Suns Rumors

Kevin Durant: “No Consistency, No Continuity” In Brooklyn

Kevin Durant asked the Nets for a trade in the summer of 2022 because he believed there was too much chaos to ever compete for a title, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Durant was looking for an opportunity to win more rings when he left the Warriors as a free agent in 2019, and he thought he found it when he teamed up with Kyrie Irving in Brooklyn. However, the following three-and-a-half years were marked more by injuries, coaching changes and off-court news rather than significant wins.

“In Brooklyn? Yeah, it just wasn’t no consistency, no continuity on who we were as a team,” Durant said. “And when you want to win a championship, you’ve got to build an identity from Day 1, and it was just a lot of circumstances that were out of the players’ control that got in the way of us building our continuity.  That’s just the business of basketball. That’s just the NBA in general. But we all got better as individual players, and we learned a lot from that experience — everybody from executives to players — and we can go about our NBA experience with more knowledge now.” 

Durant sat out his first season with the Nets as a result of a ruptured Achilles he suffered in the 2019 playoffs, and the rest of his time there was marked by organizational instability. Players grew unhappy with head coach Kenny Atkinson, who was replaced by Steve Nash. Durant eventually called for Nash to be fired, and another coaching change came last November when the front office parted with Nash and gave the job to Jacque Vaughn.

Roster moves were frequent as well, with the highlight being the acquisition of James Harden from Houston in a 2021 blockbuster trade. However, Durant, Irving and Harden only played 16 games together before the trio was broken up when Harden was shipped to Philadelphia in February of 2022. His replacement, Ben Simmons, only saw 441 minutes in 24 games with Durant and Irving before they were both traded nine months ago.

“It’s always about next-man-up mentality in this league,” Durant said, recalling the adversity in Brooklyn. “Guys get hurt, guys not in the lineup. You get paid to be a pro for a reason. Guys have got to step up and just play the games. … You see the character of a team when you’re mixing lineups and got to fight through adversity like that.” 

Durant’s first trade request wasn’t heeded right away, and he played most of last season with the Nets. Management didn’t relent until the Suns agreed to include Miles Bridges in their offer shortly before the deadline.

Although he had to wait, Durant is happy to be in Phoenix where he’s part of a new Big Three with Devin Booker and Bradley Beal — although much like in Brooklyn, injuries have prevented them all from playing together. He said he never gave any thought to holding out at the start of last season to try to force Brooklyn into making a deal.

“I did try [to move earlier], they just refused to get rid of me,” Durant said. “I tried, but time ran out. I wasn’t going to miss no games because of this whole thing. So once the season rolled around, I was just like, whatever happens, it happens, and I just get ready for the season. So it worked out perfect timing, the way it’s supposed to.”

In-Season Tournament Updates: Pacers Clinch Top-Two Seed, Six Teams Eliminated

The Nuggets, Bulls, Raptors, Thunder, Clippers and Mavericks were all eliminated from the NBA’s inaugural in-season tournament in the group stage following Friday’s game results, marking 12 total teams out of contention.

The Pacers and Lakers remain the only two teams to clinch spots in the quarterfinals so far, with six more spots up for grabs. The final day of group stage play is Tuesday, Nov. 28 and the quarterfinals will take place on Dec. 4 and 5.

ESPN’s Tim Bontemps took a look at all the action from Friday, which featured numerous upsets that set the stage for some interesting scenarios to play out. By beating Detroit on Friday, Indiana won East Group A and guaranteed a top-two seed in the Eastern Conference. The BucksHeat game on Tuesday dictates who earns the top overall seed in the East. If the Bucks win, Milwaukee is the conference’s top seed, but if Miami wins, it will be the Pacers. A Miami loss eliminates the Heat.

If the Heat and Knicks win, there will be a three-way tiebreaker between Miami, Milwaukee and New York that is determined by point differential. In that scenario, the Heat would have to beat the Bucks by eight more points than the Knicks beat the Hornets on Tuesday in order to have a chance.

Orlando defeated Boston on Friday, meaning the Magic‘s chances of winning East Group C are bolstered. With the Raptors and Bulls eliminated, the Celtics, Magic and Nets are competing for that group.

