36 unbothered: Olympic implications on Team USA for Phoenix Suns
Oct 8, 2023, 6:55 AM
(AP Photo/John Locher)
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.
To keep us occupied until the Oct. 24 season opener against the Golden State Warriors, which is 23 days away from Sunday, 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 36: Devin Booker enters his prime
Day 35: The Suns have put in the work this summer
Day 34: Suns do have some continuity with returning bench players
Day 33: Kevin Durant gets integrated
Day 32: Bradley Beal proving something
Day 31: How the Big 3 develop chemistry
Day 30: Mat Ishbia’s first full season as owner
Day 29: How does Suns’ place of play change without Chris Paul
Day 28: Suns can maximize Yuta Watanabe in proper role
Day 27: Deandre Ayton finally is traded
Day 26: Who is Suns’ biggest threat in Western Conference?
Day 25: Matrix and STAT in Ring of Honor
Day 24: Phoenix Suns’ most appetizing lineups combinations
Day 23: The importance of Kevin Young’s return to the Suns
Day 22: The revamped Suns sunburst jerseys
Day 21: TV antennas and Phoenix Suns basketball for all
Day 20: Is there room on the Suns to unlock Bol Bol?
Day 19: What Grayson Allen brings to Suns
Day 18: Suns’ championship expectations
Day 17: Drew Eubanks could bring pop to Suns’ center group
Day 16: Olympic implications for the Suns
Erik Ruby: After Joel Embiid committed to playing for Team USA in the 2024 Olympics in Paris earlier this week, America is poised to have a starting lineup of Steph Curry, Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, LeBron James and the 2023 NBA MVP.
Along with the two current Suns who are slotted to start for their home country, teammate Bradley Beal also expressed interest in joining Team USA in Paris. Beal was supposed to be at the Tokyo Olympics before getting COVID and certainly has a case to make the already stacked potential roster.
Let’s just take a second to let the fact that the Suns have 2/5 of the projected starting lineup for the No. 1 ranked national team in the world. Not only is it hard to wrap your head around the Phoenix Suns possibly having three members of the most prolific national team in the world, it also opens the door for future iterations of a superteam in the Booker era.
The Olympics are a notorious recruiting ground as NBA stars get a chance to really see what it is like to share the court with other elite talent, and the Suns have quickly become the No. 1 destination for players of that caliber. Sometimes it takes years for the seeds planted during international play to bear fruit, but a few years down the line is hypothetically when the Suns will be moving into their post-KD phase.
It might be hard to start looking at seasons beyond the incredibly exciting one we have lying at our feet right now, but don’t underestimate the power of recruiting in the NBA and how it can extend Booker’s championship window beyond Kevin Durant and even Bradley Beal.
Kellan Olson: NBA fans outside of the Valley who are sane individuals that were not up in the wee hours of the night in the summer of 2021 to watch Booker play a huge role in Team USA winning the gold medal will be quick to not properly value how important he is to the Paris squad. He is one of few superstars capable of seamlessly transforming into a glue guy for FIBA play. He should and will start again if he’s there.
Durant is inarguably the best player in the history of the men’s squad. He’s one of two three-time Olympic gold medalists and tops the USA Olympic leaderboards in points (435), points per game (19.3), 3-pointers (71) and is eight rebounds off the No. 1 spot in that category too. He’s the top dog on a squad that’s always full of ’em.
I was thrilled to hear Durant join Booker in committing to being there on media day, because getting to see those two build up some real chemistry this season and carry it over to that setting in lesser roles will be awesome to watch as a fan. And Beal very well could be there to capitalize off that too.
Kevin Zimmerman: Who knows where the Suns will be at the end of next season, but I do know I want to see Booker’s second Olympic run. Yes, it was telling of his basketball IQ and character when he flew immediately to Japan during a pandemic after losing the 2021 NBA Finals and literally making the “damn” meme as he untucked his jersey. He flipped the switch once there to become a ball-hawking, rebound-oriented shooting guard.
If I might get greedy now, it would be cool to see Booker feel like he belongs and is not just a role player on a team that includes LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Joel Embiid, yada, yada, yada. I’m painting this picture: Booker earns a starting role on a superstar squad by playing defense, but in a semifinal or even gold medal game, just says, “Guess I got to take over. France is doing a good job locking down LeBron and I’m going to put up a 30-piece while playing all-world defense to carry this squad to a win.”
That would be epic legacy stuff. The chances of this happening seem very low, to be clear. I am guessing ‘Bron and KD and the vets are going to go out locked in, guns blazing, all the cliches. But there’s a slim chance Book might do such a thing. And that would be a damn show.