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Suns 1 game away from needed All-Star break to reset, get healthy

Ricky Rubio #11 of the Phoenix Suns high fives Deandre Ayton #22 after scoring against the Houston Rockets during the second half of the NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena on February 07, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Not many teams need the upcoming All-Star break more than the Phoenix Suns.

They are down four of their five big men due to injuries, and because of various other injuries (and a suspension) throughout the season, just about everyone on the roster has had to step up in a way that wasn’t anticipated.

The Suns host the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday and then they don’t play again until Feb. 21, nine days later. Head coach Monty Williams described the break as seven days, so off that we can assume the team will be returning to normal a week after that Warriors game.

Aron Baynes was set to be re-evaluated for left hip soreness over a week ago in early February and Wednesday will be his 12th straight missed game. Dario Saric will go up to six games out due to a right ankle sprain while Frank Kaminsky will jump to 22 games out for a right patella stress fracture that was also going to see him re-evaluated earlier this month. Deandre Ayton is questionable with left ankle soreness that had him out of Monday’s loss to the Lakers.

Baynes and Kaminsky, in particular, were two players that needed to step up when Deandre Ayton was suspended, so their return will come a lot more naturally in the role they were originally designed to have at the right amount of minutes. With the timeline of those re-evaluations, it’s not off-base to assume they are close to their return. Baynes and Kaminsky have both been shooting around before the last two home games going through their pregame routines.

You can tell Williams is eager to get those guys back.

“Anytime you can get a week,” he said of the time for guys to get healthy. “I’m excited about the time off just for our guys but I’m also looking forward to getting back on the floor and making some changes and some improvements to the offense and getting better on some areas on defense but I think from a healing standpoint it’s a great time.”

Even the guys who haven’t been hurt need some time, and they look like it.

Devin Booker has combined for 31 points in his last two games. Looking back on this season and the one before to include games in which Booker hasn’t exited early due to injury, he’s only had three such back-to-back game streaks where the two outings combined for 31 points or less.

He’s been carrying this team through the lulls and injuries, at 51 games played and well on pace to play the most games he has in a season for over three years. With all of that and now through a rough couple of weeks, it’s safe to say Booker’s looking forward to the break.

As for how the star player and others approach the time off, it varies.

“Try to reset the mind for all the games and try to stay out of basketball for 3-4 days and then get back in shape,” point guard Ricky Rubio said. “It’s something that I’m looking forward (to) because (the) break will be much needed.”

Rubio’s in a unique instance where he had his first child just a few weeks ago, so that will give him some family time, and that’s easier when you don’t have to worry about work.

“Sleep and time with the baby [without] thinking like, ‘I gotta be there at that time,'” Rubio said. “Just baby schedule.”

Williams will hardly be taking a break, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who has been able to get some inklings on his personality in his first year in the Valley. He will take some days and has some family occasions to attend, but his mind will be firmly on the team, looking at film and going through other coaching work as usual.

As for the players, Williams is confident in them and how the coaching staff will keep them engaged to come back for the last 27 games in the right mindset.

“All of our coaches do a really good job of touching all of our players,” he said. “You’ve got to give them time to decompress but we want our guys to stay sharp. You can’t take seven days off. You’ll be fried when you get back and we get in the gym and start hitting it hard.

“You’ve got to teach the younger guys how to attack this type of All-Star break.”


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