By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
THE NBA officially tipped off last night, but the marquee game for the Bahamas takes place tonight as the country’s biggest names in the sport face off in their first regular season head-to-head matchup.
Deandre Ayton and the Phoenix Suns host Buddy Hield and the Sacramento Kings at 10pm tonight local time at the Talking Stick Resort and Arena in Phoenix, Arizona, in the season opener for both teams.
In the head-to-head matchup last season, Hield and the Kings held a 3-1 advantage.
The matchup between the two was the first in NBA history featuring two Bahamian born players in the same game. Of the previous Bahamian born players, none of their careers intersected to play with or against each other. Mychal Thompson played from 1978-1991, Ian Lockhart suited up in a single game for the Suns in 1990 and Dexter Cambridge played one season for the Dallas Mavericks in the 1992-1993 season. Canadian-born Rick Fox played 13 seasons with the Celtics and Lakers from 1991-2004 and played against Cambridge twice during the aforementioned 92-93 season.
Both players cited the impact their exposure at the highest level of the sport can have on a younger generation of aspiring Bahamian athletes.
“It’s good as motivation, to give kids back home hope and lets them know that dreams do come true,” Hield said. “Once you put your faith in God and trust him, anything is possible.”
Hield was drafted No.6 overall in the 2016 NBA Draft and Ayton was the No.1 overall selection in 2018. They became the first Bahamians drafted in the NBA lottery (top 12 selections), since Thompson in 1977.
“It shows them anybody can make it. Buddy and I, when we were younger, we were the kids in the camp saying we wanted to be NBA players as well and we wanted to be just like the NBA players visiting the camp,” he said. “Hard work pays off and kids have to know it’s not easy playing at the top level, it’s a lot of responsibility and a lot of sacrifices so they just have to be prepared for that.”
On December 4 2018, the much anticipated first NBA regular season game quickly turned into a lopsided win for Hield and the Kings. Hield scored 20 points in just 18 minutes, while Deandre Ayton had 10 points and nine rebounds in the Kings’ 122-105 win over the Suns at Talking Stick.
In game two on January 8, the Suns exacted revenge with a 115-111 win, also at Talking Stick. Ayton finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds while Hield had 16 points, four rebounds and made 3-5 three pointers.
The third regular-season matchup between the Kings and the Suns went to the Kings’ advantage as the teams continued to trend in opposite directions. Hield finished with 18 points, six rebounds and made three three-pointers in the Kings 117-104 win over the Suns at the Golden 1 Center.
Ayton finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and shot 8-10 from the field.
It was a game of milestones for both Hield and Ayton in their fourth and final head-to-head matchup of the 2018-19 NBA regular season.
Hield set the Sacramento Kings’ single-season three-point field goals record in a 112-103 win over the Suns while Ayton tied a Suns rookie record with his 37th double double of the season with 19 points and 11 rebounds.