Suns’ Devin Booker likely will return to face short-handed Nets

Devin Booker spent the weekend checking all of the final hurdles in his recovery from a left groin injury, playing five-on-five in practice in Boston and dunking during pregame warmups in Detroit.

By Monday afternoon, the Phoenix star had declared himself ready to go. The Suns are anticipating Booker’s first action since Christmas Day on Tuesday night when they visit a somewhat revamped version of the Brooklyn Nets.

“I’m looking forward to it a lot; I’m excited,” Booker said after the Suns finished practicing in New York.

Booker is listed as probable and is expected to be on a minutes restriction in his first game since re-injuring his left groin in a 128-125 overtime loss at Denver on Dec. 25. He had sat out Phoenix’s previous three games with the same ailment and overall has missed 26 games due to injuries this season while averaging a career-high 27.1 points.

Without Booker, the Suns went 10-11 over the past six weeks, though they have played better recently. Phoenix lost nine of its first 11 games in that stretch but is 8-2 over the past 10 games, including two wins in two games to open their current five-game road trip.

“I haven’t played in 2023,” Booker said. “The team’s in a good spot. We turned some things around. We turned it up a bit, and I think it’s perfect timing.”

After enduring a 132-100 home loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday, the Suns opened the trip with a 106-94 win at Boston on Friday, then shot a season-best 56 percent in a 116-100 win at Detroit on Saturday. Phoenix allowed 110 points or less for the eighth time in 10 games.

Deandre Ayton collected 31 points and 16 rebounds in Detroit for his fourth double-double in six games since he missed three games due to an illness.

Besides Booker’s return, the Suns reportedly were among the teams interested in Kyrie Irving before the Nets agreed to send him to the Mavericks. According to reports, the Suns offered Chris Paul, Jae Crowder and a first-round pick, but instead the Nets officially sent Irving and Markieff Morris to Dallas for Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith a first-round pick and two second-rounders.

“We’re just longer, stronger and overall more athletic as a team,” Brooklyn coach Jacque Vaughn said of the new players who were obtained after Irving requested a trade on Friday.

The deal was completed before the Nets dropped to 5-8 in the absence of Kevin Durant, who sprained his right knee in Miami on Jan. 8.

Durant watched from the bench on Monday as the Nets struggled down the stretch of a 124-116 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. Brooklyn led by four with 3:29 left but was outscored 15-3 the rest of the way. The Nets committed seven turnovers in the fourth quarter.

Cam Thomas scored a career-high 47 after sparking the Nets’ comeback win over the Washington Wizards with a career-best 44 on Saturday. Thomas, 21, became the second-youngest player in NBA history to log consecutive 40-point games, trailing only LeBron James.

“I think overall you just got to give credit to our group for being ready to play,” Vaughn said.

Dinwiddie and Finney-Smith are not expected to play Tuesday, but Brooklyn guard Ben Simmons could return after missing five games due to a sore left knee. The Nets also might provide an update on Durant, who hopes to return before the All-Star break and visited a doctor on Monday.

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