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The Suns Are Two Losses From Organizational Disaster

Anthony Edwards #5 of the Minnesota Timberwolves fouls Kevin Durant #35 of the Phoenix Suns in the first quarter of game two of the Western Conference First Round Playoffs at Target Center on April 23, 2024 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Game 2 of the playoffs is never a good time to make long-term plans, even though the temptation to make sweeping assessments is often great. The illusion of hope is strong, but the short money of condemning the slow starters to years of ignominy is often greater still.

So, the Phoenix Suns. After two games in Minnesota in which they have overcome the nation's reservations about Karl-Anthony Towns to lose decisively, the Suns look old, tired, flummoxed, and generally lamenting their impending fate. Now one can flip this on its brainpan and say, "My, don't the Timberwolves look imposing," but there will be plenty of time to kiss up to them. Their reckoning has not yet been scheduled.

But the Suns were the latest attempt by an impetuous owner to build a superteam, and it would seem the latest attempt to explode into a million tiny fragments (see Nets, Brooklyn). Mat Ishbia, the billionaire home loan wizard (and that phrase alone should cause you to wince even if you've already paid off your mortgage) who bought the Suns in 2022 from social pariah and all-around oilcan Robert Sarver, decided as is his style to go deep on his new purchase and trade for Kevin Durant and then Bradley Beal because they were big names with shiny games and would create notice that turned to buzz that turned to parades.

And now? Like we said, old and in the way. The enduring image of Game 1 is this:

And Game 2? This:

In the first, Anthony Edwards is telling his longtime role model Durant that he has reached his sell-by date, causing Durant to laugh either mockingly or ruefully. In the second, Edwards is dapping up official Zach Zarba because he not only forgot the official line that all NBA officials allegedly suck, but is having such a grand time with everything that even Zach Zarba seems funny to him.

These are telltale signs that the Timberwolves have seen what the Suns have and are deeply unimpressed. They are also signs that Ishbia, an impetuous sort who seems often to speak in all exclamation points, is being made to look ridiculous as his grand experiment turns to dust made only for scattering.

This result, while utterly defensible as a basketball proposition, also robs us of our dream Finals between Ishbia and his business archrival/bete noire Dan Gilbert, who owns the Cleveland Cavaliers. They kind of hate each other in that hate-filled way that only comes with the mixture of competitive zeal, greed, and straight-from-the-pages-of-Forbes bloodlust. Even people who unabashedly love basketball but have no other hobbies would have dropped what they were doing to watch Ishbia and Gilbert strangle each other at center court during the national anthem.

The Cavs, for their part, are up 2-0 on Orlando in a series stolen straight from the pages of 2004, when every game was a cataract in full bloom and the average score was 52-49 in double overtime, so they still have some aspirations. The Suns? Just aspirating.

This will lead to some interesting times in the desert this summer as Ishbia tries to extract his revenge on a cruel world that didn't work the way he wanted it to when he envisioned a Durant-Devin Booker-Chris Paul triumvirate. A billionaire who fancies himself an expert on all things both inside and outside his actual area of expertise does not do well in humiliating situations, and people will be made to answer for this.

And somewhere Dan Gilbert will be smiling, so it isn't exactly a happy ending for the rest of us. Yes, sports is less fun when watched through the prism of ownership schadenfreude, but you only get what the show gives you, and the Suns have given us this. Please make this go away soon.

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