Suns GM: All-Star rejection is another motivator for Devin Booker

Jan 31, 2020, 9:35 AM | Updated: 10:28 am
Phoenix Suns general manager James Jones speaks to the media regarding the firing of Suns head coac...
Phoenix Suns general manager James Jones speaks to the media regarding the firing of Suns head coach Igor Kokoskov, Wednesday, April 24, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

A press release by the Phoenix Suns followed the news that Devin Booker was not among the 2020 NBA All-Star Game reserves.

“I’ve played with and against multiple All-Stars in this league and Devin Booker is undoubtedly an NBA All Star,” Suns general manager James Jones said in a written statement that reached reporters’ emails Thursday night.

That was the entirety of the message’s body.

An hour earlier, after the All-Star teams were formally announced on a TNT broadcast, the team’s Twitter account posted the same statement that’s received more than 1,400 retweets and 7,300 likes.

All that is to say the Suns weren’t pleased with NBA coaches, who pick the seven All-Star reserves in each conference, for leaving out Booker.

On Friday morning, Jones joined Doug & Wolf on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station adding context to his statement.

He’s looking ahead.

“It’s been a tremendous year. Devin’s had an awesome year,” Jones said. “He’s been really, really good for us, especially the last few weeks. It’s just disappointing when a guy plays at the level at which he’s playing and he doesn’t get the recognition he deserves. That’s the way it goes. We’ll move forward and he’ll keep pushing.

“I’m expecting Devin to take another jump and go to another level. I don’t place any limits on the kid,” Jones added. “If this is one of those motivating factors for him, which I know it will be, it’s all good on our end.”

Booker is averaging 27.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game while shooting 51% from the field.

Only Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Oscar Robertson and Larry Bird have finished a full season averaging better than 27.0 points and 6.0 assists per game while shooting 50% or better from the field.

Those numbers, according to ESPN analyst and former NBA executive Bobby Marks, made it appear that Booker was a shoo-in for his first All-Star berth. Instead, Marks thought Booker had an argument to make the team over the Houston Rockets’ Russell Westbrook, who put together a strong January after struggling to integrate with teammate James Harden and his new squad.

“We get caught up in numbers, certainly, and you know, I think people forget the All-Star process should start when the season starts in mid-October to the end of January,” Marks told Doug & Wolf earlier Friday. “That’s my big takeaway. I think we have to look at the body of work of these players.

“If it’s not now (for Booker), like, when is it? What else does a guy need to do here. That’s my argument for Devin over Russ.”

Marks believes Phoenix’s record (20-27) might have played a role in the snub. He also has seen first-hand working for the Nets that coaches, who cannot vote for their own players, instead vote for players who aren’t All-Star worthy.

Wizards guard Bradley Beal, who is averaging 28.7 points and 6.4 assists for the Washington Wizards (16-31), was a notable Eastern Conference absentee for the All-Star game.

He called his own snub disrespectful, while his agent spoke on the concerning trend that leaving out players like Beal and Booker could cause.

“It can’t be just about the gross numbers of wins and losses,” Beal’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, told ESPN’s Tim Bontemps. “It has to be, ‘What is your impact on the game?’ And so I think the coaches are sending a horrible message to players, that if you want to be loyal and go through the tough times in your organization, you’re not going to be an All-Star in those tough times.”

Jones believes that is more of a public narrative: the worry that players like Booker and Beal might force their way out of smaller markets and tough situations.

The general manager is not bogged down in the negatives. He believes Booker can keep ascending — the situation is disappointing but not so dire.

“(Booker took the news) in his usual, stoic manner,” Jones said. “Devin is extremely competitive and he’s prideful. He takes pride in competing and performing for his team. He takes it in stride knowing that he just has to continue to prove himself because that’s what he’s been doing since Day 1 in the NBA.

“You knew that he was anxiously awaiting the opportunity to become an All-Star. I can guarantee you … it’s just another opportunity to compete and prove people wrong. That’s all he wants to do and that’s all he’s ever done.”

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