I’ve been at a complete loss for words since Sunday. The Phoenix Suns swept the San Antonio Spurs and are preparing to play the Los Angeles Lakers for the Western Conference Championship? It just seems counter-intuitive.
In a season when no one expected the Suns to be a top-four seed in the Western Conference, let alone make the conference finals, the team has managed to shed it’s 40+ year image as a “soft” team, found a possible franchise center, made Steve Nash look like an MVP, rejuvenated Amar’e Stoudemire, made Steve Kerr look like not just a competent GM but a good one, beat their arch rival San Antonio Spurs by sweeping them and have a chance to end the team’s “curse.” The question is how?
That quandary is one I’ve struggled with since after the NBA trade deadline. How in the world has this team gone from left for dead to title contenders?
After much deliberation, a few drinks and a five-hour stint at the car dealership waiting for a new battery, I think I’ve figured it out and, like everything right now in the NBA, it involves LeBron James .
That’s right. The fact that Cleveland, Ohio sucks, or more directly, that their sports teams have been “cursed” and have not won a title since the ’60s, could have completely changed the fate of the Phoenix Suns .
Let’s take a trip in the "way back machine," or if it’s more comfortable for you just Google “Amar’e Stoudemire Cleveland Cavalier Trade Rumors” from mid-February. The NBA trade deadline was about to pass and the rumor mill started cranking out stories about the Phoenix Suns shipping STAT and possibly Jason Richardson to be part of King James’ Court.
From all accounts, Kerr was ready to pull the trigger, sacrificing the rest of the 2010 season in hopes that the deal would lay the foundation for the future and provide financial flexibility for the franchise. One problem, Cavs general manager Danny Ferry wasn’t sure enough about Stoudemire to make the deal, turning it down in favor of keeping Hickson.
Instead of making a trade with the Suns, Ferry eventually made a deal with the Wizards for Antawn Jamison and spare parts . The results, like most in Cleveland’s sports history, have been less than spectacular.
Since Ferry’s decision, the Phoenix Suns , including the playoffs, are 31-7 and are in the Western Conference Finals. The Cavs? They’re just 25-13. If that wasn’t bad enough, the team is on the verge of being knocked out of the playoffs and LeBron reportedly is playing with a torn elbow ligament and considering heading to New York.
You think the Cavs would be in this same position if they had pulled the trigger to land a motivated Stoudemire and J-Rich? Neither do I. Both players have been keys to the Suns’ improbable run since the deadline and would have been great second and third options after James.
Phoenix fans have never quite been able to put a finger on what their “curse” is or how to end it. Maybe, just maybe, Cleveland’s own futility is the answer Phoenix fans have been searching for. Think about it, if there is truly a “Cleveland Curse,” what better way for it to torture Cavaliers fans by making them watch Stoudemire and Richardson win a title with the Suns while LeBron packs for New York?
Like Jordan over Ehlo, “the fumble,” “the drive,” and the 1997 World Series , the “trade that wasn’t” may go down as one of the elements of the “Cleveland curse.”
And just maybe one curse may be strong enough to end another.
PS. Ferry also took Shaq off the Suns’ hands, and that hasn’t exactly paid off for the Cavs either. Thanks Danny!