Devin Booker

Devin Booker Named All-Star Injury Replacement

Suns guard Devin Booker has been selected to replace Anthony Davis as a Western Conference All-Star, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Booker was considered one of the most glaring All-Star snubs after averaging 24.7 points, 3.8 points and 4.3 assists through 26 games. His play has helped Phoenix rise to fourth place in the West at 20-10. This will be the second All-Star appearance for Booker, who was chosen as a reserve last season.

[RELATED: Poll: Biggest 2021 NBA All-Star Snub?]

Davis is recovering from a strained right calf and isn’t expected to return for about four weeks.

Pacific Notes: J. Smith, Booker, Wiseman, Dudley

Suns rookie Jalen Smith confirmed that his recent absence was a result of testing positive for COVID-19, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Phoenix had three games postponed this month because of a shortage of eligible players due to health and safety protocols.

“I had COVID for like 10 days,” Smith said. “For like those first, I’d say eight, I didn’t experience any symptoms, but then like basically the last night before getting off, my smell was faint and my taste was faint, but I got my taste back and my smell is starting to come back a little bit now.”

The virus isn’t the only obstacle that Smith, the 10th pick in last year’s draft, has encountered during his first NBA experience. He suffered an ankle injury during a workout last month and has only gotten into two games. He was cleared to return January 6, but tested positive the next day.

“Mentally, I’m fine,” he said. “It’s a process. I still got to learn a lot of new stuff that was put in while I was out, but it’s a part of basketball. I feel fine. it’s just a matter of me getting my wind back. Just continuing to get back into the motion with the team.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Suns star Devin Booker suffered a left hamstring strain Friday that will force him to miss tonight’s game and possibly longer, tweets Gerald Bourguet of The Step Back. “We’re really not sure,” coach Monty Williams said. “What I’ve been told is it could be day-to-day. Depending on how he feels, it could be another week.”
  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr is coordinating the minutes for rookie center James Wiseman to get him on the court as much as possible with the team’s veteran leaders, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic. So far, the No. 2 pick has played 267 minutes with Stephen Curry and 182 minutes with Draymond Green“If we’re going to be a championship contender the next few years, those guys have to learn to play together,” Kerr explained.
  • Lakers forward Jared Dudley is close to returning from a calf injury that has kept him out of action since January 8, according to Kyle Goon of The Orange County Register (Twitter link). Coach Frank Vogel said Dudley is probably “a game or two out” from being available. The 35-year-old has played in just six games this season.

Suns Notes: Crowder, Arena, Payne, Roster

Jae Crowder‘s arrival at training camp was delayed by personal issues apparently unrelated to COVID-19, but the Suns forward has reported to his new team and said this week that he’s “looking forward to moving forward,” writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic.

Crowder was one of the most popular free agents on the market last month, telling reporters that 14 teams expressed interest in signing him (video link via Rankin). He cited recruiting from Chris Paul and Devin Booker as a significant factor in his decision to choose Phoenix.

Those guys made a strong pitch and I felt like Devin is ready for real pressure,” Crowder said. “When I say real pressure, that’s playoff basketball. Playing for it all.”

Here’s more out of Phoenix:

  • The Suns announced in a press release on Thursday that they won’t host fans at their home games to start the 2020/21 season, a decision that “did not come easily,” per team president/CEO Jason Rowley. “Our fans are the lifeblood of the Suns organization, and we want nothing more than to welcome our fans into our newly transformed arena in Downtown Phoenix,” Rowley said in a statement. “… However, we are exercising an abundance of caution and doing our part to maintain the health and safety of all our stakeholders during this crisis.”
  • Cameron Payne was a regular part of the Suns’ rotation during the team’s 8-0 run during the summer restart. Given the changes the roster has undergone since then, he’s looking to reestablish himself as a key contributor going forward, writes Duane Rankin for The Arizona Republic.
  • Gina Mizell of Suns.com takes a look back at the Suns’ offseason moves, writing that the front office was able to add veterans with playoff experience, as well as improving the team’s depth and outside shooting.
  • In case you missed it, despite being hired in 2019, Monty Williams already ranks near the middle of the pack on the list of the NBA’s longest-tenured head coaches.

Pacific Notes: CP3, Suns, Clippers, Ibaka, Morris, Warriors

At age 35, Chris Paul is more than a decade older than Suns cornerstone players Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. However, the star point guard doesn’t plan to simply be the veteran mentor on a young Phoenix roster — he made it clear during his first media session this week that he also wants to help the team get back to the postseason, as Royce Young of ESPN writes.

