The Phoenix Suns will tip-off the second half of their 2020-21 season in Portland against the Blazers on Thursday.
And after an All-Star Break that didn’t include guard Devin Booker due to a mild left knee sprain, the biggest question for the Suns in their return was the health of their superstar.
Booker this season is averaging 24.9 points and 4.4 assists on 33.9 minutes per contest while shooting 49.6% from the field and 36.2% from three-point range.
“Devin should be fine. He had a good couple of days here, had a good day today before the team took off to Portland,” general manager James Jones told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo on Wednesday.
“I’d expect him to be ready to rock tomorrow. He, as well as the other guys, they have enjoyed this breaking just trying to get a little healthier and get set for the second half of the season.”
Jones added that the team will be at full strength except for forward Cam Johnson, who remains out due to health and safety protocols. The former North Carolina Tar Heel is averaging 10.4 points and 3.4 rebounds on 24.2 minutes per game while shooting 43.7% from the field and 37.8% from deep.
The Suns head into the second half of the campaign with a 24-11 record, which ranks as the second-best in both the Western Conference and NBA.
“We’ve afforded ourselves a little cushion because we played so well in the first half, but everyone is focused on the playoffs now,” Jones said.
“Rotations will get tighter. Guys will start playing heavier minutes. … Being that this is a unique year where you have a play-in game — you have 10 teams vying for the playoffs — I expect the competition to be better than years past.”
And for the first time in a decade, there’s real optimism that Phoenix is going to end its postseason hiatus.
“It’s still a marathon. It’s not a sprint,” Jones added. “The Western Conference — we’re jockeying for position. It’s a tough battle in the West for position.
“But once the playoff seeding is set, that’s when the real fun starts. You just have to be healthy enough to endure that gauntlet of the Western Conference playoffs.”
Jones doesn’t anticipate having to make splashy moves like that of the Brooklyn Nets signing Blake Griffin after the Detroit Pistons bought out his contract.
Instead, the general manager believes that the team will have to continue to improve “internally” and build from within. Jones added that the bench guys are the team’s “insurance” when it comes to depth in the playoffs.
“I expect us to continue to use our depth,” Jones said. “Monty (Williams) has shown throughout the course of the season from game-to-game, situation-to-situation, he has comfort and confidence to go to another guy.
“… I think we’ll still employ that next-man-up [mentality]. All 14 guys on our roster need to be ready to contribute and be thrown in the fire because that’s kind of how we’re built.”
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