1975–76 Phoenix Suns season
|1975–76 Phoenix Suns season|
|Head coach||John MacLeod|
|General manager||Jerry Colangelo|
|Arena||Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum|
|Place||Division: 3rd (Pacific)
Conference: 4th (Western)
|Playoff finish||NBA Finals
(Lost to Celtics 2–4)
The 1975–76 Phoenix Suns season was the eighth season for the Phoenix Suns of the National Basketball Association. The season included an improbable run to the NBA Finals by a team that had never won a playoff series and made the playoffs only one other season in the franchise's existence. With a regular season record of 42–40, the Suns had finished third in the Pacific division standings and improved upon last season's win total by 10 games. The ensuing playoff run took plenty by surprise, including a seven-game series win against the Western Conference's top seed Golden State Warriors, a team that had finished 17 games ahead of the Suns in the divisional standings. The franchise's first Finals appearance pitted them against a 12-time champion in the Boston Celtics, whose roster featured three players from that season's All-Star Game. The 1976 NBA Finals would feature a memorable Game 5 triple-overtime thriller filled with controversies in which the Suns narrowly lost. Returning home for Game 6, the demoralized Suns would lose Game 6 and the series but not before endearing a generation of fans to the Suns franchise and showcasing a basketball from the desert southwest. The team's "Cinderella" season earned them the nickname Sunderella Suns. John MacLeod was head coach and the Suns played their home games at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
- 1 Offseason
- 2 Roster
- 3 Preseason
- 4 Regular season
- 5 Playoffs
- 6 Awards and honors
- 7 Player statistics
- 8 Transactions
- 9 References
|1||4||Alvan Adams||Center||United States||Oklahoma|
|1||16||Ricky Sobers||Guard||United States||UNLV|
|2||35||Allen Murphy||Guard||United States||Louisville|
|2||36||Jimmy Dan Conner||Guard||United States||Kentucky|
|3||54||Bayard Forrest||Center||United States||Grand Canyon|
|4||58||Sam McCants||Guard||United States||Oral Roberts|
|5||76||Joe Pace||Center||United States||Coppin State|
|6||94||Clark "Biff" Burrell||Guard||United States||USC|
|7||112||Dave Edmunds||Guard||United States||West Georgia|
|8||130||Jack Schrader||Forward||United States||Arizona State|
|9||147||Owen Brown||Forward||United States||Maryland|
|10||163||Mike Moon||Guard||United States||Arizona State|
Finishing the previous season with a 32–50 record, the Suns earned the fourth pick in the draft, which they used to select center Alvan Adams from Oklahoma. Adams averaged 23.4 points and 12.8 rebounds per game in three seasons with the Sooners. With averages of 19 points, 9.1 rebounds, 5.6 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.5 blocks a game, Adams would become an All-Star in his first NBA season, and go on to be named Rookie of the Year. Adams would spend his entire 13-year career with the Suns, and would have his #33 jersey retired by the franchise in 1988.
On draft day, the Suns traded one of their 1976 first-round picks (acquired from a trade with the New Orleans Jazz in 1974) to the Buffalo Braves for the 16th pick in the 1975 draft. The Suns used their additional pick to select guard Ricky Sobers from UNLV. In 1976, the Braves would use the sixth pick to select future Hall of Famer Adrian Dantley. Sobers would play two seasons for the Suns, contributing significantly to their Finals run, before being traded to the Indiana Pacers for Don Buse.
In the third round, the Suns selected center Bayard Forrest from Grand Canyon University. Forrest would play another season with the Antelopes, and be drafted again by the Seattle SuperSonics in 1976. The Sonics would trade the rights to Forrest back to the Suns in 1977 for a 1979 second-round pick. Forrest played two seasons for the Suns as a backup center, before being sidelined by thyroid cancer, forcing him to retire in 1980.
On June 10, the Suns signed free agent point guard Dennis "Mo" Layton. Layton began his career with the Suns in 1971, playing two seasons before being waived. He would then play for the Portland Trail Blazers and the Memphis Tams of the ABA in 1973–74, and sit for the 1974–75 season as a free agent. Layton was waived by the Suns during the preseason and would again sit through 1975–76 season as a free agent.
On October 24, the Suns claimed veteran swingman John Wetzel off of waivers from the Atlanta Hawks. Wetzel would play sparingly throughout the season, averaging 6.7 minutes in 37 regular season games, and 2.5 minutes in two playoff games. Wetzel had played for the Suns from 1970 to 1972, and would spend his final season with the Suns before retiring in August 1976. Wetzel would later become an assistant coach with the Suns from 1979 to 1987, before becoming the team's head coach for the 1987–88 season.
On May 23, the Suns traded three-time All-Star guard Charlie Scott to the Boston Celtics for guard Paul Westphal, a 1975 second-round draft pick, and a 1976 second-round draft pick. Suns general manager Jerry Colangelo released this statement after the trade:
It takes a team concept of play to win in this league. Although Charlie Scott is a talent, our decision was made on the basis that Scott's talents were of an individual nature and did not fit into a team style of play. In Paul Westphal, we are acquiring a player from a winning situation. He is a stable, quality individual who will add leadership and experience to our club. We are confident that this decision will prove to be a major step in developing a winner and that the Phoenix Suns are more important than any one individual.— Jerry Colangelo, 
Westphal had spent his first three years playing a limited role for Boston, but would blossom as a starter for the Suns. From 1976–77 to 1979–80, Westphal would make four consecutive All-Star appearances, voted as a starter three times, and be named to four All-NBA Teams, including three First Team selections. Scott's minutes and points would decrease with the Celtics, and he would not again be selected as an All-Star.
