The Phoenix Suns entered the 2023 NBA playoffs as one of the favorites to win the NBA title. But in their second-round matchup against the Denver Nuggets, they are already in danger of elimination, down 0-2 in the series, with a pivotal Game 3 on the Horizon. Now in danger of going down 0-3, four-time champion and NBA Hall of Famer, Shaquille O’Neal, says it is time for Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, to shine on basketball’s biggest stage.
“In order for them to be successful, both guys have to be dynamic,” Shaq said on the latest episode of his podcast “The Big Podcast.”
“Devin Booker, after that first game, when he was trying to give it back to KD (Kevin Durant) was like, ‘You know what, forget that.’ He’s been playing well. Kevin’s been playing okay, but when you’re a superstar, you can’t play okay when you want to get to the finals. If both of them can get to 30 points, they will have a chance.”
Shaq Calls Out Suns’ Bench
In the playoffs, the expectation is for stars to play at the highest level, and rightfully so. But basketball is a team game, and the coaches that can go deep into their benches in the postseason have the best chance of winning. Phoenix’s bench has been lackluster so far in these playoffs, providing virtually nothing and forcing head coach Monty Williams to shorten his rotation. Shaq called out the Suns’ bench as well.
“Their [Suns] bench had four points. Me, you (Nischelle Turner), and Spice could score four points in that game. Us three. Four divided by three is one point each,” the Laker legend said of the Suns’ bench output.
However, despite a lackluster effort from the bench, Williams says he still will go deeper into his rotation, especially now with the hamstring injury that will likely hold star point guard Chris Paul out for Games 3 and 4. TJ Warren and Terrence Ross are two names that Williams says could see “significantly more” playing time.
“Those are two guys that could see significantly more time,” the Suns’ coach said after practice on Wednesday via Burn City Sports’ YouTube page.
“Those kinds of decisions only hurt you when you have an injury. Then you wish you could’ve got those guys a bit more reps to prepare for that. We have these days to get ready for that and the guys who play. We were in a good rhythm right before Chris got hurt.”
Shaq and Durant Have Long-Standing Beef
Shaq and Durant’s history goes back to 2017, during his inaugural season with the Golden State Warriors. The Hall of Famer jabbed at the former top pick saying he wasn’t “in the club” because he had not won a championship yet.
“He’s a great player, but you ain’t in the club yet,” O’Neal said about Durant to Ben Golliver in 2017. “You’re on the outside in line with [Charles] Barkley, [Karl] Malone, and [John] Stockton. You’re not in the club with me and those [championship] guys.”
Durant hit back at O’Neal, noting that the Hall of Famer needed a championship to feel “validated” in life.
“He said I can’t talk to him because I haven’t won a championship,” Durant said, via Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated.
“I can see right through that. Shaq feels validated in life, not just in basketball because he’s won a championship. [That] shows me your whole life is centered around [the fact that] you feel like you’re someone in this world because you won a championship. For me, it ain’t even about that.”