It’s that time of year. You know, the time where you can go outside in the morning and not perpetually wonder why you live in Phoenix. Where you can get in your car after work and actually touch the steering wheel and drive home to see a new episode of your favorite network TV show (if those are still a thing).
And what else does this all mean? It also means the Suns season, well, at least the preseason is upon us. When you’ve written about the Suns long enough — a decade in my case — you start to feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day. You feel like you’ve written some variation of every storyline before and like it’s all Mad Libs where the situations stay the same but the names are switched in and out like super stars in the NBA’s Western Conference.
Instead of the typical look at things, I’m going to take a different approach. Here are five things I assume about Suns training camp coverage and the Suns season.
We’ll Be Told Someone Came to Camp With An Extra 10-15 lbs of Muscle
I covered five training camps across two states and three cities and regardless of what college we were bunked at for a week, inevitably someone on the roster had found a new physique over the offseason. It seemed to be ago-to storyline that first few days of camp without fail. And, almost as inevitably as it being talked about, it’s forgotten about by the end of the week and that newfound bulk is gone by the start of the regular season.
We’ll Be Told the Team Has a Renewed Focus on Defense
For the 50th straight training camp the Phoenix Suns have a dedication and focus on becoming better at team defense. And for the 50th straight season it’ll be lip service. The Suns are who we thought they were — RIP Denny Green— and that is a team built around dynamic scorers first and defense second. It’s almost as if every Suns coach leaves a secret packet for whoever his predecessor is and when they open it they’re told that paying lip service to defense is necessary but following through on it is optional.
Someone Will Write About this Young Team Wanting to Shock the World
No player goes into the year expecting to have a long, tough season. Media Day is more positive than a show on Oprah’s network and, without fail, someone will take those quotes and say the Suns are hoping to make the playoffs and surprise everyone. I know all about it because I’ve written plenty of them. Buyer beware.
The Suns Will Be a Better Team Than Last Year and Win Fewer Games
#TheTimeline is right on schedule with the addition of Josh Jackson and the growth of Devin Booker. The team is better on paper and on the court than they were last season and they’ll still manage to lose more games this season by no fault of their own. The West is like the Avengers to the East’s Iron Man, an ensemble cast of stars against one main star. With the additions of Paul George, Carmelo Anthony, Jimmy Butler and Paul Milsap the conference is probably the strongest it’s ever been and that’s before you even look at the influx of young talent from the draft. The good news is, most of the talent who joined the conference are older and have a short shelf life which means they’ll be on the decline as the Suns’ youth matures.
Eric Bledsoe Will Make the All-Star Team*
If you’re not on social media you probably don’t know this but Bledsoe met Nic Cage over the weekend. To me, when you meet the GIF God, it’s a sign of big things to come.
— Espo 🤔 (@Espo) September 24, 2017
Oh, and there is that little thing of, when healthy, Bledsoe has been one of the best guards in the league in terms of stuffing the stat sheet. Eric is a smart guy and understands he is on display for every team in the league. With the Suns committing to a youth movement he’ll likely continue to be mentioned in trade talks and he has something to prove. After being benched to end last season to help the tank, he’s more motivated than ever, which is tough because he’s one of the hardest workers I’ve seen.
If he stays healthy he’ll be in the discussion come January.
Devin Booker Will Be Criticized Nationally
This one is a given. People who don’t watch Booker and the Suns on a regular basis, haven’t been around Booker or are analytics obsessed want to tear him down. To the uninitiated, he is a big points on a bad team guy, but we are initiated, aren’t we?
Despite the criticism Booker is the real deal on and off the court. He has all the pieces to be a star in this league. He has the skills, desire and composure and, by the end of the season, he’ll have proved doubters wrong.
This Season is About Celebrating the Fans
It’s the Suns 50th season and with that comes a celebration of the fans. Sure, the on the court product won’t be battling for the playoffs but that doesn’t mean it won’t be fun. The one constant about this franchise is the passion and dedication of the fans who have filled the Coliseum and Talking Stick Resort Arena. It’s my hope that games turn into celebrations of the different generations of fans and the teams they rooted for. The Suns Slam Dunk at 50 and the throwback uniforms were both good starts.