For the first time in four months, a sweat-drenched Devin Booker took questions from the media after Phoenix Suns practice.
So much has happened since the last time Booker stood at a microphone after the Suns last game, we peppered him with a wide range of questions from early quarantine routines to their recent hard practices.
Booker says he spent the first month of quarantine following recommendations and stayed home alone, not working out in any real capacity without access to a gym or a court. He said he didn’t even have a gym setup at home, so all he could do was lunges and squats and other body-resistance exercises to stay right. Sounds like the rest of us, in fact.
After a month, he felt comfortable enough to create a “tight knit bubble” with his dad and brother, and they worked out in their own until the Suns re-opened their gym for player access in early June.
“Brought me back to high school,” Booker said. “Was a really good time for us.”
Back on the court!
He was excited for the Orlando bubble, for sure.
“Being back on the court, you feel unleashed,” he said of their four team practices in the last five days. “Getting back into this routine is a nice thing to be in.”
He said he understands all the sides on players’ feelings about the bubble, and about self--quarantining, but he knows that his job is just to do whatever it takes to keep playing basketball.
“I see both sides of everything that’s going on, believe me,” Booker said, after the mention of Bruno Caboclo leaving the bubble and now being subject to 10-day quarantine. “But my job is to keep my head down and work. Tunnel vision for me, but I am praying for everybody’s safety.”
He says all he’s done in Orlando is spend time either on the court for 3-hour practice plus later solo court time, or in his room playing Call of Duty “5 to 10 hours a day”.
Bonding with teammates
When he does leave his room, it’s to spend time with his teammates.
“This is our catching up time,” he said of his teammates. “We’re getting a lot of time together... Real quality time together. Not just basketball.”
Deandre Ayton talked this past weekend about loving this Bubble time to get closer with his teammates, both on and off the court, and Booker agrees.
On Sunday night, on their first off day without quarantine protocol, the team got together to watch a Monty-recommended documentary called ‘Uncomfortable Truth’ by a white man who discovered that his ancestors participated in slave trading. The movie was a chance for the team to discuss racial issues and deep and painful history of Black people in America.
Getting tighter with DA
I asked Booker about his on-court relationship with Deandre Ayton. Both Ayton and Williams have commented in recent days that Booker and DA are talking more than ever on the court.
“I feel like I’m in my third or fourth year and I know what I’m doing now,” Ayton said a couple days ago. “So it’s not really me being told what to do but me understanding and finding what’s available and being a playmaker. Book and coach see it, so we just collaborate on our differences and really just make things happen, whatever’s best for the team.”
“It’s a growing relationship that we’re still working on,” Booker said. “We are still young in this league. The dialog is open between us. Me trying to understand him more, and him trying to understand me.”
Booker said it’s not just he and Ayton that are talking more, but it’s the whole team learning each other better and getting better each day.
Goals for this 8-game run
Asked if he’s pushing for All-NBA honors during this eight-game stretch, Booker shook it off.
“Not on my mind at all,” he said, without hesitation. “I just try to take my game to new levels, take my team to new levels.”
Booker is all about the team right now, despite their long odds to make a playoff run (6 games back with 8 to go).
“When it comes to people counting us out,” he said, “for me it’s just we are trying to get better and make some noise. We just want to be known as a team that plays hard and plays together.”
Booker, Ayton and coach Williams have all had the same message in recent interviews, and that message matches the words of the GM James Jones: work hard, play harder, don’t treat this like a vacation. This is another chance to grow the program, and make this short season a step closer to playoff level basketball.