EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Devin Booker talks past Suns season, new coach and trade rumor

Jul 8, 2024, 6:02 AM | Updated: 10:11 am

LAS VEGAS — The last time Devin Booker was playing in the Olympics, he did not have time to emotionally digest how his season had gone. None at all, actually.

Booker almost immediately hopped on a jet to Tokyo after falling in the NBA Finals three summers ago. It must have been a whirlwind experience, coming directly off what he described at the time as a hurt he’s never felt before to living out a different dream of winning an Olympic gold medal with USA across his jersey.

This time around, Booker has had time to reflect. Over two months, in fact.

For the first time since his Phoenix Suns were swept by the Minnesota Timberwolves to cap off a season that fell dramatically short of expectations, Booker spoke on that reflection period and what’s next to Arizona Sports.

Instead of the 12-hour flight to Japan, Booker has been spending a lot of his time up north in Flagstaff. He joked to the Suns content team that he has now become a local, taking his morning walk with his dog Haven to go get coffee and has been able to stay fairly lowkey.

That is his style. While, you know, stewing like any competitor of his caliber would be.

“I just lay low,” Booker told Arizona Sports of how he unwinds to begin an offseason. “Kick it with the family, watch the rest of the playoffs — just pissed off most of the time. You come to the realization there’s one winner and it takes a lot. The Boston Celtics I think were a step ahead of everybody from the chemistry and team department and use that as fuel to get better.”

Booker’s energy in regard to looking from the past to the future is a sense of knowing what it takes for a team to snap into place.

“Just understanding it’s not gonna be easy,” Booker said on what he takes away from last season. “It’s not something that is gonna happen quick. So I think having that experience, having that hurt together and getting a chance to keep our same core and come back will be a step forward for us.”

The sources of optimism for the Suns center largely around that. Two years ago, the Kevin Durant trade altered the team dynamic tremendously. Last year, Bradley Beal comes in. And if that wasn’t enough, with a month to go until the regular season, Phoenix swapped out its starting center for another and added Grayson Allen, too.

Phoenix is banking on roster stability as the answer here and doesn’t really have a choice regardless. But the stability couldn’t extend to the coaching staff due to the nauseous amount of smoke emanating from what by all accounts — at a distance — appeared to be a five-alarm fire. Frank Vogel exits and Mike Budenholzer enters.

Booker has already spoken with Budenholzer a few times, including over a round of golf. (Booker has quietly been polishing his golf game the last few years, though would not disclose his handicap at this time).

The guard knows Budenholzer well from those 2021 NBA Finals alone.

“He’s a winner, he’s a champion,” Booker said of Budenholzer. “He’s done it multiple times. He’s very punctual. He knows what he wants. He’s communicated that already. We’ve had short conversations — I’m sure there will be more getting closer to the season.”

Beyond the coaching swap, the most eventful part of the summer was a pre-draft trade by the Houston Rockets for some of the Suns’ future draft capital they had previously sent to the Brooklyn Nets. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported part of the intent from Houston was to attempt to interest Phoenix in Houston’s own potential deal involving Durant.

A voyage into the speculation zone had Wojnarowski proclaim “if the Suns are ever faced with breaking up (the) team, Houston’s also in prime position to pursue a younger Devin Booker.”

Booker’s name being included — without any substantiated reporting from Phoenix’s side that he indeed could be had on the trade market — is nothing new. If anything, it’s so five years ago.

Booker said he wasn’t even aware of this whole mess.

“They say my name? I ain’t heard much this summer,” Booker said.

He had it briefly explained to him that the nature of the reporting was more or less that the vultures are already circling in case his status becomes more in doubt over the next few years.

“Oh! OK, OK.”

He’s been here before.

“That’s the nature of our game, nature of the business,” Booker said. “It gives people something to talk about.”

For now, it’s almost like Booker’s season still isn’t over yet. Yes, he has been able to relax some. But the looming Olympics have kept him engaged and where he wants to be at physically for some of the top competition the sport has to offer.

This will help Booker use this experience as a launching pad into next season.

“We just get better. We use this experience right here to build that,” he said. “I’m in some of the best shape of my life and might take a little bit of time off after this experience. But just keep it running, keep it moving into next season (and) keep getting better.”

As far as goals this offseason?

“Just win a gold, rep the country, get everybody on the same page and start the journey to next year,” Booker said.

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