Unchanged Suns Ready to Finish What They Started
Contrary to reports, the trade deadline did not pass without a peep in Phoenix.
There were noises, though most of them were sighs of relief and cheerful chatter with familiar faces. The guys at practice the day after the NBA trade deadline were the same ones from the day before.
In the end, the Suns – 32-21 and sixth-best in the West – simply didn’t see a need to fix what wasn’t broken
“We felt this year we’ve done a nice job with the chemistry and the guys all get along, they’re all playing hard,” Head Coach Jeff Hornacek said. “It was probably a tough time to break any of that up. It’s great that the team stays the way it is and we just keep going.”
“I’m happy that the team is still together,” Goran Dragic added. “We have great chemistry, great guys. I was hoping that we would stay together.”
The call to maintain chemistry rather than bring about change was made by President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby and General Manager Ryan McDonough. The latter made a point that perhaps got lost amid the drama and allure of “deadline week”: Phoenix had already made their deals – and gotten a lot more out of them.
“There was a reason we did the deals (trades with Indiana and Washington) we did over the summer and the timing of it,” McDonough said. “We feel great about the players we acquired (Miles Plumlee, Gerald Green) in those deals and the two first-round draft picks we have coming as a result of them. That was a calculation to get out ahead of the trade deadline. We thought we’d be able to get more value then, which I think has proved to be true. There weren’t any first-round picks that exchanged hands at the deadline among any teams. The other added benefit of it was to give the group time to come together and get to know each other and the coaches. I think you’ve seen the results of that so far.”
The first portion of McDonough’s comments were cut-and-dry, basketball related and calculated. The second part refers to a less tangible value of this year’s team, one that has vaulted them above and beyond the expectations of nearly everyone outside the organization.
The Suns front office was resolute in its approach and eventual execution of the trade deadline: unless the gain clearly outweighed the loss, it wasn’t worth upsetting the internal magic the team had tapped.
“When you have a group of guys that plays up to their level, up to their ability level or some people would even say overachieve – and they’re great guys on the court and also in the community –it’s hard to change that,” McDonough said. “Unless there was a superstar or a blockbuster deal, we didn’t want to affect our group because they’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do and they’ve played well. We’re 11 games over .500 as we get into late February. We didn’t want to make a move in-season just for the sake of doing something. We’re fine doing nothing because we’re happy with the guys we have.”
The players are happy, too, with more than a touch of determination. There’s a sense that the group that started the season in odds-defying fashion deserves to see it all the way through.
“I think all of us, especially with being picked last in the West, we wanted to stay together and prove and really see what we can do as a team before they made any decisions, subtractions or anything to our team,” P.J. Tucker said.
Tucker and his teammates got what they wanted. No one left. Eric Bledsoe is hoping to come back. The playoffs are well within reach.
In the end, they’re right where the want to be, with the teammates they want to be with. After all the rumors and drama, they can fully focus on what matters: playing.
“Now it’s the fun stuff,” Dragic said with a smile. “Try to put the cherry on the cake. Nobody really believed in us before the season.”
If that’s the only thing that changes about this team before the end of the season, that will be more than enough.