Like most everyone else, it was my belief that the Phoenix Suns should see this season for what it is – lost – and tank for the lottery and a high draft pick this year. And like most everyone else, I was wrong.
People often talk about culture in sports; specifically, about the culture in the locker room, behind the culture behind the scenes. It’s not a topic because it’s a fun distraction or a tangential facet. Culture plays a pivotal role in sports, and, along with mentality and confidence, is one of the most under-appreciated elements. Culture can define a club beyond the here and now, and it can be difficult to change once a path is chosen.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics have a winning culture. Year and year, they seem to be successful, across the history of the NBA. Teams like the Washington Wizards have losing cultures. They have become defined by losing, and that’s not an easy thing to change. Now, we’re asking the Suns to adopt a losing culture for a draft pick.
Our team is full of youth. So what we’re asking this youth to do is to lose a bunch of games on purpose, to accept defeat, to fly the white flag. This is adopting a losing culture, and this is the worst thing we can do. Here we have a team that, for the most part (sorry Michael Beasley), brings it every night, and goes to the floor to play for pride and dignity. And instead of appreciating their desire to compete, we’re rooting for them to lose, to give up and barely improve odds of getting an unproven pick in a shallow draft. The odds are very low, and let’s not forget, our team once had a 50-50 shot at Kareem…and lost. Let that sink in before you clamor too hard for tanking.
I’m not trying to point fingers or throw anyone under the bus. Until quite recently, I was on the same boat as everyone else. But I realized, that has to change. We can’t willingly adopt a losing culture, and then, when we think we have more talent, suddenly turn on “win mode” again. If we forfeit our competitive edge, it sets a precedent that’s not easily erased. Keep watching and rooting for Dragic and Dudley and your team, and await the day, soon, when we translate our hard work for dignity into hard work for playoff wins.