The NBA’s preseason games aren’t exactly a time when the whole world is watching, and instead are enjoyed by the true basketball sickos out there. Not that the Phoenix Suns have been guilty of playing out some boring games, with plenty of storyline and intrigue to them so far.
They have twice played the Portland Trail Blazers, with Jusuf Nurkic hammering former Suns’ first overall pick Deandre Ayton in the first meeting. In round two, which took place in The Valley, Ayton decided to skip the contest for “undisclosed reasons“.
These entertaining subplots were then followed up by Kevin Durant’s apparent remarks towards how a Los Angeles Lakers player was defending him.
Ahead of the regular season getting underway next week, and with the Suns taking on the Lakers in Los Angeles in what will be their second game of the season, the two went head-to-head in a game that the Suns would win 123-100.
Hardly a measure of revenge for Suns’ head coach Frank Vogel, who was fired by the Lakers somewhat unfairly after leading them to a championship in 2020 and having been tasked with making Russell Westbrook fit with that group. Running up such a big score, it was Durant who seemed to take exception to Austin Reaves guarding him, as he seemed to exclaim;
Now… it is quite hard to make out if that is exactly what Durant is saying. However after the next stoppage in play, Durant gives it the “too small” gesture, having scored over Reaves with a turnaround jumper in the previous possession.
Given what we know about Durant – his pure love for the game but also his ability to sometimes get caught up in the more petty elements of being an all-time great – it seems totally on brand to call out the fact Reaves was guarding him.
It also opens up the broader conversation about the fact that Reaves is probably the Lakers’ third best player after LeBron James and Anthony Davis. He had a run with Team USA this summer, and is trusted by that franchise to handle the ball, take plenty of shots and even make plays from time-to-time.
Reaves also got paid this summer, and returns to the Lakers this season as one of their more important players in their quest for a championship. But if Reaves is the Lakers’ third best player – again as many believe he is – then the Suns have to feel pretty good about the fact Bradley Beal is in the same position for them.
This is the beauty of the offseason the Suns had, and which we have seen glimpses of as they’ve gone 4-1 through preseason play. It’s not that the results matter, but more how fantastic the team have looked offensively and how willing Beal has been to become the most overqualified third option in the entire league.
Durant’s “don’t have him guard me next week” is as much about Reaves as it is putting the whole league on notice. Once the actual games begin, who is going to guard him? If it somebody better than Reaves, who let’s face it is no match for Durant no matter when they play one another, then all Durant has to do is pass the ball off to Beal. Or Booker. Or one of their many shooters.
This pick your poison approach has been slept on by the league, and they are going to notice pretty quickly that sometimes all an opponent can do is send a player of Reaves’ skill level, which is still higher than the average NBA player, because of the problems posed by both Booker and Beal.
It is also a fun wrinkle to what will be an entertaining second game for the Suns, having opened the season in San Francisco against the Golden State Warriors. At 35-years-old, and with a full and healthy offseason behind him, pretty much everybody in the league is going to fall under “don’t have him guard me next week” by the time the season is done.