“Everyone always talks about what I can teach (Booker) or teach some of these other guys, but they’re teaching me at the same time too,” Paul said. “I’m not James Naismith by no means. First things first, I’m not just coming in here trying to teach everybody. I’m his teammate. We’re here to hoop, we’re here to compete and that’s how I approach this.”

Meanwhile, Booker and Ayton are excited by the opportunity to team up with a 10-time All-Star like Paul, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic, who says both players were shocked when they first heard about the trade bringing CP3 to Phoenix.

“I wanted to do a backflip,” Ayton said. “You ever seen a seven-footer do a backflip? OK. That’s how excited I was.”

Besides getting an opportunity to play with up-and-coming stars like Booker and Ayton, Paul is looking forward to reuniting with head coach Monty Williams, whom he played for in New Orleans for a single season 10 years ago. Williams said this week that he thinks both he and Paul have “grown a lot” in the last decade.

“I think we both were really headstrong, too, back then,” Williams said, according to Young. “I was walking around like a dictator ready to cut somebody’s head off, trying to implement my way and my program. I don’t think I was really good at allowing him to do what the great ones do. There were times I felt like I took the paintbrush out of (Paul’s) hand.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • After chemistry issues helped sink the Clippers last season, head coach Tyronn Lue is confident he’ll be able to hold players accountable in his new role by always being blunt and honest, writes Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. “What I learned from Brian Shaw a long time ago was always tell the truth, whether they like it or not,” Lue said. “Even (back in his playing days) with Kobe and Shaq, just telling those guys the truth. They might not like it, but they respect it.”
  • Serge Ibaka‘s friendship with Kawhi Leonard was a factor in his decision to join the Clippers in free agency, he said on Thursday, as Swanson relays in a separate O.C. Register story. “One thing about me and Kawhi is like, there is no ego in our friendship,” Ibaka said. “… I know who he is and he knows as a teammate what I can do for him, for the team and it is make things smoother and easier.”
  • Lakers forward Markieff Morris said this week that rumors last month about him potentially teaming up with twin brother Marcus Morris for the Clippers were “just talk,” per Swanson. “They were just trying to scare Lakers fans,” Markieff said.
  • Warriors big man Marquese Chriss is confident that there will be plenty of minutes at center to go around around for him, Kevon Looney, and No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman, as Marcus White of NBC Sports Bay Area details.

No Indications Devin Booker Wants Out Of Phoenix

Ryan Russillo of The Ringer created a stir earlier this week by declaring during an episode of Bill Simmons’ podcast that Devin Booker’s desire to leave the Suns is “the worst-kept secret in the league.” However, that claim has been repeatedly refuted in recent days.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7, one of Phoenix’s most plugged-in reporters, emphatically shot down the idea that Booker wants out of Phoenix, calling it “100% not true” and adding that “not one time has he ever told anyone he wanted out” (Twitter link). For good measure, Gambadoro added, Don’t listen to this garbage.”

Michael Scotto of HoopsHype conveyed a similar sentiment, citing a source who says there’s no truth to the idea that Booker wants out. Scotto also noted that multiple executives who have been in touch with the Suns say the star guard won’t be traded.

Elsewhere, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic reported that the Timberwolves have been looking into Booker’s possible availability for months but have been given zero indication he’ll be available. And Zach Lowe of ESPN wrote this week that the Suns have shown no interest in moving Booker for either of the top two picks in this year’s draft.

The notion that Booker would have become dissatisfied with his situation in Phoenix this year doesn’t make a lot of sense. The Suns were one of the most impressive teams in the Walt Disney World bubble this summer, winning all eight of their seeding games and finishing the season with a .466 winning percentage — it was the first time in Booker’s career that number didn’t end up below .300.

On top of that, Booker still has four years remaining on the contract extension he signed in 2018. Even if he did want out of Phoenix, he wouldn’t be in a strong position to push for a trade.

“He has no leverage,” an Eastern Conference executive told Scotto. “He’s locked up for four more years. There is no way for him to demand a trade with that much time left on his contract.”

While the Timberwolves and other clubs will likely keep checking in with the Suns to see if anything changes, it sounds like a safe bet that Booker will remain in Phoenix for the foreseeable future.

Lowe’s Latest: Beal, Celtics, Culver, Heat, Gordon, More

Teams with interest in Bradley Beal haven’t given up hope that the Wizards will consider trading him this fall, according to Zach Lowe of ESPN, who notes that multiple “strong playoff teams” have looked into what it would take to acquire a top-10 pick and may be seeking extra assets to swing a big trade for someone like Beal.

