Phoenix Suns: The (NBA) world is watching

Phoenix Suns (Photo by Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)
Phoenix Suns (Photo by Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Phoenix Suns raised more than a few local eyebrows with their bubble performance at the end of last season.

The acquisition of Cameron Payne was perhaps the most underrated addition of James Jones’ tenure, and Payne proved he was capable of playing a decent version of NBA starting point guard.

At that point the long-punished Suns fans, who saw their team somehow miss the playoffs after a perfect 8-0 bubble, had to have — very quietly — entertained thoughts that something good was coming their way in 2021.

And then Chris Paul happened. And Jae Crowder. And then some serious chemistry. And here we are, entering a Saturday night game against San Antonio as an elite NBA contender.

The Phoenix Suns have rolled to a 40-15 mark in 2020-21 and landed squarely in the sights of the NBA community.

They’re widely recognized as a legitimate title contender, as clearly reflected in the recent national power rankings across several media platforms.

Only a game and a half behind Utah, the Suns could move closer by Monday night, with the Jazz playing back-to-back games at the Lakers on Saturday and Monday.

And Donovan Mitchell is reported to be out for at least both of those games with an injury.

The team has needed the contributions provided from just about everyone, but no one has exceeded expectations over the past three months more than Deandre Ayton.

The Phoenix Suns have become a big part of sports-talk shows across the country, with analysts discovering this team seemingly every day.

The best part of the Suns’ run toward the top of the West? It’s that the team is now part of the “let’s contrive something clever to make up, and then talk about” routine of the click-hungry and viewer-dependent NBA narratives.

It started with ESPN’s painful insistence on deciding that Devin Booker “could be” disgruntled — you know, a couple of years down the road — and maybe would consider forcing a trade to … I dunno … let’s see … the Knicks? Go with it.

And now? Title contenders.

The Phoenix Suns are not only good; they’re easy to watch and fun to follow.

A huge part of the fans’ love for this team is the aforementioned character the Suns have shown. It starts with Booker, who has certainly paid his dues in Phoenix.

But Booker was never beaten down or disgruntled. He embraces the challenge, and his attitude is reflective of his teammates and the coaching staff.

The Phoenix Suns have grown their fan base by playing NBA basketball the right way.

The Suns have brought peripheral fans to their side by playing an exciting and entertaining brand of basketball. And it doesn’t hurt that James Jones — a prodigious shooter in his day — has carefully the constructed the roster with high-character guys who are also high-efficiency shooters.

The team has set franchise marks and an NBA record already this season as its 3-point volume has expanded — and succeeded in keeping opponents wondering how to stop this pass-friendly, ball-moving, sweet-shooting offense.

Only a game and a half out of first place in the Western Conference — and the NBA, for that matter — is a position Suns fans could only have quietly dreamed of last year.

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