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In offseason of uncertainty, Devin Booker’s continued ascent is a must for Suns

Booker is arguably a superstar entering his eighth season. His team will need him to get them out of a tumultuous offseason.

2022-23 Phoenix Suns Media Day
Devin Booker
Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images

Devin Booker is the face of the Phoenix Suns’ franchise. That news has not changed.

What has changed is the NBA and public at large has generally admitted the truth Phoenix fans have known for several years:

Booker is a star, if not already a superstar. No doubt about it.

The Suns’ guard, now entering his eighth season, had an eventful summer. On July 7, Booker was named the cover athlete of NBA 2K23, an honor that struck close to him as a gamer.

Two days later, he signed a four-year, $224 million supermax contract with the Suns, fulfilling his dedication to the franchise which has since paid him back with a roster that posted the NBA’s best record over the last three regular seasons.

Last week, Booker was ranked No. 10 in ESPN’s top-100 players for the 2022-2023 season. It is clear those around the league have recognized Booker’s talent. Heck, Kevin Durant tried to force his way out of Brooklyn to join him.

Yes, there has been lots of change for the Suns’ star.

His approach, however, has not.

“I’m going to be on the grind throughout my whole career, throughout my whole life,” Booker said.

“It feels like just the start for me.”

On paper, there is plenty left for Booker to accomplish in his career.

He was just named to the All-NBA first-team for the first time in seven seasons. It was about time, just four seasons after Suns fans pleaded for Booker to be named an NBA All-Star, which he was awarded by default through injury in 2020 and 2021.

(Heck, he was snubbed this past year by not being named a starter despite being on the league’s best team. But, I digress back to the story.)

Booker has continued to get better, too. He posted career-highs last season in points — 26.8, which also ranked No. 12 in the league — rebounds (5.0) and 3-point percentage (38.3).

Booker has also silenced critics with his work ethic. Toyed by some of the public for getting pissed about double teams in an open gym two summers ago, Booker fooled the league last season by adding to his game with a proficient pull-up 3-point shot.

The man won’t hide from anything. It’s how he was raised.

Booker and his father — the former Big Eight Player of the Year at Missouri, Melvin Booker — have worked extensively on his craft since he was a young boy. Suns coach Monty Williams has repeatedly dismissed any concerns about Booker’s work ethic.

‘Well done” is much better than “well said” is a term Williams has coined. Booker embodies it.

“I’m just going to keep working forward,” Booker said.

The path ahead is a rocky one.

The Suns are still grieving from a 10-month investigation into owner Robert Sarver. He was found to have used the “N-word when recounting the statements of others,” displayed “inequitable contact toward female employees and inappropriate physical conduct toward male employees” and “demeaning and harsh treatment of employees, including by yelling and cursing at them,” in his 17-year tenure.

Sarver announced he would sell the Suns on Sept. 21, a topic of conversation at the team’s Media Day Monday that made it seem more like a funeral than an exciting preview of a team that just had a 64-win season.

The news seemed to be especially difficult for Booker, who is the longest-tenured player on the Suns’ roster and was crowned king of the franchise with Sarver at the helm.

“That’s not the Robert Sarver that welcomed me to Phoenix with open arms,” Booker said.

Importantly, he added: “But at the same time, I’m not insensitive to everybody that’s involved in this situation.”

The Suns have more questions than answers as a team. Even though they posted the best regular-season record in franchise history and retained their corps — Booker, Chris Paul, Mikal Bridges, Deandre Ayton and now Cam Johnson, who could step into a starting role with Jae Crowder likely departing — it seems still like a piece is missing.

Phoenix missed out — likely to no fault of its own — on trading for Durant this offseason. Ayton has looked disinterested in returning to a franchise that was reportedly interested in using him for a sign-and-trade this offseason and did not view him as a player worthy of a max contract.

“Run it back” should seem like an exciting phrase for Phoenix fans. Instead, reality is obvious for them:

“We need more.”

Like the story of Booker’s career, the reality is nothing he can control. He’s been a part of teams that finished at the bottom of the Western Conference for three straight seasons. He has been discredited by the national media often, to no fault of his own.

Even though his career is on an upswing, excitement for him has been overridden by negatives. But in a preseason full of uncertainty, one thing is certain for Booker and the Suns.

They are going to get his best. He even still sees himself as others once did.

“Still underrated,” he laughed.

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