The elation coming from Phoenix makes sense. Kevin Durant has arrived, he looks sharp and right at home, and the Suns are undoubtedly a team with as much talent as any in the NBA. It tracks that some of us are getting ahead of ourselves with thoughts of Suns domination.
But there also needs to be a rattling and relentless sense of urgency here, based on something Phoenix should heed. The history of the NBA is rife with windows that looked so wide and certain before suddenly slamming shut.
Yes, Durant just played his first game with the Suns on Wednesday. But he and his teammates need to pursue the rest of this season as if 2023 is their one and only chance at greatness.
Durant knows how fleeting sure things, and long-term plans, can turn out to be in this league. A Brooklyn Nets team that less than two months ago was one game behind the Boston Celtics for the No. 1 spot in the Eastern Conference -- and not coincidentally had Durant and Kyrie Irving on its roster -- is now a dumpster fire.
Chris Paul will be 38 before the conference finals roll around. Deandre Ayton wanted to be somewhere else last summer and stayed because Phoenix gave him no choice. Injuries sidelined Devin Booker for 27 games earlier this season. And K.D. just came back from his own seven-week injury absence.
In this league, yes, there's no time like the present. But it's also true that sometimes the present is all you get.
And the present, for Phoenix, looks mighty good. Some of the realities of this year's Western Conference offers an opening for the Suns -- as well as a warning. The Los Angeles Lakers thought they'd cracked the code, twice, to reclaim some postseason glory for the franchise -- first, at the start of last season when they brought in Russell Westbrook, and then at last month's trade deadline when they got rid of Russell Westbrook.
But LeBron James is hurt, L.A. is mediocre at best, and any threat it might have poised has dissipated. Windows close.
The Clippers, who brought in Westbrook after he was bought out by the Utah Jazz last month, also believed they could compete. But we've seen little from them to indicate that's likely.
Perhaps the Grizzlies and Nuggets are legit, but Memphis is young, and the troubling reports surrounding Ja Morant won't help. In Denver, injuries in recent seasons have sabotaged postseason success. And while the Warriors expect to get Steph Curry back for Sunday's game against the Lakers, they've been inconsistent all season long.
The Kings just keep winning, but few have them sitting at the final table in the West. And the Mavericks, despite what happened Thursday night against the Sixers, are still counting on Kyrie Irving. All which is to say that the West is winnable.
History, too, is a guide on this idea of not taking things for granted.
A decade ago, Durant's former Thunder team seemed poised for continued greatness even after they lost to LeBron and the Heat in five games in the 2012 NBA Finals. They surely didn't see that season's 23-win Warriors team morphing into one of the greatest dynasties of all time -- one, for good measure, that would eventually lure Durant away.
The Heat believed they were poised for long-term dominance, right up until the summer of 2014 when it dawned on them LeBron was going back to Cleveland.
Don't forget the 2015 Clippers, in those halcyon Lob City days. One moment, Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan were up 3-1 on the Rockets and eyeing a slot in the conference finals. They next, they were done. In hindsight, their window closed before they ever even got close to getting through it.
The Raptors won a championship back in 2019, and then they watched Kawhi Leonard leave less than a month later.
On and on it goes, back through NBA history, teams who saw the glory that was going to be theirs only for the ground to shift suddenly beneath their feet.
This Suns team, despite needing time to gel and face stiffer tests than a battered and talent-depleted Hornets team, has every marking of an NBA title contender right now.
But after that, Phoenix's next step is to realize those things can change in the blink of an eye. Bad luck and injuries strike. Locker rooms sometimes sour. Some players get old, others decide they want to be elsewhere. Sometimes the breakthrough comes from somewhere else and reorients the NBA's power structure to somewhere unexpected like the Bay Area or Milwaukee.
Kevin Durant may have joined this talented Suns team late in this season, and when he did a window opened wide. How long it stays like that is anybody's guess, but if recent NBA history has taught us anything, it's that such windows rarely stay open for long.