They Can't All Be Winners, Part 24: Phoenix Suns

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I was with a friend at a beach-side park, drinking beers in the late afternoon, and we were hemming and hawing over whether to go to a party that night.

“I don’t think this ends well,” I said. The crowd would be the coke-and-glowsticks sort, except for a couple we knew who were on the outs, whom I didn’t want to be around in the bitchy death throes of their relationship. The music would be awful; the house would be packed and sweaty. We had been through these kinds of evenings before. We’d show up, try to have fun for an hour, hate ourselves, get annihilated, then go home hanging off each other, grumbling about how we’d wasted our time. In the face of all that, why bother?

My friend took a too-big swig of PBR, a bit of it dribbling onto his shirt, and his eyes widened purposefully. “To watch it all go to shit,” he said. Ten hours later, he threw up in an alley.

* * *

There was something dangerous about the Phoenix Suns just a little over a year ago, a Three Six Mafian verve which made them, if not one of the best teams in the league, then at least one of the most unpleasant to play against. They were exhausting, with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe making like a binary star in the backcourt and the Morris twins shooting you want to escalate this, friend? looks at opposing forwards all night. They were Riley’s Knicks mashed up with the Arenas Era Wizards, and about as crazy as either of those teams. Then, in the space of a half-season, they grew too rambunctious for their own good.

The idea to bring Isaiah Thomas on board as a bench scorer was brilliant right up until it became obvious it was never going to work. The guard triptych flopped, pissed off Dragic and Thomas, and by February of last season, the Suns had shed both players and were starting Brandon Knight alongside Eric Bledsoe. In the meantime, the Morris twins went Full Dickhead, racking up techs and flagrants, tantruming on the sideline, and beefing with Jeff Hornacek. In January, they allegedly beat an old friend to hell outside of a club, which was likely the impetus for Marcus, the lesser Morris, getting shipped out to Detroit this past offseason. The Suns broke up the brothers like two middle schoolers who can’t be trusted to sit together in biology class, an indignity neither suffered with much grace. Markieff demanded a trade in August. He’s since recanted that request, which smacks of a PR flack getting in his ear about making life easier for himself. As talented and grossly underpaid as he is, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if he’s playing elsewhere by mid-winter.

This Suns season, in all likelihood, won’t end well, which lends them a grotesque appeal. This is difficult to explain, and it isn’t. There is satisfaction to be found in watching something that was once wild burn itself down. There are lots of books and movies about cataclysm and divorce, and they exist due to some kind of pain their creators were attempting to work through, but maybe they are widely consumed because some of us want to feel and are not picky about what shape the feeling takes. It’s hard to be happy; it is easier to wallow. I can see myself, on a weeknight that features no obviously interesting game, flipping on the Suns to check in on their disintegration, to experience the emotional whiplash that is remembering a team now defined by dysfunction used to be fun, not long ago. When a franchise tailspins, it’s not an altogether terrible thing, if only for the fact that it can be affecting.

* * *

My friend and I endured the overstuffed house party with the awful music and the dead-eyed snifflers. We had a fine time having a bad time, luxuriating in misery, volunteering to drive people to Denny’s. We got fucked up on the Coors Lights a kind stranger kept producing from her backpack. We said a lot of mean things to each other just to say them, because male friendship can be inexplicably violent. We drank and joked and complained until we felt sick. Then we did that for another couple of hours.

Not everything we are compelled to do is good for us, or even good in the moment. We hurt ourselves to feel hurt, watch stuff go to shit because we are curiously magnetized to it. The best justification I can come up with for this is that nothing is worse than numbness. If we’re going to mark off yet another wasted night in a life full of them, we might as well, once in a while, do so with aplomb.

Previously on TCABW: Charlotte Hornets | Philadelphia 76ers | Houston Rockets | Los Angeles Lakers | Dallas Mavericks Indiana Pacers | Oklahoma City Thunder | Memphis Grizzlies | Chicago Bulls | Washington Wizards Cleveland Cavaliers Brooklyn Nets New York Knicks Denver Nuggets Miami Heat Los Angeles Clippers Atlanta Hawks Utah Jazz Sacramento Kings Milwaukee Bucks Toronto Raptors Detroit Pistons | New Orleans Pelicans

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