There’s an intriguing new addition to the 2022-23 NBA schedule, with the Phoenix Suns set to be involved in the league’s latest innovation – ‘rivalry week’.
The concept involves 11 nationally televised games that will take place between Tuesday 24th January and Saturday 28th January. This lands as the official unveiling of the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks as major rivals, with the two teams set to square off at Footprint Center on January 26.
It does beg the question though – is this actually a rivalry, is it simply part of another marketing ploy used by the league, or is it both? Clearly it’s a clever tool to generate interest in what otherwise might be a laborious period prior to the All-Star break.
However, in the league’s defense, there are some genuine rivalries here that will be exciting to watch. There’s the traditional Los Angeles Lakers-Boston Celtics matchup, along with a Philadelphia 76ers-Brooklyn Nets battle that will feature Ben Simmons and James Harden against their former teams.
Then there are the developing rivalries, of which the Suns-Mavericks certainly fit into. Did the two teams play-off in an exciting seven game series? Yes. Was there some extra fascinating by-play that isn’t uncommon in a long, hard-fought series? Yes. Is there anything else notable to consider it a major rivalry? Not really.
Although we mention the playoff series regularly on Valley of the Suns, that’s because it’s the lasting memory of the Suns season, not because the Mavericks are some sort of fierce enemy. Every team is a rival when the only aspiration is to win. One singular second-round playoff series isn’t enough to label it anything more at this stage.
The reality is that, before this year, the two teams had played in just two series’ and 12 total playoff games. They came in back-to-back years in 2005 and 2006, with both going six games. More recently, the supposed rivalry has seen Phoenix win nine straight regular season games by an average of over ten points.
In the NBA’s defense, Dallas may be the closest thing to a major rival that Phoenix has. The fact is that they’ve only been a quality team over the past two seasons, and that any notable rivalry needs to be built and developed after a significant period in the league’s wilderness.
This simply feels like two young superstars, Devin Booker and Luka Doncic, leading two good teams who deserve to be featured in this type of idea. Could it develop into a meaningful rivalry? Only time will tell.