Suns interim coach Earl Watson deemed Markieff Morris his first offensive option at the beginning of February.
Five games later, the forward was dealt to the Washington Wizards, leaving Phoenix with 19-year-old Devin Booker as the likely No. 1 offensive threat — at least until Brandon Knight can return from a groin injury.
So Phoenix, which has lost 24 of its last 26, opens the post-All-Star break against the Houston Rockets on Friday with even more responsibility heaped on Booker.
The rookie knows he is already considered the most promising piece to the team’s future. With respect to his older teammates, Booker admits he’s fully aware and comfortable he’s been handed the keys.
“It hasn’t really been verbalized to me,” Booker told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s Bickley and Marotta. “I can feel it when I’m out there on the court. I feel like more attention is being drawn to me now. I think it’s going to be the best for me. Later down the road, I don’t think it’ll ever be like this.
“We’re rebuilding. I think we’re going to get better every year after this,” he added. “I think right now would be the most attention on me that there’s going to be — I can learn from this. Just try to find beauty in the struggle.”
So far, following the injuries to Eric Bledsoe and Knight, the rookie has handled a starting role well. His production hasn’t been drastically different with more pick-and-roles forced on him, and his shooting hasn’t dipped any more than might be expected from a seasoned veteran.
Now with Morris shipped off to D.C., Booker believes that attacking the challenge of replacing the power forward’s production will require “tunnel vision.”
“I didn’t look at it like a distraction,” Booker added of the Morris trade. “He was really good for us. I wasn’t here last year, I don’t know what happened, but he was portrayed to the fans wrong, in my opinion. He helped us out a lot, he was a good locker room guy for me.”
Coming off an All-Star break in Toronto where he performed well in both the in the Rising Stars Challenge and the Three-Point Contest, Booker is not only growing as the main target of opposing defenses but in name.
“I think my name is more known now,” Booker said after falling to Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in the Three-Point Contest, before adding the evidence to such a suggestion. “I think I gained a lot of followers social media-wise.”
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