings of the team," acknowledged Ryan. "but he has a history of making bad decisions. The more he has meddled, the worse things have become. It's exasperating! He has hired two of us to do the duties of a role generally occupied by a single person. We have individual expertise in areas that complement each other so well. Why can't he just grant us plenipotentiary power?"
"Have patience, Ryan. (Insert pithy aphorism in true Lon fashion)" advised Babby. "Just in hiring both of us to do this job Robert has shown he really cares beneath it all. We just have to remain positive and mentor him. I know he can become a better owner."
Despite the failings of the team, Sarver realized the men working with him still believed in him. That must be something, after all.
Just like that he was swept away again. He was dizzied as the ground tilted back and forth under his feet. Upon steadying himself he looked upon Dave King carefully scrutinizing the contents of his computer screen. Dave was on Bright Side of the Sun looking at a comment from a distraught fan.
It was from Brightside's very own DiM (Dragic is Magic).
Dave - I am having a crisis of fanhood. Through frugality and incompetence Sarver has steered this franchise into a head on collision with one of the bleakest periods in the team's history. It is painful to watch the Suns plod along their present course. I'm not sure if I can maintain my emotional investment. I fear the team will be shackled in this purgatory. I fear that Goran (who happens to be absolutely dreamy) will be pushed out the door. This is just so frustrating... what should I do?
Dave typed his reply.
DiM - Don't give up. Don't leave us before the miracle happens. Sarver is not cheap, merely misguided. I know that the passion of a true fan burns inside him, he just needs to discover that flickering flame and fan it into an inferno. Then, just like the Phoenix, this franchise will soar again. Stay the course, DiM. I'll be right here with you.
Sarver was back in his house with the spirit still beside him.
"You see, Sarver, despite your infractions there are still people who have faith in you, people who are loyal," the spirit offered. "But if you do not change your ways you will lose them all."
The spirit shimmered and faded away as the harrowing reality of its words burrowed deep in Sarver's conscience.
One spirit still to go and Sarver wished nothing more than for the night to be over, for his misery to end. He had viewed enough of the carnage that laid beside the path of his life. There was still more to come though, just as Jerry Colangelo had promised.
Through his weary, bloodshot eyes Sarver came to look upon the third spirit.
"Am I in the presence of the Ghost of Seasons Yet to Come?" queried Sarver."You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us?"
The spirit did not speak. Its face was shrouded in darkness as a cloak enveloped its body and a hood covered its head. An arm lifted and a bony, spiny finger pointed behind Sarver. Sarver turned around and instantly discovered himself at the Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Apparently players were warming up for a game, but the arena was a vacuous void with a mere smattering of fans. Most of them were not donning the purple and orange. The apathy was tangible and suffocating as a blanket of crepuscular morbidity enveloped the crowd. There was no joy or electricity among the damned souls in attendance. A deluge of casino advertising was pasted up and down across the interior.
Then he was in the offices that Ryan and Lon used to occupy. Their personal effects were absent. They had obviously moved on.
Finally, Sarver found himself looking upon a disheveled figure in front of a computer. The man looked impossibly weary and gazed upon the screen with a vapid stare.
Sarver realized it was Dave King.
Dave scrolled through the stories on Bright Side of the Sun. He was now the sole contributor. He checked each article for comments, but there were none to be found. DiM and the others had been worn down one by one. He was the last bastion of hope for the Phoenix Suns and he was near the end of the road. Dave buried his head in his hands and gave a deep sigh. He then exited out of the website and slowly closed his laptop.
Sarver, too, buried his head in his hands. He could not believe the images he had seen.
"What can I do, Spirit?" begged Sarver. "How can I prevent this future?"
The spirit didn't flinch or respond.
"I will honor the team in my heart, and try to keep it all the year," wailed Sarver. "I will live in the past, the present and the future. The spirits of all three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!"
Once again, Sarver fell to his knees, sobbing uncontrollably.
As Sarver held his head in his hands, a light crept through his clenched fingers. He looked up to see daylight streaming through the windows.
What day was it he thought? Had he missed Christmas?
Sarver rummaged through his pockets for his phone and unlocked the screen.
It was still Christmas! It was Christmas morning! He hadn't missed it.
A surge of the Christmas spirit coursed through Sarver's veins. He felt like a new man. He was overcome with joy and knew he must make the best of his new found opportunity.
He ran over to his computer, logged into Bright Side of the Sun, created an account and made his very own fanpost.
It was succinct, sincere and stirring.
I know that in the past I've made
Mistakes and all of us have paid
With seasons in the lottery
Bereft of playoff games to see
But right around the very bend
Is hope anew and losing's end
I'll bring back the fun, I'll bring back the laughter
I'll hang a banner from a rafter
Just like the phoenix the Suns will rise
To brilliance right before your eyes
And know that I will never rest
Until I've done my very best.
Merry Christmas to all! Go Suns!
And who was the first to comment on Sarver's post, but Brightside's very own DiM.
Merry Christmas Robert Sarver! Merry Christmas Phoenix Suns! Merry Christmas Brightsiders! Merry Christmas to all! Go Suns!
