The Phoenix Suns have a promising collection of young talent to look forward to, but for the most part, their 2017-18 NBA season has been a nightmare. The organization fired former head coach Earl Watson after just three games. Star point guard Eric Bledsoe may or may not have requested a trade right around the same time, and he’s in Milwaukee now.
While both the Watson firing and the Bledsoe trade can be viewed as positive moves for the Suns long-term, there’s been entirely too much drama in Phoenix this season. A three-games-in coach firing and a bizarre star player trade request are never ideal when you’re trying to develop young talent with positive locker room culture and convince upcoming free agents that you’re an organization worth considering next summer.
The good news is since the Suns fired Watson and inserted veteran NBA assistant Jay Triano as their interim head coach, the Suns have looked considerably better on the court. They’re 13-20 under Triano, and while that record is nothing to brag about, that’s about where you’d expect a team with a young roster like this to land. A losing season was always inevitable.
In a roundabout way, we should all be thankful for the Suns. If they hadn’t fired Watson and turned the keys over to Triano, we would have totally missed the best buzzer-beater of the year. The Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns were tied at 97 with just 0.6 second remaining in the 4th quarter on Tuesday, and Triano drew up an incredible out-of-bounds play that saw Dragan Bender find Tyson Chandler on an alley-oop that somehow dropped just before the clock expired.
Immediately after Bender and Chandler connected on the game-winning oop, NBA fans were left wondering how the Suns could pull all this off in 0.6 seconds. Was it an offensive goaltend? Was the ball still above the cylinder? Did Chandler push off?
NBA officials reviewed the play and confirmed that the basket was good, and in his postgame press conference, Triano revealed that he had been waiting 15 years for the right moment to pull this play out of his bag of tricks.
“I put it in about two or three days after I took over the job here, and it’s a rule a lot of people don’t know. You cannot goaltend a ball that isn’t going to count, so I told our guys, ‘Shoot the ball in the basket, and all Tyson has to do is touch it on the way down or grab the rim and have it hit your knuckle and go in.”
Of course, Triano is right. You can’t legally shoot the ball into the basket from out of bounds, so if Bender’s pass to Chandler cannot be considered a legal shot, Chandler is allowed to grab the ball and tip it in no matter where it is. You can’t call a goaltend if you don’t register a shot before said goaltend. “I’ve tried to keep it a secret,” Triano said, “and it’s not a secret anymore.”