The development of Bol Bol with the Phoenix Suns this season has been one to warm the heart. After having a fleeting moment with the Orlando Magic last season while they were decimated by injury, he found himself stuck to the bench again in Florida once they got some of their guys back.
Which was exactly how Bol started life in The Valley, riding the bench and barely seeing any action. From opening night until New Year's Eve, Bol appeared in seven games and managed just 2.7 minutes of court action. There was plenty of speculation that he would eventually be traded or cut - but to the credit of Bol - all he ever did was do what was asked of him without complaint.
Head coach Frank Vogel continued to back the player when asked about him in public, although at that point it was unclear if he actually trusted him.
Back in November when speaking with the media, coach Vogel had the following to say on Bol's tenure with the Suns;
"Bol is going to get his chance for us. There are guys ahead of him in the rotation right now, and depth chart. I thought Chimezie (Metu) and Keita (Bates-Diop) came in and gave us really good minutes. Those guys are playing well, but we're not forgetting about Bol Bol. He'll get his opportunity."- Head coach Frank Vogel
Fast forward to today, and the most striking thing about Vogel's comments from back then is that neither Chimezie Metu or Keita Bates-Diop are on the roster anymore. Both being moved on at the trade deadline to make room for Royce O'Neale and David Roddy. Yet here Bol is, still on the roster and actually seeing the court.
In fact the Suns have won five out of the last six games that Bol has played in. Hardly all down to his time spent on the court - but if we would use a string of losses to lobby for Bol to spend less time out there - then he also gets the benefits of these wins as well. In his last eight appearances for the Suns, Bol has played 15.2 minutes per night, a hugely encouraging development for him.
It looks like Bol may now be getting some tutelage in the form of superstar Kevin Durant, who was seen speaking with Bol on the bench in a recent win over the Utah Jazz. In that game, Bol played 14 minutes and had six points. He also attempted a couple of 3-pointers that didn't go in, but again show just the kind of offensive versatility Bol brings. The game also gave us this fantastic picture -
That smile on Bol's face is exactly what we've seen from him when he's on the court recently. He feeds off the energy the Suns fans give him really well, and although he is still not good defensively and a bit out of control with the ball in hand, he fills his spots dilligently and only ever seems to be happy for his teammates when they make shots.
Durant was asked about the relationship between Bol and himself, and he had this to say on the 24-year-old, who is still raw in a lot of areas but constantly looking for ways to get better;
"What I love about Bol is his, he has a way high IQ... like he passed up some shots that he could have shot, but he understands if he moves the ball again he might get it back on the other side. He is not stepping outside of himself and doing things that he doesn't normally do, he's playing with energy, he's talking out there. I love what he brings man, I love everything about Bol."- Kevin Durant
Clearly then Bol has had a real impact on Durant, it is not often you hear him speak so enthusiastically about a teammate like that when asked about it. Perhaps Durant also realizes - just as we said recently - that Bol's return from an ankle issue actually came at a great time for this group, because of the enthusiasm he has. Durant also thinks it's not just Suns fans who love him.
"You can tell that everybody loves Bol and is rooting for him. Even the crowd, every area we go to, they're rooting for Bol... I love being around him, I like to see his growth as a player, his IQ is growing every single day for the game. We just want to continue to build on this to the point where we expect him to do stuff like this even more every night... Bol's the type of guy he going to come to work regardless, not say nothin', keep his head down and work every day."- Kevin Durant
Perhaps it is that last line which made the Suns keep him beyond the deadline, and why coach Vogel knew his time would come. Bol has only ever tried to be like a sponge and learn from the greats he is playing with. No ego, no forcing of shots in limited run. Just a guy who wants to help, wants to get better and who is enjoying the ride. Easy to see why Durant would want to mentor a guy like that.