Suns fans can rejoice in their team's declining stature.
A non-playoff season and trading Shaquille O'Neal has taken a hit to the Suns' national telecast profile, although few lottery teams still receive 18 ABC, ESPN and TNT games without having a No. 1 pick or major acquisition.
ESPN still loves Phoenix, keeping the Suns for the maximum 10 games. Only, Phoenix, Boston, Cleveland and the Los Angeles Lakers have been picked by ESPN for the maximum amount in each of the past two seasons. ESPN wasn't the Suns' problem last year. They went 7-3 on ESPN.
So take solace in the fact that ABC took the Suns down from the maximum five appearances to one and that TNT reduced its Suns showings from the maximum 10 to seven, not including the outdoor preseason game. Phoenix was 0-10 on TNT last season (0-11 if you count the preseason game) and 1-4 on ABC (the win was the season's best, a 118-111 victory against the Lakers without Steve Nash). The lone ABC game this year is Feb. 28 at San Antonio. The first four TNT games are on the road, including the Suns' participation in the annual MLK Day game at Memphis for the second time in four years.
The Suns open on the road for a fourth consecutive season. Unlike the previous three, they won't play at home a night later. However, they still have 20 back-to-back sets, which is in line with the past two seasons (19 last season and 21 in 2007-08). Phoenix has won the past two road openers.
The league included a rare home-and-home back-to-back set with the Suns playing Chicago and Golden State on consecutive nights at US Airways Center (Jan. 22 and 23, a Friday and Saturday). Although the Suns have only one ABC game, they play at home on Sundays seven times this season after doing so four times last year. There are 22 weekend home games (10 on Fridays, five on Saturdays and seven on Sundays).
Like the past two seasons, the Suns get one of their East Coast trips out of the way early. Their past two early November trips have gone well at 3-1 each, although this one is five games in seven days with two back-to-backs and visits to Boston and Orlando included. They play five away games in seven days again toward the end of the season, going to Minnesota, Chicago, New Jersey, Detroit and Milwaukee on that roadie.
Fifteen of the Suns' first 22 games are on the road but the home opener could be special. The Suns open the home slate Oct. 30 against Golden State in what could be the highest scoring Suns home opener since a 142-127 loss to Denver in 1985, or at least the 129-119 win against the Warriors in 1990.
Thank you, NBA, for a third consecutive working Christmas. At least this one is an evening game, although even a holiday matchup with the Clippers is a sign of the Suns' fallen star.
Each year, there are four Western Conference teams that each West team only plays three times instead of four. This year, the Suns will only go to Portland and San Antonio once and only get one visit from Dallas and Oklahoma City. That's pretty favorable for West draws, especially with eliminating two of the tougher road games.
The Suns will play every other NBA team before seeing Utah for the first time on Jan. 25, the first of a four-game season series that culminates with the season finale in Salt Lake City on April 14.