Phoenix Suns Without All-Star Guard Again As They Host Knicks

Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns, Devin Booker (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The NBA’s coronavirus crisis seems to be far from over. It’s been over two years since the global pandemic began, and even though most cities have alleviated their restrictions, the echo of the disease still lingers on. While most leagues have shortened players’ paths to returning to their teams after testing positive – COVID-19 is still putting organizations, professional athletes and literally every and anyone else through the wringer.

Phoenix Suns’ guard, Devin Booker, is the latest to enter the league’s health and safety protocols and is slated to miss his second straight game. After being ruled out just hours before Wednesday’s game – Booker’s absence proved to be minimal as the Suns dismantled the Trail Blazers, who were also missing key contributors, 120-90.

News of Booker’s status for tonight’s game against the New York Knicks broke yesterday which would explain him not attending Thursday’s practice. In order to rejoin his teammates on the court, Booker will first need to have two negative tests in a row, at least 24 hours apart while also not showing any symptoms.

Booker reenters the health and safety protocols — as he tested positive just before training camp – rejoining a list that has featured many of his teammates. Deandre Ayton, Jae Crowder, JaVale McGee & Landry Shamet are just a few of the players that the Suns have had enter the league’s COVID protocols. All of whom entered within a span of just three weeks after the emergence of the Omicron variant.

“We’ve dealt with challenges all year,” said Suns coach Monty Williams in a recent press conference. He went on to say that his team’s recent struggles are “just another one of them”

Coach Williams isn’t wrong. This season has presented some turbulence. Whether it’s losing multiple players and even a head coach to COVID protocols or Chris Paul to a thumb injury suffered right before All-Star weekend – the road to 50 wins hasn’t been the easiest. Also, while the Knicks have struggled to win this season, they can still present a problem to the diminished Suns roster. However, there are ways to come out of tonight’s matchup on top.

What Can the Phoenix Suns Phoenix Do to Help Them Win?

We’ve already witnessed how effective the Suns reserve backcourt was against the Trail Blazers and while it doesn’t measure close to the real thing, they’ll need to do their best impersonation yet again.

On Wednesday, they combined for 28 points, 17 of which came from starters Cameron Payne and Landry Shamet. The bunch also accounted for 18 assists as Aaron Holiday came off the bench to lead the team with 9.

For Phoenix, finding their stride early and hanging on for as long as possible will prove to be helpful. In New York’s recent outing against the Philadelphia 76ers, they fizzled after the first half. This led to the Knicks facing a 19-point deficit heading into the fourth quarter, resulting in a 123-108 road loss for New York.

Taking care of the ball and executing their designed plays will have to be priority number one for them offensively. Turnovers will surely hurt the Suns, who turned over the ball 16 times on Wednesday versus Portland.

They will also need scorers like Deandre Ayton (16.5 ppg) and Cameron Johnson, who recorded his ninth 20-point game this season on Wednesday, to chip in off the bench as well. This doesn’t exclude veteran forward Jae Crowder, who has averaged 15 points, 2.6 rebounds and 1.2 assists in his last five games against New York..

Without Devin Booker, who finished the last game against New York with 32 points, the Suns will have to find ways to unclog the paint. Efficiently moving the ball and knocking down shots can help them draw the Knicks out of the post. Building upon their shooting performance from Wednesday’s game will be in the Suns’ best interest.

The Suns’ defense will have to win the battle under the basket and grab as many rebounds as they can. In their last meeting on Nov. 26, New York outrebounded Phoenix, hauling in 51 total rebounds to Phoenix’s 35.

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At the end of the day, this will truly be a team effort as the Suns try to hang on until their leader scorer and veteran floor general return. Luckily, New York has been on a roll, and not in a good way. Of their last 11 games, the Knicks have lost ten, heading into tonight’s game with a 6-game losing streak that Phoenix looks to turn into 7.