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Suns preach pick-up points; Booker excited for new practice facility

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker motions to a teammate after a basket during the first half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — Self-improvement continues to be the Phoenix Suns’ priority.

First-year coach Monty Williams is making sure to spend as much time as he can building upon the training camp talking points that he hopes can create a winning culture. Ten games into the season and with six wins already, effort issues haven’t cropped up.

But the nuances of out-of-bounds sets, two-for-one philosophies and, most importantly, establishing themselves in the first few minutes of each game remains a work-in-progress.

“Teaching off of a loss has been good for us,” Williams said of the work done after Phoenix fell to the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday.

As Phoenix readied to host the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday at Talking Stick Resort Arena, Williams was also using the gameplan to touch on culture-building basketball things.

Facing explosive second-year scorer Trae Young, first on the docket was “pick-up points.” That is, where the Suns must be sure to pick up players on the defensive end when opponents cross halfcourt.

It’s a reason the team has used a four-point line in past practices.

“The four-point line helps you from a reference point, where to pick up guys like Trae and (Damian) Lillard and Steph Curry. Now those guys are extending it so we may have to come up with a six-point line here soon because they’re just shooting shots way past the normal, traditional NBA three.”

Young, the fifth overall pick from the 2019 NBA Draft, hasn’t taken long to establish himself as one of the best deep-range shooters in the league.

Take a look at his shotchart through Atlanta’s 4-6 start to the season even next to Suns guard Devin Booker’s, and how unique he is compared to another sniper stands out.

The Hawks point guard is averaging 28 points and 8.7 assists per game. He’s shooting 46% overall and 40% on threes while taking 9.1 threes per game.

Young has scored 30 or more points in five of the Hawks’ 10 games, including a 42-point road outburst on Tuesday in Atlanta’s 125-121 win over a 7-3 Denver Nuggets squad. His wild statistics are arguably misleading.

A scary ankle injury robbed Young of all but 11 minutes in an Oct. 29 game against Miami. He’s only produced one clunker, a nine-point performance in a loss to the Chicago Bulls a week back.

With Hawks power forward John Collins suspended 25 games for illegal substance use, 2014 No. 2 overall pick Jabari Parker is having a career resurrection, averaging 17.8 points as his team’s second-leading scorer.

No other Hawk is averaging double-figures.

It’s mostly on Young to score and to create. Point being, the Suns better be on top of their pick-up points and moving on a string when Young operates on off-ball screens.

Booker pumped for new practice digs

Booker has been involved in the planning process of the team’s new practice facility that broke ground in the Biltmore area on Wednesday.

From the proximity to many of the players’ homes to the amenities that could make it first-class — including a barbershop and golf simulator — Booker said he feels it has to do with a cultural change around Phoenix.

There’s also something else.

“I think it’s going to give us a fresh feeling when we come to the arena,” he said. “You’re not stepping into the arena every day so gameday feels like practice. Every time you come down to the arena, I think it’s going to be a fresh feeling, a fresh energy.”

“I didn’t make no interior design inputs, but I was there for a lot of the conversation through it. It’s a very exciting time in this city. I see a transformation coming, not only with that but in-house here with the organization.”

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