Phoenix Suns star guard Devin Booker has kept a low profile since the conclusion of yet another losing season in the valley. He has not given any interviews for the past three months of the offseason, taking a much-needed break from the grind of taking “what went wrong?” questions on a daily basis.
Nothing. Nada. No instagram self-quotes or reactions. No interviews with a local reporter here or there. No national interviews. He opted out of Team USA this summer — like many of the other league stars — to focus on his offseason training and getting healthy. But that also means some rest and relaxation out of the constant spotlight too.
On Saturday, he gave a local interview at his second annual camp for kids called the Devin Booker ProCamp. More than a hundred kids were there, taking instruction from Devin and a number of local basketball coaches.
Here they are gathered around, watching Booker playing with some of the kids. Later lined up for pictures with Booker and then spread out over eight courts to play some pickup ball.
“I remember this age,” Booker said of why he does these camps. “You’re learning the game but having fun at the same time.”
Of course, the questions turned quickly away from the kids camp and toward the Phoenix Suns. And Booker did not disappoint.
He was asked if this is finally the team that will turn the corner and start winning more games.
“Yeah. Yeah,” Booker responded, nodding emphatically, before the reporter could get out the whole question. “I’m gonna say that every time you ask. I really believe it.”
I remember the pre-training camp Media Day a few years ago, when reporters get their first extended interview opportunities with that year’s Suns team. P.J. Tucker took to the podium and was met with a question of ‘do you think this team can make the playoffs?’
Tucker looked straight at Paul Coro, then the AZ Republic beat writer, and quipped, “What do you want me to say, Paul? Of course, I think we can make the playoffs.”
So, yes, Booker and his teammates will say every time we ask them the question: Yes, this year’s team will be much better than last year’s team. Booker has never been on an NBA team that won more than 24 games.
He did go on to give details, though, on why this year will be different than recent years.
“I’m very excited. Very excited,” Booker said. “Really good coaching staff, a lot of guys that have played in the league. Rubio, re-signing Kelly, [Dario] Saric, Aron Baynes... a lot of NBA guys I’m looking forward to playing with.”
Booker has been surrounded by equally inexperienced guys plus a few over-the-hill vets the last few years. I covered this very topic the other day. The Suns have acquired six players on the current roster with recent playoff experience, and only one of them is over 30 years old.
“We have a really good group of guys,” he said. “That have experience, have playoff experience, and know what it takes to get there. I’m following them, and at the same time trying to lead, and turn this thing around.”
Trust me that Booker wants nothing but wins at Talking Stick Resort Arena. He hasn’t been the problem these last few years.
He talked about new coach Monty Williams too.
“Really down to earth,” Booker said of Monty. “Since he was hired, we’ve had a few dinners together and just talked about the plans moving forward. He’s genuine. You can tell what he says, he means. And that’s really important.”
Of course, Booker was also asked about the chance to play with his good friend, D’Angelo Russell. Russell was a restricted free agent this summer who commanded a $29-million-per-year salary nearly twice what the Suns paid Ricky Rubio, and that might have priced him out of the Suns range. The Suns had started the summer with only $9 million to spend on a free agent, and milked all their secondary assets to create the $17 million they used on Rubio.
Would Booker have loved playing next to Russell as a two-man $58 million back court for the future?
“Obviously, when you have that chance of playing with a life long friend it would be a great opportunity,” Booker said. “But I think he’s in a good situation now with the Warriors.”
Booker paused to look around. “He’s actually in town today. I think he’s going to be stopping by the camp later. Our relationship is bigger than just basketball. We go way way back.”
Here’s the video. In a later story, I will expound on the Team USA quotes and where other Suns players are sitting with FIBA World Cup on the horizon.