The 2014-15 Phoenix Suns were thought of around the league as a team that could make some noise this season, a potentially dangerous playoff team come seasons end. 48 wins the previous season as one of the youngest teams in the NBA, many expected Phoenix to make that next step, and possibly jump into elite conversation. Boy, did we have something coming.
The Phoenix Suns finished with just 39 wins and 43 losses, nine games worse than in 2014. They finished as the 10th seed in the West, lower than what they were seeded in 2014. They played their final game on Tuesday and enter the offseason with more question marks than a Harry Potter novel. But the record does not tell all, the season was truly disappointing from any perspective you look at it.
Eric Bledsoe Saga
Eric Bledsoe was a restricted free-agent at the end of last season. In July, coming off a season where he played the most minutes in his career and became the full-time starting point guard of a playoff caliber team, while also posting career-highs in points, rebounds, and assists, many expected a return to Phoenix, which did happen. He signed a five-year $70 million contract with the Suns, but not before negotiations unnecessarily dragged on for months and led all the way into training camp in September. Rarely do you see that happen, it even got to the point to where Bledsoe and the Suns had stopped all contact with each other.
For whatever reason, Bledsoe's agent Rich Paul decided to deem Bledsoe as a max player and would not come off that stance one bit, until the final days. The deal did get done, and all is good, but none of that should have happened and that might have kick started the drama filled season.
PJ Tucker, The Leader's Woes
When Channing Frye left the Suns this summer, they thought they already had someone to replace his veteran leadership on and off the court in P.J. Tucker. In late-July, a report came out that P.J. Tucker had been arrested for a "Super-Extreme Driving Under the Influence" charge. Yes, a super-extreme DUI. In August, Tucker was sentenced to a three-day jail term and 11 days of house arrest. A week later, the NBA suspended him for the first three games of the season for his actions. His blood-alcohol content was nearly three times the legal limit at .22.
On November 17, not even three weeks into the season, P.J. Tucker was on the team inactive list for a game in Boston later that day. Reason being, Tucker missed the team bus earlier that morning. He arrived at the airport on his own time, but broke team rules by missing the 9 AM bus. Reasons why he did not arrive on time were not disclosed. Not a very bright move by one who was supposed to be the Suns' leader this season.
But wait, on March 6th, P.J. Tucker missed a team bus on its way to Brooklyn. Really. He was originally suspended by the team for the game later that night, but for whatever reason the team decided to play him. The DUI was one thing, but then to miss the team bus two times in one season? Not good.
When the Suns signed Isaiah Thomas, behind already strong backcourt of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe, they envisioned a three-headed guard monster that teams could not contain. Instead what they got was hot-headed egos going around in the locker room.
With the team struggling early, Goran Dragic was asked about those early-season woes. He answered, "Because there's only one ball and we're all point guards." Later stating, “It’s hard. That’s sacrifice. If Isaiah’s playing well, he’s going to stay in. Me and Eric, it depends who is playing better and who is going to be on the court. The other guy is going to be on the bench. It’s the way it is. We need to embrace that.”
That quote from Dragic came really out of nowhere and not much was made of it. But then Thomas had some things to say in an interview with Sam Amick of USA TODAY Sports. "...I mean, everybody wants to be a starter. I'd be lying to you if I said it doesn't bother me that I don't start, but I'm going to do what's best for this team and continue to work, continue to be me, and hopefully one of these days my name is called and I'll be a starter and that's that. I can only do what I can control, and that's being me and giving it my all and the coach has got to do the rest."
A little competitiveness between backup and starter is nice, but not when it completely interferes with your play. The Suns still believed in their three point guard plan, and the lineup was somewhat working, even notching six straight victories at one point. But those comments were the definition of egos, and it all led to this...
