Devin Booker wants to finish out his fourth Phoenix Suns season the right way, which clearly to him means winning as many basketball games as possible.
You can’t blame him. He’s sick of the losing. Especially, the intentional kind that settles into your bones and seeps out of your pores from doing it over and over again. It’s almost like you don’t know any other way, so when March rolls around it’s time to shut down seasons for players who, if the games actually mattered, could otherwise gut it out and play.
Unfortunately, either nature or nurture is making this the fifth year in a row the Phoenix Suns are poised to close out the post-All-Star portion of the schedule with a whimper in hopes of accumulating or at least protecting their ping pong balls.
Booker is done with that.
He sees the writing on the wall, just like the rest of us do. Their mini-surge, which includes winning 6 of 10 games including both conference leaders, has been snuffed with small injuries to the catalysts. Kelly Oubre Jr. developed a season-ending thumb injury while Tyler Johnson has tweaked his knee. He’s been on the day-to-day-for-now plan with a “sore knee” for the last five games (four losses), joining T.J. Warren and his “sore ankle”.
Booker doesn’t think his teammates are dogging it at all — he’s just frustrated that it’s happening yet again. Listen to him after the Pistons loss, which was another example of Booker against the world.
Devin Booker on the frustration of finding momentum with the team recently before injuries put a stop to it (Tyler Johnson, Kelly Oubre Jr. and now Josh Jackson): pic.twitter.com/3BlH0jvraa— Evan Sidery (@esidery) March 22, 2019
But he does see what’s happening.
If Warren and Johnson remain out, with Oubre gone already, Booker is once again stuck with a rotation of rookies and fringe NBA players. This rotation has lost by a collective 35 points to the middling Pistons and bottom-feeding Bulls.
He’s been part of dysfunctional March/April ugliness every stretch run of his career and it’s affected his reputation around the league. He’s a guy who supposedly “can’t play winning basketball” because he’s one of the game’s most prolific scorers yet his career winning percentage hovers south of 30%.
Booker has that bad rep because of his situation, being asked to carry the scoring load for a rookie-and-g-league laden rotation while the organization tried to tank for draft picks year after year, until last year when he himself became part of the day-to-day-never-mind-lets-make-it-season-ending injury list.
Take a look at these finishes:
- 2014-15: After losing Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas in trade and then replacement Brandon Knight to injury, they lost 10 of their last 11 games
- 2015-16: After an incredibly bad middle of the season when they lost 32 of 36 games and Eric Bledsoe for the season (knee), they called T.J. Warren’s season over from a minor injury and babied Brandon Knight’s nagging injuries. They rebounded a bit, which got Earl Watson the permanent job, but still lost 14 of their last 25 games
- 2016-17: After another bad start due to a poor roster, and major injuries to Brandon Knight and Dragan Bender, they blatantly sat a healthy Eric Bledsoe and Tyson Chandler for the last six weeks of the season with the intention to tank, losing 14 of their last 16 games
- 2017-18: Here we are again. Brandon Knight missed the whole season from a summer knee injury, the season started awful and ended awful. This time it was Elfrid Payton, Devin Booker and T.J. Warren with day-to-day health issues that ended their seasons, while also once again resting a healthy Tyson Chandler, with the blatant intention to tank for the best lottery odds. They lost 35 of their last 40 games.
So here we are in 2018-19. Just nine games left, and Booker once again finds his best veteran teammates injured, and all that’s left are rookies and hangers-on.
And now even Josh Jackson (right ankle sprain) might be lost for the rest of the season!
Who’s left besides Booker?
- Three players who would make any and every other team’s rotation: Richaun Holmes, Deandre Ayton (R), Mikal Bridges (R)
- One player who might but certainly wouldn’t get more than 10-15 minutes for any of them: Troy Daniels
- Six players almost no one else would play right now: Jamal Crawford, Jimmer Fredette, Dragan Bender, De’Anthony Melton (R), Elie Okobo (R) and Ray Spalding (R)
How in the world is Booker supposed to win games when his only non-rookie that deserves 20-plus minutes a night in an NBA rotation is Richaun Holmes?????
I repeat. The only guy Booker has that deserves 20-plus minutes per night in an NBA rotation who isn’t still a rookie is his backup center.
I don’t know if Jimmer Fredette is a joke signing, a pity signing or a diamond in the rough who magically found his game in the China league the last three years. But don’t anyone tell me he deserves NBA rotation minutes, or he’d have been signed by SOMEONE since he was last seen in the NBA three years ago.
Yes, the Suns signed Jimmer Fredette. It’s for the rest of the season, with a team option on the 2019-20 season.
Yes, Jimmer is at least someone who won’t be afraid to dribble and shoot the ball, which might take some pressure off of Booker. But he’s no better than Jamal Crawford in that way, where nearly all the time he’s dribbling and shooting we are most likely going to be screaming “PASS THE BALL TO BOOKER!”.
Sorry Suns fans.
You deserve better.
Sorry Devin Booker.
YOU deserve better too.