So far this preseason, the Suns are feeling their way with a new coach, new offense, new defense, new teammates.
Rookie Deandre Ayton has been incredible as a rookie in his games this week, but most everyone else has struggled to pick up the nuances of coach Igor Kokoskov’s offense and defense.
They are still trying to “trigger the blender” of passing, attacking and shooting that gets defenses turned around so much the Suns end up with wide open looks. At the moment, it looks more like the Suns are the ones in the blender.
“We have a lot of new guys, a lot of new plays,” forward Ryan Anderson said. “So obviously that’s gonna come, I’m really confident about it.”
“We are trying to move the ball side to side,” Coach Igor said. “Trying to include almost four guys who can drive in the lane. We have to trigger that blender. We’re a ball screen team. We have to get in the lane. And when it comes to the shooting, you have to shoot it with confidence.”
It doesn’t help that the team’s best player has been out the whole time.
“He’s what gets the motor running,” Anderson said of Booker. “Obviously, DA [Deandre Ayton] is playing really well. We’re all kind of adjusting, figuring things out.”
Anderson has only played a few pickups with Booker, after his trade to Phoenix and before Booker’s hand swelled up. But he’s watched Booker for the last few years from the opponent’s point of view.
Last year alone, Booker scored 18 with 10 assists last November against the Rockets, then 27 with 9 assists in January, followed by 31 with 10 assists later that month. All Suns losses, but all good games by the young guard.
“But obviously having Devin back (soon),” Anderson continued. “It just changes the entire dynamic of the team, so it’s exciting him making strides to get back.”
When Booker comes back, he will be the primary offensive facilitator for the Suns. The primary playmaker. He might not bring the ball up all the time, and won’t be the only play maker out there on the court (Igor wants all five guys making plays).
“It’s not necessarily that all the spotlight is gonna be on Booker and we’re gonna sit and watch,” Igor said. “We don’t play that kind of basketball. The ball moves side to side, we have multiple ball handlers, multiple drive and kicks with extra passes to they don’t know what hole to plug.”
But it all starts and ends with Booker.
“He doesn’t have to start the play,” Igor said. “But he should definitely be somebody that can finish them. Ideally we want him to take that last shot. But he needs some help.”
Booker needs help.
“His three point percentage is impacted by him taking tough shots. And the way they guard him, it’s not easy because he has to create his own shot and shoot at a high percentage for us to win the game. So that’s not fair.”
Count Ryan Anderson as one who can’t wait for Booker to return from injury.
“With Devin coming back, the court is going to look 100% different when he’s out there.”
While Igor wants the team to revolve around Booker’s strengths.
“We’re still going to play to his strength,” Igor said. “That’s the strength of our team. The description of your team is the description of your best player. That’s who he is.”
“He’s very open to take that leadership role and to playmake for other guys.”