After spending all season waving off the theories of those who said he was pushing his starters too hard, Suns coach Mike D’Antoni amended his position during Phoenix’s five-game road trip last week – saying it was time to get guards Raja Bell and Steve Nash more rest.
Turns out, there was good reason. Bell began feeling weakness in his left knee during Sunday’s win in Cleveland, and played through the discomfort the next night in Minnesota. He had an uneventful MRI exam before Thursday’s game with San Antonio, but only got through 11 minutes of a 103-87 win over the Spurs before shutting it down.
Bell spent most of his day in the training room, taking anti-inflammatory medication and undergoing treatment. Bell said he would “see how it feels” today before deciding whether to play tonight against Utah – his former team and a game he would hate to miss – but his body language wasn’t positive.
Bell was evasive on his status Friday, but said after Thursday’s game that the knee has been getting progressively weaker.
“It’s been bothering me and (Thursday) it just wasn’t good,” said Bell, who averaged almost 38 minutes in the 42 games he’s played this season. “I felt it first in Cleveland but it wasn’t hindering me. It was letting me play.(The MRI) was fine. It just showed some swelling that made it weak and uncomfortable.
“But (Friday) was different. This time, I didn’t feel like I had my feet under me.”
While Bell was walking gingerly, Nash had an ice bag on the sore shoulder he woke up with Thursday morning. The tightness limited him to only eight shots against the Spurs and was still there on Friday.
“It’s still bothering me, but I’m expecting to play right now,” said Nash, who played 38 minutes against the Spurs and is averaging a career-high 35.7 minutes through 44 games. “I’d be surprised if I didn’t go.”
Leandro Barbosa, who had 25 points in 40 minutes and used his speed to frustrate the Spurs, would start if Bell can’t go. And Marcus Banks, who has played in four straight games and had a serviceable stint Thursday (five points in eight minutes), could see time in both halves to help shoulder the playing load in the backcourt.
“He’s a talented basketball player, he just needs to get in tune to what we’re doing,” D’Antoni said.