2010 Arizona Sports Year In Review, Part 1

Another year has passed in Arizona sports history. In case you forgot any of it, we're here to remind you of both the good and the bad.

The end of 2010 is nigh. And with that comes the obligatory year-end review. But 12 months is a long time and a lot of different stuff happened. Fortunately, I'm here to narrow it all down for you. Arizona saw some incredible ups in 2010, with thrilling playoff victories, and equally disappointing downs, with last-second losses. For your convenience, I ordered it by month and since the entire year would have been an absolute monster, I've broken this into a two-part series. Part 2 will be coming your way soon. If you have a problem with anything on the list, you know how to get a hold of me.

Enough foreplay. Without further ado, I present the ups and downs of the 2010 Arizona sports year.


January

What Went Right:

  • Jan. 10, Cardinals defeat Packers 51-45 in epic playoff

A week after the Cardinals were throttled by Green Bay in the Week 17 finale, it became clear that the defeat was nothing more than Arizona playing possum. The Cardinals jumped out to a 31-10 third quarter lead, but an inability to stop the Pack, combined with a gutsy onside kick call by Mike McCarthy in the third quarter, brought the Packers even. 

At the end of regulation, Neil Rackers had an opportunity to tie the game, but missed badly on a 34-yard attempt. 

The game ended on the third play of overtime when Michael Adams blitzed off the edge and forced an Aaron Rodgers fumble that ended up in the waiting arms of Karlos Dansby, who cruised into the end zone for the win.

Kurt Warner produced one of the great QB performances in NFL history, going 29 of 33 for 379 yards, five touchdowns, no turnovers, and a 154.1 QB rating in what would prove to be his final masterpiece. 

  • Jan. 28, Stoudemire watches from bench as Suns reserves ignite season

Even at the time, the Suns' 112-106 win over the Dallas Mavericks felt special. Phoenix's record had slipped to 26-21, while Dallas came in hot at 30-15.

Dallas took a six-point lead into the fourth quarter before the Phoenix bench mob took flight.

Lou Amundson played the entire final period in place of Amar'e Stoudemire while Jared Dudley, Earl Clark, and Goran Dragic all played significant roles in helping Phoenix to the lead. Both Dragic and Amundson scored in double figures. 

Phoenix would go on to finish the regular season on a 28-7 tear. 

What Went Wrong:

  • Jan. 16, Soon to be Super Bowl champs throttle Cardinals, 45-14

It all started so nicely when Tim Hightower took a handoff and dashed 70 yards for a touchdown on the Cardinals' first play from scrimmage. It was all downhill from there.

The Saints scored touchdowns on five of their six first half drives while the Cardinals were able to muster only one other score, coupled with a missed field goal and a couple interceptions.

On one of those interceptions, we saw what would be the final play of Kurt Warner's career when he was leveled by Bobby McCray away from the play. Still hate you, Bobby. And always will. Never forget how big a scumbag you are.

New Orleans didn't need much in the second half and won going away.

  • Jan. 16, Suns mauled by Bobcats

Jan. 16 was not a banner day in Arizona sports lore. Hours after the Cardinals were knocked out of the playoffs, the Suns were punished by the under .500 Bobcats.

A lifeless first quarter had Phoenix down 43-22 and matters never really improved in a 125-99 loss.

The loss dropped the Suns to 24-17 after a 14-3 start and was the third of four straight on a disastrous Eastern Conference road trip. It also prompted Seth to write about how Steve Nash was going to be traded. 

But hey, Earl Clark was 5 of 9 for 12 points. High point for Earl!

  • January 29th, Warner hangs 'em up

After two MVPs, three Super Bowl appearances, one championship, and one surly SB Nation Arizona writer's heart won, Kurt Warner retired from the game of football.

He left $11.5 million on the table for the following season and an enormous void at the QB position that the Cardinals are still struggling to fill. 


February

What Went Right:

  • Feb. 21, ASU takes third consecutive game at McKale Center

There was a time where the idea of Arizona State winning any games at all down in Tucson would have been cause for celebration. Yet behind 28 points from Ty Abbott, the Devils claimed their third consecutive win at McKale Center and hoped to position themselves for an NCAA tournament berth. 

  • Feb. 26, Ken Whisenhunt receives contract extension

I reserve the right to move this based on the 2011 season, but on this February day, the Cardinals rewarded the only man to take them to a Super Bowl by giving him a four-year contract extension with a team option through 2014.

