As I opened up my Sports Illustrated this week, I was prepared to be disappointed with a hockey cover and a teased NBA feature on the San Antonio Spurs.
However, along with that I was treated to Jack McCallum’s oral history piece (you need to buy the magazine to read the full story) on “The Best Finals Ever,” the 1993 matchup between the Suns and the Bulls that turned me and so many other Valley kids into basketball fans 20 years ago.
McCallum uses current interviews with the key principals involved with the series as well as a few 20-year-old interviews to tell the story of a wild Finals that included road domination (home teams lost five of six), the Suns winning a triple-overtime Game 3 that ranks among the top handful of Finals games ever, superlative play from Michael Jordan at the peak of his powers against that year’s MVP Charles Barkley and a series-clinching shot by John Paxson that Suns fans still haven’t forgotten. Although it’s a painful trip down memory lane, it’s one well worth taking.
The piece ends with interviews with three former Suns players:
AINGE: We were a better team the next year and the year after. But one year Charles gets hurt, the next year Danny Manning, who had really helped us, blows out his knee. It was always something….
BARKLEY: The next season I had taken so many injections in my knee, I wouldn’t have been able to play in the Finals anyway.
JOHNSON: On the 20th year after those great Finals, we managed to keep a team in Sacramento, and that’s as good as it gets. But honestly? The 1993 Finals still keeps me up at night. The history of the NBA has these teams that come up short, learn their lessons then win it. That was supposed to be us. But we didn’t. And being ‘one of the best teams never to win a championship?’ That’s a sorry state to be in.
Although the SSOL Suns never reached the Finals, that same fate befell them as well whereby they came up short and learned their lessons but never got over the hump. Malone’s Jazz, Ewing’s Knicks and C-Webb’s Kings likely feel the same way.
The end result is that not all elite teams follow a path whereby they take their knocks and then emerge victorious, yet Suns fans should still cherish the greatness of the ’93 Suns even if like everyone else in the ’90s they came up short against Michael Jordan.
Suns still 29th in Future Power Rankings
Since the Suns have ranked near the bottom of the Future Power Rankings since ESPN’s John Hollinger and Chad Ford started writing them, it should come as no surprise that the Suns stayed in 29th place in the most recent edition published on May 29.
Here’s what Ford wrote about the Suns:
The only thing that saves the Suns from dead last in our rankings is the complete and utter disaster known as the Charlotte Bobcats. The Bobcats have been last in every Future Power Rankings we’ve ever done and don’t seem much closer to losing their grip on the bottom spot.
But, oh, how the Suns have tried. With bad draft choices, selling draft picks, horrible free-agent decisions and misguided trades, the team has fallen apart over the past few years.
The good news? They’ve probably already hit rock bottom, and with a few rays of hope.
The Suns have the No. 5 and No. 30 picks in this year’s draft and have a total of six first-round picks in the next three years. They also got a small bump in Management thanks to the hiring of former Celtics assistant GM Ryan McDonough.
But other than that? Not much. With no cornerstones for the Suns to build around, it’s going to be grim for a while. The loaded 2014 draft might be their best way out of the mire.
In years past I have found the Suns’ poor rankings to be unjustified, and their performance through the years bore that out before this season. However, I am in agreement with these rankings for the immediate future with the caveat being the Suns could be in a completely different position next year at this time if they hit on their No. 5 pick and have a top-three selection coming to them next year along with heaps of salary coming off their books.
So although I don’t see the Suns being particularly good in the next three seasons that this rankings covers (although who really knows what will be in 2015-16), after that I could see their future brightening to the point that Ford has no choice but to recognize it if they draft well.