36 unbothered: The Suns have put in the work this summer
Sep 19, 2023, 11:10 AM | Updated: 12:09 pm
(photo via 10thYearSeniors.com)
Devin Booker left the Phoenix Suns’ second elimination game blowout loss in the conference semifinals without saying a word. At least to the media.
He went into the offseason without addressing what happened, both after the game and at exit interviews the next day, only posting a vague social media post “36 unbothered” afterward, two days following the firing of head coach Monty Williams. What was first speculated by fans as a reference to his and Kevin Durant’s added-up jersey numbers was later corrected by Booker: He was just cruising through 36 holes of golf.
Regardless, he unknowingly created a nickname for the Suns’ superstar duo in the process.
A lot happened this offseason. NBA-wide, all eyes are on the Suns with massive change and great expectations.
So to keep us occupied until the Oct. 24 season opener against the Golden State Warriors, which is 35 days away from Tuesday, Empire of the Suns podcast co-hosts Kellan Olson and Kevin Zimmerman will be joined by Arizona Sports contributor Erik Ruby to dish on 36 key storylines for Phoenix’s 2023-24 season.
Day 35: A summer of work together
Erik Ruby: Chemistry is a tricky thing in the NBA, but it seems like second nature for this Suns team. Not only do Devin Booker and Kevin Durant move around together like kindred spirits from a past life that found each other, but the whole vibe around this Suns team has some juice to it. Deandre Ayton and Eric Gordon had many meaningful moments working on the court together for the Bahamian national team this summer, we saw Durant and Booker in the gym consistently and even got a video of KD, Book, Beal, Ayton and Bol Bol leaving a Los Angeles-area workout together.
It appears that nearly everyone on the Suns’ roster has a love for “hoop” not just playing in the NBA, sharing that mindset and working together outside of team-sanctioned practices and activities will without a doubt help during the grueling 82-game season and eventually the playoffs. That extra pass to the corner, knowing how to communicate effectively on defense, noticing a mismatch just through seeing that “look” in someone else’s eyes, all of these small, sometimes under-the-radar moments are developed throughout the offseason and can change the course of games.
After seeing Phoenix fall flat in the playoffs with Durant trying to be integrated on the fly, a summer of work together should lead to them hitting the ground running in 35 days when they take on Chris Paul and the Warriors.
Kevin Zimmerman: If we take a step back into Suns history for a second, the same themes arise if you ask players, coaches or executives about the Seven Seconds Or Less Era. It was always about how unique it was that the 2004-05 Phoenix squad especially was tight with each other. Steve Nash was at the heart of that camaraderie that extended beyond the court.
Booker is that guy now. The culture is about the work on this team and several of the core players spending time in gyms this summer or playing for their respective national teams is a good start. It’s also a good sign Booker and Durant especially have been crossing paths off of it. Off the top of the noggin’, they’ve been seen at Michael Rubin’s party, a Bengals-Ravens game and in a pickup run in front of a dual-pony-tailed Drake.
It doesn’t mean the on-court product will work out. But you got to like the urgency and anxiousness to figure this thing out. And I think the off-court stuff matters as much at this point.
Kellan Olson: Booker’s most underrated skill is by far his conditioning. I don’t have the workout regime accounted for and am just speaking for the guy I watch on the basketball court like the rest of us do, but I know the upkeep on his body has to be ridiculous. Durant’s work ethic is not underrated. His is well documented.
It must be a tiresome cliche for other fanbases to hear tagged on this duo and isn’t meant as a dig to the passion other players have, but basketball really is their thing above anything else. They are kindred spirits in this way at least as teammates, so do not count me down as surprised seeing them together a handful of times in different states and countries over the summer.
If a basketball team can’t rally around that type of leadership, then the wrong team has been assembled around them. Speaking as the guy who brought on a ruckus when I expressed concern when Monty Williams was fired, sharing worry about losing the culture he established, Booker and Durant generate a culture on their own. It was a different vibe once Durant arrived, and not in a better or worse way. General manager James Jones still has the ability to locate a “Suns guy,” who is the type of worker and enthusiast of the sport that should fit right in with that vibe.