When a drop of water falls from the sky there is no telling whether that drop is going to manifest itself into a bead of water, a piece of snow, or a complex snowflake before it hits the ground or when that change will happen. Or even if it will happen. In lot of ways that is that is the perfect metaphor for how a team becomes a team in this league.
The metaphorical raindrop begins its assent to earth around training camp and has the opportunity to become many different things over the course of time.
Back in late February 2012 the Phoenix Suns were coming off of All-Star Weekend that involved four in a half minutes out of Steve Nash in the actual game and then rookie Markieff Morris took part in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge as a part of Team Shaq.
Coming back off of that the team was 12-19 and really struggling overall. They were on their way to a very high lottery pick before the team began to put things together with six wins in seven games against quality teams in Dallas, Memphis, Minnesota, Utah, Los Angeles (Clippers), Detroit, and Houston. Those wins were a part of the melding period that built the chemistry and trust between the team.
It took 47 games, but the team figured it out on their own, on the court, and began to become a team.
I liked to say that is when it happened, but I think you just have to do it over a period of a couple of games and then everything seems to come together and click. Like I have said to you guys' chemistry is a really funny thing. Confidence is a strange thing also. When you win a couple of games and all of a sudden the guys are confident and they end up making plays that went against you earlier on in the season. -- Alvin Gentry
Right now the team is only 25 games into this season, which is back to normal as an 82 game marathon season as opposed to last year's shortened 66 game sprint.
Through 25 games last season the team was one game better than they are right now. The 47 game check-point marks the season's half way point with plenty of time to go make this a positive season. No question this season has been a disappointment so far with the way things have played out.
Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby told me the story of when he feels this team became a team:
There was one day where I walked into the locker-room and the guys were in a circle -- it was after a win I can't remember who we beat, but it was early on in the process. Like I said there was a big circle in the locker-room and (former Sun) Ronnie Price was in the middle doing that Russian Dance with guys clapping around and I walked out and said, "Alright, now we are a team." I can't predict if that is going to happen this week, or next week, in a month, or never, but we are not there yet. I think the guys like each other, but there is so much in this game that is about trust and you just have to go through the wars together in order to trust each other. I don't think we are quite there yet. -- Lon Babby
That brief intimate moment -- not seen by the public or the media -- is how and where teams become close, establish the needed trust, and begin to "click."
A locker room dance, which became a part of the pre-game festivities as well after that point, was the moment, at least in the eyes of Babby. He was able to walk out of the room happy and satisfied that what they put together was coming to fruition. They have not found that satisfaction to this point, but again the season is currently young, but as long they make it.
Suns forward Jared Dudley recounts that team moment, "I do remember that and it symbolized the guys in the locker room were a carefree team. Alvin (Gentry) was giving us the day off after that because we won that game and I think that was his happy dance. You need those guys during a long, 82 game season."
Little rewards for wins played a part in getting the team motivated team in part. For Price, the reaction was a Russian Kalinka and for the rest of the team it was a 21-14 finish to the season that was a little bit too late, but symbolic to the evolution of a team.
As Coach Gentry said, "I don't think there is a magic crystal ball or anything like that." Or in this case a weather forecast for when exactly this team is going to mesh. It only takes a couple of games though, which could easily be the stretch they are in right now.
With three wins in a row and a genuine shot at making it four in a row enhances that the team is coming together and are simply looking for that "Ronnie Price Moment."