The elation coming from Phoenix is sensible. Kevin Durant has arrived, he seems sharp and proper at dwelling, and the Suns are undoubtedly a workforce with as a lot expertise as any within the NBA. It tracks that a few of us are getting forward of ourselves with ideas of Suns domination.
But there additionally must be a rattling and relentless sense of urgency right here, based mostly on one thing Phoenix ought to heed. The historical past of the NBA is rife with home windows that appeared so vast and sure earlier than out of the blue slamming shut.
Yes, Durant simply performed his first sport with the Suns on Wednesday. But he and his teammates must pursue the remainder of this season as if 2023 is their one and solely likelihood at greatness.
Durant is aware of how fleeting positive issues, and long-term plans, can become on this league. A Brooklyn Nets workforce that lower than two months in the past was one sport behind the Boston Celtics for the No. 1 spot within the Eastern Conference — and never coincidentally had Durant and Kyrie Irving on its roster — is now a dumpster fireplace.
Chris Paul will likely be 38 earlier than the convention finals roll round. Deandre Ayton wished to be some place else final summer time and stayed as a result of Phoenix gave him no selection. Injuries sidelined Devin Booker for 27 video games earlier this season. And Okay.D. simply got here again from his personal seven-week damage absence.
In this league, sure, there isn’t any time like the current. But it is also true that generally the current is all you get.
And the current, for Phoenix, seems mighty good. Some of the realities of this yr’s Western Conference gives a gap for the Suns — in addition to a warning. The Los Angeles Lakers thought they’d cracked the code, twice, to reclaim some postseason glory for the franchise — first, in the beginning of final season after they introduced in Russell Westbrook, after which finally month’s commerce deadline after they removed Russell Westbrook.
But LeBron James is harm, L.A. is mediocre at greatest, and any menace it may need poised has dissipated. Windows shut.
The Clippers, who introduced in Westbrook after he was purchased out by the Utah Jazz final month, additionally believed they might compete. But we have seen little from them to point that is doubtless.
Perhaps the Grizzlies and Nuggets are legit, however Memphis is younger, and the troubling reviews surrounding Ja Morant will not assist. In Denver, accidents in latest seasons have sabotaged postseason success. And whereas the Warriors count on to get Steph Curry again for Sunday’s sport in opposition to the Lakers, they have been inconsistent all season lengthy.
The Kings simply hold successful, however few have them sitting on the ultimate desk within the West. And the Mavericks, regardless of what occurred Thursday evening in opposition to the Sixers, are nonetheless relying on Kyrie Irving. All which is to say that the West is winnable.
History, too, is a information on this concept of not taking issues without any consideration.
A decade in the past, Durant’s former Thunder workforce appeared poised for continued greatness even after they misplaced to LeBron and the Heat in 5 video games within the 2012 NBA Finals. They absolutely did not see that season’s 23-win Warriors workforce morphing into one of many best dynasties of all time — one, for good measure, that might finally lure Durant away.
The Heat believed they had been poised for long-term dominance, proper up till the summer time of 2014 when it dawned on them LeBron was going again to Cleveland.
Don’t overlook the 2015 Clippers, in these halcyon Lob City days. One second, Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan had been up 3-1 on the Rockets and eyeing a slot within the convention finals. They subsequent, they had been achieved. In hindsight, their window closed earlier than they ever even bought near getting via it.
The Raptors received a championship again in 2019, after which they watched Kawhi Leonard depart lower than a month later.
On and on it goes, again via NBA historical past, groups who noticed the glory that was going to be theirs just for the bottom to shift out of the blue beneath their toes.
This Suns workforce, regardless of needing time to gel and face stiffer exams than a battered and talent-depleted Hornets workforce, has each marking of an NBA title contender proper now.
But after that, Phoenix’s subsequent step is to understand these issues can change within the blink of an eye fixed. Bad luck and accidents strike. Locker rooms generally bitter. Some gamers get previous, others resolve they need to be elsewhere. Sometimes the breakthrough comes from some place else and reorients the NBA’s energy construction to someplace surprising just like the Bay Area or Milwaukee.
Kevin Durant might have joined this gifted Suns workforce late on this season, and when he did a window opened vast. How lengthy it stays like that’s anyone’s guess, but when latest NBA historical past has taught us something, it is that such home windows not often keep open for lengthy.
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