Apr 14, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic (1) answers questions after facing the Memphis Grizzlies at US Airways Center. The Grizzlies won 97-91. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Phoenix Suns: Playoff Pain Precedes Progress


Watching the NBA playoffs from home is causing pain for the Phoenix Suns — the agony of defeat, if you will — but it’s good, because it’s a very necessary and important part of progress. I wrote a piece before the season started that mapped out almost this exact scenario, with the Suns overachieving and narrowly missing out on the playoffs. I argued it would be better long-term than actually getting in and losing in the first round.

I was called crazy, insane and many expletives that aren’t appropriate for this column…but I stand firm on that statement. The pain that the Suns are going through right now is making them hungrier. It’s making them truly accept and embrace the process of turning the franchise around.

For every Tim Duncan that comes into the league and succeeds almost immediately, there are thousands of Kevin Garnetts — guys who feel the real struggle of getting to the top. I’m not saying Duncan didn’t appreciate it, but I am saying that the non-cyborgs of the world need to feel what it’s like to struggle and work their way to the top to truly enjoy it.

WHAT ABOUT PLAYOFF EXPERIENCE?

This was one of my biggest points about the way the Suns would miss the playoffs. Many argued against me that the experience of playing in the playoffs would be much more important than anything and the Suns wouldn’t get that. I couldn’t disagree more.

For anyone that watched the Suns play down the stretch against the San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies, you know those were playoff games. Yes, the schedule said “regular season” but they were played at a high level, with playoff passion and intensity from everyone involved.

The Suns did get big-game experience by playing in those situations. Just because the floor didn’t have the “NBA Playoffs” logo on it doesn’t mean the games weren’t just as important.

THEY COULD HAVE WON, THEN WHAT?

Let’s be completely honest on this one. While the Suns were a great story and were extremely fun to watch, they weren’t beating the San Antonio Spurs or Oklahoma City Thunder in a series. The Suns would have been able to push both teams and definitely gained confidence by beating them in the regular season, but they weren’t winning a seven-game series.

The Suns have a few glaring holes that need to be addressed before they can consider themselves contenders. They don’t rebound well. They struggle to make good decisions offensively when Goran Dragic is on the bench. Perimeter defense was a problem for the majority of the season.

By narrowly missing out on the playoffs, the Suns have done a couple of things. First, they give themselves an extremely small chance to win the lottery. Second, they can assess their needs and approach next season with a confident mindset and a complete team to go with it.

FAILURE VS. SUCCESS

If you would have told the Suns that they’d win 48 games at the beginning of the 2013-14 season, every single person in the organization would have said it would be a success. If the Suns would have made the playoffs and bowed out in the first round, I also believe everyone would have considered it a success, with a lot of disappointment mixed in.

The way things happened, the players in the locker room feel like they failed. They’re not going to go into the offseason with a smile on their face, thinking they did a great job. Instead, they’re going to have a chip on their shoulder, as a team that won 48 freaking games and didn’t make the playoffs.

They’re going to be hungrier. They’re going to be angry. That’s going to sharpen their focus more than if they had made the playoffs this season. There’s no resting on their laurels this way. There’s no satisfaction. It’s all designed to make this team stronger in the long run. The taste of defeat will stay fresh in their mouths, which will just push them harder next season.

Call me crazy, but I see the Suns turning this season into home-court advantage in next year’s playoffs. They’ll address their issues, add some promising rookies and bring in veteran free agents to make a serious multi-year run at winning their first NBA championship.



Tags: Phoenix Suns