Just because our Suns aren’t in the playoffs doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention. As a matter of fact, we should probably pick a team to support while you’re forced listen to Rihanna on loop during the 40 games in 40 nights. (Editor’s Note: Dear Turner, Please do not remove said reference even though you run our websites.)
Picking a team that isn’t your own to root for isn’t something you do at random though. There is a science to it. You have to consider a team’s history against the Suns, if there are former members of the Suns on the team, are there any enemies of the Suns state on the roster and would it hurt the Suns franchise in the future if this team won.
With that criteria in mind, let me help you navigate each of the first round match ups to figure out who we all should be rooting for in this Suns Fans Guide to the NBA Playoffs’ first round.
Let’s start in the East…
Miami Vs. Milwaukee
The obvious answer is “always root for the underdog.” That’s the attitude most non-Heat and non-Bucks fans will take to this match up. I mean honestly, who roots for Darth Vader and the Dark Side to beat Luke and the Force or for the Joker to outwit Batman? Suns fans will have to take the chance though, due to the first item on our list of criteria.
There is one simple reason as a card carrying member of the Purple Gang From Phoenix — I checked with Al McCoy, it is still OK to refer to ourselves as that — that you are allowed to root for Miami, at least in the first round. It comes down to four numbers 1-9-6-9.
That’s right, 1969 and the now infamous coin toss. The Bucks won, got Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor) and hung a championship banner. Leaving the Suns destined to become the NBA’s version of Katherine Heigl in 27 Dress, always the bridesmaid never the bride, for the following 44 seasons.
Darth Vader The Miami Heat
Indiana Vs. Atlanta
The history between these two teams and the Suns is at a minimal. Outside of a lop sided Joe Johnson trade that went in the Hawks favor and the fact that we have former Pacers, Ann Meyers Drysdale and Jermaine O’Neal in Phoenix, there isn’t much you can consider as a connection between the two. Neither team has a former Suns amongst their ranks, nor a hated player and it wouldn’t hurt if either team won.
In a case of a stalemate like this it comes down to a few tiebreakers. Does either team have an Arizona connection and are their any storylines involving either team that is similar to the Suns.
In that case, all signs point to Indiana. The Pacers have former Sun Devil Jeff Pendergraph on their roster. When you combine that with the fact that they have a set of brothers, Tyler and Ben Hansbrough, something the Suns have an affinity for, on their roster, they’re the clear cut favorite.
Brooklyn Vs. Chicago
Brooklyn does have former Sun Joe Johnson, who gets booed like the thought of 100 degree heat in February when he returns to the Valley and Kris Humphries who everyone who has ever watched E! boos for no real apparent reason, but other than that the things against them on the playoff checklist are a minimum.
Chicago, well, that’s a different story.
Sure, none of the culprits from the 1993 Finals are still on the Bulls’ roster or coaching staff but the fact that Scottie Pippen and John “If Only Danny Ainge Guarded Me” Paxson are in the front office is reason enough to root against them.
New York Vs. Boston
The Knicks have Amar’e Stoudemire on the roster but the real reason to root against New York is simple.
This week we are all Boston. Sorry, but it’s that simple New York.
Onto the West…
Oklahoma City vs. Houston
“The Beard” called Arizona and ASU home when he was simply known as James Harden, long before he was in Houston, and the Rockets have a player named Chandler like the Phoenix suburb. But the fact that the Rockets employ Aaron Brooks counteracts that for many Suns fans.
As for the Thunder, if you look at the team history and record books, they did previously compete with the Suns in the Pacific Division and battled Phoenix in numerous playoff series. Don’t you remember that epic 1993 seven game Western Conference Finals series versus the Thunder? That being said, the Suns usually got the better of them.
The deciding factor comes down to the Thunder’s style of play. OKC can put up points in bunches and has two of the more exciting players in the league (something Suns fans aren’t strangers cheering for). They also have fallen short in their quest for a championship despite having great talent (something else Suns fans aren’t strangers cheering for).
Denver vs. Golden State
In Phoenix we tend to hold grudges when you get in between us and players we feel could take us to the next level. Sorry Denver, but we’ll be sequestering our ability to root for you in the playoffs in a suite and we won’t be allowing you to speak to it or see it the way you did with Antonio McDyess back in the day. (If you have no clue what I’m talking about, A) you haven’t been a Suns fan very long and B) go check out McDyess’ Wikipedia page for an explanation).
Verdict: Golden State
Memphis vs. Los Angeles (the good version)
The Grizzlies versus the Clippers. This one is tougher than a 99-cent steak in Las Vegas. The history between these two and the Suns is simple. It’s been domination in favor of Phoenix. So the history is a draw. Memphis has a former Wildcat in Jerryd Bayless on the roster and former Suns assistant, Lionel Hollins, as its head coach. LA has former Suns forward Grant Hill on the team and former Suns broadcaster and front office member Vinny Del Negro calling the shots on the bench. Once again, it’s a wash. No players Suns fans love to hate on each roster either. Yet again another tie.
This comes down to the fact that, as a Pacific Division foe, the Clippers winning it all wouldn’t help the Suns. In fact, it could hinder the rebuilding process to have the champion in your division. Oh, that and, we’ll have to see Blake Griffin enough during the commercial breaks of the playoffs. So much so, that even his younger self will get tired of seeing him.
San Antonio vs. Los Angeles (the bad version)
This matchup for Suns fans is like asking movie-goers to choose the lesser of two evils in the movie Alien vs. Predator. In the end, you really don’t want to root for either.
Since it’s “win or go home” in the playoffs and not just “go home,” I’ll help you figure out who to root for. Sure, their mere presence in the playoffs hurt the Suns’ draft status, but LA still has a Phoenix favorite on the roster in Steve Nash. When you couple that with the fact that we won’t be seeing Suns hater Kobe Bryant in any of the games, it makes it a little more palatable for fans to root for the purple and gold (although it’s against our better judgment).
When you look at the Spurs roster, you see a familiar face in Boris Diaw. Unfortunately, he’s surrounded by faces that are familiar in the same way chickenpox are: they still sting and make your skin crawl when you think about them. Despite a few years having passed since the last playoff matchup between the Suns and Spurs, the same cast of characters who haunted Suns fans dreams for years, Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, are all still a part of the franchise.
Sorry San Antonio, but the only thing we’ll be celebrating about your team is the 20th anniversary of Charles Barkley’s jumper over David Robinson in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals.
Verdict: Los Angeles (if we have to)