Suns’ Bradley Beal scores 13 goals in season debut from back injury

Jamal CollierESPNNovember 8, 2023, 7:43 PM ET5 minutes of reading

Bradley Beal drains a pair of early 3-pointers in Suns debut

Bradley Beal drains a pair of early 3-pointers in Suns debut

CHICAGO — Before the Phoenix Suns arrived at the United Center for their game against the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night, they had already decided they would not extend Bradley Beal’s minutes limit if the game went into overtime.

So when the game was pushed into overtime with Beal already at 24 minutes, there was no debate on the Suns bench about him trying to push through a back injury that had kept him out of the first seven games this season.

That didn’t make the moment any less frustrating for Beal right now, but after Phoenix pulled out a 116-115 victory, he admitted it was for the best.

“I can be stubborn and go play 30 minutes when I know I shouldn’t,” said Beal, who had 13 points, four rebounds and four assists in his season debut. “But how will I feel after this? Probably not the best. That’s why I rely on our staff and our doctors to be the voice for me. Because I’m going to be stubborn and go out there and play.”

Beal knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter, but struggled with his shot the rest of the night, shooting 3-of-12 from the field. Although his time was not counted, he said he felt good about the shots he hit and was excited to finally get back on the court.

“He was good in stretches and you could tell he was a little rough in stretches,” Suns coach Frank Vogel said after the game. “We play him in a way that’s hard to find a rhythm.

“But I really like how he competed. We’re 1-0 with Bradley Beal in the lineup.”

The Suns were seeing Beal for the first time in a regular-season game since acquiring him in June in a trade from the Washington Wizards in exchange for Chris Paul, Landry Shamet and four future first-round picks. Beal played in 50 games last season for Washington, scoring 23.2 points with 5.4 assists on 50.6 percent shooting.

Bradley Beal’s presence on the court in his season debut helped create spacing for the Suns, who went 19-of-48 from 3-point range Wednesday night.Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Beal was still working his way into a scoring rhythm in his first game, but his presence on the court gave the Suns good spacing for their 3-point shooters. Phoenix shot 19 of 48 from 3-point range, including eight 3-pointers from Grayson Allen, who had 26 points and nine rebounds.

“He didn’t have the shooting night he wanted, but you could tell every time he had the ball, everybody was passing guys to him,” Allen said of Beal. “It really stretches the defense. … He really created a lot of openings, a lot of space for the other guys on the floor.”

It was also the first time Beal played alongside superstar Kevin Durant, who finished with 25 points on 7-of-16 shooting and nine assists in 42 minutes.

“Just somebody else that defenses are afraid of,” Durant said. “Someone who can score at all three levels. Brad’s descent is a problem. So as much as we can get him to go down and also just set him up in the iso so he can beat his guy, that’s going to be great for us. Tonight, he just got his feet wet. He’s on a minute limit, but he’ll get more confident as he comes off it. We just have to give him the ball more.”

Even with Beal back in the lineup, the Suns will have to wait a little longer to be at full strength for the first time this season. Devin Booker (calf) missed his third straight game on Wednesday but went through a practice with the team on the court before the game.

Vogel said Booker is making progress, but did not say when he expects him to return. And while Vogel was eager to see his new lineup together for the first time, he also felt optimistic that it wouldn’t take long for them to develop chemistry.

“You never know how things are going to go,” Vogel said before the game. “But these guys are such good, accomplished players who can play with and without the basketball that I’m very optimistic that it won’t take long for them to come together, but you never know.” We’ll have to see how these things play out.”

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