Beal: Suns in different position with better health

Sports

PHOENIX — One day after the Phoenix Suns‘ devastating first-round series sweep by the Minnesota Timberwolves, starting guard Bradley Beal lamented the team’s poor health and lack of continuity as key factors that drove their disappointing season to its swift end.

“I mean, in retrospect we won 49 [regular-season] games,” Beal said Monday at the team’s practice facility. “That’s a lot of games. And I missed what, 30 games, roughly? That’s a lot of games. I’m not saying we’d have won every game if I’d have played, but we would be in a totally different position if I’m healthy the whole year, if everybody’s healthy the whole year.”

Beal began the season with lower back tightness and nerve pain down his legs. He later faced an ankle sprain, hamstring strain, a broken nose and a concussion throughout his first season with the Suns, during which he played 53 out of 82 possible regular-season games.

Booker, Durant and Beal played together for exactly half of the regular season, with the team posting a 26-15 record in those games — a 52-win pace that would have been good for fourth place in the Western Conference.

“We didn’t look at this thing as a one-year thing and we’re going to come in and just, we only got this year to figure it out,” Beal said. “No, we’ve got time. You don’t want to use that as a cop-out, but the reality we live in, that’s the game plan. We have a window. Yeah, it’s a short window, but we have a window, so we want to maximize it as much as possible. And obviously, we still have a lot of room to grow. We all have to be better. I’ve got to be better. And we all have to be better as an organization and move towards that goal of winning the title, which isn’t easy.”

Beal added, “We’re not going to sit here and say it’s easy. Everything happened this summer and moves were made. Everybody had that [mindset that], ‘Oh, this is it.’ But you still have to work out the kinks. You still have to make sure it fits well and everybody’s on the same page and we’re working towards that same goal and I think everybody has that mindset. It just didn’t fall.”

Beal, Booker and Durant ultimately shared the floor for 862 minutes during the regular season, the sixth most of any Suns three-man lineup. In those minutes, the Suns posted a 120.5 offensive rating, a 114.0 defensive rating and a plus-6.6 net rating, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

But against the Timberwolves, the Suns’ Big Three underperformed; Phoenix was minus-51 when Booker, Durant and Beal shared the floor in the four-game series — the worst plus-minus for any trio this postseason.

In the postseason, the Suns were largely without starting guard Grayson Allen, who sprained his ankle in Game 1 versus Minnesota, barely played in Game 2 and missed the next two games altogether. Allen likewise lamented the team’s poor health throughout the season.

“I think injuries really shortened the timeframe that we had to be the group that we wanted to be,” Allen said Tuesday, adding, “I like the group that we have. I feel like we have enough. We had enough. So [we’ve] just got to come back and be better and hopefully the continuity helps.”

Beal pledged before Game 4 that the Suns wouldn’t be swept, saying, “I’ve never been swept a day in my life, so I’ll be damned if that happens.” Then, he scored nine points on 4-of-13 shooting before fouling out in Sunday’s season-ending loss to the Timberwolves.

“I’ll be damned,” Beal said with a smile when he first met with reporters. “I’m trying to make light of the situation, but it’s a [expletive] feeling, excuse my language. It definitely is. You have huge expectations for yourself as a team and obviously individually to contribute and be a part of something really big and that series just sucked. And, obviously, the last game for me was horrible.”

The Suns acquired Beal, who turns 31 in a few months, in a trade with Washington and he has three years and $161 million remaining on his deal, along with a no-trade clause.

Beal and Allen were the only two players who addressed reporters during exit interviews Monday, but the team announced that owner Mat Ishbia and general manager James Jones planned to address reporters Wednesday to discuss the team’s season.

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