Devin Booker has long been a punchline to those in national circles for some odd reason. That reason, and why there’s so much confusion amongst local, daily watchers of this Suns team, is due to the team being stuck in irrelevancy around their young star. It’s a huge accomplishment that Booker has blossomed into the All-NBA level talent he’s becoming, which says plenty about his self-drive and motivation even after entering into his 5-year, $158 million extension.
This past offseason, though, it reached a weird peak.
Suddenly, Booker’s highlights in a pickup game were becoming a national storyline winded around whether or not he should be double-teamed or not. Small story on the surface, but guess not as it was an ESPN hot topic for almost a week last month.
Another angle to this is him declining an invitation to join this year’s FIBA World Cup team. The main reason was due to focusing on health and longevity for the upcoming season. No harm, no foul there, right? Nope, NBA pundits now had another reason to bash the Suns’ star.
Will this decision impact Booker somehow during tryouts for the 2020 Olympics, which Booker said on Monday he wants to participate in for Team USA? It shouldn’t, but USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo won’t forget who declined initial invites.
“I can only say, you can’t help but notice and remember who you thought you were going to war with and who didn’t show up,” Colangelo said last month. “I’m a firm believer that you deal with the cards you’re dealt. All we could have done, and we did it, is get the commitments from a lot of players.”
Does all of this criticism even surprise Booker anymore, especially something like a double-team?
“Nowadays, no, I’m not surprised,” Booker said. “Everything is going to hit the Internet, so it’s just a part of the game today, man.”
The Suns’ $158 million man has bigger fish to fry. He’s working on how to get better, not what Bill Simmons has to say about him on a podcast.
Booker put it bluntly when asked about why he believes he has the proverbial bullseye on his back right now from the national angle:
“I get on social media ... I wouldn’t say I follow it closely, but I get on there for entertainment,” Booker said. “ I get on there to laugh, smile. I’m not going to take what anybody says to me too seriously any criticism they have about me, because I’m going to criticize myself more than anybody can. And I have goals that I’m not even close to yet that I have to reach. So, that’s what motivates me.”
Even though he’s had a turnstile surrounding him on all levels of the origination since his arrival in 2015, Booker has weathered the storm to a position with solid ground below. Finally, there seems to be stability in place between the general manager (James Jones) and head coach (Monty Williams) plus a strong nucleus of players (Deandre Ayton, Ricky Rubio, Kelly Oubre Jr., Mikal Bridges, etc.) surrounding their primary franchise building block.
Booker is the engine of the Suns’ hopeful rebirth to relevancy. If he keeps up his current trajectory, All-Star berths and team success are rapidly approaching. Luckily, the world of social media won’t be a possible roadblock, which should be an effortless hurdle when you see the work ethic Booker possesses on a daily basis to be great.