DETROIT – This is an important week for the Phoenix Suns.
do it huge.
For several months, three factors hung over this organization, making it impossible to predict in which direction the sun would turn. Can they overcome an injury-plagued first half and set themselves up for a strong seed for the postseason? Or will this turn into a lost season, another sign of the championship window closing?
First issue: Property. Since mortgage manager Matt Ichpeia agreed in principle to buy a majority stake in the Suns and Phoenix Mercury in December, the organization has been on hold while the deal goes through the NBA’s approval process. At long last, the end is near. Ishbia sat out with his three children for Saturday’s game, which the Phoenix won 116-100 over the Pistons at Little Caesars Arena. It could be submitted to Phoenix as soon as Wednesday.
The second issue: Trade deadline. Jay Crowder, a starter for most of the previous two seasons, wasn’t with the team all season, a mutual decision that robbed the Suns of a solid player in the rotation. At first, with Phoenix going 15-6, this wasn’t much of a deal. But then the injuries hit hard. Over 55 games played, the Suns have played five games in just six contests. With each setback, Crowder’s absence affected a little more.
Issue #3Health: Devin Booker. The Suns star guard has played three games since injuring his left thigh in December. Without it, the Sun is 11-15. Booker went through his usual pre-game routine before Saturday’s game, a sign that he might be back soon. Asked if Tuesday’s road game in Brooklyn was possible, coach Monty Williams declined to say. He said, “I don’t want to speculate.”
Saturday’s win was Phoenix’s eighth in 10 attempts. At 29-26, the Suns are fifth in the Western Conference, nine games behind leader Denver. While last week’s home loss to Atlanta raises questions – this team gets wiped off the field a lot – the Suns are starting to make strides.
“Really satisfying, man,” forward Cam Johnson said of the stretch. “It’s been some time this year across the board, both as a team and as an individual. To get players back into the squad, to be healthy and to see players progress through rehabilitation, it’s good to see.”
DeAndre Ayton scored 31 points and 16 rebounds against the Pistons, his first 30-15 game in five NBA seasons. When a reporter reported this to him, the Phoenix big man first expressed surprise. Then he promised to get more. Ayton, who recently lost time to illness, said it was the best he had felt all season. While others feel tired before the All-Star break, he feels energized.
“I’ve had like five or six ankle sprains, and I finally feel like, ‘Oh, that’s what the coach was talking about,'” Ayton said. “
Since returning from a knee injury that sidelined him in 37 games, Johnson has made 21-of-44 from 3-point range over eight games. Against the Pistons, he scored 20 points in 22 minutes, hitting 7-of-9 from the field.
Since returning from a hip problem, Chris Paul has averaged 16 points and 9.6 assists. Against the Pistons, he didn’t make a shot, missing all seven attempts, but still controlled the game, finishing with 14 assists.
“You’re always happy with the wins, but I don’t think any coach would ever be satisfied,” said Williams. “While you’re moving towards a certain kind of basketball that you hope will continue when it counts, we’re not quite there yet. But you don’t win an eight out of 10 if you’re not going in a good direction.”
The key is poker. Prior to Saturday’s game, Williams said the Suns guard, despite only playing 29 games, still deserved to be named an All-Star. He called the voting system, which takes input from fans, media and coaches but weighs each differently, a joke. Booker averaged a career-best 27.1 points, but finished seventh among Western Conference guards in Rookie voting.
“As a coach of someone who puts it on the line every night, he plays sore on the account of his career, he plays big minutes, he plays both ends, and you look at his numbers and his quality and he’s the two best keepers in the game,” Williams said. facts.”
Once he plays, Booker probably won’t need much time to get back into rhythm, but the team might. In addition to Booker, the Suns are awaiting the return of reserve guards Landry Shamet and Cameron Payne, both of whom have right foot problems. The trade deadline would add another element, but it’s hard to predict which player the Suns will land for Crowder (or others). Over the past several weeks, they’ve been linked to Eric Gordon from Houston, OG Anunoby from Toronto, and Jalen McDaniels from Charlotte.
last week, the athletePhoenix was one of three teams, along with Dallas and the Lakers, to emerge as a potential student for superstar guard Kyrie Irving, who wants out of Brooklyn, reports Sun Charania of Phoenix. This would be a huge boost for Ishbilia, boosting and transforming the franchise in his first week on the job.
The Suns are still getting to know their future owner, who also had 2,000 co-workers from United Wholesale Mortgage in Saturday’s game. Williams said he hasn’t been around Ischlia yet enough to make an impression, but that all he’s heard from the others has been “very solid”. Paul said he was so caught up in the game that he didn’t even notice Ishbiah sitting near the Phoenix bench until the second quarter. He spoke with Ishbala & Sons after the game.
After the Suns visited Brooklyn on Tuesday, they ended their five-game outing in Atlanta and Indiana. By the time they return to Phoenix early Saturday, their season may look different. The organization certainly will. Not that Williams worries about such things.
“My job is to coach the team,” he said. “I can’t get distracted by all this stuff. I have guys giving it away every day – games and exercises, movie sessions. For me, yeah, I talk to (General Manager) James (Jones) about things, but in terms of team training, that’s where I My focus has to remain in him.”
(Top photo by Dunder Ayton: Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images)