The Arizona Cardinals are 1-5, its coaching staff under fire. The Arizona Coyotes can’t score in 5-on-5 play and are 1-4. The Phoenix Suns fired their general manager just a few days before the new NBA season began, and despite their #TimeToRise slogan, perhaps didn’t seem ready to be on the rise as an organization.
Then came Wednesday night, offering a glimmer of hope for local fans when the Suns beat the Dallas Mavericks 121-100 in the opener for both teams.
In a game televised on ESPN and billed as the showcase of two of the top rookies in the most recent NBA Draft, Deandre Ayton was a force for Phoenix with 18 points and 10 rebounds and the Suns made 54 percent of their shots. He outplayed fellow rookie Luka Doncic of Dallas.
Devin Booker, the face of the team, scored 35 points, making it back from a hand injury to be ready for the opener. Booker willed the Suns to the win with his play in the fourth quarter, making sure the Mavericks didn’t take the lead down the stretch.
Suns fans haven’t had much to cheer about the past few seasons. But there was definitely a buzz in the arena on Wednesday, especially when the Suns started fast and ran out to a good lead. The noise level ramped up each time Ayton got the ball in the low post working on a solo defender.
It wasn’t just Booker and Ayton. New Sun Trevor Ariza added 21 points, eight rebounds and seven assists. T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson, once starters now coming off the bench, hit three 3-pointer each.
There’s always a newness on Opening Night in any league. Hopes are high but often fleeting once the reality of a team’s talent level and youth up against quality opponents sets in.
That could yet happen with the Suns. They might not win a lot and the playoffs might be still a year or two away. But on Night 1, with a new GM, new head coach and new faces, fans who have sat through a lot of Ls were left with a good impression of this season’s team. And maybe more importantly, belief that the future is bright, at a time when prospects are dim for other teams in Phoenix.