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Center of the Sun: Preparing for Booker’s return, kudos to DA, and never getting what I want

Your weekly roundup of Phoenix Suns news, rumors, notes and videos from the prior week plus a preview of the week to come.

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Chicago Bulls v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Current Record: 29-26, 5th seed in the Western Conference

Offensive Rating: 113.5 (14th, ↓1)

Defensive Rating: 112.1 (7th, ↑3)

Net Rating: +1.4 (9th, ↑2)

Week 16 is now in the books and the Suns are closer to being whole once again. James Jones made a transaction this week, although it wasn’t the splash we’ve been waiting for. No, we’ll have to wait for Week 17’s trade deadline for the major transactions.

The Suns bid adieu to Saben Lee. Then brought him back. Then let Duane Washington, Jr. go. What a rollercoaster that must’ve been for the Phoenix native.

The team went 3-1 during the four games this past week, defeating the Raptors, Celtics, and Pistons. Mikal Bridges has been fantastic, Ayton has been consistently solid, and winning on the road in Boston is no easy task. The Suns are the only Western Conference team to do so thus far this season.

Their loss to the Hawks by 32 points was a throwaway game that you can’t read much into. ATL hit a season-high 19 three-pointers. PHX hit a season-low 4 three-pointers. Chalk it up as an “L” an carry on.

If Phoenix can continue to play .500 basketball until the arrival of Devin Booker, they will have position themselves in an ideal spot to make a late season run and rise in the Western Conference standings.

And that day is coming.

Devin Booker is rounding third base and he’s headed for home, which means he should soon be back in uniform helping the Suns win basketball games. It’s been a ride without him. He has missed a total of 26 games this season, and the team has gone 10-15 games in which he isn’t present. It truly shows the value of Devin Booker and what he means to this team in this organization.

Simply look at some of the stats with and without Devin Booker and there’s no doubt that he is an MVP candidate:

  • With Booker: 18-11, 116 PPG, 110.8 OPP PPG, 47.6 FG%
  • Without Booker: 11-15, 108.8 PPG, 111.9 OPP PPG, 44.8 FG%

We know that he won’t win the MVP – or probably won’t even be a top 10 candidate for the award – simply due to time lost to injury. He couldn’t even make the All-Star game, which I personally don’t think it’s that big of a deal.

Had his season been different, had he been injured early and came on and been healthy late, he would be in Utah for the All-Star Game. But that’s not how it worked out. Sure, you can make the argument that Zion Williamson shouldn’t be there due to games played, but that’s a moot point. He was voted in by the fans, not selected to the All-Star reserves by coaches and players.

Book is an All Star. You know it. I know it. The league knows it. We should spend less time worrying about an exhibition game and more time excited that Booker is rounding third.

Rumor has it he will make his return against the Brooklyn Nets this upcoming week. We shouldn’t expect 27.1 points per game right off the bat. He’s been out for quite some time with a groin injury. It might take him a few games to get his “sea legs” underneath him, if you will.

His mere presence on the court will help the Suns reset some of their rotations. It will help with on-court leadership. It will help in crunch time as this team returns to having multiple threats on the court when the games are most important.

I’ll keep an eye on Mikal Bridges’ performance after Booker returns. Will he breathe a sigh of relief and take his foot off the gas pedal? Or will he embrace his newfound offensive prowess and become the scoring threat on the wing that this team desperately needs, alongside Devin Booker?

Ayton on the interior, Mikal scoring from the wing, Booker doing his thing, Chris Paul scoring and facilitating the offense. This is the Phoenix Suns that were in first place prior to the Booker injury. This is what we should be excited about.

Player of the Week

Deandre Ayton

21.8 points, 12 rebounds, 2.3 assists

66.7 FG%, 78.6 FT%

I enjoy weeks like this. I enjoy weeks when Deandre Ayton is up against competition that he should dominate. Small front lines, teams lacking in interior depth; these are the teams he and should prey on. He did exactly that in Week 16.

He appeared to be engaged, hustling, and putting forth dominating efforts against the competition he faced this week. Perhaps it’s because I’ve finally accepted that he is who he is, and that no matter what happens, I’ll be happy with the outcome. Maybe it’s because Mat Ishbia sat in the first row against the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night.

