From contenders to also-rans, from model franchise to bumbling team, from everyone’s favorite destination to Siberia: that is what the Phoenix Suns have become. The Suns are languishing in last place in the Western conference with only 17 wins. The franchise used to be a destination for NBA players to sign with or get traded to, but suddenly it isn’t.
With the team doing so poorly, management has come out saying that everyone on the team is available, including their best player, point guard Goran Dragic. He just came back to the franchise, signing a four-year deal worth $7.5 million per. Rumors have linked New York Knicks trading Imam Shumpert to the Suns. The Utah Jazz have been shopping Al Jefferson and Gordon Hayward and Phoenix might be biting. One thing is for certain, the Suns will have a very high pick in the upcoming NBA draft and the squad will look very different next season.
Rumors, trades and drafts are all nice but who really wants to play with the Suns? The team just went through the acrimonious firing of coach Alvin Gentry, replacing him with Lindsey Hunter, who has no experience. The move alienated fans and hastened the departure of fan favorite and assistant coach Dan Majerle as well as Elston Turner. The team is run by general manager Lance Blanks, who had a non-descript playing career and was only really hired because he came from the San Antonio Spurs organization. Last week, he got into it with veteran player Jermaine O’Neal. It’s always a good sign when your general manager and your most tenured player have an argument in public.
Then you have the roster of wayward cast offs. O’Neal is on his final kick of the can hoping to get traded to a contender. Michael Beasley has been, well, Beasley–not fulfilling any potential and just cashing cheques. Shannon Brown, Jared Dudley and Channing Frye are on their way out at the trade deadline. The Marcin Gortat experiment has failed. Luis Scola is still wondering how he got to Phoenix and the rest are players that might be better served playing in Europe next season. With all that in mind, why would anyone want to play in Phoenix?
Two reasons come to mind. One is the city. Phoenix is beautiful, the price of housing is cheap, Mexico is close and you are close enough but far enough from Los Angeles. The scenery is nice: just ask Charles Barkley about that. Barkley could live anywhere. He works out of Atlanta and Los Angeles and grew up in Alabama, but chooses to make Arizona his home. It might have something with his status in Phoenix and what that status brings.
The other reason is how bad the team is itself. The roster will be gutted. Therefore if you are young and want the keys to a franchise, then playing for the Suns next season is the way to go. Imagine coming in and being the star right away. How many other franchises can give you that opportunity?
So if I was Robert Sarver, the owner of the Suns, I would use those two reasons to entice players to come to city. Playing basketball, being adored for it and making lots of money in one of the nicest cities in the league is the marketing pitch that needs to be used.
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