EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Devin Booker snub continues Suns’ uphill battle for relevance, respect

Jan 30, 2020, 5:15 PM | Updated: Jan 31, 2020, 1:42 pm
Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns walks on the court during the first half of the NBA game agains...
Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns walks on the court during the first half of the NBA game against the Orlando Magic at Talking Stick Resort Arena on January 10, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Magic 98-94. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The one thing that the Phoenix Suns and their fans have had going for them over the last five years is Devin Booker.

That’s it. Really. Try and think of something else. Just about anything besides Booker has turned the franchise into a black hole of anger and despair since he arrived, which is supremely unfair to his talents as a basketball player.

In that way, Booker has been the lone champion of not only holding up an organization on his own, but representing them as well. That is why it is both disappointing and infuriating to see Booker not get his beyond well-deserved nod of his first All-Star appearance.

Booker has progressed from one of everyone’s favorite young players on the rise to one of the league’s best young players to one of its stars.

The last stage mentioned of that transformation started shifting two years ago, when I wrote that Booker deserved to be in the All-Star Game. 

The same case was there last year as it was then, but the Suns’ win total before the All-Star break of 18 and 11, respectively, didn’t give his case any legitimacy to even get to the numbers to make a compelling argument. Eyeballs not primarily in Phoenix needed a year or two to recalibrate too, and properly see Booker for the player he was and has now become.

And that was fine. But with the Suns finally on an upswing, headed for a season of 25 wins or more for the first time since Booker was at Kentucky, this was his time to get the national recognition and respect that comes with making the All-Star Game. That’s especially considering the opening left by injuries to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Alas, it looks like Russell Westbrook was the one to take his spot, a former league MVP and now nine-time All-Star. Since the move to Houston, Westbrook is long gone from his dominant form, and has been borderline average in many cases for the Rockets. When media members were conglomerating on their columns and podcasts to carve out their own rosters, Westbrook didn’t even make the discussion for most. He was an afterthought in that regard.

But players that reach Westbrook’s level get that aforementioned respect to the highest degree, obtaining a couple more nods here and there that they don’t deserve due to past precedent.

It’s really quite exhausting to rant on the responsibility coaches hold in voting for the reserves, and the 20 minutes of work they clearly didn’t put in if they actually researched the far superior numbers Booker held to Westbrook. We won’t go down that road, but I’ll just quickly state that a majority of these coaches have played both the Rockets and Suns this year, and for some of them to think Westbrook is the better player still is asinine. That’s the presumed conclusion they had to of gotten to here because any other case besides purely disqualifying Booker for win totals is the only logical ending.

Again, too tiring to even explore Booker being a better player (and shooting guard) than Donovan Mitchell, who also got voted in over him.

We already know why this happened.

Most of the league and the people who cover it do not care about the Suns, with good reason because of that whole aforementioned bit on not winning 25 games since 2015. That brings with it both a detachment from them in traditional basketball conversations and the need for the Suns to earn that back. And they haven’t. Until they do, things like Booker missing the All-Star Game are going to happen, just like when he probably doesn’t make an All-NBA team for this season when he’s the second-best shooting guard on the planet.

In the grand scheme of everything, this speaks to the battle that head coach Monty Williams and general manager James Jones had to brace for when they took their jobs and will have to continue to fight. Williams didn’t even want to discuss the lengths he went to in talking to other coaches about Booker’s worthiness, only going as far to say it was “a lot” of campaigning. He knew he had to.

The good news is the Suns are trending in the right direction, headed for their best season in half-a-decade through mostly young talent.

The bad news is the one person primarily responsible for this is not getting rewarded and spotlighted on a national scale for doing so, all while he was in the black hole of anger and despair with us.

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