EMPIRE OF THE SUNS
Devin Booker 1-on-1: Vet status, Christmas plans and Finals/Olympics run
Phoenix Suns shooting guard Devin Booker was kind enough to give Arizona Sports a few minutes of his time on Monday to discuss the latest in his life.
A full transcription of the interview can be found below and the audio of it is above. The interviewer will not be offended which you choose.
Kellan Olson: Alright, I’m sitting here with two-time All-Star, Western Conference Champion, Suns shooting guard Devin Booker. I want to keep adding the accolades every time we do this. Is that cool with you?
Booker: You don’t have to do that, man. I’m still in progress. Some good accomplishments but still a long way to go.
Olson: Against Charlotte, just to kind of rehash, you said the hamstring feels good (and) you weren’t thinking about it at all. But just how nice was it mentally to be back on the court for you after sitting on the sideline for a few weeks?
Booker: I always say basketball is therapy, man, and that came true last night. There’s no feeling like it. Nothing can really relate to the feeling of competition for me. I said it last night, being on the sideline is tough, but the benefit of having a good team and watching good basketball still is fun in the process of getting back.
Olson: It’s funny you said the long way to go with where I’m going to take this. You’re 25 years old right now but you’re in Year 7 of your NBA career. I know the moniker of vet is something you establish [for] guys who have been in the league 10-15 years, but at least from your perspective in terms of the amount of experience you’ve gotten from so many different situations already, do you kind of feel like you’re getting there a little bit at least?
Booker: I’m a vet, man. [laughs] I’m a vet. I think it’s after your next contract you’re on to a vet. I think that’s about experience also. Just seeing a whole lot of different situations. Just going through a rebuilding phase to where we’re at now. There was a lot of in-between there that helped me grow up quicker, mature faster and learn the NBA is a business at the same time.
Olson: So I wanted to bring that up because after the Portland win in OT (last Tuesday), (Suns head coach) Monty (Williams) described you as the catalyst on the bench, where you were just keeping everybody energized and he said as the coach he didn’t feel like he needed to do that because you were already doing that.
I was just curious how you zoom out and look at yourself and how you’ve evolved as a leader over the past couple of years.
Booker: It’s kind of hard to zoom out. But just that game, in particular, was, I feel, very important for our team. After taking a loss to the Clippers, that’s a tough back-to-back with a lot of travel to Portland. Earlier in the season they beat our ass on that first back-to-back of the season. To be a great team, we said we didn’t want to lose two in a row, so that was a big game for us.
Very energized, even though I think we were running on fumes, I just wanted to be that backbone support to keep the team going and keep them in a good mental spot. [Deandre Ayton’s] first game back after a few games missed and he was incredible. It was just an all collective effort. That was one of our best wins of the season in my opinion.
Olson: For those that don’t know this about you, because you’re such a huge fan of the league growing up, you kind of studied it by default and you kind of know the stages that people play on. You just got to play in the Finals, but Christmas coming up this week.
I’m sure your family is like mine, where every Christmas, basketball is on (with) whatever you guys are doing. You’re smiling a bit right now, how excited are you — it’s long overdue — but you’re finally playing on Christmas. How excited are you?
Booker: I’m really excited, man. Like you said, it’s just a part of family tradition. So now, to spend Christmas morning with my family and then get to go compete and perform on a national stage is everything. I think 4-5 years ago I tweeted something out like, ‘I wish we were playing today.’
It’s always been a dream of mine and a goal of mine. I thought we might have got one last year, still didn’t get in, but we earned it. I think that’s what makes it so much more special and so much better, of getting my first Christmas game, is having to go through the steps and the process to get there.
Olson: You mentioned the morning, I was curious what the No. 1 Christmas tradition is for you that you’re saying you want to get done before the game or maybe after. Just how you’re planning to spend the Holiday with the game going on, a 3 p.m. tipoff.
Booker: My role has kind of changed from when I was younger to Christmas now. Now I’m the one everybody has to come get out of bed and, ‘Come on let’s open presents!’ And I’m like, ‘Alright let’s get after it.’ I used to be the first one up, so that role has changed. I tell my family I still need my rest, so we’re gonna have to start Christmas around like 10 a.m. instead of 7 like we did in the past.
Olson: I think they’ll honor that, I think they’ll respect that. There’s been one statistical change in your game, I want to put it as. Your three-point percentage (40.9%) is at a career-high and I just wanted to ask you with the bump if there’s anything specific that you’ve changed in your game. You’ve always been a great shooter. There’s no doubt about that but the numbers are finally starting to represent it.
Is there anything that you personally tweaked in your game or that you see in the shots that you’re getting that has changed?
Booker: You can credit it to a little bit of everything. Just the shots that I’m getting. Haven’t took as many heaves this year and I’ve got my foot behind the line a little bit more than I have in the past. But it’s still a long season. There’s highs and the lows throughout, so I have something going right now. Just back to fundamentals and just trying to stick with it.
Still trying to improve my game at the same time. Everybody from the outside is the only people that have seen my three-point percentage, and obviously it’s something that I wanted to get higher and be a more efficient player, which I always try to improve at every year.
Olson: Last question I had for you: You’ve been asked a gazillion times about playing in the Finals then playing in Tokyo. I’m just gonna make it one more here. For yourself mentally, as a guy who challenges himself, how gratifying was that process to see the highest level of basketball in two different ways in the span of two weeks and just kind of push yourself in a way that you couldn’t even of really thought of doing. No one can imagine really doing that, or challenging themself that way.
Booker: It’s one of those moments that, I say it’s always tough to zoom out, but I have had time to sit back and reflect on that bizarre month or two months or the whole playoffs really that was just all coming at you so fast. And you just try to take it day by day, moment by moment and every day is so different. Just trying to find ways to enjoy it and trying to find ways to succeed is I feel what I’m built on. That’s what keeps me going.
At the same time, grabbing (an Olympic) gold medal and competing in the NBA Finals do or die is all great experiences that I’ve always admired and wanted a piece of. Now that I got a piece of it, there’s nothing else that I can look back towards. People know what type of energy we’re on.
Olson: Book, appreciate the time as always. Happy holidays, man.
Booker: Kellan, thank you. Same to you, my dog.