Whisenhunt was coming off back-to-back playoff seasons and was the first Arizona Cardinals coach to receive a second contract. Let that one sink in. 

What Went Wrong:

  • All February long, Brandon Webb doesn't pitch

After D-Backs ace Brandon Webb missed all but one start of the 2009 season, hopes were high that he would be able to return in 2010 and anchor the Arizona rotation.

When Spring Training rolled around, a constant barrage of stories began about how Webb wasn't yet 100% and wasn't going to start pitching for a while.

That rolled into the rest of the season and he never threw a pitch for the team. $8.5 million well spent.

  • Up to Feb. 18, trade rumors surround Suns

I can't say I've ever respected Amar'e Stoudemire as much as I did when he played through daily trade rumors during the month of February.

There were moments where it seemed like a near-certainty that Stoudemire was headed out of town -- whether to Cleveland or Miami -- but he never stopped his superb play.

The rosterbating on Bright Side of the Sun reached a fever pitch.


March

What Went Right:

  • March 2, Upton inked as D-Backs look to secure future

In his first three seasons in the big leagues, Justin Upton had already been named an All-Star and was coming off an impressive .300/26/86 season. This made him ripe for an extension -- an extension he received when Arizona gave him a six-year, $51.25 million dollar deal to keep him in the Valley.

J-Up struggled throughout the year with injuries and effectiveness, but after a bout with trade rumors, he should bounce back strong in 2011. 

  • March 21, Coyotes tie franchise high with ninth straight win

The Coyotes started off the 2009-2010 season sharp, but had a few slips along the way. As is typical in the NHL, they held a tenuous grasp on the playoffs in early March. Then the winning streak began.

On this day, Phoenix defeated the Dallas Stars 3-2, their final win in a nine-game winning streak -- five games of which went to shootouts -- and not only erased any doubt about making the playoffs, but also put Phoenix in prime position to hold home ice advantage.  

What Went Wrong:

  • March 5, longtime Cardinal Anquan Boldin dealt to Baltimore

Following two years of as much contract complaining as outstanding play, the marriage between the Cardinals and Anquan Boldin finally dissolved. 

Q departed Arizona as the franchise's all-time leader in receptions and had cleared 1,000 yards five times as a Cardinal. Yet a combination of injuries and contract issues helped seal his ticket out of town. Of the Cardinals' six playoff games in 2008 and 2009, Boldin missed most of one game and three other games entirely. 

The Cardinals received a third and fourth round pick in exchange for Boldin and turned the picks into Andre Roberts and ultimately O'Brien Schofield.

  • March 6, Dansby and Rolle take off for Miami and New York

On basically the first day of free agency, two of the biggest Cardinal targets accepted enormous contracts and left town.

Each guy was awarded what at the time was the highest salary at their respective positions. Antrel Rolle took his act to the New York Giants, while Karlos Dansby headed for the Miami Dolphins. Hard to be upset with the team for failing to re-sign either, given the cost.

Dansby had been a Cardinal since 2004, while Rolle had been in red since 2005. 

  • March 11, ASU basketball fails to show up in Pac-10 tournament

The ASU men's basketball team came into the Pac-10 tournament with a 22-10 record, but due to their RPI, they were likely going to require a strong tourney run to get into the NCAAs.

As a first step, ASU just needed to get by the under .500 Stanford Cardinal in the tournament quarterfinals -- easier said than done.

Though the Devils had beaten Stanford just weeks earlier, they played one of their flattest games of the season and were blasted in the second half on their way to a 70-61 loss.  

Their tournament hopes dashed, ASU was knocked out of the NIT by Jacksonville a couple weeks later. 

  • March 11, Arizona's 25-year NCAA tournament streak ends

Sean Miller knew he was in for a mighty rebuilding job and expectations weren't high for year one, and rightfully so.

A 75-69 loss to UCLA in the Pac-10 tournament put a seal on the Arizona season at 16-15 -- a record not nearly good enough to qualify them for the NCAAs. Time to get started on that next 25. 

  • March 18, Derek Anderson signs two-year deal with Cardinals

The 2007 Browns Pro Bowl QB struggled mightily in both the '08 and '09 seasons, but he was theoretically brought aboard to serve as Matt Leinart's backup. 

At the time, this was viewed as a reclamation project for Ken Whisenhunt and there were hopes that DA could recapture some of his previous glory with the aid of a talented receiving core. Guess how that turned out? 

