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Suns’ Kokoskov all-in on Ayton; Booker’s injury ‘nothing major’

Phoenix Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov watches as guard Devin Booker (1) takes himself out of the game after an injury during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

The Phoenix Suns were 5-2 in their last seven games coming into this latest homestand, with one of those wins being over the Celtics in Boston and one of those losses being to the Wizards in triple overtime on the road.

The current seven-game homestand has been a complete 180 from the success of mid to late December.

The Suns are currently 0-6 on the seven-game homestand thus far, with the final game being Tuesday night against the Kings.

“After a pretty decent road trip that we had a couple wins playing away, coming back home wasn’t fun,” Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov said Tuesday on Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

“The fun is winning games in this league.”

To the Suns credit, six of the seven games on the homestand were against current playoff teams, five of which have top-10 records in the entire NBA.

“Think about the teams that we played,” Kokoskov said.

“We played some of the top teams in the West and then Philadelphia, who is a pretty decent team too. Again, no excuses. … It’s tricky. Did you play bad or did they make you look bad? Effort isn’t good enough. We have to play well on both sides of the court.”

Adding to the Suns’ struggles this season, Devin Booker has now sustained an injury that has him listed as questionable for Tuesday night’s game against the Kings.

“At this moment, I don’t know,” the first-year head coach said. “He has to go through a regular morning meeting with the training staff. … He’s questionable for tonight’s game. … It’s nothing major.”

Should Booker be out, the attention will focus to the first overall pick of the 2018 draft, rookie Deandre Ayton.

“He’s our guy,” Kokoskov said. “That’s our present. That’s our future. I strongly believe in that.”

Ayton is the only player on the team that averages a double-double with 16.7 points and 10.7 rebounds per game.

He leads the team in all rebounding categories, total minutes played (1,282) and games started (40), while his points per game and field goal percentage (60.6) rank second on the team.

Ayton is also tied for the team lead in games played (41) and is third on the team for average minutes played per game (31.3).

Should Booker be out of the lineup, Ayton and company will have to step up to replace Booker’s team-leading points per game (24.8) and assists per game (6.9).

“I think he is a competitor,” Kokoskov said about Ayton. “He wants to win. We have to find a way to help him. We can’t put everything on one guy.”

The Suns host the Kings tonight at 7:00 p.m. Listen live on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.


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