The Phoenix Suns need a Kumar Rocker

MINNEAPOLIS, MN- AUGUST 23: Kumar Rocker #29 of the USA Baseball 18U National Team pitches during the national team trials on August 23, 2017 at Siebert Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN- AUGUST 23: Kumar Rocker #29 of the USA Baseball 18U National Team pitches during the national team trials on August 23, 2017 at Siebert Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty Images) /

Kumar Rocker is a freshman fireball starting pitcher for the Vanderbilt Commodores. While he plays the wrong sport at the wrong level for the Suns, Phoenix needs players like him.

While watching Vanderbilt freshman hurler Kumar Rocker no-hit Duke on on June 8, in the NCAA Tournament, one specific thing struck me: when he completed the feat, a moment that sports fans of all ages have dreamt of doing ourselves our entire lives, he did not immediately jump up and down in a show of grandeur or as a conquering force.

He never came close to upstaging his opponents – opponents who at least at one time attempted to upstage him.

(I can not attach the video but you can easily look it up on Twitter. At one point in the 7th inning, with Kumar rolling, Duke called an offensive timeout and the hitting coach stalled for every possible second he could to try and break the Ace pitcher’s rhythm. It didn’t work. He K’d the batter on four pitches for his 15th strikeout of the game.)

For Kumar, finishing the no-hitter in a playoff game was a moment to take a breath (a few breaths actually). To relieve himself of the stress of the moment.

He eventually let out a huge smile but who knows what kind of partying he did in the clubhouse or at the hotel the rest of the night. It doesn’t matter.

But on the field, in the moments immediately following his final out, Kumar Rocker was stoic, calm, and even when the job was done, entirely focused.

Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns /

Phoenix Suns

He did not appear to act as if he believed he deserved  that moment. He acted as if he took it.

The Phoenix Suns need to find players like this. Players who play the game to win – not show up their opponents.

In many ways, this is Devin Booker.

He has individually dominated opponents, dropping un-godly scoring numbers, and in stretches, appeared as if was the only uber-talented player on his court – and yet never acted if he knew he was. With the roster around him constantly subpar, one might not even pass blame on Book for acting flippantly on the court on occasion, showing up his opponents if the time called for it.

Yet time and again he has kept his emotions in check during a game – especially when other players love to celebrate like a child opening an amazing present on Christmas.

He remains focused, composed, and works until the job is done.

Then off the court, who cares how he celebrates.

This is a kind of maturity that is rarely found in kids (as I am defining the 22-year-old Booker here), and “kids” are becoming more and more the norm in the NBA.

The NBA has become far more focused on acquiring and developing players under the age of 21, kids who have never actually had to face life as a normal adult and yet who’s bank accounts are instantly upon signing and consistently flooded with more money than they could ever spend (well, most could never spend), and who for their entire gaming life until the NBA have usually been the best player on the court at all times.

When they reach they NBA, many come in both with an expectation of what should be given to them and how they should be treated, paired up with a level of immaturity natural to people their age, only to often be rudely awaken by the gruff reality of both adult, and professional life.

Many, unfortunately, do not know how to handle the pressure and rigors on the court, and they tend to cause more harm to their team than good.

The Phoenix Suns too have a recent history of selecting these kinds of players: wildly athletic, but mentally under-prepared for the men’s level of the game, using an eighth overall pick on Marquese Chriss (who might soon be out of the league entirely before he even turns 25), and a fourth overall pick on Josh Jackson.

Devin Booker though, came in and immediately had an air of maturity to him. He has never showed up his coaches or teammates, he has never showed up his opponents, when he does poorly he externalizes it, not projecting his negative game on his teammates, and when he plays very  well, or hits game-winning shots (which he has been fortunate to do on multiple occasions already in his career) he has generally celebrated the moment far more stoically than I would (or did when I opened an SNES on Christmas ’94).

Whether it be in the draft or some other means of acquisition, if the Phoenix Suns are going to remain a young team, they need to continue to find those types of players. Management and scouting needs to place a heavier focus on a player’s maturity and less on their profound athletic ability.

Being able to jump out of a gym can only get a player so far. One must be able to handle the rigors of the game if they are going to succeed in the NBA.

Only with a roster of players with that mental fortitude will the maturity and professionalism of the Phoenix Suns’ roster truly reach the level necessary to carry themselves back to the level of being a successful franchise.

Next. KD playing hurt against the Toronto Raptors could hurt the Phoenix Suns. dark

The Phoenix Suns need a Kumar Rocker.

Oh, and so do the Arizona Diamondbacks – but for an entirely different reason.