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Isaiah Canaan’s fractured ankle overshadows best all-around victory of the season for Suns

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Even though they cruised to a win on Wednesday, Phoenix now faces murky waters with their point guard situation again after losing Canaan.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Lost in possibly the Suns’ greatest victory so far is one player who helped immediately upon arrival: Isaiah Canaan.

Late in the first quarter, Canaan went up for a rebound and landed awkwardly on his leg, resulting in a gruesome-looking injury. The official diagnosis was a fractured left ankle, with Canaan receiving surgery Thursday afternoon in Phoenix.

Not only does this sting for Canaan, but the Suns as well.

When he was in the lineup, Phoenix was a near .500 team with a record of 9-11 since he was signed in mid-November to replace Mike James.

On top of that, Canaan averaged 8.6 points, 3.8 assists, 2.3 rebounds, and 0.8 steals per game while shooting 33.3% on three-pointers this season.

If Canaan was ever placed into a starting role, which at this point seemed unlikely unless the Devin Booker point guard experiment resulting in him wearing down, he was well in line to produce career numbers. And who would have thought at the beginning of this season that Canaan would end up being the team’s best point guard on the roster?

As Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro reported Thursday, the Suns will call up Josh Gray from the NAZ Suns to fill Canaan’s role on a 10-day contract. Gray has averaged over 17 points per game while shooting 42% from deep. So, he alongside Tyler Ulis will back up Booker at the point.

“It’s so disappointing. I feel bad for the kid. He’ll have surgery tomorrow and we’ll start the rehab process,” interim head coach Jay Triano said postgame. “I feel bad for him.”

It’s hard for fans and everyone sitting right there and teammates especially, sitting right there, a guy that they battle with every day, it’s their friend on and off the court. I used the timeout to let us say a quick prayer and get us refocused again to keep playing. Not much can we do. He was in the hands of our medical staff and we trust they do their job and we had to keep doing ours.”

If you haven’t seen the injury, I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t. It was bad, with Canaan’s ankle going the opposite direction. Especially for his teammates who saw it up close, it was tough for them to gut it out the rest of the way.

As Marquese Chriss said after the game, though, Triano mentioned how Canaan would have wanted them to finish strong for him.

“Seeing your brother and your teammate get hurt like that, honestly, I didn’t want to watch it. I tried to turn around. I tried to turn some people around before people saw what was actually happening but like I said, that’s the sport we play and things like that can happen,” Chriss said about the injury. “I think it kind of opens your eyes how fast things like that can happen to you.”

Following the Suns’ 102-88 victory over Dallas, Booker told the media afterward how he has actually known Canaan since he transferred to Moss Point High School in Mississippi. Canaan grew up there before he went to school at Murray State University before being selected in the second round by the Houston Rockets in the 2013 Draft.

“Yeah, it hurts man,” Booker said about Canaan’s season-ending injury. “Isaiah is a guy I’ve known since high school, who comes from Mississippi also. Like I said, it’s really tough. He comes in here, fights every day. Comes in here on a 10-day contract and earns a spot. For people who don’t know about the NBA know it’s a business so it’s really hard to do that. Take a tough break like this. I’m sure he’ll be fine through rehab, but it hurts. It hurt me.”

Canaan’s value this season cannot go understated. He helped stabilize the point guard rotation after general manager Ryan McDonough chose him over James, who tended to not try to get everyone involved. When Canaan arrived, we saw the second unit begin to click.

Not only was his former teammate in Houston Troy Daniels catching fire, but Dragan Bender and Alex Len saw career outings with Canaan patrolling their lineup.

It’s a tough break for Canaan, who was putting together a career year in Phoenix. His contract will expire at the end of the season, but if the Suns wanted to have a third point guard heading into 2018-2019 Canaan has proven to be a legitimate rotation PG in this league.