Starting Over


FOR THE SUNS. THE SUMMER OF 1985 was their introduction to a hated, but very necessary ritual - rebuilding. The still relatively young franchise parted company with two of the last remaining symbols of a long and glorious run as one of the NBA's winningest teams - Maurice Lucas and Kyle Macy. Though the Suns made it to the playoffs the year before, it was clear that they were on a decline. From 53 to 41 to 36 wins over the previous three seasons, the age, injuries and poor draft positions were taking their toll on the team. Suns management knew that standing pat would result in being run over.

It started July 21. The Suns informed power forward Lucas, 32, that he was no longer a part of their plans. He was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers on August 19 for two draft picks. The two picks, second-round selections in 1988 and 1989, would allow the Suns to bring in some new and young talent.

As training camp began, the final sign of a change in eras took place as free agent guard Macy signed with the Chicago Bulls. The Suns received two second-round picks from the Bulls in compensation for waiving the right to maintain Macy's services. Macy had been a steady, if not spectacular, player for five seasons with the Suns. Only two of the four draft picks acquired by the Suns in the two moves ever played for Phoenix - Steve Kerr and Greg Grant.

And considering how fans attach themselves to the symbols of a team's success, trading those symbols is never easy. But, in looking back, it was the start to a rebuilding process that would lead the Suns to the stated goal of every organization - more and greater success. That success would take time to materialize, however.

As the Suns headed into the '85-86 season, All-Star forward Larry Nance was a contract holdout. He later came to terms one game into the regular season. The opening-night starting lineup consisted of Jay Humphries and Walter Davis at guard, Alvan Adams at center, with Mike Sanders and Charles Jones at forward. Phoenix got off to the second-worst start in franchise history, going 0-9. During that period, the Suns successfully negotiated for the services of Georgi Glouchkov, a 6-8 center from the Bulgarian National Team, who became the first Eastern Bloc player to take the court in the NBA.

The Suns had drafted Glouchkov off of the Bulgarian National Team with the 148th pick of the 1985 draft. Although it took a lot of work, Glouchkov made it to Phoenix in time for camp after the Bulgarian Basketball Federation gave its blessing. As camp closed, Suns GM Jerry Colangelo decided he wanted to keep Glouchkov, but the 6-9 center returned to Bulgaria, only to return again after Colangelo again struck a deal with the Federation.

At first, Glouchkov captured national media attention, as well as the affection of Phoenix fans. He consistently generated interest due to his pedal-to-the metal driving tendencies and his legendary eating habits, which included a proclivity towards Big Macs and Almond Joys.

But communication difficulty - not to mention achilles tendinitis - would drastically curtail his playing time as the season progressed. He chose to play in Europe the next season in the Italian League.

The Suns struggled through the entire season, with nary a highlight to show for it. Although team milestones were few, Davis and Adams both passed the 12,000-point plateau for their NBA careers. And, Davis took over the Suns' all-time scoring lead. He led the team with a 21.8 scoring average, while Nance became the club's top rebounder at 8.5. For the first time in their history, the Suns did not place a player on the squad for the NBA All-Star Game.

Suns attendance held its own for the season, with an average of 11,121 fans per game. Phoenix never recovered from its 0-9 beginning, and failed to make the playoffs for the first time in nine seasons.

Record: 32-50

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