Regardless of the “why,” I was impressed with his performance. He looked great, leaning into shots rather than fading away from them, feasting on the boards, and running to pick and roll with Chris Paul like we all have wanted him to.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns vs. Toronto Raptors (W, 114, 106) FULL RECAP

Phoenix Suns vs. Atlanta Hawks (L, 132, 100) FULL RECAP

Phoenix Suns @ Boston Celtics (W, 106-9) FULL RECAP

Phoenix Suns @ Detroit Pistons (W, 116-100) FULL RECAP

Highlights/Post Game Podcasts


416. Suns (27-25) vs. Raptors Post Game Pod LIVE from Bright Side Night:

HAWKS at SUNS | FULL GAME HIGHLIGHTS | February 1, 2023:

417. Suns (27-26) vs. Hawks Post Game Pod:


419. Suns (28-26) @ Celtics Post Game Pod with Suns Geek:


420. Suns (29-26) @ Pistons Post Game Pod with Flex From Jersey:

News & Notes

AZ Central: Phoenix Suns trade rumors, speculation before NBA trade deadline: Patrick Beverley option?

The Ringer: Don’t Sleep on the Suns (at the Deadline or in the Playoffs)

Fan Nation: Ayton to Mavs? ESPN Proposed Trade Lands Suns Big Man in Dallas

Hoops Rumors: Suns Sign Saben Lee To Two-Way Deal, Waive Duane Washington

Fan Nation: Devin Booker Not Elected to 2023 All-Star Game

Clutch Points: Devin Booker’s eye-raising message from Monty Williams on being left off All-Star team

The Athletic: For red-hot Phoenix Suns, it may not get any bigger than this week

Arizona Sports: Suns continue to find success through Ayton, Bridges in win vs. Pistons

The Comeback: Several huge suitors emerge after Kyrie Irving trade request

Arizona Sports: Suns are reportedly potential suitors for Kyrie Irving. Why?

Quotes of the Week

“I don’t know, man. Me, I love it. You turn me up. You poke the bear. That’s what it is.” - Deandre Ayton, on his altercation with Toronto Raptors forward Scottie Barnes

“I don’t want to miss any games. I know I always say that. The team has it rolling right now. Playing really good basketball and I want to be a part of it.” — Devin Booker

“I think a lot the wins we’ve pulled out lately, he has played a roll in them, giving solid minutes to the team. He’s been real solid for us.” — Bismack Biyombo on Duane Washington, Jr.

“They were a lot faster than us tonight, especially in transition, and we couldn’t make a shot tonight.” — Monty Williams after loss to the Hawks

“Felt like a treadmill. Felt like a hamster running in one spot.” — Deandre Ayton

“He’s the best two-guard in the league. Makes no sense he’s not playing in the game. Facts.” — Monty Williams

“I didn’t know he was 13-of-15. I remember I looked up and it was like 27 and 16 and I was like, no wonder I got two rebounds.” — Mikal Bridges

Key Stat


The Suns record this season with Cameron Johnson in the lineup.

Injury Status Report

Cameron Payne (right foot sprain) REEVALUATED NEXT WEEK

Landry Shamet (hip) is DAY TO DAY

Devin Booker (groin soreness) is DAY TO DAY

Jae Crowder (so close to being gone...finally) is NOT WITH TEAM

This Week in Suns History

February 7, 1993

Long before Shaquille O’Neal donned a Phoenix Suns uniform and called himself the “Shaq-tus”, he made his debut for the Orlando Magic against the Suns in downtown Phoenix. It was his rookie season and, to the point, he was averaging 23.7 points and 14.2 rebounds. Not too bad for a rookie, eh?

It was the first year of the America West Arena being opened. The team was 33-9 and carving up the Western Conference with soon-to-be named MVP Charles Barkley at the helm. The Magic, 21-19, come to Phoenix for a Sunday afternoon showdown.

The first time they met in Phoenix was a memorable one. Not because of the score, not because of the box score, not because Charles Barkley went for 28 points and 19 rebounds. Okay, that was pretty awesome in front of a national audience.

It was memorable because Shaquille O’Neal did something he became famous for. He tore that backboard down!

I’m not sure how many of you were around and remember this moment, but I remember it vividly as a young lad.

Shaq was a different kind of center. Growing up we were treated to finesse-type of fives. Hakeem Olajuwon. Patrick Ewing. Their foot work on the interior allowed them to be successful. And then Shaq came. Aggression. Raw power. What he brought to basketball was truly unguardable and unstoppable.

We knew who he was. On February 7, 1993 we met it.

It took 37 minutes for the crew at AWA to repair the damage that he did. Phoenix would win the game 121-105 behind 31 points from Richard Dumas, but the damage Shaq did to our psyche was permanent.

Upcoming Games

Tuesday, February 7 — Phoenix Suns @ Brooklyn Nets

Thursday, February 9 — Phoenix Suns @ Atlanta Hawks

Friday, February 10 — Phoenix Suns @ Indiana Pacers

It’s an East Coast week for the Suns, who will be out of town to coincide with the Super Bowl and Waste Management Phoenix Open. Looks like we won’t see any pictures of Devin Booker and Chris Paul at the 16th hole this year, and the entire team will miss the hoopla and the celerity parties that will flood the Valley over the next week.

