Updated Jun 22, 2012 - 2:12 pm
It's up to the Suns to prove fans wrong
Following the Miami Heat's Game 5 victory over the Oklahoma City -- giving the franchise its second title in six years -- I asked people on both Twitter and Facebook to rank the Valley's big four professional teams in the order in which they have the most confidence in to win a championship.
Nineteen picked the Diamondbacks number one, nine listed the Coyotes at the top and three had the Cardinals numero uno.
Twenty-seven listed the Suns last. Fourth out of four. The team least likely to win a championship.
The Diamondbacks, of course, are just one season removed from an NL West title and, while they got off to a miserable start this season, have shown signs of turning things around. Add in some of the game's better young talent and a promising farm system, and it's understandable as to why people believe in them.
And the Coyotes, as we know, were just in the Western Conference Final, losing to eventual Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles. They have a top-notch goalie and what appears to be a bright future, you know, as long as they aren't forced to leave town.
The Cardinals did not pick up too many votes, which may be surprising given how they finished the 2011 season. However, the uncertainty at QB undoubtedly played a role in the voting, as well it should. No QB, no Super Bowl, and until the Cardinals prove they have the former they won't go anywhere near the latter.
But then there's the Suns. The crown jewel of the Valley sports scene, our original professional team has been one of the most successful in any sport, so long as a championship isn't an indication of success. Going on 44 seasons and counting, the team is heading into an uncertain offseason and, what most believe, an underwhelming future.
The Suns move forward with zero pressure and zero expectations. As Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall told Arizona Sports 620's Doug and Wolf Thursday, that changes how things are perceived.
"It really does come down to the expectations, too," Hall said with regards to the early-season frustration. "Last year there were none, this year there were very high expectations.
"That's why the fans get a little more restless, that's why the executives are a little more impatient."
Seems like that won't be an issue for the Suns, though that's nothing to be happy about. In fact, it's worth wondering how the Suns went from the best team we had to the one that no one believes in going forward.
Seven years ago the Suns were ousted by the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals, falling in five games in a series they were not ready to win. Still, many of us felt it was just the beginning for the team, as a core of Steve Nash, Joe Johnson, Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire would be a force in the league for years to come, undoubtedly bringing Phoenix the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy for the first time.
But bad luck, bad trades, injuries, more bad luck, suspensions, more bad trades, questionable signings and some bad luck conspired to keep the Suns out of the NBA Finals, which is something few would have predicted not long ago.
It made me think of the Oklahoma City Thunder, as they walked off the court Thursday night, feeling defeated but probably knowing this will not be their last shot at a title. At least, they believe it won't be their last shot.
Like the Suns of yesteryear, they have a young core that has gone through a playoff run and experienced the bitter taste of defeat many believe is necessary in order to finally come out on top.
But as Suns fans know -- probably better than anyone -- nothing is a given in sports.
Except, apparently, the Suns not doing so well. While an informal poll, the fact that 87 percent of responders feel like our NBA team is in such bad shape is a little astonishing.
But that's what happens when a team consistently makes one mistake after another. Sure, the Suns had a fantastic run, filled with plenty of threes, dunks and wins. But there is no trophy at the US Airways Center, no ring on anyone's finger and no title for the fans to celebrate.
So here we are, with a future that is as uncertain as it is, apparently, certain to not be much fun.
The team's fall from grace would not be as frustrating had it not been for their time at the top, which resulted in more disappointment than celebration. A friend once told me a championship grants a team a five-year pass, where fans cannot get mad no matter what their team does.
That's a luxury the Suns have never had, though now they have a different, less desirable one: low expectations.
There's no "title or bust" mentality, no belief that the team is one piece away from a ring. What there is, however, is a somewhat blank slate, from which Lon Babby, Lance Blanks and Robert Sarver can build a team they believe can compete for a championship.
Many believe the Suns won't win as long as Sarver is in charge, with one responder, Josh Miller, writing "It's disturbing to me that the moment the sale goes through, Jamison will immediately be the best owner in Phoenix pro sports."
That the prospective new Coyotes owner will be the best boss in the Valley can be debated, but one thing is certain:
There is little faith in the Phoenix Suns right now, and it's up to them to prove everyone wrong.