The return of Devin Booker feels like icing on the top of a very sweet Phoenix Suns cake right now.
Rolling at the top of the Western Conference with a 24-5 record, the Suns welcomed back Booker to the lineup after a seven-game absence with a hamstring injury.
NBA League Pass: Sign up to unlock live out-of-market games (7-day free trial)
Impressively, the Suns navigated the stretch with a 5-2 record, before drubbing the Charlotte Hornets 137-106 on Sunday, with Booker contributing 16 points, six rebounds and five assists in 26 minutes.
“We’re a damn good team, that’s what I picked up on,” Booker said of what he learned during his time off.
“It’s not that I didn’t know it before but the machine keeps moving. Even the games we’ve had someone out, someone steps up right into that role.”
That depth was on full display against the Hornets, with nine separate players scoring in double-digits, led by reserve big man JaVale McGee with 19.
“We have a really good system thanks to Coach Monty and the coaching staff, but at the same time, we have a lot of talented players that know how to play the game and play for each other.”
Hear from the team tonight! 👇
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) December 20, 2021
Lengthy stints on the sideline have been rare for the 25-year-old since he became an All-Star in 2018-19, with the Suns leading scorer only missing a handful of games across the last three seasons.
“I feel good man, I’m playing basketball again. It’s not easy sitting on that sideline for a substantial amount of time but we have a really good team. I learned some things and seen some things from the sideline that I tried to implement today and will use moving forward.”
Most importantly, Booker used the depth on the roster to take his time with recovery, ensuring there were no mental concerns about the hamstring when he got back on the floor.
“That’s where I wanted to make sure I got to before I got on the court where I wasn’t worried about it at any point and tonight I felt healthy, I felt good.
“I had my trial, my runs with the team. We have a really deep team and whenever you can get those runs in with the team, it’s not common. Those guys came in on off days and pushed me so it gave me the confidence to get back out there.”
Offseason acquisition Landry Shamet was highlighted by Booker, with the sharpshooter replacing Booker in the starting group during his time off the floor. Shamet was impactful during his starts, averaging 10.4 points on 41 percent shooting from deep.
As has become customary with this version of the Suns, Shamet slotted directly back to his bench role against Charlotte, tallying 15 points, three rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes.
Head coach Monty Williams was pleased with the overall performance, though the return of the All-Star guard was the story of the night.
“I had an open mind, I wasn’t thinking he was going to play poorly because he’s a really good basketball player,” Williams said postgame.
“I thought his first few shots he was finding his rhythm but everything he did was within our scheme and our system. I saw that normal Devin Booker glide when he runs. I saw, not the normal Book, it was his first game in a few weeks but I saw a lot of signs that he’ll be there sooner rather than later.”
For a squad that has hardly lost all season, that’s a scary thought for the rest of the league.