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Suns’ Booker selected to replace Lillard for NBA All-Star Game, 3-point contest

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker, left, posts up against Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Monday, Dec. 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker will be an NBA All-Star in 2020 after all.

The NBA announced Thursday that the fifth-year pro will make his first All-Star appearance Sunday as an injury replacement for Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, who suffered a groin injury on Wednesday. Commissioner Adam Silver made the pick and had to choose a player from the Western Conference to replace Lillard.

Booker will also replace Lillard in the three-point contest.

John Gambadoro of 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station first reported Booker’s invite and acceptance.

At the festivities in Chicago this weekend, Booker will join Team LeBron, which will be coached by Frank Vogel. The squad features starters LeBron James and Anthony Davis of the Lakers, the Rockets’ James Harden, the Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard and the Mavericks’ Luka Doncic.

Lillard did some PR work for Booker on Wednesday after suffering an injury, naming the Suns guard as a deserving candidate while talking about his unlikely appearance during the All-Star weekend.

“Unfortunately I had to be the fall guy,” Lillard told reporters after the Blazers’ last game. “Hopefully Devin Booker or somebody like that’ll get the spot.”

That vote of confidence got Silver’s stamp of approval.

Booker was widely viewed as a snub when the All-Star reserves were announced on Jan. 30. Lillard, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook and Donovan Mitchell were selected as the perimeter reserves for the Western Conference. At the time, Booker was averaging 27.1 points and 6.4 assists per game while shooting 51% from the field.

Two weeks later, he’s averaging 26.4 points and 6.3 assists per game on 49.6% shooting.

As of Wednesday night after the Suns’ win over the Golden State Warriors, Booker planned on spending the week-plus off resting and spending time with his family.

“That’s on everybody else. I don’t get my hopes up,” he said. “Imma go home with my family, sit down.

“(The) plan is to take off tomorrow morning to my off-the-grid destination, so we’ll see.”

Now, it’s a change of plans. Booker is the first Phoenix representative in the All-Star contest since point guard Steve Nash made the team in 2012.

He will come off the bench along with Paul of the Thunder, Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, Sixers point-forward Ben Simmons, Pacers big man Domantas Sabonis, Celtics wing Jayson Tatum and Westbrook of the Rockets. The All-Star contest will tip at 4 p.m. Sunday.

In the three-point contest, Booker will face the Wizards’ Davis Bertans, the Hornets’ Devonte’ Graham, the Nets’ Joe Harris, the Kings’ Buddy Hield, the Bulls’ Zach LaVine, the Heat’s Duncan Robinson and the Hawks’ Trae Young. The three-point contest will take place Saturday at about 7 p.m.

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