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Suns’ Jackson will start vs. Wizards in place of injured Booker

Detroit Pistons guard Ish Smith (14) is fouled by Phoenix Suns forward Josh Jackson (20) while driving to the basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017 in Detroit. The Pistons defeated the Suns 131-107. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
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Suns rookie Josh Jackson will replace Devin Booker in the starting lineup Thursday against the Washington Wizards, interim coach Jay Triano told reporters after shootaround.

Booker is expected to miss two to three weeks after suffering a strained left adductor on Tuesday in a loss at Toronto.

Jackson’s move into the starting lineup makes for his fifth start this season. He began the year as a starting forward as then-coach Earl Watson used a small-ball lineup that also included T.J. Warren and center Tyson Chandler in the frontcourt.

“Tonight it’s just another opportunity to come out there and learn, get some extra minutes, and hopefully we can still try to get the win today even though our best player’s out,” Jackson said.

“The plays that we run, the 2 and the 3 are very, very similar,” he added. “It doesn’t change too much.”

Jackson, the fourth overall pick out of Kansas, is averaging 9.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game. He is shooting 39 percent overall and 24 percent from three-point range.

Triano hopes the move aligns with the team’s emphasis to improve defensively.

“I think that makes us long: Him at the 2, T.J. at the 3, Marquese (Chriss) at the 4. We have to play and use our length to our advantage and be scrappy as heck at the defensive end, and hopefully it turns into easy baskets going the other way,” Triano said. “We have our sets that are our slasher and cutter sets, and we’ll have to obviously and expand on that a little bit.

“We drafted Josh to be a defender and he’s going to have a huge challenge right off the bat in guarding Bradley Beal, who’s coming off (scoring) 51 points (against the Blazers on Tuesday). It may be something we change going game to game.”

Phoenix’s wing depth has taken a hit in the past two days with Booker’s injury combined with the release of Derrick Jones Jr., who was let go to open up a roster spot for point guard Mike James. James’ two-way contract ended on Thursday and he signed a standard deal for the remainder of the season.

The Suns still have shooter Troy Daniels backing up Jackson, but Jackson’s minutes are likely to increase from the 21.5 averaged per game through 26 outings so far.

James, fellow point guard Tyler Ulis and forward Jared Dudley could also see an uptick in minutes.

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