DAN BICKLEY

Devin Booker being an All-Star helps bring needed relief to Suns

Feb 13, 2020, 6:47 PM
Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns during the NBA game against the Sacramento Kings at Talking Sti...
Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns during the NBA game against the Sacramento Kings at Talking Stick Resort Arena on January 07, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Kings defeated the Suns 114-103. The Kings defeated the Suns 114-103. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Suns have won the lottery twice in two years. Here’s their latest victory:

Devin Booker is both a victim and an All-Star. He was rejected and snubbed by Western Conference coaches. And he ended up on the team anyway, claiming a spot when one of his biggest supporters (Damian Lillard) got hurt in the waning moments of Wednesday’s game.

In the end, Booker gets a much-deserved reward. A decade from now, when you need two hands to count Booker’s All-Star appearances, no one will remember the first came with an asterisk.

It also means Booker will always remember that he was done dirty by opposing coaches in his own conference. Like all the great professional athletes, he will harbor a grudge and harvest it for its fuel. And Booker is especially dangerous in this arena.

Players who announce their grudges rarely make good on their proclamations, like former Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen. The most ruthless professionals keep that stuff to themselves, where no one can see the damage that’s been done or the damage that’s about to be unleashed.

Booker is clearly in the latter category. He was deeply wounded by the original All-Star omission. You could see it in his face and hear it in his voice. He spoke about losing his love for the NBA.

The next day, he shut down all questions on the subject.

There’s a reason why Warriors coach Steve Kerr made it clear to the media on Wednesday that he voted for Booker. He didn’t want that snub on his record. He understands how fury and wrath plays out on a basketball court. He was Michael Jordan’s teammate.

This is a big moment in the Valley. We are a sports market that understands injustice on a very personal level. But rarely does a wrong get righted in these parts. That’s what happened here. And just like the draft lottery triumph in May 2018, consider this proof that our fortunes might be changing.

Booker was already vindicated by his peers, the ones who flashed outrage when the Suns star wasn’t among the seven reserves named for the Western Conference All-Stars. Lillard went so far as to endorse Booker when announcing his injury withdrawal on Wednesday, a great show of respect from one of the game’s most dynamic players.

But seeing him perform this weekend will be special. He shines on the biggest stages. He’s already won a 3-point shooting contest. He scored 70 in Boston. He might tear down the house. Either way, this will be a proud moment for all of us, and even more profound for diehard fans who have remained loyal to the Suns over their lengthy playoff drought.

It’s also a big moment for the Suns. They can point to Booker’s appointment as further proof that things are changing for the better in the Valley. With a strong finish, the Suns can post its best win total in years. Head coach Monty Williams has created a professional environment between the lines. The team is moving into a new practice facility and the arena will soon be renovated. And if Deandre Ayton can join Booker as an All-Star in the coming years, the playoffs won’t be far behind.

More to the point, this long-awaited All-Star berth will surely soothe any growing angst Booker was feeling about his future in Arizona. He will spend the weekend competing and assimilating with the best players on the planet. He will savor the sense of belonging. It will help counter any wanderlust he might be feeling. And when D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns tell him how great it is for best friends to be reunited in Minnesota, he can counter with how great it was to be playing an All-Star Game in Chicago, where Jordan once soared.

It is a reward he richly deserved. And while you’re busy cheering, you can bet the Suns are exhaling deeply, enjoying a rare moment of relief.

Dan Bickley

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Devin Booker being an All-Star helps bring needed relief to Suns