The Suns‘ win over Memphis in their final group stage game helped them take steps toward securing a wild-card spot, finishing their games at 3-1 with a plus-34 point differential. The Lakers play in West Group A alongside the Suns and, given the wild card team plays the top seed, it’s likely they’ll face off against each other in the quarterfinals. The only way the Lakers don’t earn the West’s top seed is if the Kings beat the Warriors on Tuesday by 46 or more points.

West Group B got shaken up with the Rockets upsetting and eliminating the Nuggets on Friday, and the Pelicans are now the runaway favorite to win the group, according to Bontemps. The Pelicans beat the Clippers, eliminating them, and improving to 3-1. The Pelicans are not in front of the Suns for the wild card spot and will need the Rockets to lose in order to clinch the group.

The Kings are looking like a top contender for the tournament title, sitting at 3-0 and plus-29. If the Kings beat the Warriors on Tuesday, they advance. If both Sacramento and Minnesota lose, the Warriors win the group. If both Golden State and Minnesota win, it sets up a three-way tie to be decided by point differential. The Warriors are plus-5 and the Timberwolves are minus-3.

Any team that makes the quarterfinals clinches per-player bonuses worth at least $50K. The value of those bonuses would increase to $100K if they advance to the semifinals, $200K if they make the final, and $500K if they win the entire tournament.

The full in-season tournament standings can be found here.

Suns Notes: Lee, Durant, Eubanks, Watanabe, Tournament

Suns wing Damion Lee, who underwent right knee surgery last month, is still using crutches, but will be “off of them very soon,” head coach Frank Vogel said on Thursday (Twitter video link via Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic).

At the time of Lee’s procedure, the Suns didn’t offer any sort of timetable for his recovery process, simply stating that more updates would be provided “as appropriate.” Asked on Thursday if he had a sense of whether the 31-year-old might be able to return in December or January, Vogel still wasn’t able to share any specifics.

“This year hopefully though,” Vogel said, referring to the 2023/24 season (Twitter link via Rankin).

Here’s more on the Suns:

  • Star forward Kevin Durant has been listed as questionable for Friday’s game in Memphis due to right foot soreness, Rankin writes for The Arizona Republic. It sounds like a decision will be made on his availability closer to game time.
    [UPDATE: Durant has been ruled out, per Rankin.]
  • Suns big man Drew Eubanks, who left Wednesday’s game due to a left ankle injury, has been ruled out for Friday, with the team designating the ailment as a sprain, tweets Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports. In addition to Lee and Bradley Beal (back), who are sidelined with longer-term injuries, the Suns will also still be without Yuta Watanabe, who will miss a fourth consecutive contest due to a quad contusion.
  • Phoenix is playing its final in-season tournament game on Friday vs. Memphis and remains in the hunt for the Western Conference’s wild card spot despite losing Group A to the Lakers, Rankin writes. A victory would result in a 3-1 record in group play, but it may need to be a blowout win to advance to the tournament quarterfinals, since they’d almost certainly need to win a point differential tiebreaker (Twitter link).

And-Ones: Ibaka, Foster, Dragic, Olympic Qualifiers

Serge Ibaka is focused more on contributing to his new EuroLeague team than returning to the NBA, writes Donatas Urbonas of BasketNews (subscription required). Ibaka signed with FC Bayern Munich this summer and is adjusting to being back in Europe again after spending the past 14 seasons in the NBA. He’s coming off a season-best 20-point game and is averaging 11.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per night while shooting 56.7% from the floor for the German squad.

The 34-year-old big man is grateful to be playing again after ending last season in limbo. He appeared in just 16 games with Milwaukee before being traded at the February deadline to Indiana, which waived him two days later.

“My focus is playing in Bayern. I want to keep improving here,” Ibaka said. “Playing basketball is one of the most beautiful things one can do. I didn’t play for 10 months and now I’m playing basketball, something I like to do. I’m grateful for this moment.”

