The championship-contention era of the Phoenix Suns was a wildly entertaining period as the team ran a crisp, up-tempo offense centered around Amar’e Stoudemire and Steve Nash that earned them plenty of regular-season wins and high playoff seeds. However, it never earned the team a trip to the Finals and ultimately both Nash and Stoudemire moved on to pursue new opportunities.
Stoudemire sought the spotlight of New York and the chance to lead his own team, albeit a rebuilding one. STAT became an instant icon in the city of New York after having one of the best seasons of his career and leading the Knicks back to relevancy in the Eastern Conference.
Nash hung around for one last year in Phoenix, making another push for the playoffs but once again falling short. This summer he left in a sign-and-trade to join the Los Angeles Lakers (are you seeing a theme here?) and try to earn the one thing that has eluded him during his Hall-of-Fame career: a championship ring.
Even Grant Hill left the team in the summer of 2012 to play for the Los Angeles Clippers after failing to make the postseason for two consecutive years with the Suns, and one could hardly blame him for not wishing to spend his last remaining productive years on a middle-of-the-pack ball club.
The problem for the Suns has been the baffling moves of their front office. The team did not make much of a push to sign a young, improving Joe Johnson when he was a free agent, which led to the shooting guard heading to Atlanta, traded Rajon Rondo after nabbing the Kentucky point guard at the tail end of the first round and using a high draft pick on perennial disappointment Robin Lopez, among other baffling gaffes.
Phoenix’s problem is that they have committed to a style of play which simply cannot earn them a championship. Under Mike D’Antoni and now under Alvin Gentry, the team looks to run on every opportunity and does not focus on playing any kind of aggressive, consistent defense.
Until the Suns can fix their culture and show that they have the coaching and front office necessary to build a true contender, players will always flock either to true championship caliber squads or for an opportunity to play in a huge market like New York or L.A.