Witnessing the rise of Devin Booker has been one of the few things Phoenix Suns fans have been able to cheer for this season. The promising 21-year-old guard has looked like a superstar in the making and part of the reconstruction process for a Suns team that hasn’t been to the playoffs in eight years.
That process hit a bump in the road in Tuesday night’s 126-113 loss to the Toronto Raptors, when he left the game in the fourth quarter with a strained left abductor. On Wednesday morning, he was caught by TMZ cameras riding in a wheelchair with a pair of crutches on his lap. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the injury could potentially keep him out of action for “two-to-three weeks”.
Suns: Devin Booker expected to miss two-to-three weeks with left adductor strain.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 6, 2017
The 9-17 record doesn’t reflect the improvements the Suns have shown as a team, particularly in their last three games.
Booker’s 46-point performance lifted them past the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday. That game came after he dropped 38 points and nearly stole a win on the road against the Boston Celtics. He had 19 points against the Raptors before the injury ended his night.
There is no replacement for the kind of production he offers the Suns on a nightly basis. He’s averaging 24.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game, which are all career highs. An upcoming slate of games, which includes home games against the Washington Wizards, San Antonio Spurs and Raptors would have been hard enough to win with him in the lineup. They’ll be even tougher with him watching from the sidelines.
Fortunately for the Suns, there were never any playoff expectations at the beginning of the season. They are a young team working to put the pieces together and potentially make a run in the future.
“It’s tough, because with the young team, we put so much work in out here,” Booker told ESPN’s Nick Friedell in November. “People don’t realize how talented the NBA is. So if you don’t have a lot of experience in this league it’s hard to be a good team. People are saying, ‘What are the Suns doing?’ and this and that. For us, we have to keep developing, and we know that. We have a really good young core that is competing against grown men. The Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, teams that have been together for five, 10-plus years. So I think we’re right on track, honestly.”
These next few weeks will give the rest of the team a chance to develop an identity. It’s hard to figure out what that is when one player is capable of scoring nearly half the team’s points.
Without Booker on the floor, we’ll learn more about this Suns team than we have all season.