Dennis Tarwood of SBNation Arizona recently extended the staff of PtR an invitation to chime in on the topic of whether we considered the Phoenix Suns rivals or not. I was happy to oblige (as was our own Tim C.) and my two cents' worth is after the jump. Dennis' entire piece, which examines the all of Arizona's professional franchises, is here.
Which weighs more: 4 rings or none?
What do Spurs fans think of San Antonio's rivalry with the Phoenix Suns? Well, I think the first, and easiest, answer is: not much.
Until this past May, that is.
If we're having this conversation in 2009, then there's not really much to talk about. The Spurs had won four meetings in a row, including the exceptionally sweet (or bitter, depending on your allegiance) 2007 clash that included Nash's bloody nose in Game 1, Manu's bloody eye in Game 3, and then the infamous semi-benchclearing Horry hip-check in Game 4. Then came 2008's first round. By the time the dust had cleared after Game 1, Finley's three had tied it in regulation, Duncan had dropped his only 3 pointer of the season to send it to double-overtime, and Manu had levitated to drop in the game winner. From that point on, the Suns fought with each other for the rest of the series, and no one had any energy left to take on San Antonio. After that, whenever Spurs-Suns was mentioned, a definite scent of pwnage would waft through the discussion.
By late 2008, the average Suns fan was so snakebit, that Roger Mason's game winning 3 pointer in the Christmas Game caused not one, but two fans on the baseline to put their hands on their heads in defeat: one before the shot even went in, and the other who followed up his cranium clasping by launching himself to the floor in despair.
With this kind of dynamic in place, it's understandable that Spurs fans traveling to Phoenix for a Spurs-Suns matchup, took pleasure in wearing Spurs jerseys (especially Bowen ones) confident that they wouldn't have to eat crow on the way back to their cars.
But then came 2010's sweep. And now the all-time playoff series stands at 6-4 Spurs, which doesn't look all that dominating, and brings up some interesting facts and stats. In the last 18 years, the two teams have met in the playoffs more often than they haven't. (That seems weird, doesn't it?) None of the 10 series has ever gone to a seventh game. The only year that San Antonio didn't beat Phoenix while on their way to a title, was the strike shortened 1999 season. (Actually, that's not an interesting fact at all, but just a obvious ploy to squeeze in a mention of the Spurs' four championships. Shame on me.) Phoenix owns the only sweeps in the series; the first meeting in '92 and the most recent brooming in May. (See, I'm an equal opportunity stat picker.)
Man, nothing's more embarrassing for a team than being swept -- except maybe being nearly outscored (24-20) by Goran Dragic alone, in the fourth quarter of a must-win game 3 at home. Seriously, did he drop 20 points in just a shade over 7 minutes??? I don't even know how many question marks that's worth, so I stopped at three, but you can consider that a repeating three, if you'd like -- I know I do.
So I guess the last 4 months and 6 days haven't done much more than take the edge off the pain of those four losses. And this is where it would probably be appropriate for me to talk about how motivated Spurs fans are to seek revenge for being ousted, but with all of the changes to Phoenix's roster, including the departure of A'm'a'r'e', it just doesn't feel like the same team any more. Most Spurs fans harbor at least a grudging respect for Nash, at most an outright bromance. Grant Hill is almost universally liked, Hedo's an ex-Spur, Robin Lopez is talented if bland. Richardson, Frye, Dudley, Childress -- there's just not really all that much inspiration to get fired up over. Even Dragic, who should probably get temperatures rising at least a little bit, just seems to induce incredulity as much as anything else.
So, what does PtR think of the rivalry? Speaking for myself, I'd have to say I'm thinking that it sure is great that a new season is about to begin, so we can forget about last year's hiccup, and get back to the way things ought to be: great defense, timely baskets, and the Suns going home early. The 2011 playoffs can't get here soon enough.