SUNS

Suns update: Deandre Ayton (hip), Kevin Durant (ankle) remain out vs. Lakers

Duane Rankin
Arizona Republic
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LOS ANGELES – Deandre Ayton remains out with a right hip contusion suffered in Thursday’s home win over Orlando as the Phoenix Suns face the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday at Crypto.com Arena.

Ayton missed Sunday’s 124-120 loss at Oklahoma City. Bismack Biyombo started in his place.

Kevin Durant will miss his seventh straight game with a left ankle sprain as he twisted his ankle in a pregame workout before what would’ve been in his Suns home debut March 8 against OKC.

"You obviously need the guys that are important to the program, but all of our guys are," Suns coach Monty Williams said. "That's why player development, being ready to play is important also. That doesn't diminish what Kevin and DA bring to the table. We all understand that, but we've prided ourselves having guys ready to play."

Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) smiles after making a half-court shot before the start of the game against the Golden State Warriors at the Chase Center in San Francisco on March 13, 2023.

Neither Ayton nor Durant made the trip to Los Angeles. Durant is scheduled for a re-evaluation later this month.

"With this team, it's the 'next man up' mentality," Suns wing Torrey Craig said. "We've been through this numerous times with players being out and other guys have to step up and be ready to play at a high level. I think we have the guys to do that."

Phoenix concludes its three-game road stretch Friday at Sacramento before returning home to face Philadelphia (48-23) in the second of a back-to-back Saturday.

"We have some things to clean up," Suns All-Star guard Devin Booker said. "We know roles are going to change when KD comes back, but polishing everything up before he comes back is important, too."

The Suns (38-33) are 3-0 with Durant and have gone 2-4 since. The two-time finals MVP is averaging 26.7 points in his three games with the Suns.

The Lakers (35-37) will be without LeBron James, who remains sidelined with a right foot injury. They are currently out of the play-in tournament in 11th place in the West.

"They defend, No. 1," Williams said. "They have a number of guys that seem to have transitioned well into their role even though they were traded mid-season. "

The Lakers acquired D'Angelo Russsell, Jarred Vanderbilt, Malik Beasley, Rui Hachimura, Mo Bamba and Davon Reed in multiple trades before the Feb. 9 trade deadline.

"They have a really good team," Williams later said. "They've stayed the course as far as what they want to do. We haven't even talked about Anthony Davis. We know we have a number of challenges."

Russell is averaging 17.9 points and 6.4 assists in his second stint with the Lakers.

"I'm happy for him," said Booker about his close friend. "I think he's in a better situation, a situation that fits his play style a lot more. I always knew what he was capable of. What he's doing is not a surprise."  

The Suns are fourth in the West, but just a game ahead of the Clippers (38-35). The Clippers lost to the Thunder (36-36) on Tuesday, 101-100, as Paul George suffered a right leg injury in the fourth quarter.

The Clippers face OKC again Thursday at home.

The defending NBA champion Warriors (37-36) are two games back of Phoenix. Golden State is at Dallas on Wednesday.

The Mavericks (36-36) are 2½ games behind Phoenix.

"You want homecourt advantage," Booker said. "Honestly, if that's not the case, I'm fine, too. I don't think you want to be in the play-in. I think them adding the play-in kind of dices things up. It's a one-game thing, but we just want to be there."

Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at dmrankin@gannett.com or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.

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