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Former Nevada point guard Deonte Burton

      
 
 

I caught up with Phoenix Suns rookie Devin Booker yesterday after he finished a competitive workout with most of his Suns teammates in a open gym format.

The coaches are around and giving advice, but not organizing any scrimmages. In the NBA, coaches cannot do anything more than individual drills and up to 3-on-3 play until training camp. But these days, they are just letting the guys have fun and run together.

"We are working out as a team," rookie Devin Booker said Thursday. "We've been doing a lot of weights and open gym. It's been really competitive."

You might have guessed that the young Suns players and camp invites are already around for pickup games, but Eric Bledsoe also remains in town and newly re-signed Brandon Knight is running with the guys as well. So are veterans Ronnie Price and P.J. Tucker as well as new import Sonny Weems.

"Everyone's really played well. It's just been really competitive," Booker said. "Everyone's counting their win and things like that. So it's been a good time."

In fact, only veterans Tyson Chandler, Mirza Teletovic and Markieff Morris haven't made it back in town yet for pickup games.

Before you get all up in arms over those missing guys, remember that most NBA teams don't even try to get together a 5-on-5 scrimmage until after Labor Day. Yet here we are in late August and nearly every roster player is already back in town for the long season.

I asked Devin what surprised him about any of the players.

"The physicality of the two guards, Brandon and Eric," he said. "You watch them on TV, but that's the first time stepping on the court with me. Just how physical they are. How mature and grown men they are on the court. It's just been really impressive."

Booker is the youngest player in the NBA. He was the youngest in his draft class this year and won't turn 19 until the night that Steve Nash gets inducted into the Suns Ring of Honor, October 30. That means he will play his first NBA game - if he gets in - still just 18 years old.

But that doesn't deter Booker. He already saw at Kentucky that being the youngest doesn't count you out. He had planned to stay at Kentucky two or three years despite that being a one-and-done factory.

"I always felt - I was the youngest kid in my class - that it might take my body a little bit more time to develop," he said. "With the Harrison twins staying, I didn't know how playing time was going to work. But at the end of the day, I feel like my work ethic put me over the top.

"I went in with that mindset I would be there two or three years. Once you start working hard and the team starts having success, things come fast at you."

He came in ready to play a role rather than be a star.

"Make the game simple," he said. "Know who you're playing with, and just play your role. Not everybody can be the star player. Especially on a team like that (Kentucky) with so much talent. I figured if I just found my niche on the team that I'd be good and it worked out well for me."

It also helped that he was the best shooter on the team, and certainly in his draft class. He wasn't surprised he was named the best shooter in the Draft by his peers.

I asked him to name another shooter who compared to him in his draft class this year.

"I don't think so," he said. Then, with a little chuckle because he realized how brash that sounded. "Yeah, I don't think so."

Booker had a lot more to say about what he's working on this summer, how he respects coach Hornacek and the connection he feels with his other one-and-done Kentucky Wildcats in the back court with him. Part two of this interview will drop sometime next week.

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