Being a Suns fan is hard. For the past 3-4 years, the team was regarded as a legitimate contender for the NBA championship. People truly thought this was a team that could go all the way, having reintroduced a run-and-gun style of play that was efficient and fun to watch.
Unfortunately, it seemed that every season was to be an unlucky one. Injuries and suspensions to players like Joe Johnson, Amare Stoudemire, Kurt Thomas, Raja Bell, Boris Diaw, and Grant Hill hampered Phoenix's effort to finally give the city a title.
Each year, the Suns came close. And each year, the Suns failed. Owner Robert Sarver constantly spoke about his ambitions to reload the team, despite the costs.
However, this never seemed to be the case. Sarver only signed bad contracts, such as those of Marcus Banks and Boris Diaw, but wouldn't spend necessary money on players like Joe Johnson.
Each time, I defended Sarver. After all, I argued, the Suns were still good enough to win a title. Why saddle the team with unnecessary contracts?
Steve Kerr eventually was appointed GM, mainly to take the blame for Sarver's bad decisions. I continued to support Sarver until thrust with undeniable proof that money would always take priority over winning: the Shaq trade.
No, I'm not talking about trading Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks to for Shaq. That was actually a good deal, and Kerr should be applauded for making it happen. I'm talking about trading Shaq for Ben Wallace, Sasha Pavlovic, and other assets.
O'Neal had one year left from the five-year, $100 million contract he had signed with Miami. The smart move would have been to keep Shaq for one more year, take a few beatings, and then reload the following summer.
Instead, Sarver traded O'Neal for Ben Wallace, who had two years left, totaling $29 million. Sarver then bought out Wallace's contract so that the money would be cleared of the team's cap space.
Ultimately, Sarver made the move to save himself a few million dollars. That would have been acceptable had he actually spent the money on free agents.
Instead, Sarver added only one, Channing Frye, for a minimal cost. With all that money and players like Hedo Turkoglu, Paul Millsap, and Ron Artest, among others, Sarver opted for Channing Frye, dooming the team to a season of mediocrity.
Sarver will have an opportunity to redeem himself if he shells out the money for a big-time free agent next summer.
However, if he chooses to do nothing but retain Amare Stoudemire (assuming he isn't extended this summer), then he should prepare himself for the anger that will soon follow. Sarver will be known as the man who ruined the Phoenix Suns.