Two stars missing for Phoenix Suns ahead of game vs Kings

The Phoenix Suns will be without two of their three star players against the Sacramento Kings.
Golden State Warriors v Phoenix Suns
Golden State Warriors v Phoenix Suns / Christian Petersen/GettyImages

With all of the excitement and fun around the Phoenix Suns' mini in-season tournament run now over, they can turn their attentions back to the main goal for this season. Namely, securing the highest position possible in the Western Conference, before embarking on what they hope will be a championship run.

Dropping three games to the Los Angeles Lakers before Christmas Day doesn't exactly inspire confidence, and neither does occupying one of the play-in spots in the Western Conference, with the Suns currently in seventh place. There is plenty of time left to change that situation though, and homecourt advantage through at least one round of the postseason is still more likely than not.

If the Suns are to start tacking wins onto their 12-9 record though, they are going to have to start by doing it without Bradley Beal and now, Kevin Durant as well.

The status of Beal has been known all season - a back issue limiting him to only three games played for the Suns so far - but there is a sense that good news could be on the horizon. Beal was due to be re-evaluated by the organization ahead of Friday's game against the Sacramento Kings, although the belief is that he is still a couple of weeks away from playing again.

No matter what the result of that re-evaluation turns out to be, it was encouraging to see Beal at shootaround recently, getting shots up and generally looking loose. Like any NBA team, if the Suns didn't want the media to catch a glimpse of Beal during this availability, then it would not have happened. So videos like this one from Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic are positive.

The Suns have also done a nice job up to this point of winning games without Beal. Not that his absence is not felt - we won't know just how good this group can be until he is out there - but both Durant and Devin Booker have been so good that they have masked the fact Beal is not out there.

Not having Durant is much worse for the Suns, as he has undoubtedly been their best player through the first-quarter of the season. His 31 points per night have been a huge reason they have won some games, while his offensive presence has been partly responsible for the likes of Grayson Allen and Eric Gordon having a ton of room to operate.

Durant misses out due to a left ankle sprain - and given the cautious nature of the franchise with their star players and injuries to this point - it would not be a surprise if Durant missed more time beyond the game with the Kings. This was always going to be a possibility if the Suns continued to lean on Durant this heavily in the early goings, but it is not cause for real concern yet.

Perhaps the person this impacts the most is, ironically, Booker. He continues to stake his claim as a genuine MVP candidate, and it is clear he has taken to being the point guard of this team seamlessly. But in the recent in-season tournament loss to the Lakers, he had a relatively subdued performance on the way to finishing with 21 points and 11 rebounds.

Not that there is anything wrong with those numbers, it more just shows the standards to which we've become accustomed with Booker. Given that he tried to play on a rolled ankle himself this season, and subsequently made it worse and had to miss a couple of games, it would not be a surprise if he is not 100 percent right now.

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His desire and want to help his team is a fantastic trait to have, but with neither Durant or Beal there to share the load, the hope is that Booker doesn't overdo it against the Kings and beyond, and have to go back to the treatment table himself. We are yet to see all three Suns stars play a single regular season minute together, and after the latest injury update, we're still some way away yet.