  • March 29, Cardinals sign Joey Porter's corpse

Searching for help rushing the passer, the Cardinals turned to former Steeler and Dolphin Joey Porter to solve the problem.

Porter had nine sacks the previous season with Miami and was expected to provide even better production in Arizona. He hasn't. No word on whether he provided his own casket. 

The deal was for three years, with base salaries of $6 million in 2011 and 2012.

  • March 29, Cappie Pondexter forces her way to New York

A Phoenix superstar leaves for New York ... you'll see that one again on this list. In this instance, the star Phoenix Mercury wing player who was a key contributor on two WNBA championship teams was dealt to New York in a three team trade that netted the Merc Candice Dupree. 


April

What Went Right:

  • April 14, Phoenix makes triumphant return to NHL playoffs

After a nearly ridiculous eight-year absence, the Coyotes completed an excellent regular season and rolled into the playoffs as the fourth seed. They did not disappoint in their debut.

Supported by a raucous sellout crowd, Phoenix trailed 2-1 after a period, but tied the game on a Wojtek Wolski second period goal and went ahead late early in the third period on a goal from Derek Morris.

The win gave the Coyotes a 1-0 series lead and ignited a desire in me to watch hockey in public. I'd call that a win. 

  • April 29, Suns finish off hated Blazers

It may have been a rivalry that existed just in the minds of the posters at Bright Side of the Sun, but that didn't make it feel any less sweet when the Suns defeated the Blazers 99-90 in Portland to win their first round Western Conference series.

Following a Game 1 loss in which Andre Miller torched the Suns, Alvin Gentry switched Grant Hill onto him and Miller was barely heard from the remainder of the series.

Brandon Roy made an ill-advised return in Game 4 of the series and though his return helped lift Portland in that game, watching him limp around the floor for the next two games was painful to watch. 

Jason Richardson exploded in the series, scoring 42 points in Game 3 and hitting five threes and scoring 28 points in the final game. Next.

What Went Wrong:

  • April 27, Coyotes flame out in Game 7 of Western Conference Quarterfinals

Having evened their series with the mighty Detroit Red Wings, the Coyotes had to like their chances coming back to Glendale for a Game 7.

With a full whiteout in Jobing.com Arena and the nearly undivided attention of the Valley public, the Yotes were quietly snuffed out during a 4-1 second period on their way to a 6-1 loss. 

Certainly not the result you wanted to end your season on, but it was still a wildly successful season nonetheless. 


May

What Went Right:

  • May 7, Goran Dragic explodes onto the scene

The Suns took the first two games of their Western Conference Semifinal series against the Spurs, but fell behind as many as 18 in the second quarter of Game 3. The team as a whole helped rally to reduce the Spurs lead to 1 before it turned into the Goran Dragic show.

One of the more exciting subplots for Suns fans in 2010 was the development of second-year point guard Goran Dragic. Although the Slovenian had looked lost in his rookie year, he had developed quite nicely in year two. He was basically our little secret. Not so much anymore.

Dragic exploded for 23 points in the fourth quarter alone -- on an array of three pointers and fearless drives to the basket -- to bury the Spurs. The performance was one of the greatest in playoff history, but don't take my word for it ... ask Grant Hill:

"I think it's safe to say that may have been the best fourth-quarter performance I have ever seen in a playoff game," Suns forward Grant Hill said.

From the BAMF himself.

  • May 9, Suns vanquish their long-time rival

In the very best years for the Phoenix Suns, the Spurs always stood in their way: 2005, 2007, 2008 were all years in which San Antonio bounced the Suns from the playoffs, and typically in heart-wrenching fashion. I even captured the inglorious history here.

Now holding a 3-0 lead, the most pessimistic Suns fans probably thought to themselves that becoming the first NBA team to blow such a lead would be the final indignity in the one-sided rivalry.

In the middle of the third quarter, the Suns probably felt like they had the game in control when they led by 64-53. Two plays later, Tim Duncan caught Steve Nash with an elbow to the eye that drove him from the game. A minute after that, the game was tied.

With the Suns up 1 going into the fourth quarter, Steve Nash re-entered the game and, although he was unable to see out of his right eye that was nearly swollen shut, he flat out took the game over.

Nash didn't need to see to score 10 points in the final quarter and help the Suns capture their white whale.

