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The Rundown w/T-Money

The Rundown v5.12.23 – A Phoenix Must Burn to Emerge

That loud crashing bang you heard in Arizona last night wasn’t another meteor crashing into the Arizona desert.

It wasn’t a rush of migrants knocking down the border wall as you might have had people believe.

Not even a supersonic jet over Luke Air Force Base or purported UFOs in the state’s skyline, though the cascade of 17,071 booing fans at halftime might have given off that same subsonic decibel.

It was the slamming shut of Chris Paul’s championship window and possibly the end of the Phoenix Suns as you’ve known them.

Where the hell is Jake from State Farm now?

If Jake from State Farm wants to gain any credibility at all in having Paul’s back – as an insurance agent and as a friend – he’d better be in a seance with late NBA Commissioner David Stern to see if he can resurrect that trade of Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers back on December 8, 2011 to post-date it to a one-day contract this season so CP3 can get a ring along with Patrick Beverley and Russell Westbrook if L.A. wins a title this season.

“If I don’t win the ring with KD, I’m going to Taiwan with Dwight Howard.” Already on social media, Howard is responding with “Aye @CP#, what we doing?”

Of course we know Jake from State Farm isn’t real so anything in that realm is fantasy – just like Paul’s hope of winning (see: earning) a ring is as much a fantasy. He now joins the likes of John Stockton, Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, and Karl Malone, to name a few.

Paul’s groin injury has kept him out of the majority of the series with the Denver Nuggets, who now await the winner of the Golden State Warriors – Los Angeles Lakers for a Western Conference Final that should be one for the ages.

Deep down in our hearts, many hoped it would be Kevin Durant versus LeBron James. That’s not going to happen. Also could have been Durant versus his best bud, Stephen Curry. Also not happening.

Durant is finding out the NBA is hard without Curry … and even without Russell Westbrook, who he parted ways from in 2016 to join Curry and the Warriors.

By that decision making pattern, will we see Durant as a Denver Nugget in 2023-24?

In all seriousness, how do you get outplayed by your former Oklahoma City teammate Cameron Payne


Payne started the game with 10 early points and finished with a team-high 31 points. Payne hit from 75 percent, while Durant shot 42.1, Devin Booker 30.8 and Landry Shamet 27.3. Prior to that, Booker was on the hottest of hot streaks, even going 79 percent in Games Three and Four.

Can’t be the best on your team with numbers like that in an elimination game, especially when you’re getting dunked on by rookie Christian Braun.

And let’s throw Mark Cuban into the discussion here.

The Dallas Mavericks were investigated and fined by the NBA for tanking the last game of the 2022-23 season. Cuban should be calling for the same type of investigation of the Suns for last night’s embarrassment where the Nuggets were up 30 and had scored 81 points in the first half. That on the heels of Phoenix’s Game Seven debacle last season versus Dallas.

Also, maybe the Nuggets should have at least been cited, investigated, and charged with manslaughter after that first half … but since no dressing room encounter was inferred, that statute of limitations kept them legally protected.

One has to wonder if new Suns owner Mat Ishbia has buyer’s remorse … or if his exchange with Nikola Jokic in Phoenix in Game Four with the game ball took KD’s talent and gave it to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (21 points, five rebounds on 63.6 percent shooting)?

Kinda wishing they’d listened to Paul and brought in Carmelo Anthony, who seems to be living his best life in Madison Square Garden as a bona fide New York Knicks fan. 

Honestly, along with Demarcus Cousins, I’m wondering why you wouldn’t sign both Cousins and Anthony when both were available. Rob Pelinka retooled the Lakers and last time I checked, they’re still in the playoffs. Contending. As a play-in team. James Jones could have done the same.

Despite his oversized contract, Paul is in all likelihood gone. 

Many different options include him being shipped to Minnesota for Nickeal Alexander-Walker and Kyle Anderson. Those two right there could have helped the Suns in this round.

Or you could ship Paul and his buddy Deandre Ayton to the Toronto Raptors straight up for Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam. You could still ship Ayton to the Indiana Pacers for Buddy Hield and Myles Turner. Once you’ve moved Paul, you could potentially sign Kyrie Irving.

If not Irving, could they swing a deal for Trae Young?

Head coach Monty Williams (is he still the head coach?) was rumored to have said the Suns would be better without Paul and Ayton. Bigger question night might be are the Suns better off without Monty Williams?

James Jones is going to have a busy summer and that should have started after the Suns tanked the first quarter, the first half, the game last night.

Williams should get a one-year reprieve despite the ugliness of the last two playoff exits, an opportunity to work with the lineup of talent like Durant and Booker, who seemed to work well together with what little time they had.

They were just overwhelmed, worn out – you could see it from the first whistle, from jump street.

The whole damn team looked like Jordan Poole out there – except Cam Payne.

I’d love to see a line-up of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Devin Booker, Buddy Hield, Myles Turner, Cameron Payne, Terence Ross, TJ Warren, Carmelo Anthony, and Demarcus Cousins.

So are we on the move again, KD? 

Hopefully when the dust settles, he stays in Phoenix. Durant can’t let his legacy be that he made Stephen Curry better and helped the Warriors to two more rings. He, like Westbrook, needs to get one for himself, leading a team, instead of joining or creating a band of brothers like LeBron James.

They had that in Oklahoma City.

James Harden’s head got big and found that he could get more money, more alcohol, and more strip clubs in Houston than in Oklahoma City, so we could blame him for the beginning of the break-up.

But then KD decided to start the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” campaign by taking Golden State to the precipice in the 2016 playoffs, then leaving a damn good Oklahoma City team and going to The Bay, leaving Westbrook all alone to lead the Thunder.


We can’t go back to 2012 or 2016, despite hindsight being 20/20 and as far as the line of sight is in the desert. 

But we can make due with the situation we’re in in Phoenix, and bring something back from the OKC days: 

Coin an old phrase from the old days in Oklahoma City, and “Rise Together.”

Isn’t that what Phoenix do?


Tracy Graven is the Senior NBA Analyst for
He has written the NBA, done NBA Radio, and appeared as a guest for the last 21+ years for HoopsWorld, Swish Magazine, HoopsHype, the Coach Scott Fields Show,, and is also tackling the NFL, NCAA, and will be pinch-hitting on some Major League Baseball coverage for BackSportsPage.
He’s spent 21 years in locker rooms in Orlando, Boise (CBA, G League), San Antonio, Phoenix, Denver, Oklahoma City, and Atlanta. 

A corporate trainer by day, he currently resides in SEC Country near Knoxville, Tennessee.
Reach him on Twitter at @RealTMoneyMedia 

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