Eight games left. Five-and-half games out of the final playoff spot. One loss away from elimination.
For the Suns, it’s going to take a miracle. And there is only one solution.
“We have to play it through and compete,” said center Marcin Gortat.
That’s all the Suns can do. See it through. Compete. Keep an eye on the big picture. That picture may seem a little muddled right now, with many of the key players well into the final stages of their careers.
At least, Steve Nash, Grant Hill and Vince Carter are supposed to be at that stage. Nash is 37, Hill is 38, Carter is 34. That’s three-fifths of the starting lineup.
Nash is under contract for next season, and from the looks of things, could play another four or five years. He’s just been that efficient, that good, that capable of carrying the team on his back when necessary.
Meanwhile, Hill will be a free agent and Carter’s deal carries a team option for next season. Throw in the fact the NBA collective-bargaining agreement expires in July, and it’s safe to say this will be an off-season of uncertainty.
On the bright side, there is still plenty of things to like. Alvin Gentry is clearly an intelligent and passionate basketball man, and the right coach for this team. His system always gives the Suns a chance.
Nash is Nash, and younger vets such as center Marcin Gortat, big man Channing Frye, forward Jared Dudley and point guard Aaron Brooks showed signs of taking their games to another level. And it’s still way too early to give up on the likes of center Robin Lopez and rookie forward Gani Lawal. You also could do worse than hanging onto forwards Hakim Warrick and Mickael Pietrus.
On top of all that, the Suns will possess a top 16 pick in the NBA draft — and possibly better should they miss the playoffs and fare well in the lottery.
None of this is intended to serve as the Suns’ obit, or officially eliminate them from playoff contention too soon. As we’ve seen before, with Nash, all things are possible.
But in the event the basketball miracle of all miracles doesn’t happen, there are still reasons for Suns fans to think this is an exciting time. Playoffs or not, moves will be coming in the off-season to help reshape, and perhaps repurpose, this team.
The fact the Suns came this close to the playoffs should be encouraging, too. Especially when you consider the loss of Amar’e Stoudemire, the big in-season trade involving Gortat and Pietrus, and the deal that followed to land Brooks.
That is a lot of movement in less than 12 months, a lot of re-adjusting, a lot of trying to find chemistry on the fly.
When training camp begins next season, the Suns will have a set rotation, even in the likely scenario that it involves a few new faces. A few new faces, with a whole lot of the old guys, can quickly make the Suns a player in the West once again.
For now, though, all they can do is play through it and compete. And knowing these Suns, you can be pretty sure that is exactly what they will do.
Sam Amico is a national NBA columnist for FOX Sports and a regular contributor to Suns.com. Follow him on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO.