Cleared for contact, Suns guard Booker eyes return

Devin Booker of the Suns is making progress to returning after having surgery on his right hand.

Phoenix Suns standout guard Devin Booker has taken another major step toward full recovery from an injury to his right hand.

The Suns’ best player has been cleared for contact and has been practicing with the team in 5-on-5 situations, according to Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic.

“He looked good,” first-year Suns coach Igor Kokoskov said after practice Saturday, according to Rankin. “As we all know, on any level that you play, when you’re recovering from something, an injury, there’s some kind of hesitation when it comes to the contact, but I don’t see that in Book.”

Booker had surgery to repair the fifth metacarpophalangeal joint Sept. 10 and the team announced he would be sidelined for six weeks, which going by that timeframe, would have had him returning for the Suns’ third game, Oct. 21, at two-time defending NBA champion Golden State.

However, Booker’s rehabilitation could allow him to play in Phoenix’s opener against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

“Feels pretty good right now, Booker said. “I want it to feel better before I step out there.

According to Rankin, Booker is still wearing two small wraps around his two outside fingers on his shooting hand. However, but the league’s defending 3-point shooting champion has made huge strides in his recovery.

“Great, great,” teammate Ryan Anderson said of how Booker looked at practice, according to Rankin. “Our chemistry is going to continue to build every day, but he understands how to play the game so well. Even for how young he is. His court vision, his ability to score.”

Booker’s right-hand injury lingered throughout the latter part of last season after he jammed it during a practice March 14. Despite the injury, Booker played the next night against the Utah Jazz and made just three of 18 field-goal attempts.

The 6-foot-6, 206-pound Booker sat out the final 12 games of the season and was required to wear a splint on the hand until its condition improved.

Booker, 21, had a banner season a year ago, averaging 24.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.7 assists in 34.5 minutes in 54 games, shooting 42.6 percent from the field, 36.5 percent from deep and 84.9 percent from the free-throw line.

The 13th overall selection in the 2015 draft out of Kentucky, Booker signed a five-year, maximum-contract extension worth $158 million July 7, locking him up through the 2023-24 season.

Anderson, acquired along with rookie guard D’Anthony Melton in the deal that sent Brandon Knight and Marquese Chriss to Houston on Aug. 31, raved about Booker’s speed.

“His change of speed is unbelievable,” Anderson told Rankin. “That’s going to help us so much on the offensive end. Rather than just sprinting through every play. A lot of these guys come from the college game and the NBA game slows down quite a bit and Book knows that speed so well. That’s why he’s so dangerous.”