Suns

Suns Have Stoked Their Share of Rivals

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From one of the least-threatening teams of the last decade to one of the most fun up-and-coming teams in the NBA Bubble, the Phoenix Suns have gone through a lot of personality changes.

Now they’ve adapted, becoming one of if not the most hated organizations across the league. Having a horrible owner who nobody liked wasn’t the best look to have, but at least we can say he’s on the way out now. It’s the play on the court that has given them their edge. In the end, it just goes to show— people like to have you around until you’re a threat to them.

And boy oh boy, have the Suns become a threat to ALL teams in the NBA quite quickly, and created some rivals along the way.

NBA Rival Spotlight

A concept the NBA is trying to capitalize on this year is the idea of rivals. Something the Suns have become slightly familiar with these last few years. Introducing NBA Rivals week (Jan. 24th-Jan. 28th) in the NBA schedule drop this year, Phoenix made an appearance.

Albeit, with an anti-climactic “rival”.

The Suns are set to take on Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks during the week event. A team who did put the Suns to shame with an early exit in last year’s playoffs.

We’ll give them that. But that’s… about it? Phoenix all-time has the winning record of 103-84.

Some fans on Twitter also like to say Luka “owns” Devin Booker. Contrary to what many want to think, however, Booker has the winning record of 10-5 in their match-ups, averaging 25.3 points, 4.9 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game. Suppose they’re pitting the former 2018

No. 1 draft pick Deandre Ayton and No. 2 pick Doncic? Ayton is right there with Booker, posting an 11-5 record, averaging 14.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per contest.

If anything, you see where we’re going with this. The rival might as well be just Luka, not the actual Mavericks. They aren’t even in the Pacific division with Phoenix. In the end, it seems the Suns “own” the Mavericks all-time.

This has us thinking of who would be “real” rivals of Phoenix this year. The Suns haven’t been shy about their success on the court to say the least, and it’s bound to have mustered up some brewing feuds. Let’s take a look at a few potential high-intensity matchups for the coming year. 

The West Coast Team To Beat 

Probably the biggest threat to the league this season not named the Warriors is the Los Angeles Clippers. Lucky enough, the Suns are in the same division as this juggernaut, and unlike others, get to play them four times this year. This will surely add fuel to the already-lit fire between these two west-coast teams.

To get to the root of the bad blood between these rosters, we’ll look at the recent clashes between Devin Booker and Paul George in the spotlight. First, in what was a meaningless 20′-21′ regular-season game in early January, Booker and George get caught up pushing one another and exchanging some harsh words during a conflict on the court.

You can see George takes exception to what Booker is saying, spouting back “watch your mouth!” many times in his direction. Once the dust settled, George and the Clippers ended up winning the battle, tallying a win regardless of what happened. But the war was not necessarily over, as they would matchup in the second round of the playoffs later that year.

This is when things got extra chippy. On multiple different occasions, Booker and George end up in each other’s faces, pushing one another out of the way, and playing intense, physical basketball. Tensions rose early in the series as George flew an elbow, hitting Booker’s already-injured money maker, breaking his nose, and causing him to wear a mask for a stretch of the six-game series.

It didn’t stop, either. The thread below details the rest of the altercations in the series and recent years.

As you can see, there is some history between these two top-tier shooting guards, which carries over to the rest of the roster as well. We’ll see more be added with them being matched up four times for sure, not counting the playoffs to come. Assuming both rosters are fully healthy to come on those dates, these are definitely must-see TV games.

Suns in… 4 more?

The rivalry between these teams was actually sparked by the fan bases rather than the players. During a Suns sweep of the Denver Nuggets in the second round of the ’20-’21 playoffs, in game two, some sparks flew in the stands. What seems to have started out as a sports argument turned physical, and then ended verbally with a Suns fan claiming victory in the scuffle, with the now-viral “Suns in four!”.

This clip went so viral, it even reached the players. Some may say for better, some will say for worse. Devin Booker was reached out to by the reigning bleacher champion on Instagram, claiming it was just an act of self-defense. Booker concurred and ended it with a handshake.

In hindsight, maybe this was why things elevated from suspense to full haymakers thrown on the court from then MVP Nikola Jokic.

Not shown is Jokic thinking he was fouled on the play before, where he drew some contact on a shot but didn’t get a call. That, however, does not justify the on-court action shown here— action that hasn’t been settled since Denver hasn’t had a healthy roster since before the series.

This year, though, seems to be the year of reckoning for the Nuggets. Jamal Murray for sure has the matchups against Phoenix circled on the calendar. As does probably Booker with Nuggets games.

A Recent One-Sided Affair

The final rival is another slight given, as we are looking at another divisional opponent. The rivalry between the Suns and Los Angeles Lakers dates back to even the 2000s era with the Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash battles. Coincidentally, the underlying hatred we’re going to talk about now regained some steam as both teams have risen in success again.

Polar opposite to the past, however, the more recent matchups have been excessively lopsided in the Suns’ favor. Dating back to the beginning of the ’20-’21 season, the Suns have a record of 10-3. This includes the regular season and playoffs, so there should be a large chip on the shoulders of the Lakers to get some revenge.

This is also not to mention the shenanigans Suns players got into during the last playoff series against them. One clip summarizes it all in such short succession, it’s beautiful.

You’ve got the Jae Crowder Salsa dancing meme that will forever be a staple in Suns fans’ arsenals. Devin Booker literally walked into the Lakers’ bench area talking his well-earned trash. Chris Paul mimicking a LeBron James post-up from earlier in the series.

The domination has been consistent and clearly prominent in the minds of the players. Another team with a prove-it year in the Western Conference, Los Angeles would also love to get some back at the Suns this year.

Suns Should Be Out For Blood Also

Many think the Suns have been put in place for this year with how their media day opened up. The vibes are off and the joy seems to be minimal. But they know they have a business to handle. This squad still has a target on their back. Statements are going to need to be made in opposing teams’ arenas to remind everyone that come playoff time, it’s not that easy to knock them down.

If any games are circled on the Suns’ schedule, it should be at least the games against the Clippers, Nuggets and Lakers. The hype will be there and they’ll have to match the intensity that is being brought to them.

Phoenix is up for the task.

About Cameron Prichard

Twitter: @CameronPNBA

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