The Phoenix Suns’ stuttering start to the season continued on Friday night, as they lost a frantic in-season tournament game to the Los Angeles Lakers at home, 122-119. The defeat bringing to a halt an encouraging 2-1 road trip out East, and instead dredging up some uncomfortable questions.
Chief amongst them being when exactly Devin Booker will return to the court. The superstar swingman having only appeared twice this season, despite his teammate Kevin Durant and his 35-year-old legs needing all of the help that they can get right now as the team sit 4-5.
The third member of their star-filled core, Bradley Beal, was keen to voice some of his own displeasure in the aftermath of the defeat.
Speaking to the media after the loss to the Lakers, Beal appeared frustrated about the rotations and minutes usage being placed on him, especially after putting up an impressive 20 points out of the 24 he would score in that first half against the Lakers.
Beal was also quick to point out that he understood why this was the case, and even admitted that his back had felt a little bit of tightness in the fourth-quarter of the game. The combination of his own body and the fact the roster isn’t at full health yet accounting for why the Suns find themselves in the play-in tournament positions at this early stage.
It is understandable for Beal to feel this way. After all the roster has not been close to full strength in terms of their “Big 3”, and they have yet to suit up together once so far this season. Only when they get an extended run of games together, will fans know if this organization is for real in terms of trying to win a championship.
Right now everybody is languishing behind the Denver Nuggets, who look even better than their championship-winning displays of last season. Beal, Durant and Booker will believe they can get the better of the Nuggets this season. They were the only team to take two games off them in the postseason last year, and they did so without Beal.
It may also be that Beal is simply frustrated with how his own body is not allowing him to do what he would like to in trying to help the team to win games. At practice on Saturday, he was seen wearing a back wrap while getting up some shots with members of the staff.
In two games with the Suns so far, he has managed to put up 18.5 points while playing 27.5 minutes per game. With the return of Booker still unclear, Beal will want to be playing as much as he can to help the team try and win some of these close games that they have been coming out on the wrong side of.
As of right now, this team somehow ranks dead last in the league in fourth quarter points scored at 22.8. If Beal wasn’t on a minutes restriction of any kind, he would surely be able to help the Suns get moving in the right direction in this category. Instead he is chipping in with four points in the second half in a loss to the Lakers.
There is still so much time for this roster to come good, and the annoyance that Beal is exhibiting is no bad thing. He clearly wants this team to work and to contribute more to winning, and having the confidence to voice what he sees as the current roadblocks to achieving this to the media is important if the organization wants to play deep into next year.