Admit it. You were hoping Robert Horry would play. We all were. Ever since that fate-altering hip check back in May, the Valley has been an air-tight kitchen with the oven gas turned on.
With every Suns setback the fumes grew more powerful, choking out logic and common sense.
First Shawn Marion demanded a trade.
Then Amaré Stoudemire blew off practice.
And when the Suns posted a dismal early record against the West’s elite teams, including two losses to the hated Lakers, the local mood was awash in angst.
The hysteria was deafening.
The pressure palpable.
Thursday at US Airways Center, Horry could have lit a match and blown up this 8½-month-old grudge — given the city a chance to vent.
Instead, he sat in sweats on the bench while Ime Udoka absorbed scattered boos from the more sight-challenged Suns fans in attendance.
There was no catharsis in this lackluster Suns loss. No payoff for the overblown hype preceding this game.
Just another event not nearly as meaningful in hindsight as it seemed on the approach.
“I think it’s a little exaggerated,” said Suns coach Mike D’Antoni of the anxiety surrounding his franchise and this game.
D’Antoni should know.
He has fielded more than his share of what’s-wrong-with-the-Suns questions this season.
“It’s kind of amusing until I go home and start screaming and yelling,” he said. “But until we win a championship, that’s the way it will be.”
It’s a product of sustained success.
Suns general manager Steve Kerr was a member of the Chicago Bulls teams that captured back-to-back championships in 1996 and ’97, while winning 141 regular-season games.
Yet when the Bulls started the 1997-98 season 8-7, the past was forgotten.
“There was mass hysteria in Chicago,” Kerr said, laughing. “Everyone was asking, ‘Is this the end of the era?’
“We ended up winning 62 games and a third championship.”
Kerr said the Bulls also overcame plenty of internal strife, including a spat between star forward Scottie Pippen and general manager Jerry Krause.
“The Amaré thing we dealt with this year happens on every team, two to three times a year,” he said. “The Shawn thing happens all over the place, too.
“It happened in Utah with (Andrei) Kirilenko asking for a trade, and it happened in L.A. when Kobe (Bryant) asked the Lakers for a trade.
“It’s just part of the business. It’s how you deal with it that defines who you are.”
Who the Suns are today is a team that has the most wins in the Western Conference. Yes, they lost Thursday’s game, but they’re still a team with more offensive options than last year. A work in progress.
So let’s see what develops down the road.
Give the ingredients a chance to blend.
Until then, please just relax.