Coming into the 2023-24 season, all the talk was how can the Phoenix Suns high-flying trio of Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal and Devin Booker even stay on the court together given their injury history?
And so far, the skeptics are able to sit back with a smug and say ‘told ya so’. We are 16 regular season games into the season, have not seen all three on the court yet and may not still see it for a while.
Could it happen soon? Possible. Could it happen never this season? Also possible.
I’m not coming in here as a downer. Just bringing the facts.
Bradley Beal has a mysterious crack in his back that could possibly bring him back in December after some serious rest, or could just take us to a point they need an MRI/CT/whatever to prove he needs something more invasive.
Devin Booker has already missed a handful of games for soft tissue issues around his legs, and we know that Booker has a recent history of that keeping him in and out. Last year, he missed the most games of his career, and we’re hoping he avoids that.
Guess who’s been the Ironman so far? You guessed it. Kevin Freaking Durant. Until now, anyway.
Late Thursday, the 35-year old who has been 4th in the league in minutes played and second in league scoring to help the Suns to a 10-6 start, suddenly showed up on the injury report as OUT for the Memphis Game in Friday with right foot soreness.
Since 2015, Durant has suffered a number of lower leg injuries and some of those have been devastating to the current year and his team’s title hopes.
Luckily, this time there seems to be a big silver lining.
The time he had Lisfranc/Jones fracture that cost him most of the 2015 season, the fracture diagnosis was immediate, and the choices were clear — try to wait out the natural healing process, or have surgery. He tried the former before ending with the latter.
When suffering a Jones fracture for the first time, doctors say the outcome is usually consistent. As long as the foot heals, reinjuring it is unlikely. All Durant had to do is to wait it out and he’d be OK.
He only played 27 games that year, many in small stints, but was back with a vengeance the year after that. Over the summer, he underwent further surgery and played 72 games, won numerous regular season awards and helped carry the Thunder (playoff leader in minutes played and scoring) to a 3-1 lead in the WCF over the vaunted Warriors.
Durant has not had any further specific issues with feet since 2016, though the lower leg list is long: ankles, achilles, calves, knees.
KD himself would sit here and tell you this is no big deal.
In fact, he participated in at least part of Saturday’s practice ahead of today’s Suns-Knick afternoon tilt.
Good job on this Duane Rankin of AZCentral.com, the hardest working man on Suns beat, with the right questions to get the real answers.
Not too soon, please!
And he’s right to hold back. If there’s a problem, it’s that Durant and Booker, in paticular are really good at convincing the training staff and coaching staff they are ready to come back sooner than they should have been. And too often, that leads to more problems.
Some of those have compounded by returning to the court just a little early and going out again. Too competitive to just watch the game unfold, they get themselves out there and throw minutes restrictions to the wind.
The Suns current training and coaching staff are trying harder to remove choice fom day to day, but they’re not perfect.
- Last year, they allowed Booker to be day-to-day through mid-December on that strained going, but cleared him on Xmas only to see him make it worse within the first four minutes and get shut down for two more months. That probably cost the Suns 1-2 seeds in the West playoff picture, forcing them to play Denver in Round 2 rather than the Conference Finals.
- This year, they tried to keep Bradley Beal day to day during preseason, only to see him lock up every second half, until they finally called ‘3 weeks’ before he even picks up a ball, let alone play again.
- And again this year, they allowed Book to come back from the ankle tweak on a minutes restriction, which would have been fine except he/they ignored it in a right fourth quarter, which resulted in a strained calf which cased him to miss a few more games to get that one right
- Now, Durant is listed a day-to-day. And he REALLY wants to play every minute he can.
Durant has been carrying the Suns all season while Book and Beal are out. He just wants to play basketball. All the time, regardless of injury history.
Kevin Durant’s mindset on getting through an 82-game season:— Trevor Booth (@TrevorMBooth) October 22, 2023
“Some shit is going to happen, it’s going to happen. You try to prevent me from being injured or being out there, I honestly don’t know what good that does. Just let me play.”#Suns pic.twitter.com/7yKQT0csMh
“Some shit is going to happen, it’s going to happen. You try to prevent me from being injured or being out there, I honestly don’t know what good that does. Just let me play.”
After beating the Jazz in double overtime last week, culminating in blocking Lauri Markkanen at the three point line to preserve the 140-137 final margin. The 35-year old Durant had played 46 of 58 possible minutes.
“I could have gone 55 (minutes),” he quipped in a postgame interview.
As of this morning, Kevin Durant is listed a QUESTIONABLE for today’s game against the 9-6 New York Knicks.
Head coach Frank Vogel did his job by not committing to anything. “We’ll see how he responds to treatment,” Vogel said simply after Saturday’s practice.
Let’s see how it plays out.