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Chris Paul recognizes a similar basketball purist in Suns’ Devin Booker

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul, right front, stops Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) on his drive to the basket as Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) watches during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 31, 2020, in Phoenix. The Thunder won 111-107. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Chris Paul loves basketball. He, like, loves basketball.

In his first time speaking as a member of the Phoenix Suns, Paul was asked the opening question, one that only divulged the information of a game in Phoenix from 2008.

“42,” Paul said immediately, before the point of the question could even come across.

“What was that?” the reporter asked.

“I had 42,” Paul said Wednesday.

That is indeed the number of points Paul scored in that game. He went on to cite that there was a game-winning shot that night, that Peja Stojakovic hit it and that it came the night after Shaquille O’Neal had been traded to the Suns.

Yes, it was that game where O’ Neal infamously pointed at his ring finger from his suite. And, yes, Paul remembered that too.

Paul not only possesses that next-level memory a lot of superstars across sports have, but there’s a passion that drives it.

He sees that in his new backcourt mate Devin Booker.

“I always say this over my career: there’s a few things that are sort of going to draw you to a person depending on what you have in common. I love basketball. I love to be in the gym, love to hoop, I’m a gym rat — Book is like that,” Paul said. “When you got guys like that, it’s easy to get along.”

As we’ve continued to learn year after year, players in the league have been aware of Booker’s talent for quite a while.

Paul got an advanced look in 2015, when, after being eliminated from the playoffs, he went to work out with some new clients of his agency. That included Booker getting ready for the NBA Draft, who Paul joked was 15 at the time because of how young the Kentucky guard looks.

After the workout, Paul spoke with Leon Rose, formerly one of the most powerful agents in the sport and now the primary decision-maker for the New York Knicks.

“I was like, ‘Damn, he good. He nice. He can play,'” Paul told Rose.

Battles between the two over the last five years have intensified Paul’s appreciation for Booker.

“When you’re a fan of the game, you see different pieces. I done known Book for a long time. He’s not only a talented … he’s a dog. He’s really competitive,” Paul said. “Like I know Book, know Book. When we hoop and play against each other, we about to fight. Damn near about to fight a couple of times.”

Paul is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, arguably the best point guard of his generation, and he saw serendipity in now being teammates with Booker.

“This opportunity is crazy because you never expect things like this to happen,” he said.

If it wasn’t clear already, Booker’s reached that level of credibility and respect from his peers. And it’s brought an awesome point guard (Paul) and a great free agent signing (Jae Crowder) to Phoenix.

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