We’ve had glimpses here and there, but we have rarely seen a Phoenix Suns game with a healthy and productive All-Star pairing in Devin Booker and Chris Paul since before last year’s All-Star Break.
Let’s go back to Game 57 of the 2021-22 season on February 15. With a 103-96 win over the LA Clippers, the Suns pushed their season record to 47-10 and their lead in the West to 7 games. That was their 6th straight win after streaks of 18 and 11 in the same season. Days later, Paul and Book would make their second straight All-Star game, carrying an NBA-best 98-31 regular season record over 1.5 seasons that was punctuated with their first NBA Finals appearance. Cinderella stuff.
Unfortunately, that’s when it all started to go wrong. In the next game, Paul would injure his thumb in a collision with a defender while making a pass.
Since that time, 64 regular season and playoff games ago, we’ve rarely seen those two healthy at the same time.
- CP (thumb/rest) missed 17 of the last 24 games in the 2021-22 season (Book ‘rested’ for 2 of those, and none of the 7 mattered in playoff seeding)
- Book (hamstring) missed/hobbled in all but one game in the 1st round series vs. Pelicans
- CP hobbled* for 5 of the 7 games in the 2nd round vs. Mavericks
- CP (heel) missed 14 of the first 26 games of the 2022-23 season
*no official injury reported, but how else do you explain CP averaging 22/10/5 in the first eight games of the 2022 playoffs, including the first two against Dallas, then just 9/6/3 for the last five? His career playoff averages are 20/8/5 over 142 playoff games.
This season, the two have only played together in 12 of the team’s first 26 games, but their record is only 7-5 in those games because there hasn’t been one yet where they’ve both been healthy and played well at the same time.
CP’s first good “oh yeah there he is” game of the season was Friday night in the loss to the Pelicans, where he scored a season high 24 points, made 6 three-pointers, dished 7 assists and was the team’s second-leading rebounder with 8. Unfortunately, in that same game, Book scored only 14 points, second-lowest of the season, on 5 of 17 shooting.
Stat me, Dave: Book has not scored under 20 points in two straight losses, let alone three, since 2019. Last Sunday, he was in the Top 5 of odds to win the NBA MVP Award. Since then, he’s scored under 20 in three straight losses.
CP’s six threes got the Suns back in the game on Friday and into a brief lead. The 6 were almost as many as he’d made the other 11 games combined (9), and he looked more like himself than we’d seen since early in the 2022 playoffs.
Yet now Booker may hit the shelf. Before that Dallas game, he was averaging 29/6/5 in 22 games. Since then, just 14/5/3 on 35% shooting these last three.
After committing a turnover late in the 4th quarter with the Suns down two, he noticeably pulled up lame trying to chase down Zion Williamson. He checked out two minutes later, with the game getting away but still in reach (down 8).
Could be that Sunday’s rematch against the Pelicans will be with a better Paul but a lesser/missing Booker.
Who knows when we will see the healthy, high-performing duo again.
The Suns aren’t the only team wishing for a return to health for their stars, not to mention quality starters like Jae Crowder and Cam Johnson.
The Pelicans have rarely been healthy, losing games from all of Zion, Ingram, McCollum and Herb Jones at various times this year.
Memphis haven’t had a healthy trio of Morant/JJJ/Bane together all season.
The Lakers hadn’t had healthy Anthony Davis and LeBron James together, nor have the Clippers seen the ‘good Kawhi’, since the 2021 playoffs.
The Nuggets haven’t had a healthy and productive Jokic/Murray/MPJ trio since before that.
The Warriors haven’t seen ‘good Klay’ in almost three years.
No one’s crying for the Phoenix Suns. It just sucks to watch it unfold when it’s your team.