© 2024 ALLCITY Network Inc.
All rights reserved.
The league is fascinated by the potential.
The unique skill-set to be successful is there.
The name recognition is off the charts.
For one reason or another though, it hasn’t all come together yet, but it’s showing signs of life.
You probably thought I was talking about the Phoenix Suns 2023-24 season. And sure, you can certainly describe what they’ve done so far in that manner, but who I’m really referring to is their enigma of a big man, Bol Bol.
At 7-foot-3 and with the build of Jack Skellington, it’s hard to miss Bol whether he’s on the bench or on the court. He stands out in a way very few do.
When you combine all that with his jovial persona in media interviews and the fact he can play the game like a point guard who has found himself in some sort of basketball version of (insert body switch movie here), it’s no wonder fans have been drawn to him since his days at Oregon.
Bol Bol’s easy for fans to root for. It’s just that simple. Though, I must admit, I haven’t been counted amongst the ranks until recently — despite Suns broadcaster Eddie Johnson calling me a “big dummy” to let me know my concern about the young man was unacceptaBol.
Still, there’s a reason fans have referred to watching him throughout his career as the “Bollercoaster.” He’s been wildly inconsistent. And in a town where we were sold on potential for over a decade without much return, having reservations rather than simply buying in isn’t necessarily the worst thing. (See: Island, Bender)
Bol Bol’s Past, Present and Future
From only playing 53 games in his first three seasons with the Denver Nuggets and being described as someone who doesn’t love the game enough to starting 33 games for the Orlando Magic last season before completely falling out of the rotation and being waived, Bol’s young career has had more ups and downs than the blood pressure of Suns fans this season.
So why should we believe that this time will be different? That we’ll be the ones to “fix” him?
Environment, maturity and the opportunity to play for more than just personal stats for the first time could be the reason.
The opportunity has come recently as Bol went from playing a total of 19 minutes prior to the last week to playing an average of 19.4 minutes per game over the last two contests. In those minutes he’s shown that he’s grasped the Suns system and is putting in the work, averaging 12.5 points, 7 rebounds, 1.5 assists and .5 steals in those two games.
It’s caught the attention of his teammates.
“[Bol Bol] wants to learn, he wants to be out on the court,” Suns leader Devin Booker shared. “And you’d be surprised, everybody doesn’t have that type of mentality. So he’ll come to you, ask you questions, and he wants to learn and he wants an opportunity, and he’s taking advantage of it right now.”
It’s not just his teammates that have taken notice. His head coach has as well, and it’s why Bol’s gotten his first significant minutes of the season over the last week.
“He’s doing the things we’ve been coaching him on in practice — to play a more disciplined brand of basketball with shot selection and turnovers and just playing within himself,” Frank Vogel said. “And then working on the angles that we’re trying to work with him on defensively. He’s contributed big-time in the last two games.”
Personal and professional growth comes from a lot of places. But sometimes the best thing for an individual is finding a great mentor that you respect.
Bol Bol has found that on the Suns roster in the form of another fellow Slenderman, Kevin Durant.
“He’s helping me a lot, even when he doesn’t know,” Bol said of KD. “Like, just me watching him, and there’s been times we’ve played one-on-one, and it’s just been pretty cool. Especially [since] that’s my favorite player growing up. It’s pretty cool so far.
“There’s little things, like, he’ll tell me when we play one-on-one, take my time, and if I’m with a little guy, just take my time. Just little certain details that I wouldn’t know if it wasn’t for him.”
While it’s been an encouraging last few weeks for Bol personally and the Suns season, it’s those little things that are going to determine whether this is the moment when both players will finally find the success they’ve been in search of.
Color me cautiously optimistic after being fully walled off to the possibility. A “borderline Bol-iever,” if you will.
Could Bol Bol find himself as just another guy Phoenix falls in love with like a Love is Blind contestant, only to move on a few months later? (Guys like Elliot Perry, Pat Burke, Paul Shirley, and yes, my beloved Frank Kaminsky.) Of course he could.
Just as the Phoenix Suns team could find themselves on a long list of Valley franchises that have fallen very short of their overall goal.
However, Bol Bol might also be that diamond in the rough, and maybe this is the team that will finally breakthrough.
A few weeks of good play won’t answer either question. Only time can do that. But I’m choosing to be comforta-Bol with the idea that it just might happen in both cases.
Get Arizona's Best Sports Content In Your Inbox!
Become a smarter Arizona sports fan with the latest game recaps, analysis and exclusive content from PHNX's writers and podcasters!
Just drop your email below!