However, the Wizards have shown zero interest in trading Beal, even for the No. 1 or No. 2 pick in this year’s draft, sources tell ESPN. The Timberwolves (No. 1) and Warriors (No. 2) are both known to be hoping to trade their selections for an All-NBA caliber player like Beal (or Ben Simmons or Devin Booker), but it seems unlikely that such a deal will materialize, says Lowe.

For the Wizards to really consider the idea of moving Beal, he may have to tell the team he would prefer to play elsewhere, per Lowe. Perhaps that will happen down the road if Washington doesn’t bounce back from a second consecutive lottery finish, but it hasn’t to this point.

Here’s much more from Lowe:

  • Lowe confirms the Celtics have explored using their three first-round picks to trade up in the draft, but says Boston is considering a number of options with those picks, including trying to trade for a “solid veteran.” Since so many teams are in win-now mode, there aren’t many of those players available, according to Lowe, who says that Larry Nance Jr. and Dennis Schröder are among the players who could be under-the-radar targets for teams looking to upgrade their rotations.
  • Jarrett Culver‘s name has popped up in trade rumors, but Lowe thinks the Timberwolves would only move him in a package for a star, or for a draft pick that would help acquire a star. Lowe adds that he thinks Minnesota will dangle the No. 17 pick and James Johnson‘s expiring contract in search of a veteran contributor.
  • While Lowe thinks the Heat should be able to re-sign Goran Dragic on a big one-year deal, he expects it to be tougher for Miami to take the same approach with Jae Crowder, who will likely receive multiyear offers in the mid-level range.
  • Rival executives have pitched the idea of the Mavericks acquiring Rudy Gobert from the Jazz, but Lowe is skeptical there will be a match there and believes Dallas will have a tough time acquiring a third star via trade this offseason.
  • It’s unclear what sort of leaguewide interest there is in Magic forward Aaron Gordon. Lowe points to the Trail Blazers as a potential match, but says the two teams have never seriously discussed a swap involving Gordon and CJ McCollum and isn’t sure whether lesser assets like Zach Collins or Anfernee Simons would appeal to Orlando.
  • Lowe’s offseason preview is jam-packed with many more notes and is worth checking out in full. We relayed a number of Lowe’s other most intriguing tidbits in our stories earlier today, including items on the Bucks, Pistons, and Knicks.

Suns Notes: Haliburton, Disney Practices, Booker

The Suns have the tenth pick in the upcoming 2020 NBA draft, prompting Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic to wonder if Iowa State combo guard Tyrese Haliburton might drop to Phoenix. Haliburton, who touts his own passing ability as second to none among this year’s prospects, was also a high-level shooter in college.

“I’m coming in as a guy who can make shots,” said Haliburton. “And someone who can facilitate at a high level and I think I’m a really good off-ball defender. My IQ is very high. I know where to be at the right time.”

Rankin sees the 6’5″ guard as being able to eventually supplant Ricky Rubio as All-Star Devin Booker‘s eventual backcourt partner.

There’s more out of the Grand Canyon State:

  • Suns head coach Monty Williams recently discussed the intense team practices that helped spark the team’s 8-0 run during the NBA’s Orlando restart, according to Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic in a separate piece. Booker and forward Dario Šarić, specifically, took the competitive practices to another level. “I’ll never forget Dario was kicking all of the [bigs’] butts playing one-on-one against the bigs and Book was on the other end whipping up on the guards,” Williams said.
  • Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic weighed in on a recent hypothetical Bleacher Report trade idea, a one-for-one swap of Booker for All-Star Sixers guard/forward Ben Simmons. Rankin postulated that Booker’s terrific all-around offensive ability, which appeared to take a leap during the NBA’s summer Disney World restart, is ultimately more valuable than Simmons’ more limited two-way game.
  • We recently passed along word that Sixers assistant coach Kevin Young has joined Williams’ staff as an assistant coach with the Suns.

NBA Announces All-Bubble Awards

The NBA announced today that Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard has been named the Player of the Seeding Games, earning de facto MVP honors for the league’s restart.

Lillard, who averaged 37.6 PPG and 9.6 APG on .497/.436/.888 shooting in eight seeding games, led the Blazers to a 6-2 record, allowing the team to surpass the Grizzlies for the No. 8 seed in the West. Portland will earn the conference’s final playoff spot if it picks up a win over Memphis today or tomorrow.

