All-Star Saturday – Suns Centered View

Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports /

This is a Suns centered view on the events of the All-Star Saturday. How should Suns fans feel about the outcomes?

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Quick note about the dunk contest. It was a great one, and the highlights are worth watching. I won’t address that contest below.

Skills Contest:

This event didn’t have any Suns, but it had two players we should root against: Jordan Clarkson of the Los Angeles Lakers, and Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics.

You shouldn’t need an explanation of why we’re rooting against these guys but here is a quick one: I don’t want to see even the slightest bright spot in the Lakers season. I hope Clarkson finishes last (he lost in the first round), Kobe goes out and shoots 2-20 in just 8 minutes of play in the All-Star Game, and then the Lakers come out and play .500 down the stretch, finishing with the 4th worst record, and sending that pick to the Philadelphia 76’ers.

Enough on of the Lakers hate for now (although that did feel good).

Rooting against Isiah Thomas is kind of like rooting against your college roommate that wanted to start a business together. You’ll be OK if he succeeds, but if that company becomes Go Pro, you’re going to be pissed.

Round 1 overview:

  • Jordan Clarkson out, Thomas advances.

Round 2 overview:

  • Isiah Thomas over C.J. McMollum easily.
  • Karl Anthony-Towns over Demarcus Cousins easily.

Finals overview:

Tough matchup for Towns, but he was very sharp in the first two rounds.

In a great final, both players nailed all early sections. They were in a virtual tie heading into the three-pointer. After several misses by both sides, Towns nailed the three and took down Thomas. I’ll consider that a victory for the Suns.

As I write this, the All-Star weekend is taking a break for commercials and music. Instead of watching this, I’d like to highlight something from last night: Devin Booker’s performance in the Rising Stars Challenge. I initially planned to make this a full article – especially after the first half. However, given the flood of Booker articles recently, I want to consolidate. Here were my notes though:

It was very promising to see such a strong performance out of Devin Booker, especially in that environment.

Given his age (turned 19 in October), it should not be a surprise Booker has struggled on the road (aka new environments). Over his last 15 games, he has a -8.9 net rating at Home, and a -18.7 on the Road. Coming out strong with 18 in the first half was a great sign. He seems to be getting more comfortable under the spot light.

Three-Point Shooting Contest

Very tough group of shooters in this contest.

Klay Thompson – started quickly and scored 22 in the first round.

James Harden – showed he can score without fouls. 20.

J.J. Redick – Put up a perfect rack to start. After just 4 points in the second and third rack combined, he gets another perfect rack on the 4th rack. Finishes with 20. These shooters came out hot – if I was Booker, I’d be hoping for a weak round by Middleton here.

Khris Middleton – Never got it going, finishes with just 13. Booker should take a breath and relax. There was an extended commercial break before Booker’s turn.

Devin Booker – With the top three advancing, it was clear for Booker – less than 20, and he is out. More than 20, and he is in great shape.

Booker came out slow, and the announcers kept talking about his nerves. Half way through his run they’re talking as if he should just be happy to be here. Booker has 12 points with 4 shots remaining – all money balls. One miss and he loses.

Devin Booker showed the poise and the love for the big moment. Booker drains all 4 to move into a tie for second with Harden and Redick. Great show by the rookie!

C.J.McCollum – 14

Kyle Lowry – Local favorite puts up 15.

Steph Curry – Luckily this man can’t eliminate Booker in round 1, but it is scary stuff. Curry misses his first 3 before making the 4th then the money ball. 7 points through two racks.

Curry makes 11 straight in the middle, before missing 4 in a row. With just 4 seconds left, he needs both money balls to advance. To no real surprise, and the Suns disappointment, Curry drains both. Ends with 21.

This means a 30 second tie-breaker between Booker, Harden, and Redick. Only 1 advances.

Harden – gets hot on the second rack, but ends with 8 total.

Redick – put up 8 on the first rack, and just 1 on the next two racks. 9 total.

Booker – What a performance by Booker – he hits big shots and finishes with 12 to reach the final.

In the final, Booker had to go first and just didn’t hit enough of a rhythm. Despite a respectable 16, Booker stood little chance with the Splash Brothers up next. They didn’t let up, and Steph Curry’s 23 was only good enough for 2nd behind Klay Thompson’s 27.

Overview on Booker

In a packed field of sharp shooters, Devin Booker went head-to-head with the best and held his own. As a 19-year-old rookie, he out performed James Harden and J.J. Redick.

Harden can say he is much more than a shooter, gets his points other ways, etc. However, Redick is a shooter. He has developed his game, but he made his name on his shot.

To out shoot a shooter on the national stage is a great accomplishment. Booker might not have had enough to take the title tonight, but he established himself as a contender.

Curry and Thompson better watch out – Booker is going to have the entire offseason to practice, without the temptation of going to bars or clubs. I’ve personally felt it is actually an advantage for a young player to get into the league before turning 21.

Obviously they can/will still drink and party and do whatever rich people do. I’m not sure exactly what that is, but it seems fun. But being under 21 at least acts as a barrier to that life style. If I got paid millions for the first time in my life when I was 21, I’d probably have gone missing for 3 months, minimum.

Devin Booker should go into this offseason hungry. He scored 18 in first half of the Rising Star Challenge, but was an afterthought in the second half. He out dueled Redick and Harden, only to be a footnote in the final.

Booker’s career has been filed with near greatness. He was on the Kentucky Wildcats team that started 38-0, only to lose in the final 4. That team is still great, but….

If Booker leaves this weekend feeling that same way – thinking to himself: ‘it was great to perform well, but….’ – it should fuel his offseason. He has shown that he can be great – now he needs to earn that greatness.

It is also time for the Suns to show their belief in Booker, and clear the space in the rotation for him to shine.