Schedule day is upon us and perusing the lineup of adversaries will be much more enjoyable than last summer. The Phoenix Suns have a lot of dates to circle on their calendar and fans should have a lot to cheer for.
The Phoenix Suns open the season on October 29th with a home game against Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers and then host the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs two days later on Halloween. That should be a pretty entertaining start to the season.
Here's a link to NBA.com to check out the Opening Night, Christmas Day and MLK Day lineups. The Suns host the Lakers on MLK Day in a TNT televised game.
National TV Games: 17 total, ESPN - 4, TNT - 6, NBATV - 7
Longest Homestand: 8 games (19 total days), January 12th - 30th
Longest Road Trip: 6 games (10 total days), November 15th - 24th
Wednesday, October 29 - Kobe Bryant will be back in Phoenix after an injury induced hiatus last season. Bryant will be playing in his 19th NBA season. Soak it in Suns fans, you're running out of chances to mercilessly boo this Laker reprobate. Some guy named Steve Nash will also likely be on the bench nursing injuries.
Friday, October 31 - The Suns face the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs for the first time this season. I love beating the Spurs... at anything. If Shavlik Randolph beat Tim Duncan in a game of hopscotch I would stand and cheer.
Friday, November 7 - Isaiah Thomas will face his former team and has made it very transparent that he intends on killing the Kings. That makes you and 28 other teams, Isaiah. This is the Kings we're talking about.
Sunday, November 30 - It will be Shark Night in Phoenix when the Orlando Magic and Channing Frye come calling. Despite the evident frustration Channing displayed after his exodus from the valley I expect this to be a very amicable environment... which means there probably won't be any actual live sharks.
Tuesday, January 13 - The new look Cleveland Cavaliers, replete with a windfall of talent, visit the Suns for their yearly cameo. LeBron James, Kevin Love (I'm conceding this) and Kyrie Irving will likely have the circus in tow. I have a sneaking suspicion that not many Suns fans will miss this game.
Friday, January 30 - Derrick Rose will make his first visit to the valley since November 24, 2010. He had 35 points, 12 rebounds and 7 assists in that game as the Chicago Bulls bested Phoenix in overtime, 123-115. Jason Richardson and Hedo Tukoglu were still Suns.
Sunday, March 15 - Amar'e Stoudemire makes his annual return to Phoenix. In his visit last season Stoudemire scored 19 points and grabbed six rebounds. Sadly, that is a really good game for him these days. The Suns boatraced the Knicks in that game by a score of 112-88.
You can download a word copy of the schedule here:
*The Suns will also host Ish Smith and the Houston Rockets on Friday, January 23rd in what promises to be one of the most bittersweet days in Phoenix Suns basketball history...
It's theme day around SB Nation. What will become of the Phoenix Suns 12 months from now?
After volunteering for this piece, I quickly realized that all projections of the Suns franchise would have to hinge on the superstar question, specifically who will it be, how will they get him, and when is he coming?
To attempt to answer these questions would turn this into little more than a loosely structured rosterbation exercise, so I decided to ask a different question: can the Suns build a contender without landing a big fish through trade or free agency?
Since Lon Babby was hired in 2010, the objective was clear.
I think it's fair to say that the last four years have proved their mission statement to be rather unreasonable; especially that part about the star player.
As the Kevin Love saga proved, the superstar game is easy to play but damn tough to win.
Despite being armed with a boatload of assets Ryan McDonough had been pick-pocketing from rival GM's in the previous 14 months, plus the prized first-rounder from the Steve Nash trade, ultimately they stood no chance again the stupid luck of the Cavaliers. There was no way in hell that the Timberwolves were going to pass up on Andrew Wiggins, Thaddeus Young and a first-rounder.
There is also no way that Love bails on Cleveland with the hometown hero LeBron James on board.
Game, set, match. All the brilliant executive decisions made by the Suns recently were blown away like a fart in the wind, ultimately because LeBron James was born in Akron, Ohio.
I'm not even one of Love's biggest fans, but I'm still bitter. It's the principle that gnaws at me. Shrewd management should yield the spoils of victory, shouldn't it?
