By Jeff Case
No one will confuse the 2012-13 Phoenix Suns with a legit title contender, but they haven’t been as awful as some thought they’d be this season. At 3-4, they’ve beaten the teams they probably should (Cleveland, Detroit and Charlotte) and lost to the ones they probably should have (Utah, Miami) and taken losses in two others that were a toss-up (Orlando and Golden State).
Still, the memories of Steve Nash directing coach Mike D’Antoni‘s Seven Seconds Or Less offense are still somewhat fresh. Don’t forget about that great small forward they had too … what was his name … oh yeah! Shawn Marion. In remembering those days, though, Suns fans also recall the way those peak D’Antoni-Nash-Marion-Amar’e Stoudemire teams used to routinely falter against the Spurs, Mavs and Lakers in the West playoffs.
Since those glory days, D’Antoni has been hired (and fired) by New York, Marion was traded to Miami, Stoudemire bolted as a free agent for New York and Nash skipped town, too.
All that to say: is there any fan base that’s seen more of their icons tied to different successful eras leave more often than Phoenix has?
Consider these Suns icons who left town:
- Paul Wesphal, a three-time All-Star in Phoenix and the leading scorer on the Suns’ 1976 Finals runner-up team, was dealt to rival Seattle in the summer of 1980. The Sonics, at the time, were easily one of the most dominant teams in the West and had won it all in 1979. Westphal, who coached Phoenix to the ’93 Finals, also coached Seattle in the late 1990s. Double-ouch.
- Charles Barkley won the MVP in 1993, led Phoenix to The Finals that season and is, perhaps, the most well-known Sun ever. He forced a trade to Houston in 1996 so he could chase a ring with Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon, who were key pieces to the Rockets’ last title team in 1994-95. That ’94-95 squad ousted a 59-win Phoenix team in the West semis.
- Marion, he of the great nickname (“The Matrix”), was a four-time All-Star in Phoenix before the O’Neal trade. That opened the door for his trade to Toronto, which led to his eventual signing as a free agent with the rival Mavs in 2009. Dallas won the whole thing in 2011.
- You name it, Nash did it for Phoenix. Yet in the summer, the chance to be closer to his children and have a good shot at a ring made the Lakers the easy pick. Need we explain the Suns-Lakers rivalry?
- D’Antoni’s Suns exploits are many, but is there any worse place he could have landed for Suns watchers than the L.A. Lakers? Sorry to break the news …
Look around the NBA’s history and every so often you’ll see an MVP (Karl Malone to the Lakers) or a Finals MVP (Chauncey Billups to Denver) or an overall franchise face (Chris Paul to the Clippers) get moved or sign elsewhere. But it’s hard to think of a team outside of Phoenix that has seen more iconic players either move on or be moved on to chase a ring elsewhere.