The Devin Booker-Kevin Durant-Bradley Beal era in Phoenix began Monday with media day, and there was no shortage of players embracing the challenge with Booker as the Suns’ de facto leader.
Booker is confident that more time with his teammates will translate into success as Phoenix joins the rest of the league in trying to take down the defending champion Denver Nuggets.
“The Nuggets played their asses off through the whole playoffs,” Booker said, “so they’re the front-runners right now so everybody else has to try to catch them and knock them off the throne.
“But I’m excited to have the team at the start of training camp, get acquainted with the guys and get everything situated.”
Durant, who turned 35 last Friday, played eight regular-season games and 11 playoff games with the Suns earlier this year, averaging 29 points per game in the postseason.
He and Booker will be the primary drivers for this potentially record-setting offense.
“Book is somebody that I really admire and I love being around, not just on the basketball court but off the court as well,” he said. “I’m looking forward to continuing to build with Book.”
Booker, who said he’s always looked up to Durant, said, “We have a great deal of respect for each other and we continue to push each other.”
Booker, 26, is entering his ninth NBA season with career averages of 23.9 points, 4.8 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game.
The Suns defeated the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs before falling to the Nuggets, and Booker welcomes the chance to battle with his new-look Suns.
“All these guys make the game easier for me, and I understand that,” Booker said. “We all have to be aggressive at the same time. Finding that balance, I’m sure we’ll pick up on that quick.”
With Booker and Durant already in tow, the Suns acquired Beal from the Washington Wizards in June in a three-team megadeal.
Beal expressed an eagerness to push Booker to greater heights and said he’s all-in for the challenge.
“(Booker) can only just get better and that sounds scary to say,” Beal said, “and I’m excited to see that. …
“His sky is unlimited, honestly, and I think he’s just now scratching the surface of people really waking up and respecting his game and understanding that he can carry a team.”
Suns managing partner Mat Ishbia left no doubt about the tip of the spear, talking about Booker, answering the question posed of him as he was considering buying an NBA team.
“You ever see those things on the internet, like âWho would you build your team around if you could buy an NBA team?’ My guy was Devin Booker,” Ishbia said Tuesday. “I got the dream scenario.”