Sports Restart
(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Suns, Marlins, and Expecting the Unexpected in the Sports Restart

Although in a limited capacity, sports are back. And if you’ve been paying attention, some weird stuff has been happening since the sports restart. Many teams or individual players have seemingly benefited from being written off, from having no one expect anything of them. Here’s a rundown of some of those stories.

Phoenix Suns

The Suns were invited to the Orlando Bubble for the NBA restart, but they were one of those teams. You know what I’m talking about. They were really just invited so championship contenders could beat up on them. No one expected them to be 7-0 and the only undefeated team in the bubble. I don’t care who they’ve played, full strength or otherwise. Seven wins is seven wins. Nobody thought they would be reasonably in reach of a playoff spot with a game to go. Devin Booker is seemingly willing the team into the postseason, averaging 30.3 points per game since the restart. The Suns have also gotten solid play from Cameron Payne of all people, who was pretty much out of the league and only remembered for pregame dances with Russell Westbrook. He’s averaging 10.3 PPG since being added as a replacement player. Go figure.

Miami Marlins

The Marlins are potentially the most surprising team in Major League Baseball. After a COVID-19 outbreak in the locker room sidelined many players who ordinarily would have gotten playing time, the Marlins were forced to improvise. Here’s a fun tweet that sums it up.

Miami is now 7-4, but they still lead the NL East. Yes, a team of replacement players is ahead of the Braves, defending champion Nationals, and Bryce Harper’s Phillies. That’s baseball for you.

Montreal Canadiens & Chicago Blackhawks

The Canadiens and Blackhawks both played themselves into Stanley Cup Playoff contention by defeating the Penguins and Oilers, respectively. Of the polled NBC hockey analysts, nobody picked either team to advance into the playoffs. The two newfound 8-seeds will have their work cut out for them against the top-seeded Golden Knights and Flyers, but it’s impressive that they made it to the playoffs in the first place.

Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles might be the definition of no expectations. I’m fairly certain 99% of people can’t name more than three people on their roster. I can get Chris Davis and Jose Iglesias as far as guys who are playing right now. And no, Trey Mancini and Adley Rutschman don’t count. The point is that it’s hard to have any expectations for a roster when you don’t even know its contents. Currently, the O’s are right at .500, which I know nobody expected at all, especially considering they were one of the worst MLB teams of all-time in the last two seasons. The sports restart is quickly turning into the Twilight Zone.

T.J. Warren

Remember when T.J. Warren and Jimmy Butler got into that little scuffle and we all kind of laughed because T.J. Warren was obviously not in the same league as Jimmy Butler? Well Warren is a man on a mission to prove everyone wrong. He’s averaging 31 points per game in the bubble, including a career-high 53 in the first game of the NBA restart. He did put up a dud against Jimmy Butler in his last game, but that doesn’t necessarily take away from the four 30-plus point performances he’s had.

Chaos Lacrosse Club

The PLL’s Chaos Lacrosse Club are a weird case in the context of the others on this list. Before the Group Round of the 2020 season started, expectations were actually pretty high. After securing the top playoff seed in 2019, more of the same was anticipated. However, they were essentially written off after going 0-4 in the qualifying round and dropping to the lowest seed in the Elimination Round. It seems the hate was what they needed to get their act together. Over the course of their playoff run, they beat the #2 seed Chrome, #3 seed Archers, and were beating the #1 Whipsnakes after three quarters in the championship game before a wild comeback put them at the losing end. Definitely a strange case of failing to meet expectations and then wildly exceeding them.

Austin Rivers

Rivers, usually an afterthought on a Rockets team that features MVPs James Harden and Russell Westbrook, scored 41 points the other day. In his eight-year NBA tenure, Rivers has averaged 9 points a game. After the game, he kind of referenced the low expectations for him given the stars he plays with. He still believes he’s a “premier scorer.” Good for you, Austin. I hope the shots keep falling.

Brooklyn Nets

The Nets have gone 5-2 in the bubble so far, and that’s without Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and two games of Jarrett Allen. Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot (who?) is averaging 14 points a game and the Nets sit at the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. This isn’t as crazy as some of the other teams on the list, but Brooklyn has certainly gotten help from some unlikely contributors. They even beat the Bucks!

Colorado Rockies

Sooooo the Rockies have one of the best records in the National League right now at 11-5. If you happened to read my NL West predictions, I had them finishing 4th. Right now, they’re 1st. Ben Clemens of FanGraphs put out a really solid statistical analysis into whether the Rockies can continue their hot start. For now, the pitching has been good and Trevor Story has been hitting really well. Nolan Arenado is starting to hit his stride as well. However, the Rockies have the second-hardest strength of schedule for the rest of the season, so Rockies fans might just have to enjoy this one while it lasts.

So there you have it. A bunch of players and teams that are exceeding expectations. Teams no one thought would succeed are playing looser and more care-free, which is somehow translating into wins during the sports restart. Learn to expect the unexpected, because there have been surprises at every turn.

***