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Suns promise satisfaction ... or money back

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Think of the Phoenix Suns’ latest – not to mention sensationally compelling – promotion as something of a test drive for local basketball fans.

The title is “Satisfaction Guaranteed Night,” which, without prior knowledge of the subject matter in question, might sound like the working title for a Rolling Stones tour. But we’re simply dealing with a little relatively harmless professional basketball … as interpreted by the Suns. And this crusty reality drags us to the doorstep of unfortunate timing.

The Suns are promising to refund the cost of a ticket to Thursday’s game with the Dallas Mavericks to any fans who “leave our arena unsatisfied after experiencing the excitement of Suns basketball.”

The quote is attributed to Suns president Jason Rowley in a press release that arrived two days after the Suns lost by 40 to the lowly Detroit Pistons.

Before admitting this Motown calamity provoked a brief personal tremor, Rowley – in a phone chat with FOXSportsArizona.com – said “the reality is every team has games like that every season. It was an aberration.”

He’s probably correct for the most part; just don’t tell David Stern.

Before attempting to perform the math that could accompany the financial hit, we probably should take time to define “unsatisfied,” right?

“There is no definition,” Rowley said, pointing out that satisfaction covers every aspect of the game experience once fans enter U.S. Airways Center. “This is 100 percent, no questions asked … guaranteed.

“We’re not defining what fun means,” he added, using that particular f-word as part of an entertainment touchstone the team is banking on.

“Fun doesn’t mean a win. Fun doesn’t mean a loss.”

This also means fans who score free tacos from a fast-food chain after the Suns score at least 99 points still can ask for a ticket-price refund from the same game. Talk about putting the "fun" in refund.

Looking ahead, we see that SGN (Satisfaction Guaranteed Night) will occur two nights after the Suns complete a six-game, 12-day road trip ending with games against the Knicks in New York and the Grizzlies in Memphis.

At the time the promotion was announced – and on the heels of that demolition in Detroit – the Suns were sitting at 7-9. The record is disappointing to the folks in basketball coaching, playing and operations, but pretty much expected by the critical sharpies paid to write and/or talk about the NBA.

Home attendance over this early eight-game sample has 81.8 percent of USAC’s seats filled, ranking the Suns 21st in the league during the first month without Nash. They were 21st at the end of last season, but the capacity percentage number was 84.7.

At first blush, the money back offer probably looks like a clever move to inspire fans to show up. Although that obligation goes with his job description, Rowley looks at it more pragmatically.

“I hope people don’t view this as a gimmick,” he said, pointing out that attendance numbers remain solid, if not spectacular. “It’s not like we’re in panic mode. This simply is nothing more than our willingness to stand behind our product.”

While critics and some fans might believe the product is really flawed, it should be pointed out that transition periods aren’t exactly simple for professional teams. The question is what waits at the end of this transition.

Even though the transition could have begun earlier without Nash, the team did finally wave bye-bye, and the basketball-ops people did take several big swings in roster upheaval last summer.

Opinions of their success may vary, but that doesn’t mean the arena needs to feel or sound like a morgue. In terms of entertainment potential, the Suns aren’t exactly as bouncy as the Verve Sol patrol (which is having a very strong season in mini-tramp dunking).

But they still attempt to run, with Goran Dragic keeping them at a pace that checks in as sixth-fastest among NBA teams. And, with the loss in Detroit looming as a huge exception, this economy model of the Suns usually is pretty inspired.

So while the basketball side of the operation attempts to acquire its next turnstile-spinning star, the promotions side is All For Orange on the concept of promoting the collective over the individual. Like the Denver Nuggets (whose superstar-free roster is stronger than the one here), they have little alternative right now.

“We’re embracing it,” Rowley said of the transition. “We’re not hiding from it. Our players just don’t have the same level of name recognition as in the past.”

So they’re selling the concept of several plucky pros banding together in a fight for a non-refundable playoff ticket. With coach Alvin Gentry’s new lineup rotations still under warranty, we’ll have to see how this plays out.

We’ll also see how much transition the fans can abide.

According to Rowley, the “impetus” for Satisfaction Guarantee Night was triggered by relatively good vibes in the arena immediately following competitive losses to the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat. While it seems sad that maintaining a nice level of karma has been reduced to mustering up quality defeats, the marketing team viewed it as a rallying point.

“Our fan base and our feeling in the building was very positive, very electric,” Rowley said, pointing out that fans who didn’t know what to expect from this team were pretty thrilled to see the team compete with such vigor. “There was a collective feeling of pride.

“We want them to get to know these players. We want them to be part of it, to embrace these guys.”

But in an effort to skew a bit toward financial responsibility for the franchise, Rowley might want to consider having the Golden Grannies prepared to dance when the Mavericks hit town Thursday. For entertainment potential, they might be a safer bet than Marcin Gortat’s left hook.

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