Kokoskov: Suns show love to Booker, not overreacting to Bender’s play
It’s safe to say Phoenix Suns coach Igor Kokoskov enters his first NBA season with his star player in a good mood.
Devin Booker secured his future with the franchise over the weekend, inking a five-year, projected $158 million contract extension to remain with Phoenix. For a franchise with few things certain in recent years, it was an unsurprising move to lock down the 21-year-old sharpshooter.
Asked to analyze such a maneuver Monday on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Bickley & Marotta, Kokoskov laid it out simply.
“My grandfather used to say, ‘Don’t tell me you love me. Show me,'” the Suns coach said. “We showed Devin how much we love him and how much we believe he is the face of the franchise.
“He’s still a young player. So much space and room for him to improve in every aspect, every part of the game.”
Booker averaged 24.9 points, 4.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game last season, his third in the NBA. After making just $3.3 million his final year of a rookie contract next season, Booker’s salary leaps to an estimated $27.3 million in 2019-20, depending on where the NBA’s salary cap is set.
No overreacting in Summer League
As rookie center Deandre Ayton took a major leap forward from his first Vegas Summer League outing to his second as the Suns beat Dallas and Sacramento to open play, second-year forward Dragan Bender remained under the microscope as the most seasoned Suns player on the roster.
Bender has yet to impress.
While his solid defense has gone under-the-radar, Bender is 2-of-12 from the field and has scored just five points over 46 minutes played over two games. He’s added eight rebounds and a team-high eight turnovers over that span.
“We’re going to continue to coach and teach and support him,” Kokoskov said Monday. “He has to play with more confidence because he’s got nothing but support coming from the Phoenix Suns organization. I wouldn’t overreact — he didn’t have the best two games of his life but that’s another reason why he’s here.
“I’m not overreacting over not-impressive game(s). He has to play the game. We can’t play the game for him.”
Second-year forward Josh Jackson will again suit up Monday night as Phoenix plays the Orlando Magic and the Suns will play his future contributions by ear moving forward.
Jackson took an elbow to his face Saturday against the Sacramento Kings but returned from a bloodied ride on the bench donning a mask.
“Unfortunately he got a couple stitches above his eye. He came back and he said, ‘I want to play’,” Kokoskov said. “He didn’t go through the training camp just to play two games.”
Jackson has gone 7-of-28 (25 percent) from the floor, scoring 22 points, grabbing six boards and recording three assists in 41 minutes through two games.