NBA Losers–The Story So Far

Before we turn our attention to the playoff contenders, let’s give the biggest losers their due. First up, Shaq and Iverson.


In Phoenix, haste didn’t make waste.

The Phoenix Suns entered the season with a perception problem. The team had three all-stars, point guard Steve Nash, power forward Amare Stoudemire and recently acquired center Shaquille O’Neal, but there was a perception that the three did not fit together well. There was also a sense that the Suns were slowing down their game to accommodate Shaq in the twilight of his career.

For five years, the Suns had been the league’s state-of-the-art, fast-break team. They put up offensive numbers that were frightening; no team could routinely erase a 10-point deficit faster. At the end of his career, Wilt Chamberlain played on several up-tempo teams, but that was 36 years ago, and I guess no one in a decision-making position remembered. So the Suns held their horses and played at a medium tempo; the results were disastrous. By mid-season the Suns, a fixture among the league’s elite, were struggling just to make the playoffs. A coaching change ensued, and the Suns went back to their accustomed fast pace and began making 130 points a game seem like the norm. But it was too little too late; there will be no playoffs for Phoenix this season. O’Neal and Nash are at the end of their careers; this year might have been their best chance to win something together.

Like Iverson and the Pistons, the Suns might begin next season as a vestige of a bygone era.

Martin Johnson is a regular contributor to The Root.