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Book It: After all the pain, Devin Booker’s hard work has paid off big time

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For Devin Booker, the five seasons of Suns misery were worth it

NBA: Playoffs-Phoenix Suns at Los Angeles Clippers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

Devin Booker knows better than anyone how frustrating the last few years have been for the Phoenix Suns. That made Wednesday night all the more special.

With his 22-point, seven-rebound and four-assist outing in the Suns’ 130-103 win over the Los Angeles Clippers in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals in Los Angeles on Wednesday night, Booker helped push the Suns to their third NBA Finals appearance in franchise history and first since 1992-93.

According to ESPN Stats and Info, Booker and Phoenix’s .302 winning percentage over the last five seasons entering this one was the worst by any team in the NBA, NFL, MHL or MLB then making the championship round.

Booker’s impact on the city has been deeply felt.

“That’s a real love,” Booker said. “That’s a relationship that it’s hard to explain with words. I tell people all the time, ‘Phoenix is my third home.’ They’ve embraced that way since Day 1.

“I put my head down, I’ve worked and I’ve been through a lot of [BS] honestly. But just being who I am and seeing the bigger picture, having a tunnel vision of what this could be.”

Here’s more of what Booker had to say after the Suns’ Game 6 win.

On his emotions after the game:

“Just a long time coming. That’s what I said to Jay Gaspar, our equipment manager — he’s the only one in the organization that’s been here longer than me. He’s going on Year 30, so he was here and (Suns Vice President of Basketball Communications) Julie (Fie), so Julie’s been here also. But it’s been a long time coming. We’ve seen the bottom — the bottom of the bottom for multiple years, and just keeping my head down, waiting on this moment right here. And (Suns coach) Monty (Williams) coming in, building the culture, him leading us with the, ‘Preparation meets opportunity,’ and that was these moments right here. And we took it and we ran with it. But we still have work to do. This is nice and all, but we’re going for the Larry (O’Brien Trophy), for sure.”

On how much pain he was in when taking an elbow from Clippers forward Paul George to his broken nose in the third quarter:

“It hurt a bit, it’s still a little tender right now. But well worth it, I’ll take that over and over again for this feeling right here. So playing without the mask, decided to ditch it and I knew opportunities like this don’t come around and I didn’t want to take it lightly. So just wanted to be locked in.”

On experiencing Suns starting point guard Chris Paul respond to the Clippers’ 10-0 run in the third quarter with a scoring outburst:

“I mean, we had a timeout. We came into the huddle and said, ‘Don’t lose our head.’ I think we were up 17, they cut it to seven. So we had a game again. But you know, people have always been saying, you hear it since you’re a kid that it’s a game of runs. And how you respond to those runs can determine the success of a team. So right there, you kind of have a decision to make: Which way do you want to go? And this group right here, I feel like we’re tested. We’ve been in those situations, especially Chris and (starting forward) Jae (Crowder). So we locked back in as a team and we got it going.”

On how it feels to get the Suns franchise back to the NBA Finals:

“That’s a real love. That’s a relationship that it’s hard to explain with words. I tell people all the time, ‘Phoenix is my third home.’ They’ve embraced that way since Day 1. I put my head down, I’ve worked and I’ve been through a lot of [BS] honestly. But just being who I am and seeing the bigger picture, having a tunnel vision of what this could be. I’ve seen the parade when they didn’t even win the Finals, they just made the Finals (in 1992-93), 300,000 people out there right in front of the arena. So the love has been there ever since I’ve been there, even when we were at the bottom. Even when we were at the bottom, they still showed up to games. Love around the city has always been there. So Phoenix is my city.”

On conversations with his mother, father and sister after the game:

“We’ve been through a lot. Since Day 1, before the NBA, before that, they’ve stuck behind me all the way. Having their acceptance of me and understanding what I’m going through keeps me driven every day. Putting smiles on their faces, being able to provide for my family, take care of my family — there’s no feeling like that. So that keeps me on this everyday pursuit to be legendary, for real.”

On how his father, Melvin, prepared him for this moment:

“We’ve done pretty much every workout you can think of. From when I first moved with him to Mississippi, when I moved down to Moss Point, Mississippi, and always had a love for the game of basketball. I was always a student of the game, but I wasn’t aware of the work that goes into it. So I was always good, but he made me take it the extra mile. He pushed me. I had never been pushed before, I never had the truth told to me at all times. So somebody that is telling me the truth out of the goodness of the heart to see you succeed, you can feel that. So it just makes you want to be better every day.”

On how his relationship grew with Paul:

“I thought, when we played against each other the first time that it was going to be a love. But nah, I started talking [expletive] to him right away. What he says about, ‘We almost get to fight,’ and that’s because multiple times, we’ve had our disagreements on the court multiple times. And it’s just those types of competitors, the players that he was like, ‘I don’t like playing against that guy, but I love him on my team.’ And Jae Crowder is also one of them, so I’ve gotten into it with him too. But those are the ones you want to go to war with. Those are the ones you want to put the jersey on for, and you know when it’s not your day to having people behind you, having that support system behind you gives you confidence to keep going.”

“There’s zero ego involved — I think that’s the most important part. We both want to see each other succeed, we both want the team to succeed. We all want the team to succeed. So when you’re all on the same page the way relationships tend to happen, we spend a lot of time together. We watch a lot of games together. We live right down the street from each other, so we’re neighbors. So it just happens with time and going through experiences with each other and just spending real, quality time, having real, quality conversations. Not just about basketball, but about life. And that’s how you develop the relationship that we’ve built and we’re still continuing to build.”

On Paul making his first NBA Finals and how it affects his legacy:

“Chris Paul is stamped regardless. Anything else from here is extra, it’s extra just to solidify. I know he wants it bad. I know he’s happy about this for his first time, but I know what he’s on the pursuit of. And we have that same understanding. We don’t talk about it much, but we know what we’re trying to get to. But as far as, ‘He needs to ring to be considered,’ he’s one of the best point guards to ever play the game. And that’s a fact, everybody knows that. Arguably the best. He’s put the work in for many years, 16 years. I’m 24, what does that eight years old since he’s been in? All I know is Chris Paul. Growing up, I remember, I told him I used to go to New Orleans games when I was in Mississippi and played there. So it’s been a long time coming. Wore the man’s shoes throughout my whole high school career. So CP3 is stamped in this game forever.”

On helping Paul get over the hump to the NBA Finals:

“I haven’t really thought about that yet. I think we’re not over the hump yet. We have bigger plans ahead, but it’s crazy like I said. Just watching the game since I’ve been eight years old, since he’s been in the NBA and just being a straight fan to start me and my friends would talk about it when Chris leaves the house or something. And I’ll say, ‘That’s CP3.’ Every time he leaves, ‘That’s CP3.’ So it’s kind of strange that growing up, literally being a fanboy of him, now being right next to him in the backcourt. It’s just crazy how life comes full circle. I’m blessed to be in this position.”