For the Phoenix Suns, the week break from basketball has been anything but relaxing.
I know that many of our loyal readers do not live in Phoenix or in the great state of Arizona at all. You come here to consume compelling insight on your Phoenix Suns and share your thoughts and opinions on the state of the team. You probably don’t come here from the local weather report in the Valley of the Sun. But today, as a part of my processing this past week, you will. I’ll do my best Kristy Siefkin impression.
It’s been a strange one since the final buzzer sounded in Denver last Sunday night. For a team and a fanbase that has been playing constantly and consistently for months on end, with their 4-0 sweep of the Nuggets, the Suns slammed on the proverbial brake pedal. The team and all players involved haven’t had a break this long since 2020.
Following the resumption of the NBA last July, we have experienced non-stop basketball action. The Bubble. The Bubble playoffs (which the Suns missed by one freakin’ game). Free agency, the NBA Draft, and the opening of the trade market, all of which happened in one week last November. The muted preseason. The regular season, in which the Suns played 72 games in 144 days. The every-other-night slate of games for Phoenix in the NBA Playoffs.
And now for a week…nothing. Like an F-14 Tomcat barrel rolling over Russian MiG’s, I feel inverted.
What has made this week especially weird has been the onslaught of summer in Phoenix. Given the nature of my day job — managing resort pools and the food, beverage, and recreational experiences that occur on their decks — I spend plenty of time outside. I have done so for the past 11 summers. I am no stranger to the sweltering heat and the effects cornstarch can have on the inner-thigh (it’s a life saver, let me tell ya).
For some reason this year, however, as the mercury has risen to 117°, it feels different. There is an eerie haze in the atmosphere as the Telegraph Fire burns 60 miles outside of the Greater Phoenix area. The sun turns orange prior to setting. It actually kind of looks like the Phoenix Suns logo come to think of it.
The lack of basketball this week has me feeling the heat more than ever. Perhaps it is because the nightly distraction of basketball has suddenly stopped. The momentum of this season has halted. I haven’t chugged a beer with the fellas in nearly a week!
Outside of watching other teams vie for their chance at their respective conference finals, this week in Suns basketball has been filled with speculation and worry, “viral load count” and talking heads. The early Wednesday morning news that Chris Paul had contracted COVID-19 caught us all by surprise. Just a few nights prior we were celebrating a berth in the conference finals. Now we were wondering what the hell happened.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) June 16, 2021
It was an ardent Sunday night following the Phoenix Suns’ victory over the Denver Nuggets at the Ball Arena. When the final horn sounded, Monty Williams and Chris Paul heartily embraced on the court. The emotion was palpable between the two. You could feel the genuine love that these men have for each other, knowing that they have shared more than just basketball experiences together.
“With Chris and I, for me to coach him my first year and then he went on to a different team, for us to be together again and be in that moment and know that we can accomplish more, it’s pretty cool. At the same time, I wanted to take a second to just feel that for a minute, feel that for a second,” Williams stated after the game.
“Chris has meant so much to my career, he’s meant so much to my life. I’ve shared with a few people, but at the darkest moment of my life, Chris was right there. And one of the highlights of my career, he’s right there. So I’m just grateful to God for him and all of our guys, and that’s what it is right now.”
These words and these men have meant so much to each other and so much to the Phoenix Suns organization. Their commitment to doing the little things right has equated to the bigger things taking care of themselves. Who knew the weight of these quotes less than a week later as what both men have worked so hard to achieve could penitently be in jeopardy.
Chris Paul, Monty Williams, and the Suns boarded their plane and flew home to Phoenix, knowing that the victory would provide some well deserved time off. The team and their fanbase were looking forward to some much needed rest, supposedly filled with scoreboard watching and Western Conference Finals speculation.
The biggest questions of the week were supposed to be, “Who would you rather face in the Western Conference Finals?” and, “Why was Devin Booker snubbed from an All-NBA Team?”.
Then the temperature began to rise from the concrete jungle of Phoenix and pierce the air. In North Phoenix on Tuesday night the dust-filled winds began to blow and a slight precipitation began to fall. I stood in my backyard only to be blasted by the 108° sandy monsoon storm. It was as if the weirdness had taken the form of a wall of dirt and was consuming the city.
We all awoke to notification after notification about Chris Paul and his contraction of the Coronavirus. Some began their extensive research of the current NBA policies relative to the protocols. Others needed to be talked off a cliff. Me? I made a quick reaction video to navigate my thoughts.
I know that I felt much better following a conversation had by the Solar Panel guys and Flex from Jersey, who always provides unique insight from sources close to the situation. If the information was accurate, if Paul’s viral load count was just above the threshold for being considered positive, then there is a chance that — seeing as he is vaccinated — he could provide the two negative COVID-19 tests necessary to be able to compete in Game 1.
We still don’t know what the outcome will be as we anxiously await for the news to be released tomorrow.
The NBA kept the punches coming throughout Wednesday morning. It was a cool 102° outside at 8:03am when Shams reported that Kawhi Leonard would be out indefinitely following knee issues suffered in Game 4 between the Clippers and Jazz.
This would drastically change how Suns’ fans viewed the series between the two teams, the winner of which would face the Phoenix Suns. I know personally, due to their star wing defenders in Leonard and Paul George, I was leaning towards wanting to play the Jazz in the Western Conference Finals (truthfully, I don’t care. We’re better than both teams in my humble opinion).
Given the news that Chris Paul was potentially out, for a time period yet to be determined, the news that Leonard would miss time increased the likelihood that the Western Conference Semifinals match between Utah and Los Angeles could go seven games. This was good news for Suns fans, although you never want to feel that due to the injury of a player, especially the caliber of Kawhi.
If the series went to Game 7 — which we’ll find out tonight if that is the case — Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals would be next Tuesday. More time to pass protocols.
I think I am still in a basketball-less haze that mirrors the atmosphere over the Greater Phoenix Area currently. You’d think after 11 consecutive summers of no postseason basketball to talk about I’d be used to this. But typically this time of year is spent scouting prospects and complaining about the draft.
The fact that we are talking about Coronavirus (allow me to hop on this soapbox real quick) is a reminder to all that, despite the Phoenix Suns allowing 16,000 fans in the arena, we are not out of this pandemic yet. We all have to do our part. And even if we do, like Chris Paul reportedly did, it still might not be enough. But still, do you part (I have stepped off my soapbox and sprained my ankle, adding to the weirdness of this week. Have no worry it isn’t nearly as sprained as Kyrie’s. Too far?).
That is what makes this story and this week so strange to me: it’s the combination of working the ungodly heat, the return of COVID to my daily vernacular, and the lack of Suns basketball to distract me from all of it.
Yes, I am a simpleton. I enjoy the distraction. What did Kurt Cobain say on the 1993 song All Apologies? “I wish I was like you, easily amused”? Yeah, that’s me. I’m easily amused. I’m sure it’s the heat talking. But you know what? Typing this out and putting it out into universe already has me feeling better.
We’ll know much more about the fate of the Phoenix Suns tomorrow when the team addresses the media about the Chris Paul situation. We’ll know whether the Suns play on Sunday or Tuesday. We’ll know when basketball will once again fill our feeds. And I’ll be easily distracted once again.
It was a weird one this week Suns fans. Let’s get even weirder in the upcoming weeks and win a championship.