Talk about adding insult to injury. The Phoenix Suns were blown out by a bad Wizards team in Washington last Monday, then were forced to postpone the next three games because of contact tracing through the NBA’s COVID rules. We’ve had all week to stew on that bad loss and that tops our look at the five biggest takeaways from the week in sports.
Suns set to return after torturous week.
The Suns (7-4) have had far too long to sit around and think about that embarrassing 128-107 loss to Washington (3-8) last Monday. The Wizards had multiple players test positive for coronavirus after the game which forced the NBA to postpone Phoenix’s next three games because the Suns could not dress enough players due to the league’s contact tracing rules. The Suns are set to resume Monday afternoon at Memphis for a MLK Day matinee – which is now the fourth straight road game for Phoenix.
Big Takeaway: Getting blown out and then wiped out in the same week surely took a mental toll on the team and the fan base. It also took the national spotlight away from the good basketball they were playing early in the season. The Suns need a big response in their return to action this week to reclaim that much needed attention.
Coyotes drop the puck on a tester of a season.
We’re two games into the NHL season and both of those have been against the San Jose Sharks. The first was a 4-3 shootout loss on opening night and the second was a 5-3 win on Saturday.
Big Takeaway: This year will be a season of testing for the Coyotes. Besides Darcy Kuemper at goalie, the roster is not as talented as the rest of the division. They are showing a lot of fight and grit early and they’ll need to see what they have on this team to determine if they can compete for the playoffs or if another rebuild is on the horizon. The next four games are all against Las Vegas – a true test for any hockey team.
Elite quarterbacks advance to NFL conference championship games.
Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen. This coming Sunday will feature four of the best quarterbacks in the NFL playing in the NFC and AFC championship games. All four threw for more than 4,200 yards during the regular season and they all ranked in the Top 5 for touchdown passes (1. Rodgers, 2. Brady, 3. Russell Wilson, 4. Mahomes, 5. Allen).
Big Takeaway: While Mahomes’ status for Sunday remains unclear because of concussion protocol, the Chiefs are saying he did not suffer a head injury and they’re optimistic he’ll be able to play against the Bills. If that happens, the storylines for each championship game are simple: quarterbacks will determine who advances to the Super Bowl.
ASU & Arizona basketball rivalry takes familiar form.
The Sun Devils men’s basketball team is coming off a disappointing 80-79 loss at Oregon State, the fourth straight defeat for a team that was ranked in the AP Top 25 to start the season. Conversely, the Arizona Wildcats are coming off perhaps its best performance of the season: a 24-point win over the Beavers. ASU (4-6) hosts Arizona (10-3) Thursday night in Tempe.
Big Takeaway: This figured to be ASU’s year before the season began, but they have struggled mightily in the first 10 games. It also looked like a down year for the Wildcats, but head coach Sean Miller has his team looking like a postseason team – even though they have a self-imposed one-year postseason ban. Thursday’s upcoming Duel in the Desert has the same feel it always does: a lopsided rivalry owned by the school down south.
A big week for guys with beards.
Two men with big beards and ties to the Valley are finding new homes. Former Diamondbacks reliever Archie Bradley signed a free agent contact with the Philadelphia Phillies last week. Former Sun Devils basketball star James Harden worked his way out of Houston and was traded in a blockbuster move to Brooklyn.
Big Takeaway: Bradley meant far more to the Valley sports scene than Harden ever did, and there was an inkling of hope he’d come back to Arizona after being traded away at the trade deadline last season. We wish Archie the best in Philly. As for Harden, we’ll sit back and watch the drama unfold with his new team.