And Sarver became as good a friend, as good an owner, and as good a man as the Phoenix Suns' fans or any fans of any team or any sport in all the cities, towns or boroughs in all the world ever knew.
And DiM's comment had one last line that read below...
God Bless Us, Every One!
"I thought we were great, offensively and defensively," he said after the Suns beat up on the 20-9 Dallas Mavericks. "Everybody was alert. We can't ask for a better game, this is probably by far one of the funnest games I've played in."
Bledsoe finished with 16 points, 11 assists and 10 (barely) rebounds. More on that last rebound in a minute.
But you can't please everybody all of the time. Even in a big win over the Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns coach Jeff Hornacek was frequently livid over the team's lack of recognition of matchups, which led to unnecessary turnovers and bad possessions.
With a ten point lead and less than a minute left in the game, Hornacek called consecutive timeouts to get his players' attention. I asked him about that sequence after the game.
"Well because they didn't run the play," he said of the pair of timeouts. "Once we called the first timeout, if we're going to go with the three guards, we've got to find where the mismatch is. There's no sense for one guy to be wrestling with another guy at the one or two spot if you've got a mismatch at the three. So I called a timeout to...Richard Jefferson's on Goran, Goran should be able to get out. That's the biggest mismatch right there and just get it. I think they think the game's over and they can just do the easiest thing and then consequently, Isaiah falls down and they didn't call a foul and whether it's a foul or not, that's beside the point. You don't need to put yourself in situations like that. Then when we came out of the timeout, they didn't run the play right, I called another one."
There you have it. When you're up big, in a big win, young players still have a tendency to think about themselves rather than the big picture. These are not sage veterans on this Phoenix squad. Thomas is 25. Bledsoe just turned 25, as did the Morrii. They aren't always going to be focused on the bigger picture.
But we digress.
Let's celebrate the holidays with a 4-game Suns winning streak and a big, really-needed-that win at home.
The win was keyed by a huge run in the second quarter, led by all-NBA player Goran Dragic. This was right after the Suns had failed to score in the first four minutes of the second quarter, getting down 39-30 at one point.
"We weren't playing that well in the first half," Hornacek said. "And Goran got rolling and really attacked and made some plays for us. That's what we need. We need all of those guys that are our top guys, so they've got to make big stretches like that."
Dragic had 12 of his 25 points in the second quarter.
Let's listen to Goran's take on the game.
Goran says the team's defense is key to winning games, as they've been saying all year. The Suns defense, though, has been quite inconsistent.
The funniest part of the game was when Eric Bledsoe stole a rebound from Dragic in the final minute to cap off his triple-double performance. When you're up comfortably, as the Suns were all 4th quarter, that's a kind of milestone you want to hit.
Bledsoe's rebound knocked Dragic to the floor, and the two came up smiling.
"I was teasing Bled, ‘You were bullying me on that play.'," Dragic joked. "If I'm honest I didn't know that he needed one more rebound. If I would've known I would have just let it go and let him take it. It's great when he actually got it. The whole crowd and teammates were laughing about it, so I think that's a good thing."
Before Bledsoe got a triple double a couple weeks ago against the Clippers, no Phoenix Suns had registered such a game since 2006. EIGHT YEARS.
Now, Bledsoe has two in the last two weeks.
"I was exhausted," he said of finishing that triple double. "I was running around the basketball court like a chicken trying to find that last one. I credit my teammates."
Some comments on Alex Len's 17 and 7 night against Tyson Chandler. In five starts, Len is now averaging 9 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in just 22 minutes (due to foul trouble). That's a per-36 double-double, and his presence is even better than the numbers suggest. The kid is a beast.
Bledsoe on Len: "He's unbelievable. He's down there fighting for boards. He's open and we just wanted to reward him for playing extremely hard."
Dragic on Len: "Alex is a huge part of this team. He's such a different guy from last year. Last year he had a lot of problems with injuries but now this is the past. Now he's a totally new player and we need him. He did a great, amazing job tonight. I think he scored 17 points or something like that, he gave us that defensive presence. If somebody is penetrating he's going to be there."
At home, the Phoenix Suns are now 5-2 against Western Conference and 2-5 against the East.
On the road, the Suns are 7-1 against the East and 2-6 against the West.
To make the playoffs, the Suns will have to crack that nut of winning more consistently regardless of the locale and the opponent.
"We're always pushing for perfection," coach Hornacek said. "We're not at the level where we can accept periods of time where we don't play the right way or we don't play defensively because then all of a sudden you let this three-or-four minute span go and it becomes six minute span in another game. So it's trying to push these guys to give that defensive effort all 48 minutes. The offense is going to come. We've got a lot of scorers on the team. If we can get at it defensively, that's going to help our offense too with fast breaks. I think they just had a better effort defensively [in the last two games]."
"Nobody in the NBA is pretty much terrible," Bledsoe said. "The record might say it, but they [everyone] got pretty good talent on their team so we are just going to take it a game at a time."