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The Suns’ early-season injuries will shift the burden to Durant

Can Kevin Durant handle the load at 35?

NBA: Preseason-Portland Trail Blazers at Phoenix Suns Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The Phoenix Suns defeated the Golden State Warriors by a score of 108-104 Tuesday night to kick off the 2023-24 season on a high note.

The Suns fought their way to the finish line after the Warriors' defense showed up in the second half, making the Suns work for their victory. Wins against any Western Conference opponent this year will come with the price of scrapes and bruises. It won’t always be pretty. But a win is a win.

The absence of Bradley Beal was truly felt. The “Big-3” label placed on this Suns team has been flung around since the signing of Beal. They’re a superteam now. And after the victory against the Warriors, you can see that the third member of their trio was missed.

It is super early in the season, but my feelings about Kevin Durant remain the same as I did at the end of last year’s playoff run. He doesn’t look currently like the Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets at the beginning of last season.

Durant was averaging 29.7 pts while shooting 56% from the field with the Nets before getting injured. Coming to Phoenix, he played eight games averaging 26 pts, and shooting 57% from the field. Not much of a difference there, right? It was the playoffs where his percentage from the field dropped to 48%. That there is a big difference.

We saw that the physical play affected him and we saw it again Tuesday night, ending the game with 18 points on 7-of-22 shooting. The shots were short, and to be honest it was probably just fatigue. Suns superstar Devin Booker mentioned that he was “tired as hell” after the game.

If the Suns have any kind of injury issues with Beal, the weight that will be placed on Durant's shoulders might be too much from what we are seeing right now.

Who cares about the “who will play point guard” conversation; Booker proved on Tuesday night that he might have it figured. But he will also need his running mate. Beal will have to be that guy.

Durant will have his stats but will it slow down the flow of the offense and is he able to contribute as a passer as well? Time will tell when Beal returns and the trio can start performing together.

When it comes to Durant, there might be a little bit of load management, like it or not. The load early in the season may soon prompt his turn on the bench. We might only get one great game out of Durant per week and we can all live with that. Maybe taking a few games off here and there as long as the Suns have Jusuf Nurkic, Beal, and Booker starting. I’m good with it.

Then again, here is Durant continuing his training post game.

LeBron James currently looks like he is on minutes restrictions in Los Angeles. Will the same apply to Durant? Would you be mad? Not me. I want him healthy and feeling good for the playoffs.

We know Booker will have to use all his energy and might to carry this team if Beal does suffer setbacks from his injury. This of course will boost his MVP chances but will also wear him thin. The first time really taking over as the number one guy handling the ball will take a toll. I’m all for him playing every game, but I don’t want to have a conversation at the end of the year when he looks too tired like Steve Nash did in the Mike D'Antoni era.

Booker is entering his prime and does not have plans to sit out any games. So, with Beal on the court, a lot of the pressure will be taken away from Booker.

What we need from Beal is to just be present. If that remains an issue, the offense might continue to look stale, and Booker will have maybe too much on his plate.

Despite the NBA stating that they will be strict on load management, we are seeing the Suns ease into their season. Both Booker and Beal are doubtful for tonight’s game against the Lakers.

I am optimistic about the whole situation, but after game one, I can’t help but be a little frightened and I have to ask, do I need to just settle down?

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