There’s more from around the basketball world:

  • Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports believes the NBA needs to address its Scott Foster situation after the official’s latest incident with Warriors guard Chris Paul Wednesday night. Calling Foster “a prima donna ref” with an “outrageous and unchecked ego,” Bourguet points out that he ruined Paul’s return to Phoenix by giving him two quick technicals and ejecting him late in the first half. Suns fans turned out to welcome back one of the most significant players in franchise history, but Foster upstaged that by extending the long-running feud he has with Paul. Suns star Devin Booker told reporters that he could feel the tension between Foster and Paul before the ejection. “Yeah, ’cause I’ve seen it closely too,” Booker said. “This was long before Chris was in Phoenix, so that’s some history that they might have to settle between themselves one day, when they’re both retired.”
  • Partizan Belgrade and Olimpia Milano are among the teams that have expressed interest in Goran Dragic, relays Ennio Terrasi Borghesan of Sportando. The report, which originated in the Serbian media outlet SportKlub, said Dragic is still hoping for an NBA offer and is reluctant to commit to a European team. The 37-year-old point guard wasn’t picked up this summer after spending last season with Chicago and Milwaukee.
  • Spain, Latvia, Greece, and Puerto Rico have emerged as the favorites to host Olympic qualifying tournaments for the 2024 Games in Paris, Urbonas adds in a separate story. A draw ceremony is set for November 27 in Switzerland, and the official announcement of the host nations is expected before then. Twenty-four nations will be vying for four Olympic spots in the six-team qualifying tournaments.

Pacific Notes: Nurkic, Ayton, Beal, Klay, Wiggins, Harden

While one game isn’t enough to determine winners and losers of a trade, the Suns‘ victory over the Trail Blazers on Tuesday served as a reminder of why Phoenix traded former No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton for a handful of role players led by Jusuf Nurkic, writes Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports.

Nurkic, Grayson Allen, and Nassir Little all played key roles in the victory, with Nurkic in particular bouncing back from a slow start to have a big game. The veteran center finished with 18 points, 12 rebounds, and four blocks, and was a plus-17 in 29 minutes.

Ayton, who was a minus-33 in 31 minutes for the Blazers, is getting an opportunity to play more of a starring role in Portland, while Nurkic is happy to take a back seat to his superstar teammates in Phoenix, according to Bourguet, who suggests those roles suit the two big men based on what they hope to accomplish in the near future.

“It’s not like I’m a main player here, man, [like] I’m just gonna take the ball and do whatever I want,” Nurkic said. “I feel like people need to understand I’m here to sacrifice and do all the little stuff that they need for the game and winning basketball.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Andscape’s Marc J. Spears shares the second diary installment from Suns guard Bradley Beal, who is currently on the shelf with a back injury and said he shares fans’ frustration that the team’s big three has yet to play together. “We want it to happen more than anybody,” Beal wrote. “So, we’re all working diligently…to make sure that happens. … Before you know it, we’re all going to be clicking. And when this thing is healthy and the train is rolling, we’re going to be steaming away.”
  • Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins haven’t looked quite like their usual selves so far this season, but Warriors head coach Steve Kerr referred to the two former All-Stars as “championship players” and indicated that he’s willing to be “really patient” with them, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic. After Wiggins scored a season-high 31 points on Saturday and Thompson put up a season-high 20 on Monday, Kerr suggested that patience is beginning to pay off. “I think you will see a different Wiggs from here on, and I think the same thing’s going to happen with Klay,” he said.
  • What has been the key for helping James Harden get comfortable with the Clippers? “Constant communication,” according to Harden and head coach Tyronn Lue, as Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times writes. Lue said his experience with Harden has been one he went through with the Clippers’ other stars too. “(They) all want to have a relationship and constant communication with the head coach and just try to figure out what they see, what the coach sees and how we can put it all together,” Lue said.

Injury Notes: LaRavia, Reddish, Watanabe, DSJ, Thomas

Grizzlies forward Jake LaRavia is undergoing a procedure to address a corneal abrasion of his left eye, the team announced in a press release on Tuesday (Twitter link). According to the club, LaRavia will be reevaluated in about two or three weeks, so he won’t return until sometime in December, at the earliest.

It’s the latest in a growing list of injuries for the Grizzlies, who are missing big men Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke due to long-term ailments and have also had Marcus Smart, Luke Kennard, and Xavier Tillman go down recently.

The Grizzlies are already carrying one extra player on their standard roster while Ja Morant is on the suspended list, but could qualify for another roster spot via the hardship provision. A team can apply for a hardship exception when it has at least four players who have missed three or more consecutive games due to injury or illness, assuming those players will remain sidelined for the foreseeable future.

Wednesday’s game vs. Houston will be the third straight that Smart, Kennard, and Tillman have missed, so the Grizzlies could request a hardship exception after that contest if they want to try to add some extra depth.

