CHICAGO -- Before the Phoenix Suns arrived to the United Center for their game against the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night, they had already determined they would not extend Bradley Beal's minutes limit if the game went into overtime.
So, when the game got extended into an extra period with Beal already at 24 minutes, there was no debate on the Suns' bench about him trying to push through after a back injury had kept him out of the first seven games this season.
It didn't make the moment any less frustrating for Beal at the time, but after Phoenix pulled off a 116-115 victory, he acknowledged that it was for the best.
"I can be hard-headed and go play 30 minutes when I know I'm not supposed to," said Beal, who had 13 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists in his season debut. "But how will I feel after that? Probably not the greatest. So that's why I lean on our staff and our doctors to be the voice for me. Because I'll be hard-headed and go out there and play."
Beal knocked down a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter but struggled with his shot for the rest of the night, shooting 3-of-12 from the field. Even though his timing was off, he said he felt good about the shots he took and was excited to finally get back on the court.
"He was good in stretches and you could tell he was a little bit rough in stretches," Suns coach Frank Vogel said after the game. "We're playing him in a way that's tough to get a rhythm.
"But I really love how he competed. We're 1-0 with Bradley Beal in the lineup."
The Suns were getting their first look at Beal in a regular-season game since they acquired him in a June trade with the Washington Wizards in exchange for Chris Paul, Landry Shamet and four future first-round pick swaps. Beal played in 50 games last season for Washington, averaging 23.2 points with 5.4 assists on 50.6% shooting.
Beal was still working his way into a scoring rhythm, but his presence on the floor gave the Suns good spacing for their 3-point shooters. Phoenix went 19-of-48 from 3-point range, including eight 3s from Grayson Allen, who had 26 points and nine rebounds.
"He didn't have the shooting night he wanted, but you could tell every time he had the ball they were all committing guys to him," Allen said of Beal. "It really stretches out the defense. ... He was really creating a lot of openings, a lot of space for the other guys on the floor."
This was also Beal's first time playing alongside superstar Kevin Durant, who finished with 25 points on 7-of-16 shooting and nine assists in 42 minutes.
"Just somebody else the defense is scared of," Durant said. "Somebody who can score at all three levels. Brad going downhill is a problem. So, as much as we can get him going downhill and also just setting him up in iso so he can beat his man will be great for us. Tonight, he just got his feet wet. He's on a restriction minute-wise, but as he comes off of that he's going to be more and more confident. We've just got to give him the ball more."
Even though Beal is back in the lineup, the Suns will have to wait a little longer to be at full strength for the first time this season. Devin Booker (calf) missed his third straight game on Wednesday, but he went through a workout with team staff on the court before the game.
Vogel said Booker was making progress but did not indicate when he expected him to return. And while Vogel was eager to see his new lineup all together for the first time, he also felt optimistic that it wouldn't take long for the players to develop chemistry.
"You never know how things are going to jell," Vogel said before the game. "But these guys are such good and complete players that can roll with the basketball and without the basketball that I'm very optimistic that it's not going to take a lot of time for them to jell, but you never know. We'll have to see how these things play out."