Phoenix Suns’ decline began with Joe Johnson blunder
Not re-signing Joe Johnson is the main reason for Phoenix’s decline on-court and as an organization. Remember, in the summer of 2005, owner Robert Sarver opted against matching Atlanta’s $75 million offer sheet to Johnson, who was then a restricted free agent …
One decision can change everything for an NBA franchise.
Consider Phoenix’s fall from contender to pretender. There is the belief several factors suddenly came together last year and forced the Suns ‘to set’ without making the Western Conference playoffs.
The coaching change, Amare Stoudemire’s injury, Steve Nash’s age, Shaquille O’Neal’s slow feet, and other elements conspired to prevent the desert from seeing a second-season oasis. Some even blamed Robert Horry and his infamous body-check for the woes of 2008-09.
They’re all wrong.
Not re-signing Joe Johnson is the main reason for Phoenix’s decline on-court and as an organization. Remember, in the summer of 2005, owner Robert Sarver opted against matching Atlanta’s $75 million offer sheet to Johnson, who was then a restricted free agent.
Instead, a sign-and-trade was arranged: the 6-8 two-guard was swapped for Boris Diaw and Royal Ivey. This bit the Suns in the you-know-what last season and will have repercussions in the future.
Johnson would have also developed into an All-Star in Phoenix. His scoring average would have climbed well over 20 points per game, while his ability to play and defend multiple positions would have been useful in playoff battles against Dallas and San Antonio.
But Johnson would have been most valuable last season. He could have served as a bridge from ‘Seven Seconds To Shoot’ to whatever identity the team next took. Most importantly, the Suns would have a legit go-to guy to alleviate pressure from an aging Nash.
Letting Johnson walk also damaged the club’s reputation. Fans quickly realized Sarver was more concerned with saving money than flooring a winner, which never occurred when the Colangelo family was in charge.
Other cost-cutting measures soon followed. First round draft picks Nate Robinson and Rajon Rondo were given away for cap space. Veteran Kurt Thomas was dealt to the then Seattle Sonics for draft picks and a trade exception. But Johnson’s departure was the first and greatest example of the bottom-line taking precedence over winning a championship.
One decision in sports can be significant. Clearly, the Phoenix Suns have never recovered from their decision not to keep Joe Johnson.