Suns’ Booker has one fo­cus: Win games, make the playoffs

The Arizona Republic - - Front Page - Scott Bor­dow

Devin Booker is sick of it. Sick of not be­ing in the post­sea­son. Sick of be­ing a spec­ta­tor when the games mat­ter most.

“I’m done with not mak­ing the playoffs. I’m se­ri­ous,” Booker said Wed­nes­day as the Suns con­ducted their exit in­ter­views fol­low­ing a 21-61 sea­son. “This is prob­a­bly the last year I’m ever not mak­ing the playoffs. That’s putting pres­sure on my­self I need. I’m watch­ing these games right now with teams try­ing to clinch and the play­off at­mos­phere of those games and those are the games I want to be in.”

There’s been re­cent spec­u­la­tion that Booker is so fed up with the Suns’ los­ing ways he might not sign the five-year,

$156 mil­lion rookie con­tract ex­ten­sion Phoenix likely will of­fer him this sum­mer. Booker, with­out mak­ing a firm com­mit­ment, put those fears to rest.

“Don’t be­lieve in non­sense,” he said. “With TV, they need some­thing to talk about. I’ve al­ways men­tioned since my first day here that I fell in love with this city, I fell in love with the fan base and the ded­i­ca­tion they showed to the team.

“I al­ways think about turn­ing the fran­chise around, to get it back how it used to be. I watch the high­lights of (Charles) Barkley and (Steve) Nash and how alive the arena was. One of my goals is to get it back that way.”

Booker av­er­aged ca­reer highs in points (24.9), as­sists (4.7) and re­bounds (4.5) this sea­son, be­com­ing only the third player 21 or younger to av­er­age at least 24 points, four as­sists and four re­bounds over an en­tire sea­son. The oth­ers: LeBron James and Michael Jor­dan.

But an as­sort­ment of in­juries lim­ited Booker to only 54 games, one rea­son he plans on strength­en­ing his body over the sum­mer. In ad­di­tion to hav­ing a chef cook for him, Booker is hir­ing a full-time trainer.

“I’ll have some­body with me full­time, all the time,” he said. “I did at spots last sum­mer. I’d go to Orangeth­e­ory for a week straight, but now I’m about to have some­body with me to take me to the gym and work on ex­actly what my body needs.

“You see LeBron right now, and they say he spends over a mil­lion dol­lars on his body ev­ery year. I can’t do that. But you have to take care of your body be­cause the sea­son is a wear and tear on you.”

Booker ad­mit­ted it’s been dif­fi­cult to han­dle 178 losses over his first three sea­sons. But he’s con­vinced that will make the pay­off all the sweeter.

“Right now I see the beauty of the strug­gle,” he said. “So once that suc­cess starts hap­pen­ing, it will make it even bet­ter from know­ing what we went through as a team and went through as young play­ers. The league has been beat­ing us up right now. I think it will be mo­ti­va­tion for us. I know for my­self work­ing out I think about that all time. I never want to be in these sit­u­a­tions again.”

TOM TIN­GLE/THE RE­PUB­LIC

Suns guard Devin Booker meets the press at Talk­ing Stick Re­sort Arena on Wed­nes­day to sum up the Suns’ sea­son.

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