Here are a few more injury-related updates from around the NBA:

  • Lakers forward Cam Reddish left Tuesday’s win over Utah early due to a groin injury and didn’t return. He’ll undergo further evaluation on Wednesday to assess the severity of the injury, sources tell Dave McMenamin of ESPN (Twitter link). Head coach Darvin Ham said that second-year guard Max Christie could play a “really prominent” role on Wednesday vs. Dallas if Reddish can’t go, tweets Jovan Buha of The Athletic.
  • Suns forward Yuta Watanabe, who was unavailable for a second straight game on Tuesday, has a “deep” thigh bruise that head coach Frank Vogel described as “really painful,” per Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic (Twitter link). Watanabe’s return timeline is unclear.
  • Nets guard Dennis Smith Jr., affected by a lower back sprain, underwent an MRI on Tuesday, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Smith will be out for a second consecutive game on Wednesday.
  • Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn added that the team should have an update on injured guard Cam Thomas (ankle sprain) later this week, according to Lewis. “He is heading in the right direction,” Vaughn said of Thomas. “Unless we wanted to be extremely proficient in giving him an MRI to compare to, to my knowledge he won’t need another MRI. He’s building towards getting back on the floor.”

Beal Has Dealt With Nerve Irritation

  • The Suns’ Yuta Watanabe missed Sunday’s game at Utah with a left quad contusion, according to Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. He was kneed during a pick-up game on Saturday. Watanabe, who signed a two-year, veteran’s minimum contract with a player option during the offseason, had appeared in Phoenix’s first 12 games, averaging 5.3 points per night.
  • Suns wing Bradley Beal, who won’t play for at least the next three weeks due to a low back strain, has dealt with nerve irritation from his back down to his legs, according to The Athletic’s Charania. Beal, who suffered the initial injury in training camp, only appeared in three games before he was sidelined again last week.

Injury Notes: Alvarado, Lyles, Mitchell, Beal, Hornets

Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado is getting “really close” to making his season debut, head coach Willie Green said on Friday, per Christian Clark of (Twitter link). Alvarado, who has been sidelined for the first few weeks of the season due to a right ankle sprain, missed Friday’s in-season tournament game against Denver but has been upgraded to questionable for Saturday’s contest vs. Minnesota, per the team (Twitter link).

While Alvarado has a chance to return on Saturday, forward Zion Williamson will be getting the night off on the second night of a back-to-back set, according to the Pelicans. Williamson’s designation is “rest,” so it sounds like there’s no new injury there — it’s just a matter of the team being cautious.

Here are a few more injury-related notes from around the NBA:

  • Kings forward Trey Lyles tells Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee that he expects to make his season debut at some point during the team’s current road trip, which continues on Sunday in Dallas and wraps up next Friday in Minnesota. Lyles has been unavailable so far this fall due to a calf injury, but has progressed to 3-on-3 work and says he feels “great,” adding that he’s mostly focused now on improving his conditioning.
  • While it doesn’t appear to be a cause for any significant concern at this point, Cavaliers star Donovan Mitchell missed a second game on Friday due to a right hamstring issue. Mitchell also sat out on October 28 due to right hamstring soreness, notes Chris Fedor of
  • Suns guard Bradley Beal was listed as probable to play on Wednesday before being downgraded to out and then ruled out for at least three weeks due to a low back strain. Head coach Frank Vogel explained on Friday that Beal turned out not to be back to 100% when he made his season debut and playing in games was impeding his recovery process. “We want to put this thing behind him,” Vogel said, per Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic (Twitter link). “Playing in the games was slowing down his progress for really trying to put this behind him. We don’t want to do the ‘play a game, be out a game, play a game, be out a game.'”
  • The Hornets continue to be beset by injuries, as big man Nick Richards left Friday’s game due to concussion-like symptoms and has now been placed in the concussion protocol and ruled out for Saturday’s contest, per the team (Twitter link). In other Hornets injury news, Terry Rozier, who is sidelined due to a left groin issue, has yet to resume practicing, notes Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link).

Pacific Notes: Harden, Westbrook, Mann, Booker, Green

The Clippers picked up their first win since acquiring James Harden, beating the Rockets on Friday on a game-winning shot from the 10-time All-Star. According to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk, the win goes beyond simply snapping a win streak, as it shows Harden is becoming more comfortable in his new home.