Goran Dragic turns on Suns; Demands trade
Goran Dragic was the closest thing the Suns had to a franchise player. The Most Improved Player of the league a season ago, and All-NBA third team selection was a fan favorite. What many felt was the biggest snub of the 2014 All-Star game, Goran Dragic barely missed making the All-Star team to add to his list. He led the team to 48 wins in a tough, brutal Western Conference with Bledsoe, his running mate, out for 39 games. The Suns, having added point guard Isaiah Thomas and Bledsoe being healthy this season, cut Dragic's minutes and sometimes had him on the bench to close out games in favor of Isaiah Thomas. They sometimes had him play small forward when he proved himself as a point guard. None of us saw what was coming, but 48 hours before the trade deadline, Goran Dragic demanded out of Phoenix.
Not one Suns fan on planet Earth would ever envision Dragic being traded, let alone demand a trade, but that is what happened. He was fed up. Harsh words were thrown out to the Suns' front office. From Paul Coro, of the Arizona Republic:
“I don’t trust them anymore,” Dragic said following Wednesday’s practice session. “It happens too many times. Two, three times.
“They give promises, OK. It’s hard. But at the same time, I wish them all the best. They were great to me the past five years. I’m always going to have a good memory about Phoenix fans and the city. I just hit that point of my career that it’s better for me and my family to move on.
“I don’t feel comfortable with my situation,” he said, adding, “It’s just different. Standing in the corner, it’s not my game. I see that we’re not going the right direction. That’s why I take action and try to put myself in a better position.”
Wow. Not only did Dragic demand out, but he sold the team out. All this while giving the Suns less than 48 hours to get a solid return for the star point guard. He also gave the Suns a short list of three teams he wants to be traded to, taking away any leverage they had.
Where do we start here?
In the Suns first nationally televised game of the season on ESPN versus the Timberwolves on January 7th, Marcus Morris picked up a technical foul and was benched by head coach Jeff Hornacek. That had been the rule for the technical-prone Phoenix Suns, you get a 'T', you sit. Marcus Morris, for whatever reason, went absolutely ape-nuts on Hornacek. On the sidelines during a timeout, Morris was furiously yelling in his head coach's face while having to be pushed back by his assistant coaches and players.
A few months later, the Phoenix Suns got absolutely trounced at home by the San Antonio Spurs. They lost that game by 27 points and posted a Phoenix Suns history low for points in a first half - 24 points. Why Markieff Morris decided to make these comments after THAT game was confusing. He said the following:
"I don't think we have a home-court advantage, It does not feel like a home-court advantage at all. Some games are going to be bad. You can't win every game. That comes along with sports. Nobody wins games. We need the support. We need, as a team, to know that our fans are going to be behind us and I don't feel like this year they're behind us enough."
That did not bode too well with Phoenix natives and longtime ticket-holders.
A couple of weeks ago, the Morris twins went for the hat trick. According to NBCSports, the brothers are being investigated for Felony charges for assault on a man who sent "inappropriate" text messages to their mother. The investigation is still on going, but it is believed that both Morris' are invloved in what was a five person attack on the man.
Let's just say Marcus and Markieff did not gain many fans this past season.
Hectic Trade Deadline
The NBA saw its most hectic trade deadline in the history of the league. 43 players and picks changed hands. Wow. 12 of which involved Phoenix. They sent out five players and one pick, and got back three players and three picks. They sent out Goran and Zoran Dragic, Miles Plumlee, Tyler Ennis, and in a confusing move, dealt Isaiah Thomas. They lost a starter (arguably their best player), sixth man of the year candidate, a capable backup center, a 19-year-old rookie, and the Lakers' 2015 first-round pick. Talk about a team make over.
The team, as expected, struggled mightily out of the gate after the trade deadline, and posted historically bad scoring numbers. In their last 23 games, they failed to score 100 points 15 times. Yikes. They failed to score 75 points three times. That's right, three games with less than 75 points post-deadline. Anytime you deal nearly half your roster in one day, you have the right to call it H E C T I C.
