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Devin Booker talks 1-on-1 about All-Star Game, going off the grid

NBA athlete, Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns attends the NCAAF game between the Arizona State Sun Devils and the Arizona Wildcats at Sun Devil Stadium on November 30, 2019 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker was kind enough to give 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station a few minutes of his time to discuss how the All-Star Game was, how he feels after going off the grid and more after practice on Wednesday.

Below is the full interview, which you can also find in audio form above.

Joined by All-Star guard Devin Booker — see what I did there? You’ve got the title!

I like that, yeah. Feels good man. It was an overall great weekend. Happy to be back, happy to get this team where we need to go and that’s starting tomorrow as we take our flight out to Toronto.

So you’ve always prided yourself on being a historian of a league and realizing moments when they were happening. Were you able to kind of do that during the game being on the bench in the fourth quarter and see it as it was happening?

Yeah. It was definitely a very intense game. Not like an All-Star game we’ve seen before. The guys locked in and they really wanted to win. To be in those huddles and see the mindset that everybody’s bringing to the All-Star Game explains why the people are in there. It got to a point where people were doing gameplan execution, so once the All-Star Game gets to that, you know how competitive it is.

Was there a moment during the game where you turned to [Damian Lillard] or someone else on the bench and were like, “Oh, we’re doing this. It’s happening.”

Oh yeah. Every huddle was like that. And before the game they even said, our team was talking. We were like, “Yeah, it’s the All-Star Game and we want to have fun but our main goal is still to win.” And when we went down in the second quarter, we went into halftime, and the whole halftime plan was not about fun, it was about how are we going to win this game.

Obviously you’ve been there already a couple of times of already for the 3-point contest, Rising Stars so you were able to take in the weekend then. Did you feel like that helped you kind of be able to soak in Sunday fully and just kind of take it for a different experience?

Yeah because that was the only thing that I hadn’t participated in. The past weekends, I’d usually just leave on Sunday and start my vacation then but having to be there and experience the game and especially with the Kobe tribute this year made it that much more special.

It was a great time. I have many memories that I’m going to look back on and take it all in. It’s one of those things that it’s going to take time to realize what was really going on.

So going back to the game for a second, there was a point where it was like 10 or 15 points away (from concluding) and I was wondering in my head like, “Oh, is this going to end on fouls?” Because it starts to get a little too physical, refs start to blow the whistle — is the quick fix just you have to make a bucket in order to win the game? Did you kind of think about that after?

I don’t think that setup will be NBA All-Star Game format ever again. I think it got a little bit too physical for people’s likings, probably for ownerships of teams. When you have the top 24 players in the league all out there playing that hard, the last thing you want to see is the rest of somebody’s season get ruined for that. I think this year was special with adding that format and everyone playing for Kobe Bryant with the mentality but I don’t know if it’s going to go back there again.

So, in my opinion, Saturday night is kind of a really interesting night because the crowd is looking at you specifically. You’re out there all alone. There is no real team element out there. To me, there was a moment where the first three shooters kind of didn’t really get going that much. You get it going and you can hear the crowd and you’re still going because there’s a different element to where if you make a big shot in a game, you go back on defense. But you’re still rolling. Is it like a weird sort of rhythm?

I don’t know how to describe it because I’ve never been able to experience it so if you could elaborate on how it’s like to hear the crowd and be able to feed off of it immediately with the next shot.

It’s definitely an energy that you feel. You can’t hide it. If you run off three in a row or do a whole rack, you start to see people stand. You hear every shot, it’s like one of those high school shots where you let it go and it’s, “Three!” every time.

It was a great time, great experience, it was my fourth time doing it so I was pretty comfortable in the situation I was in and just fell a little bit short.

In those three seconds where Buddy (Hield) is running to the corner: you do the math, you see the money balls — were you in your head like, “Uh oh, might be in trouble here.”

Yeah, like I said, he’s a great shooter. He has an effortless stroke. He shoots at an over 40% clip every year from three so I knew he had a chance and four out of five for a really good shooter is not a hard thing to do. I knew there was a chance, obviously I was hoping he missed like I said earlier but congrats to him he made I think the last eight of nine to win so that’s very impressive.

We don’t need to dwell on why the last six weeks have been tough for you and just needing that time away to reset and get off the grid as you put it. You’re back on the grid (now and) to me personally just being someone who is around you quite a fair bit I can see a difference in your energy. 

Now that you’ve actually gotten that time, do you feel really refreshed?

I do. I mean All-Star Weekend takes away a little bit of that time but that’s a good problem to have.

But just like anything in life, you need a break, you need a mental break. You get stuck in a routine every day and it can be draining, especially a physical sport so just getting your mind off that and taking some time to truly take in what really matters — spending time with family and friends. That’s the biggest refresher I can have. Anytime I can have any day to sit back, even off-days, and chill with the fam and chop it up is a good time for me.

Something that came up with you with this process was getting feedback from others and guys telling you you should go, giving you advice and that kind of brought up the question in my mind of when you have something specifically within the NBA that you’re looking for feedback on or advice on, who are the people you turn to the most?

Just people that I respect the most. Whether that’s a teammate, if it’s my brother, my mother — whoever it is. I said when I first didn’t make the game, a lot of people reached out to me that I never really had a personal connection with and a lot of people I respected.

I said after the game Chauncey Billups was probably the most memorable. Like, I grew up idolizing this guy and for him to reach out to me and tell me it was (expletive) and I should be in the game — hearing that from Chauncey “Big Shot” Billups, it means that much more to me.

I talked to Dame a lot about it. So, all these guys that have been in your shoes. It’s hard to get advice from somebody that hasn’t been in your shoes. The guys that have been in those situations, they all told me a story of when they got snubbed or a situation like that. But the consistent answer was to get there and enjoy this weekend and that’s what I did.

I don’t know if you knew this but this is the first time in your career they haven’t made a move at the trade deadline. You guys lost (waived guard) Tyler (Johnson) of course but (the) continuity seems like it’s different this year.

You guys had Dragan (Bender), Marquese (Chriss), Josh (Jackson) and you were looking to see what was to come for them in the future. But now we’re talking about Ricky (Rubio), Kelly (Oubre Jr.), Deandre (Ayton) — you already know what you have in those guys. Does it feel different this year compared to the last couple of years with these last 25 games?

It does. The whole culture’s different. You can see that difference of waiting on those young players to develop. That’s part of the process in the NBA. As you see, Marquese is getting better, Josh is getting better — those guys need time.

So when you have a win-now mentality but you at the same time have to develop players it’s kind of tough. We have some players now that know their role and know what they do well and know what they do very well. I think that’s the difference of those close games in this league of winning and losing is the experience.

You always say, “It’s another day in the NBA.” You get back from the break and now you’ve got to go play against Toronto on the road. Another day in the NBA, huh?

But you’re healthy, minus Frank (Kaminsky). This is honestly the healthiest you guys have been since the opener. You’re excited?

I’m getting excited, man. Just hoping we keep it that way. Hopefully everybody’s locked in and I think they are. This practice was good for us as a step forward to get us ready for this back-to-back straight out of the break but we’re ready for it. I’m excited to see how this team responds in the second half of the season.

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