Phoenix, Dallas enter NBA season with lofty expectations

NBA

The Phoenix Suns are serious about ending a 10-season playoff drought and will start toward achieving that goal when they host the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night in the opening game for both teams.

The Suns (34-39 in 2019-20) were energized by their torrid, 8-0 run in the Orlando-area bubble to end last season and made an offseason move designed on halting their postseason famine by acquiring Chris Paul from the Oklahoma City Thunder.

The 10-time All-Star point guard — who is nursing an ankle injury but expected to play in the opener — gives Phoenix an extra dose of credibility along with providing his longstanding vicious competitive streak.

“We added a first-ballot Hall of Fame point guard to our team,” Suns second-year coach Monty Williams said. “Obviously, that comes with a bit of sacrifice, but we felt like it was one that was more than worth the risk, and we felt like there wasn’t much negative risk.”

Plenty of people will be observing the elite backcourt partnership of Paul and All-Star shooting guard Devin Booker.

Booker, entering his sixth season, is the face of the franchise and highly popular in the Phoenix area. He has averaged 26.6 points in each of the past two seasons.

Paul is aware of the dynamic and said he has no interest in causing any disruptions. In fact, he feels teaming up with Booker and playing for Williams for a second time will be successful.

“I’ve known ‘Book’ for a long time, and he’s not only talented, he’s a dog,” Paul said. “He’s really competitive. I know Book, and when we hoop and play against each other, we be about to fight.

“And then looking at the staff, Monty is an unbelievable person, aside from being a great coach.”

Williams was coach of the then-New Orleans Hornets in 2010-11, which was Paul’s final season in “The Big Easy” before being dealt to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Paul’s first official appearance in a Phoenix uniform will have him guarding Luka Doncic, the third-year Dallas point guard being touted as an MVP candidate.

Doncic has 25 triple-doubles in just 133 career regular-season games. He averaged 28.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and 8.8 assists in 61 games last season.

Doncic, 21, has been working his way into shape and addressed the topic last week after a preseason game.

“It’s true I’m not in my best shape,” Doncic said. “I will get there for sure. But, you know, I’ve never been a muscular guy, so what can I say?”

Doncic led the Mavericks to the playoffs last season to end the franchise’s three-season absence. Dallas lost to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round.

Sidekick Kristaps Porzingis isn’t ready for the start of the season. The 7-foot-3 big man is still recovering from right knee surgery, stemming from tearing his meniscus in mid-August during the series with Los Angeles.

Dwight Powell is healthy after tearing his Achilles tendon 11 months ago and will start at center.

“I think we’re ready,” Powell said. “We’re all on the same page as far as what we want to do and how we need to get it done and things we need to work on.

“We learned a lot of lessons through this constricted preseason and training camp. We’ll continue to try to do the things we do well even better and just move forward.”

Among Dallas’ offseason additions was Josh Richardson, who was acquired from Philadelphia as part of the deal in which Seth Curry was shipped to the 76ers.

Phoenix added veteran forward Jae Crowder in addition to Paul.

The Suns went 3-1 against the Mavericks last season, including two victories in the bubble — 117-115 on Aug. 2 and 128-102 on Aug. 13.

–Field Level Media

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.