When the Phoenix Suns take on the Houston Rockets on Friday night, all eyes will be on Devin Booker to see how he’s handling what might possibly go down as the worst few days of his professional basketball life.
A week ago, Booker was about to make his first All-Star game. He’d posted the second highest scoring month in the league, just a tick behind starter James Harden, and gave the league an overall statistical profile that has never been snubbed from an All-Star game before.
Plus, his team was doing okay. In fact, while two of his best friends — D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns — had already made All-Star teams in prior years, it was Booker’s Suns who had the best record of them all this year. The Suns (20-27) were only 3 games out of the 8th spot in the West, while his best buds were scraping the bottom of the West with Golden State (10-39) and Minnesota (15-32).
They were each mired in one losing streak after another while Booker’s Suns went into Dallas and walloped Luka’s Mavericks by 29 points.
If that was the apex of Booker’s NBA basketball career, then what happened since must feel like this.
In the span of a week, Booker must feel like he’s fallen all the way back down that hill he’s been climbing.
First, Booker was snubbed from the All-Star game when coaches basically shrugged and just picked the dudes they’ve always been picking — those on playoff teams (Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook).
Even in a year without Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Booker still couldn’t get picked because his team isn’t good enough.
“They should pick the best players,” Booker said last week of the selection process.
His only solace was that his buddies’ teams weren’t good enough either and they were all snubbed.
“More rest,” he said of what he’d do with the time off during the All-Star Break.
Over the next few days, a disgruntled Booker struggled to connect and played like a shadow of himself in four straight losses for the Suns.
- from 12/25 to 1/30: 17 games, 31.9 points on 52/34/92 splits, 6.5 assists
- from 1/30 to 1/6: 4 games, 23 points on 46/30/90 splits, 5.5 assists
Hopefully the trade deadline would be a reprieve. His team would fortify the lineup, and prove him that they want to win THIS year, right?
Wrong. The Suns did nothing through the trade deadline and now he’s stuck in Phoenix in year one of the five year extension he got.
And to make it worse, he had to watch his two friends get to team up to carry the Timberwolves to new heights together for the next several years. One of his closest friends, D’Angelo Russell, has been available and traded twice in the past nine months. TWICE. And neither time did the Suns turn and say ‘we got you, Devin. We’ll get your man.’ Nope. Nada. Zilch on the effort meter.
You have to know that the Suns have talked to Booker about this. They’ve explained to Booker why his All-Star best friend isn’t a good fit. Booker has never spoken publicly about his team’s reluctance to add Russell, and neither have the Suns. Do you think he cares about those reasons right now? Probably not so much, now that he know Russell is teamed up with Towns now.
My guess is that wherever Booker rests next weekend, he’ll be around those buddies. And he will be inundated with their hooping and hollering in excitement over being teamed up. And making promises they’ll get him in Minnesota with them real soon.
Meanwhile, Booker just has to do what we Suns fans do. Listen, get pissed, nod along with them, have a little meltdown, but then try to calm himself and tell himself it’s okay and that the Suns will eventually turn it around here. All he has to do is wait another half-season ... yeahhhhh, that’s it.
But we’re all in this together Devin. We’re all with the Suns, and we don’t want you to leave.
Come on out to the game tonight, folks, and make Devin feel better about being in Phoenix.
He still has the better team than his buddies this year, and still has hope that he might be named to the All-Star game if one of the other guards has to bow out to injury.
But man oh man, I really wonder how Booker is going to handle this unfortunate — but all too common in Phoenix — series of events.
Today at shootaround, of course Booker was presented with an opportunity to comment.
Devin Booker called KAT & DLo “obviously two of my closest friends,” but added this about Warriors-Wolves trade: “I’m just focused on this team. I think everybody knows that. There’s always gonna be outside noise, but I’m gonna leave that to you guys.” #Suns— Gina Mizell (@ginamizell) February 7, 2020
For his part, Booker has consistently and repeatedly pushed back on any notion that he’s losing faith in the Suns. In fact, he’s had to do it so much that his coach took exception to it.
More Williams: “(The assumption is) if guys are friends, they automatically want to play with each other...I don’t feel the pressure to do anything (other) than what we’re doing.” #Suns— Gina Mizell (@ginamizell) February 7, 2020
More Williams: “I bet (Booker) gets tired of it, because it puts him in a conversation that he’s gone out of his way to dispel.” #Suns— Gina Mizell (@ginamizell) February 7, 2020
We’ll see tonight and in the coming days how Booker feels about all this, based on how he plays on the court.