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Devin Booker’s back added to long list of injuries for young Suns star

Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker (1) reacts to a foul call in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Monday, Nov. 19, 2018, in Philadelphia. The 76ers defeated the Suns 119-114. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

PHOENIX — If you’re not concerned about the health of Phoenix Suns star guard Devin Booker, it’s time to at least take it into consideration.

The 22-year-old has been racking up appearances on the injury report since the beginning of last season, and while he’s avoided having more than one significant injury, he is venturing toward if not already on the dreaded “injury prone” label.

In the second quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Charlotte Hornets, Booker was in visible discomfort before taking himself out of the game.

He was ruled as questionable with back spasms before not returning the rest of the game.

With the back spasms, that’s now 15 occurrences of injuries listed on the injury report since the start of last season.

Booker did not practice on Monday and is questionable for Tuesday’s game against the Sacramento Kings, per Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov.

When asked if there is frustration from Booker and everyone, in general, regarding the consistent appearances on the injury report, Kokoskov denied any.

“There is no frustration — that’s just the basketball game,” he said after practice on Monday. “He has to invest a lot of time and everything else in his body and understand that he’s gotta be in top shape.”

After playing in 78 of 82 games in his second season, Booker missed 28 games last season from several of those noted injuries. Four of those were from the hip pointer, another nine were due to the adductor strain and 12 more the end of the year because of the hand.

An additional game each came from the right big toe, right rib contusion and triceps strain.

This year, he’s already in double digits to a total of 10 at the team’s halfway point of the season.

Booker missed three games this season from the initial left hamstring injury, one because of stubbing his toe and six more after re-aggravating the left hamstring.

That’s not counting the two games he exited early because of injury, either.

Booker did not speak after Sunday’s game or after practice.

Booker himself is not one to open up about the injuries to the media. He will often say they are “a part of the game” and after two weeks of obviously not playing at 100 percent coming back early from the first hamstring strain, Booker finally admitted he was a “step slow.”

In his return from the second hamstring strain, Booker said he had been playing through injuries all year and it was the best he had felt all season.

Booker has a history of doing both of those things, leading to skepticism regarding the team’s responsibility to sit the franchise star until he’s 100 percent.

Kokoskov reiterated what he has all year: that it’s not up to him and he trusts his training staff to make the call.

“I just turn around and said, ‘tell me what we’re doing,'” he said of when Booker took himself out of Sunday’s game. “I’m not pushing him to play or not to play. I trust my guys.

“He’ll tell me when he’s ready. There is no frustration. It just is what it is.”

The most surprising element of Booker’s season is how well he has played despite this. Booker’s 24.8 points per game are 13th in the NBA and his 6.9 assists per game are 11th.

Only Booker, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, James Harden and LeBron James are averaging at least 24 points and six assists per game this season, a serious plus for Booker’s All-Star case.

He’s still scoring at a high clip on relatively decent efficiency.

Booker’s 45.2 field goal percentage would be a career-high, as would his true shooting percentage of 56.3. That’s impressive considering Booker’s three-point shooting percentage has dropped off from 38.3 to 32.6, which can be attributed to the injuries and playing a large portion of his minutes as the team’s point guard.

His success, however, speaks to how much the future of the franchise rides on that. If Booker’s health has to be a question raised every season, there cannot be much confidence in the Suns winning without him.

From what the Suns and Booker say, they aren’t concerned. As Kokoskov and Booker have both said, “it is what it is.”

What it is, though, is a trend of injuries to the team’s young star the Suns gave a $158 million contract extension to. That has to be alarming on some level, whether that’s to a minor or major extent

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