The Phoenix Suns owe us some answers. Why are they losing to a non-NBA team in an exhibition game of basketball? Regardless of the fact that it’s the preseason, the Suns have no business dropping a game to the Adelaide 36ers Australian NBL Team.
That’s like University of Miami losing to Middle Tennessee State recently in a game that was supposed to be like an exhibition, where the Power Five school dispenses a major beatdown and the Conference USA opponent gets a bag. Or when Apollo Creed fought the “friendly” exhibition against the Soviet Union’s Frankenstein, Ivan Drago, and ended up losing his life.
On Sunday night in an exhibition game in Phoenix, the Suns, who led the league with 68 wins last season and are two seasons removed from the NBA Finals, lost 134-124 to the Adelaide 36ers, an Australian NBL team. The result is remarkable for many reasons, including the fact that the Suns’ starters did play, and they played a significant number of minutes. Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Cam Johnson, and Deandre Ayton all played 22 minutes, which according to head coach Monty Williams was a bit too much for them for a preseason game.
The Suns are the first NBA team to lose to an international squad since 2016 as the 36ers come up with a win.
Glitch in the system? Or trouble in The Valley? 🤔 pic.twitter.com/wyaO5AUt2l
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“I actually got them a little higher than I wanted to — they got competitive, they wanted to come back, but I wasn’t going to let those guys come back,” Williams said per ESPN.
You’d think if all of your starters were playing good minutes, and they put up decent stats (Ayton and Bridges both go for 22, CP3 12 assists, Cameron Payne, 23 points off the bench), that the Suns would have no problem dismantling an Australian NBL team. There is a narrative that says the talent level gap around the world is narrowing, and this game certainly doesn’t dispel that notion.
Considering that the 36ers were 10-18 and finished in seventh place in their league, there will begin to be some serious questions regarding these foreign leagues and their role in expanding the NBA.
The NBA is now dominated by foreign players such as Luka Doncic, Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. There will be conversations about expanding the league and having world tournaments, formatted similarly to Soccer’s UEFA Champions League and Super League. But for now, the 36ers will bask in this win and use it to improve, while the Suns try to recover from that disappointment.
We also know that the Suns weren’t prepared for an all-out war against an NBL team. For any NBL team, playing a high-profile NBA squad like the Phoenix Suns is like their NBA Finals. A chance for their players to be seen and make an impression on NBA personnel.
Even though this is preseason basketball, there should be some cause for concern surrounding the team and its potential success. Williams already detailed that the Suns didn’t give the 36ers the respect that they deserved on that floor.
“Just didn’t give them the respect that they deserve as a pro team,” Suns coach Monty Williams said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to learn.”
The Suns famously lost a series in the Western Conference semifinals against the Luka Doncic-led Dallas Mavericks. This was a series they were projected to win easily, given the amount of talent on their team.
The Suns to this day have no real answer as to why they lost that series. A series that would’ve sent them to the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, who many thought they would beat to get back to the NBA Finals. But they choked against the Mavs, and now it seems that they’re choking early on in the preseason, or as some would say they’re in “midseason form”. You can also say they choked against the Milwaukee Bucks in 2021.
That seems to be the narrative in Phoenix’s major losses. A lack of respect for their opponent. This was clear by the stellar game that 36ers players Craig Randall and Robert Franks had against the Western Conference juggernauts.
Randall went for 35 points on 9-for-17 shooting from beyond the arc. Franks also contributed 32 points on 6-for-10 shooting from three, and just by the highlights, you can see the lackadaisical defense played by the Suns, which culminated in the 36ers reaching 134 points.
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