Having a season end the way it did for the Suns — finishing with the best record in the NBA and failing to make it out of the second round — will leave any organization aimlessly ambling around the neighborhood asking their dog where it all went wrong. The latest bit of Sean Maguire-ian “It’s not your fault” therapeutic advice comes in the form of an alleged COVID outbreak during the tail-end of the series with the Dallas Mavericks.
A Suns player tested positive after Game 7, per The Athletic, and one source said the team employed a liberal use of the honor system.
“I think it’s very clear that nobody wanted to report stuff,” said one source with knowledge of the Suns’ positive tests who was not authorized to speak publicly about them. “And this is where it gets dicey.”
A league spokesman told The Athletic, “The NBA has seen no evidence to suggest any rules violations by Suns players or staff.” A league source added the NBA could always revisit the situation if new information emerged.
It was so bad in fact that all season-end exit meetings were held remotely over fear of further spread, and I’m sure no one protested because once you get flambéed in a Game 7 at home, the last thing you want to do is drag your ass back to the office and talk about it.
The player who contracted COVID wasn’t named, and it’s been reported that five staff members also were infected. Apparently, Dallas had heard of the outbreak as early as Game 5, and if the Mavericks knew about it, there’s a possibility that the NBA knew, as well.
In addition to the Suns’ situation, Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Celtics’ forward Al Horford, and Clippers’ forward Paul George all missed playoff or play-in games this postseason over positive tests. The league that was once a shining example of how to play games in the middle of a pandemic seems as tired and defeated as the rest of the US in putting up with this bullshit that will not end.
Quoted in that Athletic piece is an expert who says he’s already worried about the beginning of the next NBA season as the immunity from booster shots wanes. That’s quite a thought: Three years and countless variants after the shutdown of normal life, and there’s still going to be a COVID tab on your favorite news source’s landing page.
I understood the analysts who picked Phoenix to take home the title because the team was an unrelenting machine in the regular season, and they were a couple plays away from raising the Larry O’Brien Trophy last June. What they didn’t account for, and this is a good thing, was the Suns’ karma. If Jalen Rose cited the “cosmos” as a reason Phoenix would fall short of the Finals, he would get destroyed because it’s not a trackable stat.
Whether it was the stench of owner Robert Sarver and the NBA’s investigation into his allegedly racist and misogynistic behavior permeating throughout this season, or the front office staying cheap and refusing to pay Deandre Ayton, Phoenix as a franchise hasn’t amassed a lot of good tidings — or tidings in general. The only feel-good aspect of this year’s Suns was the on-court product, and a Coach of the Year award for Monte Williams.
I feel for the players and fans because it’s not their fault ownership emits strong littering vibes. The NBA, like the other sports leagues, has enough stars miss games due to normal injuries, so it’s not surprising they eased COVID protocols. And it’s even less shocking that a team might have adopted a testing regimen that looked the other way until a cough was so throaty that it couldn’t be explained away by one too many bong rips.
Honestly, though, no one really wants to hear about what went wrong with the Suns anymore. They didn’t lose in the first round or to a bunch of scrubs. Robert Horry didn’t come out of the stands and powerbomb Chris Paul. Every team is dealing with a pandemic, sore hamstrings, exhaustion, old age, contract disputes, etc. Take your loss, stop sending cryptic tweets, and keep it moving.