We are only in the early stages of the Phoenix Suns’ training camp, and already the vibes or great. Media day went off without a hitch – thanks in no small part to a certain “domini-Ayton” big man fulfilling his own media duties far away in Portland.
Kevin Durant and Devin Booker essentially committed to playing for Team USA at the Olympics next year, while Bradley Beal has the rest of the Western Conference running scared already. With the exception of a strange Bol Bol remark, all is great.
The Suns have started this training camp with a new head coach in Frank Vogel, and it is clear Booker is loving the experience of playing under him already.
Speaking to the media after practice on Thursday, Booker was enthusiastically about the level of intensity the team were going through right out of the gate;
"“This is a training camp man, this is definitely a training camp. We feel our legs are heavy, they’re tired, they’re sore – and that’s how it’s supposed to be at this time of year.”"
This is important because Booker is without doubt the face of the team. Durant is cool with it, the front office will tell anybody that listens that this is his team, and he is certainly carrying himself with the swagger of a guy who is entering his prime and playing for a championship.
So backing his coach’s training methods so publicly, and with so much enthusiasm, is fantastic for the organization to see. We’re not that long removed from Monty Williams having been in charge, and although he had his moments with this group – most notably getting them to the NBA Finals – it was time for a change.
Booker clearly realizes that Vogel was at the helm of the Los Angeles Lakers when they won a championship with LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Forgotten to some is the fact that too was Vogel’s first season in charge of that group. Booker is all in on how his new coach plans on getting them to the promised land.
Vogel is known as a defensive-minded coach first and foremost as well, and it will be fascinating to see how the trio of stars respond to the levels required on that end to be great. Center Jusuf Nurkic has been added to this group, although even the most optimistic person can see he will miss some time through injury. Still, Vogel believes he can get the best out of him.
All in all then, this might feel like a throwaway comment, but it is so much more than that. Booker could have just fobbed this question off, or given the kind of stock answer that doesn’t really tell us much of anything. But there was personality, and the hint of a tired voice, in how he responded. That has to count for something.
To make this even better, Vogel was quick to talk about Booker’s abilities defensively, which is not something he has always been known for. If you paid attention though, you’d know that he is more than capable of staying with elite scorers in crucial playoff games, while also averaging a league leading 33.7 points per game on the other end.
It is early days, but already it looks like coach and franchise player are getting along. You don’t necessarily need to be best friends to win a championship, but it sure does help if your star is buy into what your coach is trying to lay down.
On the defensive end, the area of less concern to Booker each night if we’re being honest, he is already taking onboard what coach Vogel has to say. Given that the lead assistant in Kevin Young is another person Booker is a big fan of, this coaching combination already looks like a winning formula for the organization.