Arizona sports leave little room for optimism. For years, we’ve put up with playoff heartbreak, wasted seasons, and poor ownership (here’s looking at you, Robert Sarver). Even by Arizona sports standards, however, 2018 was particularly bad. The Diamondbacks had a late-season meltdown and ceded the division to the rival LA Dodgers. The Suns tanked their way to the first draft pick, only to experience the worst start in franchise history the next season. Even the Cardinals seemingly hit rock bottom, wasting away Larry Fitzgerald’s twilight years with another letdown season. Yes, times are tough in the Valley of the Sun. But all hope is not lost. Here are a few reasons we’re looking forward to Arizona sports in 2019. Because let’s face it: it can only go up from here.
The Phoenix Suns
It wasn’t long ago that the Phoenix Suns were the hottest show in town. The Steve Nash–Amar’e Stoudemire era seems like a distant memory, however, thanks to years of tanking and a nine-year playoff drought. This once-proud franchise has become the laughingstock of the NBA, so much so that even Charles Barkley can’t help but rip his former team.
Here’s the thing, though: the Suns aren’t that bad. Despite their record, it seems like this young Suns squad has finally turned a corner. Rookie center Deandre Ayton is putting up record-level stats. T. J. Warren has a newly discovered three-point shot. And first-year coach Igor Kokoskov has finally discovered weapons in rookies Mikal Bridges and Elie Okobo.
Really, though, it’s all about the chosen one: Devin Booker. The Suns handed over the reins of the franchise to the budding 22-year-old star last off-season. While it may not be paying off in wins (yet), it’s clear that Booker has turned a corner and is ready to take the league by storm. He’s lethal in crunch time, regularly dishes out dimes, and is one of the most dangerous shooters in the league. Drake knows what we’re talking about. The Suns might not be ready to make a playoff run. But there are genuine reasons to be excited about this team. They’re still a piece or two away. Thanks to a young core and a developing superstar, however, the Suns are finally exciting again. We’re all in on #theTimeline.
The Arizona Diamondbacks
After an impressive berth in 2017, the Arizona Diamondbacks were primed to recapture the hearts of Valley sports fans. That all came to a crashing halt at the end of the 2018 season, when they lost 17 of 22 games en route to their worst September in franchise history. Brad Boxberger’s collapse in the bull pen was an infuriating subplot in a season full of disappointment.
Unfortunately, 2019 looks to be a rebuilding year for our beloved Snakes. With the inevitable departures of Patrick Corbin and A. J. Pollack looming, it’s tough to imagine this team making another hard-fought run at the playoffs. There have also been whispers that All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt is on the trading block, further cementing 2019 as a write-off season.That’s not to say you should give up on the team. We’re forever indebted to the D-backs, as they brought our city its lone championship in 2001. You also have to imagine that shouldbe stars like Zack Greinke, Paul Goldschmidt, and A. J. Pollack leave, they would warrant a hefty return. Plus, there are worse ways to spend an August Phoenix day than with Chase Field’s air-conditioning and a Churro Dog.
The Arizona Coyotes are the forgotten franchise of Arizona sports. It wasn’t that long ago that legends like Jeremy Roenick and Keith Tkachuk took to the ice in front of sell-out crowds and “white out” playoff games. That all seemed to change when the franchise inexplicably moved to Glendale and has suffered through poor attendance and relocation rumors ever since. The team hasn’t experienced much postseason success, either, save for a 2012 trip to the Western Conference finals.
Don’t look now, but the Arizona Coyotes might be back. The team has played competitively and is very much alive in the race for the Pacific Division. Young forward Clayton Keller has provided the team with a scoring spark, while defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson continues to impress with his playmaking abilities. It’s a long shot, but the Coyotes might present local sports fans with the best chance to experience postseason play in 2019. Add in the rowdy home games and cheap seats, and the ’Yotes are a must-watch team for local diehards.
It might be controversial to leave the Arizona Cardinals out of this list. But the pain of the 2018 season is still too fresh. Plus, it’s hard to preview a team who doesn’t play until September. Instead, we’ve decided to focus on the new football team in town: Phoenix Rising. This upstart soccer team took Phoenix by storm in 2017 thanks to Didier Drogba and an unlikely playoff run. They finished the 2018 season 19-6-9 and made it all the way to the championship game before falling short against Louisville City. Drogba may be retired, but with a loyal following and a city hungry for wins, the Rising offer a reason for optimism in 2019.
What Arizona sports teams are you reppin’ this year? Let us know in the comments below or tag us on social media using #PHXFray or #FrayLife!
Depending on what time your favorite team plays, hit up one of these local bars with incredible Happy Hour deals before, during, or after the action!
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