The Green Machine on hold for too long
The starter filling in for Eric Bledsoe during the 48-win campaign in 2014 had a career year. He nearly stole the NBA's most improved player award from teammate Goran Dragic. With the signing of Isaiah Thomas, Green lost some minutes but still thrived off the bench averaging over 13 points per game the first few months of the season. He then stunk. Whether it was the team playing worse, the hectic trade deadline, he reverted back to his old playing ways. He received plenty of "Did Not Play - Coach's Decision" over the last three months of the season and saw his minutes decrease. And while he looked like he was all smiles sitting on the bench, he finally had enough. With three games left in the season, he came out and said the following via Paul Coro of Arizona Republic:
“I want to be here but I just don’t know if they want me here,” Green said. “Because if you want somebody, you show them. I didn’t think I was playing that bad and now we’re here.”
He did not have a single "DNP-CD" in 2014 with the Suns. Green is an unrestricted free agent as of July and his future with the team remains a mystery.
The Men at the Top
The Phoenix Suns are a respected organization around the league. They have never had a reputation of any sort, but that is not to say they did not mess up this season. The front office (General Manager, President, Owner) had some words that maybe should not have come out to the media this entire season.
On the Goran Dragic trade via Paul Coro of Arizona Republic:
After hearing fans and media comment that the Suns traded their best player (Dragic), McDonough said Friday, "Our response to that, I think, is that Eric Bledsoe and Markieff Morris are still in Phoenix Suns uniforms."
In commenting on Brandon Knight, McDonough also added, "We feel like we got the best player in the trade, coming or going."
"If some of those moves ruffle Goran's feathers, so be it," Suns President Lon Babby said.
On Gerald Green's comments on playing time:
“He never really seemed to get it going and then it comes to the point where, if you’re not scoring and if your defense isn’t picking up, it’s hard to stay in the game,” Hornacek said.
“The next guy is going, ‘I needed help here and the guy wasn’t here.’ We’re trying to develop something for the future, not just being out here for everybody to play in the game. We want to get to a top-notch winning level and you’ve got to do it on both sides.”
On Channing Frye leaving this summer:
“To be honest with you, we didn’t really even have a chance,” Sarver told the radio station. “He had mentioned he was interested in coming back, and then when he was talking to Orlando, he just called and said, ‘Hey, you’ve got three minutes to match this offer.’
“And we just let him go. To be honest with you, Channing was a good piece of what we did, but I think we’re better off now without him because it allows these younger guys to play."
(In which Channing Frye later stated that Sarver was not telling the truth)
It is understandable that the front office does not want to look like it is being pushed around, but these comments can build a reputation. The comments just did not seem professional. And that is the last thing the Suns need after this season.
The Phoenix Suns were second in the league in technical fouls with 79 on the year. They were led by Markieff Morris' 15, one away from a suspension by the league.
The Phoenix Suns lost on a last second shot five times this season. Five. Not one, not two, not three, not four, but five. Thank you Blake Griffin, Kris Middleton, James Harden, DeMarcus Cousins, and Harrison Barnes. Three of those shots came out of the rim, and somehow bounced back in. Let’s just say whatever may draw luck on this weird planet, was nowhere near the Suns during this 82-game season. Not sure if five buzzer beating defeats have ever happened to a team in a single season.
That is not all though, the Suns lost 12 games by three points or less. TWELVE LOSSES by three points or less. And a whopping 19 losses by five or less. That has to be some sort of record. Additionally, the Suns only missed the playoffs by six games? Yup, now these losses sting even worse.
Whatever evil entity entered the Suns locker room in October of 2014, please leave for next season. Thanks.
A team with such potential let selfishness and egos set the franchise back. An unexpected series of events brought down this Suns team, and leaves some questions to be answered. They finished with one win and ten losses in their last 11 games of the season.
What happened to the Suns this season, a season they were supposed to take that next step, is something you will likely never see again. It was a hurricane of drama. From DUI's, to missing team busses, to shouting matches with your coach, to selling out your team, to technicals, to buzzer beaters, this season was unreal. A lot of change will be coming next season, and it will be interesting to see which direction the Suns go, but there is one word to describe this shocking season, catastrophe.