It's Robert Sarver vs. millennials as the Phoenix Suns hit rock bottom
Phoenix is doomed and Robert Sarver is "blaming" millennials but this conversation misses all the key points of what has gone wrong in Phoenix.
The Phoenix Suns hit rock bottom on Sunday night. Often times that's a subjective term, but in this case, it may truly be the actual definition. Scoring 22 points in the first half vs. the league's worst defense in the woeful Los Angeles Lakers, and getting blown out without ever really challenging, that's it. That's as bad as it gets.
There is no other way to say it: the Suns have quit on Jeff Hornacek. I'm of the opinion that Hornacek is a smart coach who preaches the right concepts in the modern NBA, a guy who resonated early with his players, and given the lingering dissatisfaction of so many former players when it comes to management, it's hard to blame him. And still, you have to think he's got to go, because that performance was so indicative that the entire trust coil is broken for Phoenix.
In the aftermath, this quote from majority Suns owner Robert Sarver, which came earlier in the day Sunday via the Arizona Republic, caught a lot of flak:
“I’m not sure it’s just the NBA,” Sarver said. “My whole view of the millennial culture is that they have a tough time dealing with setbacks, and Markieff Morris is the perfect example. He had a setback with his brother in the offseason and he can’t seem to recover from it.
“I’m not sure if it’s the technology or the instant gratification of being online. But the other thing is, I’m not a fan of social media. I tell my kids it’s like Fantasy Land. The only thing people put online are good things that happen to them, or things they make up. And it creates unrealistic expectations. We’ve had a number of setbacks this year that have taken their toll on us, and we haven’t been resilient. Therefore, it’s up to our entire organization to step up their game.”
Let me run you really quick through how Twitter responded to this.
How dare this old man try and stick the younger generation with his problems. Sarver has been a cheap if not outright bad owner for years and the team has fallen apart and he's blaming an entire generation? This just shows how out of touch Sarver is, and blaming millenials is about as lame as it gets, man.
You're probably thinking I'm about to defend Sarver. I'm not. The guy has sold off draft picks at key junctures, severely hurting his team and has a reputation for cutting corners. Also, labeling any generation goes in the same boat as labeling any group of people uniformly. The Suns' problems aren't that they're millennials, it's that they have huge glaring chemistry problems and aren't playing basketball well. That's a problem, beyond whatever generation they're a part of. Additionally, Tyson Chandler hasn't helped at all, and P.J. Tucker is just as much a part of the problem, and both of those guys are veterans.
However, there are things to at least pay attention to with Sarver instead of just making a stream of jokes about him being an out-of-touch old man.
• Sarver started off the conversation saying the problems were "top down" and that includes him. He's not shirking responsibility here in the slightest. The millennials comments get headlines, but Sarver was very clear in saying that he has to do his part to help the team get back on track.
• The same things that Sarver is talking about in regards to responding to adversity, being attached to social media and technology, and a general issue with professionalism, these are things I've heard older players say in this league. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's widespread, but there are very significant generational differences with how players approach the game. To act like Sarver's just pulling this out of nowhere isn't really accurate, it's just convenient.
• Sarver's out of touch with millennials? Millennials are out of touch with the older generations. Everyone is out of touch with everyone. This is not a one-sided problem and Sarver asking for the team to pull itself out of its funk given the money they are paid to do so is not some unreasonable expectation. Even if it's not attributable to their generational representation, that's a two-way street in and of itself and to ascribe values to Sarver based on his age is just as problematic. Also, of note? Sarver's only 55. It's not like he's the old guy from the Simpsons.
• Sarver's also talking to a columnist about a general trend in the world. It's conversational. It's not like Sarver called up a reporter and said "You know what the problem with our team is? It's all these millennials." Conversations drift and Sarver having an opinion on what he perceives as a generational gap isn't necessarily meant to be taken as some sort of formal study of that age group's habits. Reacting to it as such is a bit misguided.
• He's not wrong about how people represent themselves on social media. Studies have shown that we skew towards the positive, even if our true selves do in fact ring through in some cases. Twitter itself is a negative environment (just as Facebook is positive) but that doesn't necessarily mean that people's presentation of themselves aren't skewed.
• None of this gets around the problems of the Suns, which have very little to do with what Sarver's talking about. Even if he's got a point, there are concrete ways to address the issues. The players need to buy into their coach, they need to pay for one another, they need to be less selfish, and they need to defend better. This isn't a social science experiment, it's a basketball team. However, let's also be clear on this: Sarver hired a good coach, gave the team good players, and they haven't played well, end-dot. The Suns are talented. You can say that Hornacek hasn't been good enough to fix their problems, or that Sarver didn't do enough to bolster the roster, but they had good young players on cheap contracts and he still spent money to add Tyson Chandler and keep Brandon Knight. This failure is on the players.
• You know what would be a really great way to not have to deal with the Markieff Morris situation? Trading him, as the team should have done this summer when it became apparent he was going to be a distraction.
So the world will blame Sarver for trying to shift the blame, when that's not what he did at all, and no one will listen to anyone else and meanwhile Jeff Hornacek's probably going to lose his job while the fans have to sit through a terrible season with no real tangible hope in sight.
Like I said, this is rock bottom.
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