The 32-20 Nets are dealing with their own internal issues, which is nothing new for the team. Kyrie is gone and will not be present on Tuesday, nor will Kevin Durant, who is out with an injury.

Following that, the Suns take on the Atlanta Hawks in Atlanta on Trade Deadline Day. Revenge game, anyone?

Atlanta is 27-27 a team the Suns can surely beat. They just got hot last week in Phoenix. They still have the same troubles they did upon entering that game. They’re not a great three-point shooting team (34.8%, 22nd). They’re a heavy isolation team. They lack the ability to play fluid basketball (20th in assists).

The final game of Week 17 occurs in Indianapolis as the Suns are going to say hello to Jalen Smith and the 25-27 Pacers. Stix is averaging 9.6 points on 46.3/28.1/76.5 splits. The Suns downed the Pacers 112-107 a couple of Saturday’s ago, but the team was without All Star guard Tyrese Haliburton, who has returned.

Indiana is 23-19 with Haliburton, 2-8 without him.

Weekly Prediction: 3-0

I’m feeling 3-0 this week. I’m feeling a 5-0 road trip for Phoenix. I’m feeling that the return of Devin Booker is going to have a great impact on this team, coupled with any potential transactions that might be waiting in the wings.

Brooklyn’s discombobulated without Kevin Durant – and most likely without Kyrie Irving. The Hawks are 13-11 at home, which isn’t intimidating. They may be without players that day, seeing as it is the trade deadline and numerous Hawks’ players are connected to the rumor mill. The Pacers are 17-11 at home (8-18 on the road) and will be challenging in Gainbridge Fieldhouse. But with Booker back, the Suns will be motivated and ready to slap the NBA around a little bit.

Last week I was correct with my 3-1 prediction, as were 45% of Bright Siders.


What will the Suns record be in Week 17?

This poll is closed

  • 55%
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  • 38%
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  • 4%
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174 votes total Vote Now

Bringing it Home

Something that I’ve learned along my way as a fan of sport in general is I never get what I want. Throughout my 40 years on this planet, I can count on one hand the number of times that something I desired relative to sports – and that was truly impactful – occurred.

Perhaps it’s the product of an Arizona upbringing, where your teams consistently fail to meet your expectations. Maybe I peaked at six years old, with my favorite baseball team – the Los Angeles Dodgers – and my favorite college football team – the Notre Dame Fighting Irish – both winning championships. God, if I could go back and talk to that six year old kid, I’d tell him how rare that feeling was, maybe I would’ve given him a beer to celebrate.

I take the short trip down memory lane because the NBA trade deadline is next week.

Our Phoenix Suns, who made a trip to the NBA Finals two seasons ago and set a franchise record with 64 wins last season, are in need of some assistance. It’s all the talk right now. We are all playing GM as we try to piece together transactions that not only improve our team’s chance of winning a title, but makes sense.

And I use “makes sense” loosely, because you don’t see many proposals that do just that. Whether we like it or not, Landry Shamet, and Dario Saric aren’t desirable assets for any team as they look to move on from a talented player.

I return to getting what I want.

What do I want? What would I like to see the Phoenix Suns do this trade deadline? First off, I’d like to see Jae Crowder gone. His long, drawn out absence is a distraction I would like to put in the past. Of course you want to garner something productive in return, and that’s where what I want and what I get will be drastically different.

What I want is a contributor, something Crowder was prior to his little bitch fit. What I want is someone who can make an impact on this team and meet the needs of the team: a physical power forward, a playmaker, a secondary shot creator, a point guard of the future. Something that says, “Hey we walked away from this, and we’re better for it.”

What will I get? Not that.

James Jones will do his best to bring something in rather than allow $10M to sit on the bench for an entire season. We’ve seen, as we get closer to the trade deadline, what that looks like.

Jae Crowder, who met with the Bucks this past week, was rumored to be worth three players, and some second round picks. I’m not talking about good players. I’m talking about players who you’d have to cut. That’s just the reality of it all.

And that’s the reality of the trade deadline.

As we prepare for February 9, and all of the excitement of that day typically brings, we have to prepare ourselves for the unexpected. It’s the way James Jones rolls. If you told me last trade deadline that Aaron Holiday was the move, I would’ve questioned your sanity.

While we’re all looking at one player and how they can affect the roster, James Jones is looking the other way. Prepare for the unexpected. Make it expected.

Then, of course, is the Kyrie Irving aspect of the trade deadline.

I would have loved for him to be a member of the Suns. That’s what I want. Which, for those of you who do not want him on the team, you should be happy. Again, I never get want I want or think should happen. He’s on his way to Dallas, fortifying my ever-growing wonder as to when is it going be my time?

I need to be prepared to be let down at the trade deadline. If I’m prepared for that, then we won’t be!

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