Suns' All-Star Devin Booker progressing, doing on-court work in making return to action

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Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) watch a free throw during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York).
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker and Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (30) watch a free throw during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York).

Cameron Payne understands how Devin Booker is feeling.

Having missed five games with a right hamstring strain this season, Payne worked his way back, but that wasn't easy on the mental.

"The hamstring is really nothing to play with," Payne said. "I kind of know what he's going through, especially when you feel a little bit better, you really want to get back out there on the court."

Booker will miss his seventh consecutive game Thursday night with a strained left hamstring as the Suns face the Wizards at Footprint Center, but he did individual on-court work with Suns assistant Jarrett Jack after the morning shootaround at the team's practice facility.

The two-time All-Star was running, dribbling, shooting and moving more than he has been since suffering the injury in the first of a Nov. 30 win over Golden State.

Booker had been just lifting, doing stationary shooting and getting up shots at morning shootarounds.

Still, Payne is preaching patience for Booker.

"He looks like he's getting back," Payne said. "I know he's on the court now, but if anything, just take his time. He's got to keep taking his time. There's no need to rush it. Got a long season."

Talking about the injury after Monday's morning shootaround in Los Angeles before Phoenix lost to the Clippers, Booker talked about the opportunity to get some "contact" in Phoenix is something he'd like to do before returning.

"Get some up-and-down, check all the boxes," Booker said.

Payne had a checklist, too, as he worked with Jack to help complete it before returning.

"I know we did a lot of full court playing, but my trigger was I was able to pick him up 94 feet when we was playing like 1-on-1," Payne said. "That was my cue to say I was ready. I know there's a lot of different things that I do on the court that I needed for me as a backup point guard in order to be out here on the court, and picking up full was one of them. Once I had that check off my checklist, I was cool and I said I was ready."

Payne is certain Booker has the same thing specifically suited for him.

"It may be a move where it's like, 'yeah, I'm cool now,'" Payne said. "So he's just got to be patient with that and when he knows he ready, he knows he ready. I'm pretty sure it's close, but still got to take your time and not rush it."

The Suns had a back-to-back that ended Tuesday with a win in Portland. The team took off Wednesday before returning to the gym for Thursday's shootaround.

After that ended, Booker got in that individual court time.

"He's getting better every day for sure," Suns coach Monty Williams said. "The healing part has to run its course and then there's a definite ramp up stage that we're not quite sure where we are with that part, but it is looking good as far as him getting better. When it happened, we didn't know what it was, the level of it, but as we've gone on last few days or so we've feel pretty good about where he is right now."

Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker (1) drives on Cleveland Cavaliers' Jarrett Allen (31) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker (1) drives on Cleveland Cavaliers' Jarrett Allen (31) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

However, Williams doesn't feel one should read too much into Booker's individual court work because of the "nature" of the injury.

The Suns have two days between Thursday's game and Sunday's matchup against Charlotte.

That looks like the ideal window for Booker to return as the Suns play every other day from Thursday to Jan. 8 against Miami for a total of 11 games.

Booker has remained a presence with the team as he was on the back-to-back trip cheering and instructing from the bench.

"He's always a leader of the team," Suns wing Cam Johnson said. "He's a vocal leader at this time."

Dec 10, 2021; Phoenix, AZ, United States; Suns' Frank Kaminksy (L) and Devin Booker laugh on the bench in street clothes during the second half against the Celtics at the Footprint Center.
Dec 10, 2021; Phoenix, AZ, United States; Suns' Frank Kaminksy (L) and Devin Booker laugh on the bench in street clothes during the second half against the Celtics at the Footprint Center.

Williams gave Booker props for how supportive Booker was during Tuesday's overtime win at Portland.

"Book, on the bench the other night, was phenomenal," Williams said. "He was probably the catalyst for all those guys being able to play the way that they did. He was encouraging all night long, he and Ish (Wainright). Booker is a pretty good motivator and Ish is just a strong dude so they were just doing such a good job of motivating the guys."

Now it's a matter of Booker returning the court.

He's showing signs of being closer do doing that.

Have opinion about current state of the Suns? Reach Suns Insider Duane Rankin at dmrankin@gannett.com or contact him at 480-787-1240. Follow him on Twitter at @DuaneRankin.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Suns' All-Star Devin Booker progressing, doing on-court work in making return

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