On May 28, the Suns traded center Earl Williams to the Detroit Pistons for forward Willie Norwood. Unable to play in training camp due to knee injuries, the Suns exercised a contract clause that allowed them to send Norwood back to the Pistons. On September 30, the Pistons would send the Suns a 1976 second-round draft pick as compensation for Williams.
On June 9, the Suns traded a 1976 second-round draft pick to the Portland Trail Blazers for guard Phil Lumpkin. Playing the 1975–76 season as a backup point guard, Lumpkin would average 2.1 points and 1.4 assists in 34 regular season games, and 1.8 points and 1.2 assists in 17 playoff games. Lumpkin was waived prior to the 1976–77 season and would not play in the NBA again.
|Phoenix Suns roster|
The Suns held their training camp from September 25 to October 5 at the Yavapai College Gymnasium in Prescott, Arizona. The initial training camp roster consisted of returning Suns Dennis Awtrey, Mike Bantom, Keith Erickson, Nate Hawthorne, Gary Melchionni, Curtis Perry, Fred Saunders and Dick Van Arsdale, as well as newly acquired players Mo Layton, Phil Lumpkin, Willie Norwood and Paul Westphal, rookies Alvan Adams, John Shumate and Ricky Sobers, and training camp invitee Duane Read. Norwood, acquired in an earlier trade with the Detroit Pistons, was unable to play due to knee problems and sent back to the Pistons on October 30. Layton was waived on October 2 after appearing in one exhibition game. Read, a free agent guard from Portland State, had impressed the Suns staff during Los Angeles summer league play and was invited to training camp. Read started in the Suns first preseason game but was cut from the roster before the season. Melchionni was waived on October 24, one day prior to the start of the regular season. Melchionni had played with the Suns for the last two years as a backup point guard, averaging 7.8 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 137 games.
The loss of Norwood and injuries to Awtrey, Lumpkin, Melchionni and Saunders cut the team's initial preseason roster down to 11. Even with an abbreviated roster, the Suns finished the preseason with a 5–1 record, including three wins over the rival Los Angeles Lakers, a win over the Seattle SuperSonics, and a win over the Kansas City Kings. Their one loss came at the hands of the Kings, who beat the Suns 105–109 in overtime to close the preseason. Westphal led the Suns with 21.2 points a game in exhibition play, while Adams averaged 15.3 points and a team high 6.2 assists a game. Not included in the Suns preseason record was an exhibition game against the United States Pan American team on October 6 at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The collegiate squad, who would go on to win the gold medal at the 1975 Pan American Games, narrowly defeated the Suns 72–70 off a last second layup from future NBA champion Johnny Davis.
|1975 preseason game log|
|y-Golden State Warriors||59||23||.720||–||36–5||23–18||17–9|
|Los Angeles Lakers||40||42||.488||19||31–11||9–31||10–16|
|Portland Trail Blazers||37||45||.451||22||25–15||12–30||11–15|
|1||z-Golden State Warriors||59||23||.720||–|
|6||Los Angeles Lakers||40||42||.488||19|
|7||Portland Trail Blazers||37||45||.451||22|
|8||Kansas City Kings||31||51||.378||28|
Record vs. opponents
|1975–76 NBA records|
|1975–76 game log
Total: 42–40 (Home: 27–14; Road: 15–26)
October: 1–1 (Home: 0–0; Road: 1–1)
November: 6–6 (Home: 5–1; Road: 1–5)
December: 8–7 (Home: 5–5; Road: 3–2)
January: 4–13 (Home: 2–6; Road: 2–7)
February: 8–5 (Home: 4–2; Road: 4–3)
March: 12–5 (Home: 8–0; Road: 4–5)
April: 3–3 (Home: 3–0; Road: 0–3)
|1975–76 season schedule|
|1976 playoff game log|
Conference Semifinals: 4–2 (Home: 3–0; Road: 1–2)
Conference Finals: 4–3 (Home: 2–1; Road: 2–2)
NBA Finals: 2–4 (Home: 2–1; Road: 0–3)
|1976 playoff schedule|
Awards and honors
- Alvan Adams was selected as a reserve for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game. It was his first and only All-Star selection.
- Alvan Adams received the Rookie of the Year Award.
- Jerry Colangelo received the Executive of the Year Award.
- Alvan Adams was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team.
- Paul Westphal finished 24th in MVP voting.
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field-goal percentage||FT%||Free-throw percentage||RPG||Rebounds per game|
|APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game||BPG||Blocks per game|
|PPG||Points per game|
|Dick Van Arsdale||58||54||32.2||.484||.830||2.4||2.4||.9||.2||12.9|
* – Stats with the Suns.
† – Minimum 300 field goals made.
^ – Minimum 125 free throws made.
+ – Minimum 70 games played or 800 rebounds.
|Dick Van Arsdale||19||0||24.8||.488||.870^||1.2||2.0||.7||.1||8.5|
^ – Minimum 10 free throws made.
|May 23, 1975
||To Boston Celtics----||To Phoenix Suns----|
|May 29, 1975
||To Buffalo Braves----||To Phoenix Suns----|
|June 9, 1975
||To Portland Trail Blazers----||To Phoenix Suns----|
|September 17, 1975
||To Washington Bullets----||To Phoenix Suns----
Future draft pick
|September 30, 1975
||To Detroit Pistons----||To Phoenix Suns----|
|November 3, 1975
||To Los Angeles Lakers----||To Phoenix Suns----|
|November 22, 1975
||To Seattle SuperSonics----||To Phoenix Suns----
|February 1, 1976
||To Buffalo Braves----||To Phoenix Suns----|