Very few would’ve placed serious money on the Phoenix Suns becoming the last team to stay undefeated in the NBA restart. The team was far from becoming the paragon of winning consistently. The Suns were 7-8 in January, 4-9 in February, and 2-2 in March before games were suspended temporarily. Phoenix blitzing to a 5-0 slate is probably not very high on the list of possible surprising headlines to come out of the Orlando bubble. The last time Phoenix recorded a five-game winning streak was in December 2014 after defeating Charlotte, New York, Washington, Dallas, and Sacramento. The Suns would extend the streak to six after winning against LA Lakers before absorbing back-to-back losses (New Orleans and Oklahoma City) to end the year.
But it is refreshing to see that the conversation among basketball fans has focused on a team outside the circle of title contenders (not to belittle Phoenix though, but the truth of the matter is that even if they made the 22-team NBA restart, the Suns is not a favorite to win the title). Quite expectedly, Phoenix’s five-game winning streak segues to typical points of discussion like what are they doing differently here in the Orlando bubble and how long will the streak last, among others.
Personally, this streak made me think about opportunities, not necessarily Playoff or championship opportunities for the Suns per se (at least, not right now if I am being realistic), but something that extends to Phoenix’s future transcending the 2019-20 season. I’m a sports romantic and the only thing I will cherish with genuine delight other than watching my favorite team win the championship is witnessing an underdog story unfold and come to complete fruition. If this is Phoenix’s destiny this season, fans will surely talk about this for years to come. The last time Phoenix made the Playoffs was during the 2009-10 season. The Suns, bannered by Steve Nash, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Jason Richardson, defeated Portland in the first round and swept San Antonio in the conference semi-finals before bowing to the LA Lakers (4-2).
But should Phoenix falter and reduce this streak as a mere footnote to a season that ended in an anti-climactic manner, I believe there is still something here that is of value.
For the fans, this winning streak is a promise for a renewed – or even heightened – optimism. Phoenix is showing progress, and even if they fail to make the Playoffs this year, fans can look forward to the 2020-21 season knowing the team is getting better and better. Whatever happens, this will be a better showing for Phoenix after a dismal 2018-19 season (19-63).
For the front office, this streak is an encouraging affirmation of their labors in recent years: they are moving in the right direction. Watching player movement in Phoenix centered on providing star player Devin Booker with a talented supporting cast reveals the team’s intention of becoming a legitimate contender again and this streak is a spark of life. With a little more fine-tuning, Phoenix can become formidable again.
For players looking to move to a new team next season, Phoenix could be the ideal destination. Having good players interested in joining the team is good for Phoenix. They can choose from a selection brimming with talent, aspiration, and above all, hunger. Phoenix remains a team without an NBA title and players chasing a ring could be enticed into joining a team shaping up as the next legitimate contender.
Most important of all is what Devin Booker takes away from this streak. If Booker is uncertain whether to stay or go, this streak is an opportunity for him to take a long hard look at this team and his role in it now and in the immediate future, and the rewards that await him should he achieve success in the tasks placed on his shoulders.
Booker’s talent as a scorer has already been established. The next step to becoming an elite player is showing mature leadership. Booker should be able to see the leadership opportunities presented to him now that Phoenix is in this position fighting tooth and nail for a coveted Western Conference playoff spot and showing true grit doing it.