Since he joined the franchise in 2015, Devin Booker has been on a pursuit of an NBA championship.
The eighth-year guard has already ascended through one of the worst stretches in Phoenix Suns history, when they finished at the bottom of the West three times. He moved toward a title with an NBA Finals appearance in 2020-21, but it was not enough.
The Suns’ chances appeared to go down once they could not win after a franchise-best 64 wins last season. Now, Booker and the Suns may have the pieces to make a final push to the top of the mountain after their acquisition of superstar forward Kevin Durant.
In Durant’s eyes, the potential to join Booker was too much to pass up. Suns All-Star point guard Chris Paul envisioned the same path when he was traded to the team prior to the 2019-20 season.
Durant, who played with Booker in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, said the two are similar in that they are adaptable and versatile, able to do what their team needs offensively and defensively to win. Even though Booker is eight years younger than he is, Durant said there should be classes after Booker’s game some day in his introductory press conference.
“You can learn so much from him, watching his game,” Durant said.
Behind Durant on the floor inside the Footprint Center Thursday was his face on a backdrop with Booker, Paul and Suns starting center Deandre Ayton. On paper, it is easily the best foursome in Phoenix Suns history and could go down as one of the best in the NBA if they meet expectations.
Durant has been part of a winning team with the Golden State Warriors, who won back-to-back championships in 2016-17 and 2017-18. Durant spoke about the key ingredient to win championships, which he feels starts with the culture of a team.
He sees that in the Suns.
“(Suns coach) Monty (Williams) is the one that’s supposed to put everybody in positions to be successful,” Durant said. “And on the great teams that I’ve played on, that’s what it always was. The coach was always the leader, and we spread his message on the floor and we extend on the floor. But he’s the one that’s giving us the pointers of what we need to do. So looking forward to being taught by Monty, being coached by Monty and the staff. And everybody here, I’ve been to a couple practices already and the attention to detail is something that I love. And if we continue to stay on that path every day, we’ll see good things.”
The Suns have seen plenty of good over the last three years. They’ve had the NBA’s best regular-season record in that stretch and have attracted players due to their fan base, coaching staff and front office, which appears to be dedicated to winning with its pursuit of Durant and aggressive push toward winning from owner Mat Ishbia.
Durant’s press conference in front of 3,000 fans seemed like a coronation of an important period in Suns history. But Durant did not want to go that far.
“I still feel like I got to prove myself every day,” Durant said. “They (Suns fans) set a high standard for the players here. I could tell by how much, how dedicated they are to the team. So it’s a high standard set every night for each player, and I want to reach that every day. So I feel like I still got to prove myself. I want to put good stuff on film every day. That’s the only thing I’m concerned with at this point is my life, is putting good stuff on the film every night. So I’m looking forward to doing that for the Suns fans and hopefully accept me after that.”
Phoenix has already accepted Durant, evident in the multitude of memes, highlight tapes and love shown for him on social media. The city recognizes who he is and how he could push their organization to something it has never accomplished before.
Durant, who went to the Suns after a four-year period with the Brooklyn Nets, seems to get that already. A player like him would not walk into a situation like this without belief a championship could be reached. It is probably why the Suns were his preferred destination in the summer and again before the trade deadline once Kyrie Irving requested a trade and the Nets basically imploded.
The Suns have never had a better shot to climb toward the top. Can Durant give them the last push?
“I think we got all the pieces to be successful,” Durant said. “We got guys that are experienced, what it’s like to play in that final round. We got a champion already (general manager James Jones) overseeing us. Monty is a champion as a coach. So we’ve got guys that have been there, and that’s half the battle, just knowing what it takes. We got guys that can do pretty much everything on the floor. So we got to put it together, I’m looking forward to doing the work.”