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Devin Booker would play in Olympics, unsurprised by offseason spotlight

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns during the second half of the NBA game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Talking Stick Resort Arena on March 04, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Bucks 114-105. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — You know Devin Booker has become a household name in the NBA because of the following:

As the Phoenix Suns opened their preseason with media day on Monday, there were next to zero questions about his offseason improvements, nothing about personal goals, proving people wrong and the like.

Instead, it was all about what the new Suns front office and new coaching staff have put around the 22-year-old.

If neither Booker’s on-court success nor max contract signed last offseason sold you on his place as a star, then the offseason news cycle probably at least told you the 22-year-old is in the conversation.

Booker wasn’t surprised a video of a private scrimmage with NBA players went viral — or that his non-involvement in USA Basketball’s rough summer ended up involving him.

“Everything’s going to hit the internet,” Booker said at media day. “It’s just a part of the game today.”

The lights are even brighter when you average 26.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game on a struggling team as Booker did a year ago.

In late August, the fifth-year guard was criticized for a viral video that showed him complaining about facing a double team while playing in a pickup game.

Two weeks later, The Ringer’s Bill Simmons called out Booker for skipping out on national team duties amid Team USA’s failed run in the FIBA World Cup.

“I hope Devin Booker is watching this OT game before his intense workout with some 5’9 trainer who just keeps feeding him uncontested threes. Cuz that’s a better way to prepare for the season,” Simmons wrote on Twitter during a Team USA overtime defeat of Turkey.

Booker responded with a playful shot at Simmons, a Boston fan who suddenly was worried after Celtics forward Jayson Tatum injured his ankle doing what Booker wasn’t: playing in a tournament that most Americans feel is less important than the Olympics.

On Monday, Booker was probably happy to talk hoops after the summer pulled him into the social media waves caused by itchy content-creators and NBA fans who have few things of substance to speak about.

“I handle (the two situations) the same way,” Booker said. “Like I always tell people: with criticism, with social media … I wouldn’t say I follow it closely but I get on there for entertainment. I get on there to laugh, smile.

“I’m not going to take what anybody said on there too seriously or any criticism they can have about me (too seriously). I’m going to criticize myself more than anybody can and have goals that I’m not even close to that I have to reach. That’s what motivates me more than anything.”

Booker was on a lower tier of stars who opted not to play for the Americans this summer.

A change in the FIBA qualifying system had a lot to do with that trend of decommitment. G League players were needed to qualify Team USA for the summer tournament, as the NBA and other pro leagues were still in season. The tournament scheduling itself changed, too.

In the past, the FIBA World Cup occurred every two years and remained two years separated from the Olympic cycle. Now that’s down to one year, which likely played a role in star players such as Booker prioritizing rest during FIBA for a role on the Olympic team.

Booker, who earlier in the summer told reporters he wanted to take the summer off to get healthy, said he would accept an invite to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

“Yes, I would. I would love to,” he said.

“Just representing your country, playing in the Olympics, all of these things have been dreams of mine, so hopefully if I ever get the opportunity I’ll take full advantage of that. I know a lot of work goes into that. I know representing the country for USA Basketball can be one of the most prestigious things you can do.”


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