In second season, Devin Booker steps into leadership role for young Suns

Jul 7, 2016, 4:25 PM | Updated: 8:40 pm
Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker, right, drives the ball against Golden State Warriors' Draymond Green du...
Phoenix Suns' Devin Booker, right, drives the ball against Golden State Warriors' Draymond Green during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, March 12, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
(AP Photo/Ben Margot)

PHOENIX — The journey of Devin Booker’s second season is set to begin as the Phoenix Suns prepare to head to the Las Vegas Summer League.

Expectations are high for the Kentucky product, who finished fourth in last year’s NBA Rookie of the Year voting.

Booker plans to play in at least the Suns’ summer opener on Saturday at 1 p.m. against the Trail Blazers at COX Pavilion, but his status after that is up in the air considering he will follow Summer League with a role on the U.S. Select Team.

“I’ll play him a lot if I know I have him for the first game. I’ll play him a ton,” said Phoenix summer league head coach Nate Bjorkgren. “You’ll see him play the two-spot, he might play a little point. We just need him to be a leader on both ends of the floor, offensively and defensively.”

With Booker having a respected reputation across the league after his first season, he understands this is no time for him to let up.

“I’ve said it before: I don’t want it to be a fluke season,” Booker said after practice on Wednesday. “I know people think I can play now a little bit. There’s gonna be a little bit more attention on me. I’m just getting ready for that.”

Booker being considered a “veteran” despite being short of 20 years old is a new role to take on. He’s the one setting the example for rookies Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss and Tyler Ulis.

“He’s got that in him, he’s a leader,” said Bjorkgren. “He’s confident, but he’s taking much more of a leadership role. He’s closing out our huddles, he’s talking in our film sessions, he’s doing a nice job.”

Beyond his extending leadership capabilities, Booker has made it a point this offseason to improve his conditioning. The pre-training camp muscle watch is on.

“I got the experience, the experience of chasing J.J. Redick off screens and things like that,” said Booker. “You think you’re in shape until you get in the game. There are two different types of shape. There’s a treadmill in shape and there’s basketball in shape. Basketball shape includes eating right and everything like that, so that’s what I’ve been trying to do.”

The toughest food for Booker to cut out? Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers.

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