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A Blue Christmas: No Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns

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If enough Phoenix Suns fans asked Santa Claus, could he deliver games by Christmas? Image by Keith Allison and used under terms of a Creative Commons License.
Can ASU Fill The Void Left By Striking NBA Players And The Owners That Locked Them Out?

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By Bob Goodwood
Modern Times Magazine

Oct. 20, 2011 — It looks like this is going to be a blue Christmas without the Phoenix Suns and Steve Nash. Just the thought of a prolonged lockout blares Elvis’ holiday classic into mind.

“I'll have a blue Christmas without you;
I'll be so blue thinking about you.
Decorations of red
On a green Christmas tree
Won't mean a thing
If you're not here with me.”

By now, sports fans across the globe know that the National Basketball Association is in a lockout that has already sacrificed the first two weeks of the regular season — Nov. 1 to 14. If a deal is not reached this week, it looks likely that the whole first month will also be gone. It is likely that the fastest that teams could get back on the court is 30 days after a new collective bargaining agreement is ratified by both sides.

Sure, there has been some solid headway made — or at least the two sides are talking to each other right now. The 23 or so hours of negotiations that have taken place over the past three days — since federal mediator George Cohen joined the discussions — is almost longer than all previous negotiating sessions combined.

“Everyone is extremely focused on the core issues, the difficult issues that confront them," Cohen said to the Associated Press.

While Cohen, who also mediated the year’s other pro-sports labor stoppage over at the National Football League, must be commended for getting the two sides to start talking, who really thinks this is going to get settled over night?

Thought so.

Most likely, this means a likely repeat of 1998 and a January start. It will take the potential loss of the entire season to make owners and players quiver and for a deal to get done.

But where does that leave Valley sports fans?

The Arizona Cardinals right now are no fun at all. The team is clearly in rebuilding mode — thank God for signing Larry Fitzgerald to that deal in August, huh? They could still get it together before the season is over and it is still early. But so far, it is looking a lot like 2010 over at Cardinals HQ.

Then there is the Coyotes, a good and entertaining team. But hockey just doesn’t do well on television and everyone knows most Valley sports fans would rather watch anything on television than spend the time and money at stadiums and arenas.

Perhaps the answer is what drove the Valley sports scene for the four decades before the Phoenix Suns came to town and has been dwindling ever since — Arizona State University athletics.

The loss to Oregon last weekend in Autzen stadium in Eugene, Ore., not withstanding, the 2011 Arizona State football team has a chance to be in a BCS game. In November, the Sun Devils will wrap up a run at the Pac-12 southern division crown with road games against UCLA and Washington State before returning home for contests on the last two Saturdays of the month against Arizona and Cal.

If they can wrap up the southern division, they will most likely have to make the trek to Eugene once again to play the Ducks. This time, they will have a few weapons back — Junior Onyeali and perhaps Omar Bolden — although Oregon might have LaMichael James back by then as well.

Forget the Suns yet?

“And when the blue snowflakes start falling
That's when those blue memories start calling
You'll be doing alright with your Christmas of white,
But I'll have a blue blue Christmas.”

Well, perhaps that is because hoops is hoops and although it has never been proven scientifically, a basketball lover can go through withdrawals without the game in the winter.

But luckily the ASU basketball team looks to rebound from a disappointing 2010-2011 season and just have have the right mix to keep it going. There is no doubt that the ‘experts’ will have the Arizona Wildcats as the favorites going into the season, but they did lose Derrick Williams to the NBA and Kevin Parrom got shot. It might be a harder road than anyone realizes right now.

Besides, the Sun Devils hoop squad has an “easy” early part of the season with the New Mexico Lobos being their first challenge Nov. 18 in Tempe. After that, they head to Orlando, Fla., for the Old Spice Classic. They then have five of six games at home in December — against Nevada, North Dakota State, Northern Arizona, Southern Miss., and Fresno State.

Many people are counting on the Sun Devils to be a bottom feeder in the first year of Pac-12 competition, but with the further growth of juniors Trent Lockett and Carrick Felix as well as sophomores Kyle Cain, Keala King and Chanse Creekmur, the Sun Devils look solid, although not intimidating. This is just the type of team that coach Herb Sendek might be able to do something with, however, and if all-world talent Jahii Carson can get cleared by the NCAA, it might just make for some magic this season.

Forget the Suns now?

“I'll have a blue Christmas, that's certain;
And when that blue heartache starts hurting,
You'll be doing all right
With your Christmas of white,
But I'll have a blue, blue Christmas.

Yea, me too.

Anyone have a Steve Nash sized stocking to hang on the chimney with care?

Bob Goodwood is a freelance writer currently living in Scottsdale, Ariz.

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