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Devin Booker starts road to recovery, is walking again after groin injury

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PHOENIX (AP) Devin Booker is able to walk, albeit slowly.

That’s a major step toward recovery from a left adductor strain the Phoenix Suns star guard suffered in the fourth quarter Tuesday night in Toronto. Booker was carried off the field by teammates, was on crutches the next day and was moved onto the team plane in a wheelchair.

Booker’s timetable for recovery from the groin injury remains at two to three weeks. He moved about dressed in a suit and smiled while answering questions about his injury.

“I’m already walking. Every day it’s felt better since it happened,” Booker said Thursday night before the Suns’ game against the Washington Wizards. “I’m on the right path.”

Booker thought it was a cramp at first, but when he tried to move, he could not.

“People said I was doing the `Mannequin Challenge,”‘ Booker said. “I don’t ever want to be carried off the court. Anything in my power, if I could have walked off I would have walked off. We had to resume the game, so my big fellas helped me out.”

Booker is averaging 24.3 points and has 10 30-point games this season.

Booker spent Thursday on the bench supporting his teammates. He admitted being out for an extended period of time will be difficult, and pledged not to try to come back too soon and tell trainers the truth about how he feels.

The injury is new territory for Booker, the face of the Suns in his third season. He has played through pain before, but said he’d never felt such pain before.

“It’s never ideal for me to miss games,” Booker said, “but at the same time we have to be cautious with it and take our time.”

The Suns were short-handed with Booker out and center Tyson Chandler away from the team for personal reasons. Forward Derrick Jones Jr. was waived Thursday.

Rookie Josh Jackson started in Booker’s place at shooting guard, and coach Jay Triano said there will be other lineup combinations over the next 10 games.

“He’s a voice for our us anyway,” Triano said about Booker. “He’s been a leader. Even more when you stay in the game mentally, when you’re not playing,” thinking the game, seeing the game and being a part of it. It helps when you return.”

For more NBA coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Suns GM Ryan McDonough says no timetable for Eric Bledsoe trade

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Eric Bledsoe is still a Phoenix Sun.

He doesn’t want to be. The Suns are trying to trade him, but they have not found an offer near their liking (and likely will not at the price they are asking). The Suns sent Bledsoe away from the team, so he sits at home — his trade value slowly diminishing — while the Suns try to find a trade partner.

Trying to regain some leverage in the situation, Suns GM Ryan McDonough is trying to play it cool, like he’s not in a rush. Here’s what he texted Scott Bordow of azcentral.com sports.

McDonough said by text message Monday that he had no timetable for a potential Bledsoe trade. It’s been speculated that Phoenix could wait until Dec. 15, when players who signed as free agents in the offseason are eligible to be traded.

“We are open to doing a deal whenever the best offer presents itself,” McDonough said. “Any other comments or thoughts from me would be pure speculation at this point.”

That’s precisely what McDonough should say, but know he wants to get a deal done sooner rather than later.

The Suns reportedly want to attach Tyson Chandler to a trade, although that doesn’t make a ton of sense because teams will offer less quality to Phoenix if they have to take on a bad contract. The Suns, who have the cap room, would be better off shipping Bledsoe to a team that will send a bad contract back to Phoenix and with it a better asset (for example, Denver will give up a better younger player in a deal if they can send Kenneth Faried or someone like that back with him).

Report: When Eric Bledsoe requested trade, Suns told him they underperformed with him as starting PG

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Suns general manager Ryan McDonough has been extremely harsh publicly to Eric Bledsoe.

The organization apparently wasn’t much kinder privately when Bledsoe requested a trade before the season.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

The 27-year-old point guard had met with Suns owner Robert Sarver and McDonough during the preseason and requested a trade, sources told ESPN. Frustrated with the direction of the team, its whiffs in free agency and questionable personnel moves during his four years with the franchise, Bledsoe expressed that it was time he moved on, sources said. Bledsoe was then told by management, according to sources, that the team had underperformed ever since he was given starting point guard responsibilities.

The Suns have struggled since trading Goran Dragic to make Bledsoe the clear starting point guard, but they mainly got draft picks that have yet to convey for Dragic. They also traded Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris and Isaiah Thomas for primarily draft picks. Their expensive acquisitions – Brandon Knight, Tyson Chandler and Jared Dudley – have underwhelmed. Their young players, even Devin Booker, haven’t yet learned the nuances necessary to contribute to winning. They’ve finished seasons tanking.

In other words, Phoenix has given Bledsoe a supporting cast ill-equipped to win then apparently blamed him for not winning.

This report appears to be coming through the lens of Bledsoe’s camp. McDonough and Sarver might portray the conversation differently.

But if this is a glimpse of how Bledsoe feels, no wonder he wants out.

NBA Three Things to Know: Sun sets on Earl Watson in Phoenix

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA. This is what you missed on Sunday while wondering if oyster vending machines are a good idea. (They’re not.)

1) Eric Bledsoe Tweets he wants out, hours later it’s Earl Watson who is out, fired as Suns coach. The Suns are a bad team, one that lacked offensive cohesion and defensive effort. Phoenix was blown out by 48 points by the Trail Blazers in their first game, the worst opening night loss in NBA history. It was an ugly start to the season. How could things possibly get worse from there?

