Suns’ Jay Triano: I want Devin Booker, T.J. Warren to play
PHOENIX — On the surface, it makes sense.
With 10 games remaining and no chance at the playoffs, maybe the Phoenix Suns should consider shutting down their two best players — guard Devin Booker and forward T.J. Warren — for the rest of the season. Both of whom are injured, by the way.
“It’s not my plan, at all. I want them to play,” interim head coach Jay Triano said Wednesday. “I keep saying, our coaches and our players, I want to play right through the end here. I think that’s what professionals do. So if they’re healthy and they can come back, I want them back.”
Booker and Warren both missed the Detroit game.
Booker has now missed two straight and three of the last five games overall because of injury, the latest being a right hand sprain. Warren, meanwhile, is dealing with left knee inflammation, the result of a non-contact injury suffered late in a loss to Golden State March 17.
Neither practiced on Wednesday.
The Suns don’t play again until Friday, when they visit Cleveland.
“I’m just guessing. I would think that T.J. is doubtful and Booker is probably questionable,” Triano said.
Asked whether he thought it might be best to call it a season, Booker, who leads the Suns in scoring and is second in assists, made it clear that is not part of his thinking.
“Like I’ve always said, I love the game of basketball. Those decisions aren’t up to me, so I control what I control. If I feel I’m healthy to play, I’m going to play,” he said.
It was the Suns’ decision to hold Booker out of Wednesday’s practice to avoid any hits to the hand.
“Every time it gets hit, it sets him back a day,” Triano said. “We actually asked him to stay out of drills today. He’s tried to practice and he’s tried to warm-up before games. I’ve asked him to stay away where it can’t get bumped. You know, a coach will throw a pass and he’ll catch it a funny way and it’ll splay the finger again. We’re just trying to not let that happen.”
Booker has been told that if he does play, then he must wear a splint on the hand. It makes shooting difficult, but not impossible. It’s a comfort factor more than anything else. Booker just needs to get adjusted to the ball coming out of his hand with his pinky and ring finger taped together.
The hope is that with two days of rest and continuing treatment Booker may be back on the court sooner rather than later, perhaps even Friday.
“That’s the plan,” he said. “I want to play in every game possible, especially one of those games. Going against LeBron and Cleveland in Cleveland would be a fun game.”
Just 3:30 into the third quarter of Tuesday’ 115-88 loss to the Pistons, Triano made a substitution. He removed starting point guard Elfrid Payton in favor of Tyler Ulis.
Payton had blown two defensive assignments plus turned the ball over, and despite Payton recording back-to-back assists to Alex Len — the second of which trimmed the Suns’ deficit to seven — Triano had seen enough.
“Obviously no one wants to get pulled but I understand what he’s trying to do,” Payton said, following practice Wednesday. “Maybe he’s trying to set an example for the other guys and if it has to be me, it’s cool. For me, if I can be an example for the team to make the team better, so be it.”
Accountability is important to Triano, and this season he has not been afraid to bench players who aren’t getting the job done.
Payton, who didn’t re-enter the game until the fourth quarter and finished with just 22 minutes played, welcomes such actions.
“If you want to be good in this league there has to be a sense of accountability and then once you get that, then you start holding yourself accountable and players hold other players accountable and then I think that’s when you have a really special team,” he said.
“When players are holding players accountable — and the coach doesn’t have to do things like that — and your teammates are on you, you don’t want to let down your teammates. I think we got kind of a long way to go to get there but definitely a start. I’m rocking with Jay, so to speak. I like him. I think he’s a great coach. So, (getting pulled) wasn’t a problem.”
‘Big Sauce’ update
While his teammates enjoy the night off, center Alan Williams will be suiting up for the Northern Arizona Suns, the Suns’ G League affiliate.
The plan is for Williams to play three games in Prescott. “That’s kind of his preseason,” Triano said.
Williams could make his Suns season debut next week.
“It’s tough when you sit out a full year, so I think having a couple of games (there) and a couple of games with the Suns, just get that drive back and maybe it’s motivation for the summer, maybe it gives him a benchmark of what he needs to do this summer to continue to improve as a player,” Triano said.