EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Suns run open practice with thousands in attendance; Booker talks NBA 75 shoot

Oct 8, 2021, 10:14 PM
Head coach Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns looks on during the NBA preseason game at Footprint C...
Head coach Monty Williams of the Phoenix Suns looks on during the NBA preseason game at Footprint Center on October 06, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Lakers 117-105. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns had their annual open practice on Friday, a free event for fans to attend, one that returned after its absence last season during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A whole lot has changed since the last one for the 2019-20 season, and it wouldn’t be crazy to say there were more people at Friday’s open practice than a few regular season games Phoenix played that season.

“We wanted to create a buzz in the city and they’ve done that,” head coach Monty Williams said. “(A) great fanbase that was indicative of the turnout tonight.”

One side of the lower bowl was filled by season ticket holders who got their live Q/A featuring Williams and general manager James Jones before the rest of the fans came in for open practice. That group flooded in and had the majority of the lower level filled, with a good couple thousand in attendance.

The Suns ran through 30 minutes of practice, completing some of the drills they’ll execute on a normal day. A rebounding exercise here, some shooting there and a three-man weave sprinkled in. Nothing like 4-on-4 or 5-on-5, but it still was a good sweat and night for the guys.

“As a coach on days like this, to be able to have a productive day in that environment is pretty cool,” Williams said, complimenting his players for still taking it seriously and going at their usual speeds with a crowd there.

“I think we have a workman’s mentality that we bring to the gym every day and nothing messes with that,” he added.

The players were still having fun and playing to the crowd a bit, with Jae Crowder being the highlight, running up and down the court celebrating almost every time Phoenix completed a section of practice. Even Williams jumped around a time or two.

“There will always be that love there,” Devin Booker said. “It’s nothing I’ve shied away from talking about, either. Finally got it to a point where it should be. Got the Valley behind us.

“Every year I’ve been here you can feel it just growing and growing. They’re getting what they deserve so they come out and show us what we deserve.”

With Williams celebrating his 50th birthday, the night ended with point guard Chris Paul picking out the rookies to lead the crowd along in singing happy birthday. The roster doesn’t have one, though, so second-year big Jalen Smith had to fill that role again. Two first-year staffers joined him, including assistant coach Jarrett Jack.

BOOK ON NBA LANE

If you missed the NBA’s great video showcasing the league’s past and present stars for its 75h anniversary, the Suns had their own representation with Paul and Booker.

Booker had the best spot in the commercial, cruising in a 1958 Chevy Impala before stopping in front of a mural for the late Kobe Bryant, giving it a salute.

The seventh-year guard joked that he had no lines to read so that made it a perfect role for him.

Booker reached out to Bryant’s widow Vanessa to make sure she was OK with everything. She signed off and Booker said that made him even more comfortable doing it.

Whoever put together the shoot was aware of Booker’s collection of classic cars, something that went a bit viral during the playoffs when videos were taken of him pulling up to the arena.

“I think the cars deserve their respect so I’m glad I have that platform to give them that love … That was my goal, that was why I got them in the first place,” Booker said. “To show that appreciation for myself and understand the moment of time and how they changed the world.”

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