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Suns’ Devin Booker not worried about contract: His only focus is next year

Utah Jazz forward Joe Ingles, right, guards Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 15, 2018, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
LISTEN: Devin Booker, Suns guard

Devin Booker hasn’t been officially ruled out with three games remaining on the Phoenix Suns’ schedule.

A right hand sprain has him listed as questionable for a Friday game against New Orleans. But no matter whether the guard suits up again, and no matter where he and the team stand regarding a potential max contract extension this summer, Booker told 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station’s Bickley & Marotta that he’s only focused on next year.

More specifically, winning next season.

“Now with year three over with, I feel like I’m more comfortable with the NBA and know what to expect going into next year having to lead by example. Next year starts now for me,” Booker said Thursday.

“I say that’s my next step, being vocal but at the same time leading by example. That’s one thing I’m going to be thinking about a lot going into next season.”

But as he sharpens his individual toolkit after averaging 24.9 points, 4.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game, Booker must wade through a likely contract negotiation that would keep him in Phoenix beyond his four-year rookie deal, which ends after the 2018-19 season.

Missing the last nine games because of the hand injury, Booker said, hasn’t led his mind to wander into thinking about potentially signing a five-year contract extension worth $157 million. He’s eligible to do so this summer if the Suns make the offer, as expected.

“Honestly, no, I play this game because I love the sport,” Booker said. “Like anything that you do in life, if you love your job, whatever you do, and you focus on being the best at it, good things come along with it. I could say I haven’t been thinking about it — I really haven’t.

“A lot of people around me bring it up a lot. Obviously it’s there. I’m just focused on getting better and whatever comes with that comes with it.”

Complicating how he feels about the future in Phoenix is the Suns’ ability to accelerate the development of their young roster.

Phoenix is flirting with owning three first-round draft picks, has enough salary cap space and team options to open more financial flexibility, and hopes Booker, Josh Jackson and other young players continue progressing.

General manager Ryan McDonough has been open about how the Suns will listen to Booker’s opinion when discussing free agent signings and draft picks made.

That’s among the signs that a contract extension could be coming — and that a 21-year-old hungry for wins will wish for the team not to stand pat.

“It means a lot. One, it shows the organization trusts your opinion. That’s a starting thing,” Booker said. “I think a lot of teams actually do this, but it’s not usually announced to the public. I’m sure they go to a few players for advice. We’re the ones in the locker room at the end of the day. We have a feel, a chemistry feel — ’cause it’s not all about the best players all on one team. You have to have a chemistry with each other, people that understand their roles and positions.

“I think this summer is going to be a big summer with how many picks we have, what we’re willing to do with those, what the money that we have in cap space and all the young assets that we have. This summer’s going to say a lot.”