The Cavs, on the other hand, have taken more wrong turns than a carload of teenagers in a slasher flick. Yet they are all but guaranteed a deep playoff run, while the Suns will have to again fight tooth and nail for every inch they can gain out West.
As frustrating as the superstar game can be, count on the Suns being named as a potential suitor for nearly every big-time free agent until they finally bag one. The crop of 2015 free agents is currently headlined by LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol, Rudy Gay and DeAndre Jordan. Kawhi Leonard will technically be available, but given the Spurs track record of retaining star players he hardly bears mentioning.
Suns are likely to pursue one or more of these players, but do yourself a favor and keep your expectations in check -- even if they succeed. After all, the Rockets hit home runs in two consecutive offseasons, and it still was only enough for a first-round exit. Two summers ago, the Lakers and Sixers landed arguably the two best centers in the game at the time, Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum, respectively. Today both franchises are in the depths of rebuilding.
Even if you win, sometimes you still lose.
With that in mind, what if the the Suns don't land that big fish? What then would be their chances of building a contender?
12 months from now, some or most of the following things will have occurred if the Suns will have ended their four year playoff drought:
Let's say half of these things prove true; that would probably be good enough for a 48-win team. The problem is, 48 wins might yet again be insufficient for a playoff berth in the ridiculous Western Conference.
As long as I'm spitballing here, I'd say that the biggest key to making the playoffs in 2014/15 would be Hornyball (yes, I'm calling it that). If Hornacek's system of relentless effort, efficient shot attempts and innovative offensive schemes proves to be more than a short-lived gimmick, and becomes more effective than it was in 2013/14, it will carry more importance than any single player's contribution.
12 months from now, if the Suns yet again find themselves with a late-lottery pick, it is likely that some or most of the following things happened:
In the cutthroat environment out West, the above events could easily result in a fate worse than a 14th pick if they come to fruition. Unless a considerable amount of catastrophes or disappointments should befall our Western brethren, there will rarely be any gimmes on the schedule. Even when there are, we're talking about a team that lost a combined 5 games combined to the Kings, Lakers and Jazz in 2013/14.
Allow me to preface this with a disclaimer: I will not even pretend to have a clue about which of the above possibilities will come true. If I were to attempt to clumsily place a few tails on a few choice donkeys, I would venture a guess that the triple-threat in the backcourt will be a revelation, a number of teams will quickly regret passing over T.J. Warren, and Hornacek will cement his young legacy as a true system coach.
I also have a hard time equating these things to a playoff berth, which is not a slight; the West is just that unfair. Perhaps 12 months from now a second straight 48+ win season without a playoff berth for the Suns forces the NBA to change the playoff format to 1-16 overall, rather than 8 seeds per conference? Hell, I'd call that a successful season.
Put a gun to my head, and I'll wager that the state of the Suns franchise 12 months from now will be largely unchanged. A solid upward trend could be nothing more than significant contributions from Alex Len and T.J. Warren, although it won't create the popcorn headlines that a free agency splash would.
Affirmation of the magic of Hornyball would also signify more progress than most rosterbatory fantasies. The most optimistic scenario that comes to mind -- within the bounds of reason -- is that 12 months from now the Suns have built substantially from the culture that was planted in the summer of 2013 and have established a system that thrives in spite of any roster turnover.
12 months from now, the Morris twins will no longer be on rookie deals and will either have to be invested in or replaced. Likewise, Gerald Green may also play his way into a Jodie Meeks contract. How badly they are needed by the Suns will depend greatly on the progression of Alex Len, T.J. Warren and Archie Goodwin.
12 months from now, the Suns organization will be defined not by their ventures into free agency, but by their coaching and the intuition shown by the front office.
Long live Hornyball.
There is never enough BS of the Suns...
To mix things up we went into overtime to talk about ESPN's Western Conference Forecast, Adrian Wojnarowski's comments on local radio about the Eric Bledsoe situation, and our favorite movies of the summer. There is a unique selection to choose from. Someone said Sex tape. Listen to find out who.
Click here for Part Two: Overtime: Even More BS
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