Suns gain league-wide respect


PHOENIX — Part of the growing up process for the Phoenix Suns was winning over fans after three lottery-bound seasons prior, the last of which was a historically bad year.

Another part was learning something about themselves.

“That we can play with anybody,” point guard Goran Dragic said without hesitation when asked what he learned this year.

“We had a lot of great moments and a lot of strength, and just to come to the season and everybody was saying we’re not going to play good, that tells us something about how this team is and how we came along and played tough basketball.”

Coach Jeff Hornacek took a longer while to take the podium following the Monday night, 97-91 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. He was busy giving a speech to his team.

“This team tonight, they were in the Western Conference finals last year,” Hornacek said of the Grizzlies. “They’re one of the top teams when Marc Gasol plays. Our guys battled, they did the best they could.”

Hornacek said his players proved a lot to their coaches, the fans and the organization this season. More importantly, they proved much to themselves.

But maybe most importantly, the Suns proved something to their NBA peers.

“A lot of compliments from older guys in the league like, ‘Man, you guys just look like you have a good time playing with each other,’” said Suns forward Channing Frye.

Look no further than the Memphis Grizzlies, who secured a postseason bid after last year falling to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals. Memphis overcame a 10-15 start in 2013-14, learned how to win under first-year coach Dave Joerger and overcame multiple injuries, the one to Gasol being the most significant hinderance in reaching the postseason.

After the game on Monday, the Grizzlies bench made sure to console the Suns afterward in U.S. Airways Center, acting like the big brother sending his little brother off to college. They know full well that Phoenix could put up a better fight next time they meet.

Memphis knew this wasn’t a fluke of a situation, where the Suns’ battle for the final playoff spot came down to the last week of the year.

“It was real intense,” Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph said. “The game went back and forth.

“Nobody expected them to do what they did this season. Coach Hornacek did a great job and those young guys over there, you’ve got to take your hat off to them,” he added. “They had a great season. Bledsoe, he’s a stud. Dragic and all the other guys are great young players.”

The Suns miss out on the postseason with either 47 or 48 wins. It was either inexperience in what were essentially playoff games that did them in, or a few bad losses to bad teams.

“When I look back, you saw game against Lakers … you have to take care of business at home, away against those teams that are not so successful,” Dragic said. “I know tomorrow it’s going to be better. Everybody did their job, everybody was fighting throughout the whole season. I’m proud of every player in the locker room.”

Who’s in the locker room next year and beyond remains to be seen, but with league-wide respect, the season doesn’t only mark progress within. It means Phoenix has done a fine marketing job throughout the NBA. Randolph, who was briefly mentioned as a Suns trade target this season, was quick to compliment the culture, after all.

That’s as important a reason as any for Phoenix to feel good moving into the summer.

  • EBJM

    That was an interesting quote Frye posted. Are there teams that don’t look like they are having fun playing together?

    The Knicks perhaps?

  • Dave:f32

    Frye-d is gonna say whatever so that he can save his hyde from having to compete for playing time on another team. He is content to just jack up 3s and collect on a lucrative paycheck, for what he does and doesn’t day. Can you say: Cushy job?

  • BCrayZ

    Suns team this year makes me proud to be one of their real fans.

    Unfortunately, our players deserve more. Hard to find enough good fans in this city.

    Take EBJM & Dave for example. These cowards just make me sick. They love to pick on Channing Frye. Just ask Gogi. He will tell us that the biggest difference between the success of this year’s team & the failure last year was having Frye back. Sure, Mark & GG14 made great strides this year in their offensive game but unfortunately give it all back & then some when asked to play “D.” Neither of them got the job done, despite decent shooting, in the critical Grizzlies game. Frye, just as he has been all year long with the best adjusted plus/ minus (even better than Gogi) on the Suns, was the only player on the team with a plus for the game. Real fans should get behind someone like that. These so-called fans don’t deserve this team. Suns lost out on Barbosa (broken hand). After winning 11 out of 15 with “The Blur”, our team lost 7 out of 10 without him. Then, Eric came back to save the day. With all 3 of them playing “tiny ball” together, the Suns will be ready to take that next step. Make it so Ryan.

    MUST resign LB. Let’s go SUNS!!!!

  • Dave:f32

    @BCrayZ

    So now ur saying im not a real fan because i dont see things the way you biasedly see them.

    Thats “being crayZ” indeed. Fact is, Frye wouldnt know the meaning of true work if it smacked him upside his head, and introduced itself to him: “Frye, hi im hard work. Nice to meet ya”. Haha

    He doesnt play defense; only when he wants to. You cant argue that.

    He doesnt rebound well, especially for someone of his 6’10″ statute. Oh, but he loves to jack up that 3ptr.

    We call that a benchwarmer gone starter.

    You defend him when he’s making millions to do nothing more than shoot from the 3pt stripe, without any other obligation. No matter what kind of shooting slump he may be in.

    Newsflash: LB is gone. And if the Suns are lucky, so will Frye. Be gone!

  • Chacho

    @Dave:f32

    Do you have an option to replace Frye? A stretch 4/5 that, whether or not he is shooting, will space the floor and let Dragic and Bledsoe do what they do? Cause lemme tell ya, the options for big men 3 point shooters are slim (Spencer Hawes is hardly a real consistent threat from anywhere. Believe me, I relocated to Philly and watched enough sad games with mullet-head Hawes).

    Yeah he doesn’t put up the greatest rebounding numbers, but what could you expect when half the rebounds he is eligible to get (those on the offensive end) he is out near the 3-point line? I can’t make an excuse for his poor defensive rebounding (cause there is not excusing it), but his adjusted plus/minus suggests that whatever he is doing, his being on the court has been more helpful to his team than about 75% of other players in the league.

    Believe me, if the Suns could go ahead and pick up Kevin Love, I would be all for it (I wish upon a star every night for it), but this offense is going to flow much better with a shooting big man, and Frye is a veteran this organization needs.

  • BCrayZ

    Viva Chacho!