Originally written on WeAreSuns  |  Last updated 9/24/12

“It had to happen.” That was the reaction from a friend when Nash was traded. And while I quickly countered that the Laker portion of Nash’s departure didn’t “have to happen,” I knew the general statement was bittersweet truth.

Nash needed to be traded. As long as he wanted a decent-to-rich contract, Nash was weighing the Suns down as much as he was keeping them afloat.

The fallout (besides foam spitting and heartburn) was reality. Without Nash, the Suns run a far more serious risk of a spectacular free-fall. ESPN.com thinks it’s coming. They have Phoenix pegged as the second-worst team in the conference, as well as the fifth-most likely to undergo internal problems.

With Nash, internal problems might have been the NBA’s version of pillow fights. Now, if/when losses are piling up and a bunch of 20-somethings are fighting for playing time, who knows? ESPN thinks they do.

Here’s the funny part: Suns fans are actually the most optimistic they’ve been since 2010, even if the experts haven’t been this pessimistic since 2004.

That’s what happens when a team is headed in a definite direction, even if that direction is down. Action is always more appealing than indifference.

That’s especially true when youth/potential is involved. The Suns knew what they were getting with Nash and a bunch of role players masquerading as a supporting cast: a faint chance at the playoffs.

“We weren’t going anywhere,” my buddy Devin said. “You pay Nash money and we can’t buy help. Buy help and you can’t buy Nash back.”

Fast-forward to now. Phoenix finds itself loaded with young, tantalizing unknowns. Can Michael Beasley regain his 2011 self, when he averaged nearly 20 points a game? Was Goran Dragic’s second half of last season (18 points, 10 assists per game) a tease…or a sign of better things to come? How good can Markieff Morris be in year two? Can Wes Johnson fulfill the potential of being the No. 4 pick?

The answers to those questions will result in a huge swing up or down. Either way, Suns fans figure it has to be better than the last couple years. Overachieve, and it’s 2010 all over again. Bottom out, and Phoenix finally gets a draft pick better than the Earl Clark/Robin Lopez range.

In the end, ESPN and others predicting a 2012-13 doomsday for Phoenix may be right. For now, at least, Suns fans are looking forward to finding out for themselves.

Matt Petersen can be reached at wearesunsblog@gmail.com. You can follow WeAreSuns on Twitter at @WeAreSuns.

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