Well, how about the Suns get blown out by 42 points in the third game of the season, have their best player Tweet he “doesn’t want to be here” then turn around and fire the coach? That’s what happened, and Earl Watson is out in Phoenix.

Watson was 33-85 as the Suns head coach, but that record isn’t a fair way to judge him — Suns management made him sit Eric Bledsoe and Tyson Chandler to tank at the end of last season, much to Watson’s frustration. This is a young team this season that is not going to be good no matter who coached it. But Watson’s Suns didn’t seem to have a strong offensive identity, didn’t play hard on defense, and there were doubts about his ability to develop young talent. Watson took over as an interim coach after the Suns fired Jeff Hornacek, then he went an unimpressive 9-24 in that role. However, he preached love and togetherness at a time the franchise needed it, and the players loved him, so despite the record management decided to give him a shot as a guy who could develop talent. Watson and GM Ryan McDonough were notoriously rarely on the same page, but Robert Sarver is not the kind of owner who will pay a couple of coaches at once, and the players loved Watson, so he stayed. Then, Eric Bledsoe tweeted this.

I’m not saying the two things are directly related, but if Watson was losing the players, he had little left.

The only question about this move is “why did they wait three games into the season?” Why not make their move over the summer, allowing a new coach to have a training camp to change the tenor of the team? Former Raptor coach (and Canadian national team coach) Jay Triano gets the job in the short term.

The Suns are a young, developing team but with some good pieces already in place — Devin Booker, Josh Jackson — and some guys who need to be brought along (Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss). They need a strong developmental head coach, someone who can install a mindset and get the young guys playing hard. The Suns are going to lose a lot of games this season, and end up with a high draft pick, they are building for the future. They need their process, and they need a coach who can lead it.

2) Carmelo Anthony drains game-winning three… wait, no it’s Andrew Wiggins who drains game-winner for Timberwolves. For a couple of games (this one and the previous one against the Jazz) the Thunder have struggled with their offensive rhythm. Or, more accurately, they just missed shots. Through three quarters the Russell Westbrook/Paul George/Carmelo Anthony trio was 17-of-43 (39.5 percent) and 3-of-10 from three.

But after the Thunder second unit made it a game again, Westbrook found his groove late — he took over the offense, attacking, and going 6-of-9 in the fourth. Then came the big finish. Karl-Anthony Towns — who was a beast again with 27 points and 12 boards (but needs to take fewer threes if he keeps missing like this) — put the Timberwolves up two. With 8.9 seconds left Westbrook drove, drew two defenders, then shared the rock, found Anthony… and just watch for yourself.

Underrated on that last play: Towns set a massive screen to free up Wiggins and get him that look. Wiggins did not call bank, but as Paul Pierce said last season he did call game.

3) Clippers’ Milos Teodosic out indefinitely. The NBA just got a little less fun to watch. The Clippers brought the passing wizard over from Serbia as a 30-year-old rookie, and he was dishing.

Unfortunately, Teodosic is out indefinitely with a plantar fascia injury. The concern with the Clippers this season was not the talent but the health of a team leaning on Blake Griffin, Danilo Gallinari, and others with long injury histories. Hopefully for Los Angeles, the Teodosic injury is not the start of a trend.

Russell Westbrook wins union’s Players Voice MVP

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The players union released its long-anticipated long-overdue awards, and there are some doozies. First of all, I still can’t figure out what Chris Bosh – who was announced as the “host” of the Twitter-released awards – has to do with this. But let’s get to the actual winners.

Here are the major awards, with the traditional award/Players Voice equivalent:

No surprise Westbrook won both MVPs. He deserved them. Still, James Harden could’ve hoped for a split result like in 2015, when Stephen Curry won actual MVP and Harden won the players’ version.

There’s obviously slight differences in the other categories. I think Green had the best defensive season and deservedly won Defensive Player of the Year, but I also think Leonard is the NBA’s best defender and therefore deserved this honor. I would’ve picked Andre Iguodala for Best off the Bench (and Sixth Man of the Year, for what it’s worth), though that’s a minor quibble. But how on earth did Joel Embiid not win Best Rookie? He was the best rookie in years, let alone this season. I picked Brogdon for Rookie of the Year based on his overall contributions in far more playing time, but there should have been no question about the best rookie.

The union also released several awards without a corresponding NBA honor:

  • Comeback Player of the Year: Joel Embiid
  • Hardest to Guard: Russell Westbrook
  • Clutch Performer: Isaiah Thomas
  • Global Impact: LeBron James
  • Player You Secretly Wish Was On Your Team: LeBron James
  • Most Influential Veteran: Vince Carter
  • Best Dressed: Russell Westbrook
  • Best Social Media Follow: Joel Embiid
  • Coach You’d Most Like to Play For: Gregg Popovich
  • Best Home Court Advantage: Warriors

LeBron winning Player You Secretly Wish Was On Your Team has to be an implicit slap in the face to Kyrie Irving. I’m glad to see Thomas and Carter deservedly recognized.

Lastly, the union awarded a Teammate of the Year on each team:

Dirk Nowitzki won the NBA’s Teammate of the Year – which is voted on by current players after a panel of former players selects nominees – then didn’t even win for his own team here? That’s just weird.