Streaking Suns?

When the Suns win big games, I end up buying a jersey of some kind.

There’s a certain sense of pride when your team wins against a good opponent, and that sense is
multiplied 100 times when your team is terrible. When Phoenix beat the Lakers in Steve Nash’s
first game back at US Airways, I bought a Charles Barkley retro jersey. And when the Suns
pulled off the improbable overtime win against the West-leading San Antonio Spurs, I knew I
had to buy another one.

Such is the life of a win-deprived Suns fan.

Phoenix Suns forward Marcus Morris (15) and forward Markieff Morris (11) walk off the court during the second half against the Boston Celtics at US Airways Center. The Celtics defeated the Suns 113-88. (Jennifer Stewart/USA TODAY Sports)

For just the second time this season, the Phoenix Suns have won their third game in a row,
pushing their record to 21-39. Even more impressive, those wins have all been quality victories.
First there was an overtime win against the injury-depleted Timberwolves last Tuesday, which in
and of itself is not all that impressive. But they followed that up with an overtime victory against the Spurs on the road the very next night, which happened before Tony Parker went down with an ankle injury. Then, Phoenix defied the odds once more with a quality home win over Al
Horford and the Atlanta Hawks on Friday.

The Suns are playing great basketball right now and the old-school throwback jerseys they’ve
been wearing are the best in the league, but I’m not going to do anything foolish like call them
a brand new team or declare there’s hope for the immediate future. Because there really isn’t, as any Suns fan will tell you. No offense to the Dragon, but when Goran Dragic is your best player, you’re not going to be contending for titles. But during this recent stretch, watching Phoenix play has been bearable and – dare I say it – fun.

So how have the Suns strung together this little winning streak? Well, it all starts with defense. During this three-game stretch, the Suns have held their opponents to just over 90 points per game. They’ve limited their opponents’ field goal percentage to 39.7%. And although they were outrebounded by the Hawks by five, the Suns have narrowly outrebounded their opposition overall.

The elevated play of Goran Dragic, Jermaine O’Neal and Markieff Morris and the addition
of Marcus Morris to the lineup have also been helpful as the Suns have done their best to not
completely alienate and disgrace their fan base. Dragic is evolving into the kind of playmaker the Suns have desperately needed since Steve Nash left, averaging 9.4 assists in his last five games. O’Neal has been a rebounding machine off the bench and has given the Suns’ second unit much-needed scoring, averaging 14.7 points, 10.3 boards and 2 blocks during Phoenix’s win streak. Mark Morris has put up 10.6 points in his last five while Marc Morris is averaging 13.5 points and 2 steals in his last three. The whole “Hey! Come to our games because we have twins!”
approach is still a pretty lame PR strategy, but so far having two copies of essentially the same player has worked out decently.

However, as much I enjoy buying jerseys to show off to all my fellow Suns fans who are
depressed by the here and now and need frequent reminders that Phoenix actually used to be a
good team, this resurgence really isn’t in the team’s best interest. The playoffs are well beyond reach and have been for quite some time. Which means the best approach, as much as I hate to see it, is tanking. As a fan of competition, I abhor the concept of losing on purpose to try and cheat the system for better draft prospects. But is it too much to ask that my favorite team stays competitive while losing the rest of the way to earn a better pick? Is it too much for me to ask that if my favorite team is going to fail, they at least do it right? Apparently so, because Phoenix has now moved up over the Hornets and Kings in the West, which means a lower draft pick. The Suns also get the Lakers’ first-round pick if LA misses the playoffs, but since that’s not a lock, getting a high pick would definitely go a long ways in helping this fan base feel more secure about its team’s future.

So please, Phoenix. I love watching you win. I love being able to talk smack to my friends for a
few days. And I love remembering the good old days with my fellow Suns fans by showing off
a new Charles Barkley or Jason Kidd jersey. But also keep our future (and my bank account) in
mind.