The Perfect Enemy | Covid outbreak is no excuse for Suns collapse against Mavericks.
July 1, 2022

Covid outbreak is no excuse for Suns collapse against Mavericks.

Covid outbreak is no excuse for Suns collapse against Mavericks.  The Arizona Republic

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On the list of excuses for losing four of your last five games, including a 33-point humiliation in Game 7 of the NBA’s Western Conference Finals, “we didn’t feel well” would rank low for creativity and plausibility.

For the last three-plus weeks, an exhaustive search has been conducted to find explanations for the Suns collapse against the Mavericks, and especially their performance in Game 7.

On Wednesday we learned, via The Athletic, the Suns were “managing” a COVID-19 outbreak in what turned out to be the last days of their season. Six individuals, including one player, tested positive late in the conference finals, or the day after, per the report.

That produced the expected scoldings via social media: The Suns had nearly four weeks to find reasons and excuses for losing to the Mavs, and “we didn’t feel well” is the best they could do?

No doubt it’s a lame excuse. And there’s also little to no doubt the Suns aren’t using it as one and would have preferred to keep news of a COVID-19 outbreak to themselves.

For them to leak the story, nearly a month after the season’s end, would make no sense. First, it’s a flimsy excuse, and second, the story raises questions about how the Suns navigated NBA rules for dealing with COVID-19. That’s not the kind of attention any team wants.

All team personnel are required to test for COVID-19 if they are experiencing symptoms.

That requires admitting you have symptoms, and how many players are going to do that during the playoffs?

The NFL relaxed its daily testing standards before last season’s playoffs, going with an honor system of sorts, and what do you know, no one volunteered to be tested. 

The Suns declined comment, and the NBA told The Athletic it has no evidence that suggests the Suns violated any rules.

It’s hard to fault athletes for keeping symptoms to themselves. COVID-19 has forced all of us to make similarly difficult choices at times.

You have a running nose and your throat tickles. Do you test and risk missing the vacation that took a year to plan? Or your daughter’s wedding? Or a funeral?

With no one connected to the Suns talking, it’s difficult to determine what role COVID-19 played in losing the series to Dallas. And if they were talking, they likely would downplay it because they know how it would play in public. 

What seems certain is that it was not the only reason the NBA’s best team in the regular season wasn’t competitive in their four playoff losses to Dallas.

The Suns lost four consecutive games to the Bucks in the Finals last season, so a series collapse wasn’t unprecedented for this group. They struggled at times against the Pelicans in the opening round this season, playing as if their hearts and minds were elsewhere.

A team’s failure usually can’t be blamed on just one thing, and so it was with the Suns in the 2022 playoffs.

Point guard Chris Paul turned 37 and suddenly looked old. After Game 7, we learned Paul had been dealing with a quadriceps bruise. Coach Monty Williams and center Deandre Ayton exchanged words during the third quarter of Game 7, and Ayton stayed on the bench, leading to speculation their relationship bad been fraying for some time.

Even if the Suns were ravaged by COVID-19, it’s no excuse for how they played in Game 7. Scoring 27 points in the first half. Trailing by 30 at halftime and by as many as 46. Losing by 33.

A COVID-19 outbreak doesn’t explain away all that. It might have been A reason the Suns blew a 2-0 series lead but not THE reason.

Reach Kent Somers at Kent.Somers@gannett.com. Follow him on twitter @kentsomers

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