Suns Fans Excited To Return To Games, Cheer On Competitive Team

Cam Johnson [Photo via Cronkite News video]

By Trevor Booth

PHOENIX — Dave Thaker was 11 when the Phoenix Suns last made the NBA playoffs, advancing to the Western Conference Finals in the 2009-10 season before falling to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers.

Since then, Thaker and Suns fans have endured a drought that has felt drier than the Mojave Desert. Phoenix posted a 306-489 (.384 win percentage) record in the last 10 seasons, finishing at the bottom of the Western Conference (three times) more times than they had a .500 or better mark (twice).

With the second-longest postseason drought in the NBA, the Suns have often made optimism scarce for their fanbase. However, Thaker and others were abundant with hope ahead of Phoenix’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks on Feb. 10, its third contest with a maximum capacity of 1,500 fans in attendance at Phoenix Suns Arena.

With a 17-9 record, the Suns rank fourth in the Western Conference and are on pace to snap their playoff skid. They are currently on a six-game winning streak, with five of those victories coming in front of their home fans.

Corey Kruger is happy Phoenix Suns fans are allowed at home games again and believes Chris Paul is a key to the team’s success this season. (Photo by Jessica Carnivale/Cronkite News)

The Suns are set to increase their capacity at home games to 3,000 fans on Tuesday against the Brooklyn Nets, who are coached by arguably the Suns’ best player in franchise history, Steve Nash. Besides being 5-0 in games with fans in attendance, Phoenix has won nine of its last 10 contests overall.
“I’ve been repping my Suns since day one, so it’s hard to keep wearing that stuff but I’m glad to be a Suns fan,” Thaker said. “I’ve always been glad to be a Suns fan.”

Thaker and his girlfriend, Kaitlin Husa, traveled from Iowa to attend the Suns’ 125-124 win over the Bucks last Wednesday, which was the first time they saw them in person. They began dating nine months ago, which is when Thaker started to share his love for his favorite team.

Husa has since inherited that passion, still “striving” to get to Thaker’s level. Once they heard the Suns were allowing fans at home games, they didn’t hesitate to make the trip.

“We’re like, ‘We’re coming here this week,’ so I bought tickets like instantly,” Thaker said. “This is like a dream come true for me.”

Thaker and Husa weren’t the only fans to travel far for the game. Dave Weinbach, who is from Madison, Wisconsin, and has won 148 medals as a professional pickleball player, reports usapickleball.org, came to support the Bucks, though he said he appreciates the Suns since they have a former player who played at the University of Wisconsin, starting forward Frank Kaminsky.

Weinbach said he and his three sons are also fans of Phoenix guard Devin Booker, who received Western Conference Player of the Week honors on Monday after averaging 32.3 points and 5.3 assists and 56.3 percent shooting in his team’s last four wins over the Cleveland Cavaliers, Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic.

“That was a real good game for us,” Paul said. “It was intense, nice to have the fans in there, really nice to have the fans in there. I think that gave us a little extra boost. I don’t think, I know it did. So good we could pull that out.”

The energy from the fans was palpable.

“That’s what it really is, the fans, man,” Suns center Deandre Ayton told reporters after his team’s win over the Cavaliers last Monday. “It’s that energy, I’m telling you it’s that energy that we’re feeling in there.”

As one of 14 teams by Feb. 11 who have submitted plans to have fans in attendance moving forward, according to NBA.com, the Suns will attempt to keep benefiting from their crowd as they push for a playoff appearance. Most of those who attended felt the Suns are on the cusp of breaking through.

“I’m saving up for playoff money, at this point,” Sheridan said. “They’ve frontloaded the backcourt, so I don’t see why they can’t make a run.”

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