With the pomp and circumstance of Barkley’s arrival behind them, the Suns had to focus on the task of slaying the dragons of the NBA. Despite much hype and excitement, the Suns came out of the gates more like a team figured to finish in the middle of the pack than one that was expected to contend for a championship. Despite the false start, the team rebounded and by the all-star break had reclaimed their spot on the throne atop the NBA.
November 22, 1992: Suns lose to the Bulls 128-111 in front of their home crowd to fall to 5-3
Barkley: The Bulls came in here in November and just kicked our butts. We started reading our press clippings. A lot of people picked us to get to the Finals. After that game, we had a players meeting and said we had to stop reading our clippings; we haven’t accomplished anything. From that point on we went on a roll.
Dec. 9, 1992 – Barkley's first triple-double keys 110-101 defeat of the Charlotte Hornets, lifts Suns to league-leading record of 12-4. They do not relinquish that position for the remainder of season.
Westphal: This team will not be intimidated and it will not give up.
Dec. 18, 1992 – Suns activate small forward Richard Dumas for the first time since being suspended for violating the league’s drug policy on October 31, 1991
Westphal: He’s someone who can have a great NBA career in this league, as long as his body holds up and his substance problems don’t recur.
Dumas: It’s been frustrating, but it’s all part of life. I just had to put my faith in God and go from there.
Dec. 21, 1992 – Suns hold an open practice for charity at America West Arena; 18,000 were allowed in, more than 2,000 more fans were turned away.
Westphal: What a fantastic thing.
Majerle: It’s incredible. I guess it shows we’ve been doing a pretty good job.
Dec. 30, 1992 – Kevin Johnson returns to lineup to help team blast Houston 133-110, completing 14-0 month, Suns' best ever, improving record to NBA-best 21-4.
Majerle: We knew [KJ] would be back. He was a little rusty, but his game hasn’t fallen off at all.
Westphal: People might have forgotten a little about Kevin. He was phenomenal.
Barkley: It was a perfect month. Now the season starts for real.
Westphal: Now we find out what kind of team we are. We’re on a nice roll, but next month won’t be easy. Not by a long shot.
Barkley: It’s going to be tough. We’re not scared of anybody and nobody’s cared of us. We’ll have to have a a tougher mentality, because we’re a marked team.
Westphal: There are a lot of different personalities on this team. That’s what has made us so interesting. I thought they would jell, I just didn’t know when. This team happened to jell early.
Colangelo: The entire city of Phoenix ... seemed to be galvanized with the spirit of this team. Their never-say-die attitude, their willingness to approach each challenge with equal parts of heart and humor captured the imaginations of the fans.
Ainge: It was great because Barkley was in such great shape after playing in the Olympics. I thought that was probably the best year of his career. Everybody else on that team was a professional and we just had a group of good guys that knew how to play, and a coach that gave us good direction that was offensively a spectacular coach. He had a great mind and I thought that (Paul) Westphal did as good a job as anybody could at utilizing all the players and dealing with all the strong personalities that he managed.
Jan. 18, 1993 – Barkley hops scorer's table at Madison Square Garden, chasing referee Jimmy Clark to dressing room, upset over officiating in loss to Knicks. Barkley suspended one game.
Westphal: He tried to give the official the benefit of his constructive criticism. He didn’t punch the guy or anything.
Barkley: I told them they called a bad game and they did. That’s it.
February 3, 1993 – Suns reach midpoint of season at league-leading 32-9, tying club record. Westphal named Western Conference All-Star Game coach
Westphal: I’m excited about it. It’s a big thrill. I thank the players. I give them credit, plus the organization for putting them together and my assistants for the everyday coaching.
February 8, 1993 - In his first visit to America West Arena, rookie center Shaquille O’Neal tears down backboard and delays nationally televised game in Suns’ 121-105 win.
Orlando Magic center Shaquille O’Neal: The thing started coming forward, and I thought the whole thing was going to fall on me for a minute