Lillard was the unanimous selection among 22 media voters for the bubble’s MVP award. Devin Booker (Suns) received 19 second-place votes, with T.J. Warren (Pacers) picking up two and Luka Doncic (Mavericks) getting the other one. Booker, Warren, Doncic, James Harden (Rockets) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Bucks) all received third-place votes.

Meanwhile, Suns head coach Monty Williams was named the Coach of the Seeding Games, per today’s announcement. The selection comes as no surprise after Williams led Phoenix to an 8-0 record this summer. The Suns narrowly missed out on a spot in the play-in tournament, but were the only club that went undefeated during the seeding games, despite initially being ranked 21st of the 22 teams invited to Orlando.

Williams was a near-unanimous choice, with Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts receiving one first-place vote and finishing second overall in voting. Nets coach Jacque Vaughn and Raptors coach Nick Nurse were among the other top vote-getters.

The NBA also announced All-Seeding Games First and Second Teams, as follows:

First Team:

  • Damian Lillard (Trail Blazers)
  • Devin Booker (Suns)
  • Luka Doncic (Mavericks)
  • James Harden (Rockets)
  • T.J. Warren (Pacers)

Second Team:

Lillard, Booker, and Doncic were unanimous First Team selections, with Harden and Warren each receiving 18 of 22 First Team votes. Antetokounmpo received the other eight First Team votes.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Western Notes: DeRozan, Payne, Booker, J.R. Smith

After the Spurs‘ victory on Tuesday night over the Rockets, veteran guard DeMar DeRozan was asked about his future with the organization. The 31-year-old guard has a $27.7MM player option for the 2020/21 season.

The former first-round pick did not go into much detail about his future with the Spurs and instead focused on the current task at hand.

“My mindset is always, I am here, I am living in the moment and continue to build with these (young) guys,” he said (h/t Tom Osborn of the San-Antonio Express-News). “I am just trying to go out there and get us to a playoff spot.”

Back in March, one report suggested that the 31-year-old guard was not happy about his situation with the Spurs. However, his $27.7MM option will be tough to pass up in what may be a limited free agent market.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype examined how recently-signed combo guard Cameron Payne has helped the undefeated Suns in the bubble. In the seeding games, Payne is averaging 10.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, and 3.2 APG. He is also shooting an astonishing 50 percent from three-point range. Kalbrosky points out that Payne’s ability to create his own shot as of the reasons for his success on the court.
  • All-Star guard Devin Booker has the Suns on the cusp of making the playoffs for the first time since 2010, writes Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. Booker understands the magnitude of Thursday’s game and is looking forward to the challenge. “I know it’s a different format than what it’d be usually, but we can feel the energy,” he said. “We can feel the hype of the game. I’m looking forward to it.” For the Suns to get into the play-in game, they need to beat the Mavs and hope that either Memphis or Portland loses.
  • Lakers guard J.R. Smith spoke at length about his road back to the NBA with Kyle Goon of the Southern California NewsGroup. The 34-year-old sharpshooter discussed the role his father, Earl Smith Jr. played in getting him back to the league. “If you ain’t gonna play, now you gotta find something to do,” Earl said he told J.R. “I thought, ‘Get your ass in shape, go to L.A. Do your thing.” Smith has not played often in the team’s seeding games in Orlando but could be a key player in the postseason.

Pacific Notes: Harrell, Bazemore, Thompson, Booker

Clippers coach Doc Rivers is hopeful big man Montrezl Harrell can play in the team’s final seeding game on Friday, Jovan Buha of The Athletic tweets. Rivers would like to play one game with his usual rotation prior to the playoffs, Buha adds. One of the league’s top reserves, Harrell left the Orlando campus due to the passing of his grandmother. He’ll have to rebuild rhythm with teammates and regain his conditioning, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times notes.

We have more on the Pacific Division:

  • Kings swingman Kent Bazemore appears unlikely to play against the Lakers on Thursday, Sean Cunningham of KXTV tweets. Bazemore, who hasn’t played since last Thursday, is dealing with a calf injury. He will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
  • Warriors guard Klay Thompson has been working out mainly in Orange County, Calif., including a workout with backcourt partner Stephen Curry, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. Thompson was cleared to train without restrictions in June after suffering a torn ACL during last season’s Finals.
  • The Suns have been the breakout team in Orlando and Devin Booker is confident that will carry over to next season, Nick Friedell of ESPN writes. “I don’t think there’s going to be any sad faces around here, whether we leave here in the playoffs or not,” Booker said. “We’ve put the work in and we’ve grown as a team. We’ve took tremendous strides that I think will build for us for continuing years to come.”