What Went Wrong:

  • May 27, Ron Artest breaks the hearts of Phoenix

Through four games of the Western Conference Finals, the Suns and Lakers sat dead even, with each party winning their home games. But in each of the Lakers' home games, the Suns weren't even close, losing by 21 and 12, respectively. Most of Game 5 made it appear that Phoenix was resigned to the same fate.

With 9:42 left in the game, the Suns trailed by 11 and with 5:22 left, they were down 7. Basically, the Lakers were in control. Then Steve Nash took over.

In the final stanza of the game, Nash scored nine points, but it was Jason Richardson who banked in a three following his own miss and tied the game.

Now with just three seconds remaining in the game, everyone in the building knew Kobe Bryant would attempt the game winner. He did, he missed, and J-Rich forgot to box out Ron Artest.

Artest caught the ball and tossed it in as time expired. It wasn't the series clincher ... but it was the series clincher.

  • May 29, Suns dream season ends in 4-2 series loss to Los Angeles

Coming off of the heart-breaking loss in Game 5, it was questionable what the Suns would have left in trying to keep their season alive.

Concerns were relatively warranted, as the Lakers carried a 17-point lead into the fourth quarter and appeared in complete control.

The Phoenix bench mounted a gutsy rally in the fourth -- even cutting the lead to three with 2:18 left in the game -- but the Lakers had Kobe and the Suns didn't.

Bryant outscored the Suns 9-7 down the stretch and ended one of the most enjoyable Suns seasons of all time. 


June

What Went Right:

  • June 2, Don Maloney takes NHL General Manager of the Year

The guy largely responsible for building a highly competitive roster with NHL budget restrictions snagged a well-deserved award.

It wasn't an overnight job, but Maloney knew how to put the right pieces in place to make the Coyotes competitive. 

  • June 7, SB Nation Arizona founded; Earth changed

This was our birthday. Also, it's my birthday. Respect it either way. 

  • June 21, Mighty Yankees strike out

When does a June regular season win by a team that is already 16 games under .500 feel significant? When it's over the world famous New York Yankees.

New York was coming into Chase Field for the first time since losing the 2001 World Series, but the teams on the field this time were basically polar opposites. The Yanks came in as the defending World Series champs, while the D-Backs ...? Well they didn't have Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling.

None of that mattered on the opening night of this series, as Justin Upton, Adam LaRoche, and Mark Reynolds all went yard as part of a five-run first inning and the D-Backs cruised to a 10-4 win. 

  • June 23, Dave Tippett named Coach of the Year

Though Maloney was the architect of the team, someone had to get the guys to play. That's what Dave Tippett was for.

In Tippett's first year behind the Coyotes bench, he led the team to its best record in franchise history and got them back to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. Neither was a small feat. 

  • June 26, Edwin Jackson no-hits the Rays

In the history of no-hitters, this is certainly not going to go down as the most aesthetically pleasing, but it still counts.

The first-year D-back didn't have much of a year before he was traded to Chicago, but on one Friday evening he didn't allow a future playoff team one hit. Sure, he walked an astounding eight batters, but only one was after the third inning.

Adam LaRoche provided the only run of the game on a solo blast, so even the slightest slip-up could have lost Jackson the no-hitter and the game. He delivered when the pressure was on.

What Went Wrong:

  • June 2, D-Backs complete disaster of a road trip

Though this road trip began May 25 with a visit to Colorado, the D-Backs arrived home nine games later completely winless.

They were beaten three times in extra innings, four times in walk-off fashion, and five times by one run. If you didn't think the bullpen sucked before this trip, you absolutely knew after it was done.

The team began the road trip with a somewhat respectable record of 20-26 and finished it at 20-34. They wouldn't sniff six games under .500 the rest of the year. 

  • June 15, Steve Kerr resigns as Suns GM

When Steve Kerr was hired as general manager of the Suns, his first order of business was to trade Kurt Thomas and a pair of first-round picks in order to get under the luxury tax. His first major move was to trade Shawn Marion and break up a team that was tops in the Western Conference at the time in order to acquire Shaquille O'Neal.

Even with that ominous beginning, Kerr built a quality team in his time in Phoenix. He drafted guys like Robin Lopez and Goran Dragic, along with putting together one of the best benches in the NBA.

His resignation seemingly came out of nowhere and was apparently spurred by his desire to spend more time with his family. Take that last nugget for what it is.

Stay tuned for Part 2!

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