I’m getting real close,” Harden said. “I’m getting close to myself every game I feel like I’m improving.

The win also showed a glimpse of what the Clippers can be when they’re at full strength, with Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Harden all having their fair share of moments. On top of that, their victory comes off the heels of Russell Westbrook approaching coach Tyronn Lue about coming off the bench to help stabilize the team.

He wanted to do that, which [is] an ultimate sacrifice for a guy of his caliber,” Lue said. “For things he’s done in this league, the things he’s done for this team. So shout-out to Russ for wanting to do that. It’s a huge part of what we’ve talked about, just sacrificing wanting to win at a high level.

Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times further explored Westbrook’s move to the bench, writing that the lineup change is here to stay. Westbrook finished with just 17 minutes played, his fewest since joining the team. Norman Powell, P.J. Tucker and Daniel Theis, the latter of whom made his Clippers debut, also joined Westbrook off the bench. According to Greif, his teammates didn’t know about the change until he walked onto the practice court on Friday in the white jerseys worn by reserves.

We just got to get him used to it and get him accustomed to doing that, and it’s tough, it’s tough to go from starting to off the bench or from off the bench to starting, especially with the caliber player that he is,” Lue said. “So we just got to get him comfortable, make sure we got the right guys on the floor with him.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Lue put Clippers guard Terance Mann in the starting lineup over Westbrook instead of other options like Tucker. He explained the decision on Friday. “We kind of went back and forth with T-Mann and P.J, but I think T-Mann can take the responsibility of guarding point guards every night … you can kind of put him on those guys to start the games and so we don’t have to wear PG and Kawhi down to start the games every single night,” Lue said (Twitter link via Justin Russo). “And so that’s why it kind of made sense to us.
  • Suns superstar guard Devin Booker is averaging a career-high 10.3 assists through his first four games, including a single-game career high of 15 on Friday against the Jazz. Even though the sample size is small, he’s looking much more comfortable as a distributor. His previous career-best average was 6.8 in 2018/19. The Suns brass is talking about him like a point guard. “He’s our most vocal guy,” head coach Frank Vogel said (Twitter link via PHNX Suns). “He’s really taken the reins of that this year with this team, and even more so on the floor as the point guard running the show.
  • Warriors forward Draymond Green was suspended after engaging in a physical confrontation with Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert, and the last couple times Green has been involved in drama, frustrations in the locker room were tangible, according to The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson II. However, his teammates are completely behind him this time, knowing he’s looking out for them on the court. The events that led to Green’s suspension began with Klay Thompson and Jaden McDaniels getting into an altercation with Green later stepping in. “We’ve got his back,Gary Payton II said. “And we gon’ hold him down until he gets back.” According to Thompson, Green apologized to his team and knows he took it too far.

Suns’ Beal Out At Least Three Weeks Due To Back Injury

The Suns‘ big three appeared to be nearing full health earlier this week, but the trio’s regular season debut will be delayed until at least December. Star guard Bradley Beal is dealing with a low back strain and will be reevaluated in three weeks, the team announced today (via Twitter).

After being acquired this summer by the Suns in a blockbuster trade, Beal was forced to miss his first seven games with the club due to low back issues that were previously diagnosed as spasms. He debuted last Wednesday and appeared in three games, but admitted he aggravated the injury in Sunday’s contest vs. Oklahoma City, referring to it his back “a little tight.”

The initial sense was that the tweak wasn’t too bad. Beal was listed as probable to play on Wednesday against Minnesota, and with Devin Booker due back from a calf strain that night, it looked like Phoenix’s three stars – Beal, Booker, and Kevin Durant – would all play together for the first time this fall. However, Beal was downgraded to out in the hours before tip-off and now will require a longer layoff to rehab the injury.

Beal didn’t quite look like his usual self in his first three games as a Sun, averaging 17.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 3.7 assists in 28.5 minutes per night with a modest .391/.333/.688 shooting line. Entering this season, he had averaged 22.1 PPG on .460/.372/.823 shooting in 695 career appearances.

Once everyone is available, the Suns are expected to have one of the NBA’s most dangerous offenses, headlined by three players who typically rank among the league’s top scorers. But even assuming Booker and Durant stay healthy for the foreseeable future, it will be at least a few more weeks before Phoenix is at full strength.