The 2013-14 NBA season has been rife with injuries to big-name players and disappointment from big-market teams. But amidst all of that negativity, the young Phoenix Suns have emerged as perhaps the most encouraging story of the year.
If the season ended today, the 17-10 Suns would make the playoffs as the sixth seed in a historically powerful Western Conference.
The inspired play has yet to draw fans to the arena, however.
According to ESPN, the Suns are selling 1,200 fewer tickets per game than last year. Phoenix's average of 14,203 fans per game is the lowest since the 1988-89 season.
Why are the fans staying away from this young, exciting team? The answer probably lies not in this season's performance, but in last season's performance.
Per Basketball Reference, the 2012-13 Suns finished with a pathetic 25-57 record, the worst mark from a Phoenix team since the inaugural 1968-69 campaign (16-66).
Coming into the season, Phoenix was picked by some to finish dead last in the Western Conference. They traded a solid big in Marcin Gortat to Washington during training camp for an injured player (Emeka Okafor) and a first-round pick. All the signs pointed to a dreary campaign for a Suns team more interested in the future than the present.
With those expectations, is it any wonder the fans in Phoenix didn't line up to buy season tickets in the offseason? Is it any wonder the fans are a bit suspicious of the team's hot start?
SB Nation's Dave King sees hope for the Suns' future attendance in the Suns' past.
It could be that higher attendance is a full year away. Back when [Jeff] Hornacek and [Kevin Johnson] began the Suns' revival after the drug scandal in the 80s, fans didn't start coming to games in droves until the 1989-90 season. The exciting 88-89 team finished 55-27 but saw only 12,465 fans a night (about 3,000 below capacity), barely 1,000 more than the low water mark in seasons prior. But that was the year after the scandal, and fans needed time to re-acclimate and buy new season tickets.
Even if the Suns continue their winning ways, they might not see an uptick in attendance until next season. Basketball tickets are expensive, and even some diehard fans might not be willing to shell out the big bucks for an unproven team, simply based on two month's worth of results.