Phoenix Suns: Everything you need to know about their return to play

Phoenix Suns Kelly Oubre (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns Kelly Oubre (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The Phoenix Suns will get to play at least eight more basketball games this season with a chance to play more.

We have speculated for months about how, when, and if the Phoenix Suns would come back. Spurned by a decade of bad news and horrid luck, most Suns fans hunches and rumor interpretations were that the team’s season was all but certain to be over.

We were all wrong. The NBA and the Phoenix Suns are coming back!

Details surrounding the 22-game play-in tournament were bound to leak before Thursday’s board of governor’s conference call, and leak they did. In fact, they splattered all over the Internet Wednesday morning. To simplify things, here is everything you need to know thus far about the Phoenix Suns (and the 21 other teams) returning to play.

The Phoenix Suns are one of five Western Conference teams to participate.

The 22 teams who will be traveling to Orlando’s Disney World for more basketball will include the 16 teams currently in playoffs spots plus any team within six games of the 8th seed.

That means only one team from the Eastern Conference qualifies, (the Washington Wizards) and five teams from the Western Conference will make the trip (the Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, and yep, the Phoenix Suns).

Play will start July 31 and the playoffs will end no later than October 12.

The Phoenix Suns will play eight more regular-season games in Orlando.

That’s right, eight. Every team will get eight games to either use as a tune-up if they’re already in a playoff spot or to claw towards a play-in tournament if they’re not (more on that in a minute).

Eight games will also help teams reach the coveted 70-game minimum that TV contracts stipulated for full payment, which will undoubtedly help relieve some of the financial burdens this hiatus has placed on teams.

We don’t yet know what the schedule will look like. Is this short, eight-game regular-season weighted such that non-playoff teams play each other more than teams already in the playoffs?

I would hope so because it would be extremely unfair for the Suns to have to play the Lakers and Bucks while the Blazers play the Wizards and the Kings.

The play-in tournament isn’t really a play-in tournament.

When I hear play-in tournament, I think of something like the NCAA’s First Four, where every team is on relatively equal ground and vying for a place in the big dance. Understandably, putting teams on an even footing after 70+ regular-season games isn’t fair for the teams who have won more games, but it looks like the NBA is putting this on a substantial curve.

Only two teams will make the play-in tournament, which doesn’t really make it a tournament at all. After the completion of the regular season, only the 8th and 9th seed will be eligible to make the playoffs.

If 9th seed is four or more games back, the 8th seed earns spot.

If 9th seed is 4 or fewer games behind, there will be a 3-game series but the 9th seed will start down 0-1, meaning they will have to win twice while the 8th seed would only have to win once.

Teams seeded 10th or lower would be eliminated.

The playoffs will keep the traditional East-West format.

One of the ideas floated around was to reseed all 16 playoffs teams (or even all 22). This won’t happen, meaning with this play-in “tournament” the Washington Wizards automatically qualify as long they get up to within four games of the 8th seeded Orlando Magic.

In the Western Conference, however, four teams will be left out, which means the Phoenix Suns will have their work cut out for them considering they have the furthest hill to climb in the standings.

What the Phoenix Suns will need to do.

Again, we don’t know who the Phoenix Suns will play in their eight regular-season games, but they may very well have to win them all to eek their way up to the 9th seed and become eligible for the play-in tournament.

The Suns are six games back of the Memphis Grizzlies for the 8th seed currently, but with four teams between the two, it will take a lot for the Suns to make the 9th seed.

Can they do it? Absolutely. They will have all of their players healthy and available for the first time all season. We have several weeks to break down exactly how and why they can make this happen.

For now, get excited that the Phoenix Suns basketball season is NOT over. I think we all use some basking in good news right now.


The Phoenix Suns possible schedule

Rumors are now flying that the teams’ original schedules would stay the same and if they were scheduled to play a team not in the field of 22, they skip that one and move on to the next.

I’m not sure if/how this would work considering this may give teams more than eight games. It seems to me in order for this to work, no team could play the same team twice. But if this is the case, then the next eight games would be for the Suns would be:

Mavericks, Clippers, Mavericks (again), Pacers, Wizards, 76ers, Heat, Thunder. If by chance, the rule is that teams can’t play each other twice (pure speculation), then one of the Mavericks games would be replaced with the Pelicans.

More to come when the schedule becomes official.

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