EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Suns come back from ‘needed’ break; De’Anthony Melton set to return

Feb 20, 2019, 12:55 PM | Updated: 2:53 pm
Phoenix Suns guard De'Anthony Melton (14) looks to pass the ball to a teammate during the first hal...
Phoenix Suns guard De'Anthony Melton (14) looks to pass the ball to a teammate during the first half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)
(AP Photo/Doug McSchooler)

PHOENIX — The All-Star break is a much-needed pause for every NBA team, but there aren’t many that needed it more than the Phoenix Suns.

Losers of their last 15 and having picked up wins in only two of their previous 24 games, the Suns spoke Wednesday after practice like a group that was glad to have the intermission.

“We needed this,” Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov said. “Emotionally, physically, mentally — just to escape and come back and regroup ourselves.”

Devin Booker was a bit busier during the break.

He will be the first guy speak of the honor and fun in participating during All-Star Weekend, but with the big stage also comes a weekend bouncing around from location to location, availability to availability and appearance to appearance.

“I had to do All-Star Weekend — that wasn’t that fun,” he said. “That’s always hectic, but being back here, back in my own bed at least for one night was nice, but we’re back to work.”

Booker placed fourth in the 3-Point Contest on Saturday night and joked he was able to catch a little bit of a tan during the break.

As Booker would point out, the Suns also return from the time off at a fortunate point in their run of games.

They play in Cleveland (12-46) on Thursday and then travel to Atlanta (19-39) for a Saturday tip-off.

It’s a promising two-game run to get back on track, or at least end the losing streak.

“Fresh start. We have a stretch of games, very winnable games for us,” Booker said. “Cleveland, Atlanta, Miami so we’re about to go out east for the last time and hopefully [we’re going to] come out with some big wins.”

MELTON SET TO RETURN

The break was also fortunate for the Suns because they’ve been without starters De’Anthony Melton and T.J. Warren due to injury.

A bone bruise in Warren’s right ankle will still have him out on Thursday for the 11th straight game, but Melton is going to be back playing, albeit in an unconventional way.

Melton will go to the team’s G League affiliate in Prescott Valley on Wednesday night to get some run and then fly to Cleveland to be with the team and play on Thursday.

Melton missed nine games due to a right ankle sprain.

“I feel pretty good,” he said. “I’m gonna use this game to get up and down, play, get a feel, use my teammates and everything out there. I’m excited to play and get back.”

Both Kokoskov and Melton would not say whether Melton starts on Thursday. The acquisition of guard Tyler Johnson, of course, adds a question to whether or not Johnson or Melton is the team’s starting point guard going forward.

“It’s gonna be really good,” Booker said of Melton’s return. “I think it’s gonna be that presence at point guard that can guard. He’s long, lanky, he can disrupt other point guards but he’s still learning.”

CHRISS AND KNIGHT ON THE MOVE AGAIN

The game on Thursday will be the first real opportunity for former Suns Marquese Chriss and Brandon Knight to face off with the Suns since they were dealt on Aug. 31.

Chriss and Knight were originally traded to Houston, but at the trade deadline were both shipped out to the Cavaliers.

After both struggled to get minutes for the Rockets, Cleveland has been giving the duo real playing time.

“I’m excited for them,” Booker said. “They weren’t getting an opportunity in Houston and now they’re both getting an opportunity in Cleveland.”

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