AFTER WINNING A FRANCHISE-HIGH 62
games and making an NBA Finals appearance the previous season, the
Phoenix Suns appeared poised to make another run at a ring in
"Thunder" Dan Majerle set the all-time NBA record for
three-pointers in a season hitting for 192.
Welcome to the Playoffs,
Suns entered the new year looking even stronger than they had
several months earlier in their six-game showdown with the Bulls.
Not only was their near-championship roster nearly intact - the
exceptions being Richard Dumas, who was suspended for substance
abuse, and Tom Chambers, who was not re-signed - but the Suns were
able to make some big acquisitions in the free agent market.
Phoenix first signed free agent Joe Kleine, a veteran center
formerly of the Celtics who could help strengthen the Suns' middle,
and followed that up by inking forward A.C. Green, a key component
of the Lakers' championship teams in 1987 and '88.
"Joe Kleine is a great competitor who will fit in extremely well
with our club," said Suns President and CEO Jerry Colangelo. "And
A.C., he's a proven winner. But more than anything, he represents
class and character."
Bringing their lunch pails and hard hats to the America West
Arena, both newcomers proved to be valuable additions -
particularly Green, who averaged 14.7 points and 9.2 rebounds a
night and appeared in all 82 regular season games.
The rest of the team wasn't quite as consistent, however. The
Suns lost a total of 211 player games to injury or illness in
'93-94. They even lost a few mascot games as the Suns' Gorilla was
put on the shelf for a portion of the season with a shoulder
injury. But it all started with forward Cedric Ceballos, who
had suffered a fractured foot during the '93 playoffs and would be
forced to sit out the first 29 games of the new season. Yet,
despite having CC on ice, Phoenix rolled out to a 24-6 start,
posting an impressive 13-2 record in December. But then came
Floor general Kevin
Johnson, forward/comedian Charles Barkley and
sharp shooting sub Danny Ainge
were all sidelined after the new year. Johnson missed 15 games from
January 5 to February 6 with a variety of leg and ankle injuries,
as well as the chicken pox, Barkley missed 17 contests after
suffering a torn quadriceps tendon in his right knee on January 7
and Ainge missed 10 games after an ankle sprain of his own on Jan.
20. With two of their starters and a key reserve all in dress
clothes, the Suns struggled to a 7-8 mark in January, their first
losing month since November 1991.
There was some good news in January, however, as Ceballos
returned to the lineup to help lead the team that month. Any
concerns over his health were quickly put to rest with his
40-point, 14-rebound performance in a win over Portland on Jan. 22.
He followed that up with a 34-point effort in New York and another
40-digit outing at Atlanta in their next two games.
Phoenix bounced back to capture an 8-4 record in February,
welcoming KJ, Barkley and Ainge back to the lineup. All three
played well down the stretch, although Johnson had a particularly
impressive run in April, a month which saw him shatter the
franchise record for assists, handing out 25 in a win against San
Antonio on April 6.
With their full roster at full strength, the Suns closed out the
regular season by winning 15 of their last 19 games, ending their
march into the playoffs with a seven-game winning streak. Overall,
the Suns finished with a 56-26 record, third best in the Western
"If we've got the best team, we will win," said a semi-serious
Barkley as the team headed into the postseason. "If we don't, we
won't. And I'll be on the golf course."
The Chuckster would have to wait a few weeks to hit the links as
the Suns drew the overmatched Golden State Warriors in the opening
round. Barkley scored 36 in Game 1 and KJ led with 38 points in
Game 2, as the Suns took a 2-0 advantage in the best-of-five
series. Game 3 would be no different. On the road, Barkley exploded
with 56 points, the third-highest total ever in an NBA Playoff
game, to sweep the Warriors into the offseason. His dominating
effort was somewhat ironic as it came against rookie sensation
Chris Webber, who was featured in a Nike commercial earlier in the
season boasting about how he dunked on Sir Charles.
Heading into the conference semifinals, Phoenix was on a roll -
a giant Kaiser-sized roll, to be exact. But starting out on the
road, against the Midwest Division Champion Houston Rockets and
their newly-named league MVP Hakeem Olajuwon, the
Suns would have their hands full. Or so everyone thought.
Behind a 21-point, 12-rebound showing from Barkley, the Suns
cruised to a 91-87 Game 1 win at the Houston Summit. A far from
sold out Houston Summit, it should be noted. Game 2 would be more
of the same, with the exception of a closer-to-capacity crowd,
filled in by some 350-plus Suns fans who were flown into Texas by
Colangelo. The small sections of purple-clad fans were in for a
treat as they cheered the Suns on to another win, this time
overcoming a fourth-quarter deficit of 20 points to pull out a win
The Suns appeared to be in good position heading home. There was
even talk of another sweep among fans in Phoenix. But those who had
watched Olajuwon throughout the season knew such sentiments were
The Rockets marched into America West Arena and marched right
back out with victories in Games 3 and 4. Despite back-to-back
38-point outbursts from KJ, the Rockets grabbed the momentum with a
wrenching grip, winning both contests by double digits.
The teams split the next two games, each winning on its home
floor, setting up a climactic Game 7 in Houston.
But the injury bug reared its ugly head for the Suns once again.
A painful groin injury, suffered earlier in the series, prevented
Barkley from performing his usual heroics in the clutch. Not that
his effort wasn't heroic enough. Sir Charles and the rest of the
club left everything they had on the floor - but it was just short
of enough. Olajuwon poured in 37 points and grabbed 17 boards in a
104-94 Suns loss.
After their 4-3 series win, the Rockets went on to win their
first of two consecutive NBA Championships and the Suns, meanwhile,
began looking ahead to '94-95.
Became only the second player in NBA history to reach
the 900 mark for three-pointers made in a career on Jan. 18, vs.
Awarded the Drazen Petrovic Trophy as the MVP of the
McDonald's Open during the preseason.
Led Suns in scoring (21.6 ppg) and rebounds (11.2
The league's leading vote-getter in fan balloting,
Barkley was unable to play in the NBA All-Star Game due to
Tallied 56 points (career-high and third-highest
total in NBA Playoff history) vs. Golden State in Game 3 of the
Led Suns in postseason with 27.6 points and 13.0
rebounds per game.
Averaged 19.1 points and 6.5 boards, his career highs
as a Sun.
Led Suns and ranked fifth in NBA in assists per game
Ranked second on team in scoring (20.0 ppg).
Set franchise records for steals (10 vs. Washington,
Dec. 9) and assists (25 vs. San Antonio, April 6).
Made his third and final All-Star Game appearance as
a Sun, tallying six points and two assists in 14 minutes.
Scored 266 total points in the postseason to become
Suns all-time leader at 1,541, surpassing Walter Davis' 1,288.
Set all-time NBA record for three-pointers in a
season with 192 (previous was 172 by Vernon Maxwell in 1991).
Led league in three-pointers made and attempted
Tied his own franchise record with eight treys at the
Clippers on Nov. 9.
The Suns played two of their preseason games in Munich, Germany,
as part of the McDonald's Open. They defeated Madrid in the
semifinals and then downed Buckler Bologna to capture the
Paul Westphal became the fourth fastest coach in NBA history to
record 100 wins with his victory at Washington on March 9.
On April 3, the Suns retired Walter Davis' No. 6, making him the
fifth player in franchise history to have his jersey number removed
Despite all of their injury problems, the Suns never lost more
than two games in a row all season.
Phoenix led the NBA in assists per game as a team, averaging
The Suns wrapped up the '93-94 campaign by winning 11-straight
games at the America West Arena, finishing with a 36-5 home record,
tied for the franchise record.