By ROBERT GUNDRANCronkite News
PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns finished their third straight season among the NBA’s worst teams and their eighth season in a row out of the playoff picture. Guard Devin Booker expressed his frustration with the trio of disappointing seasons since joining the league and the Suns in 2015.
“I’m done with not making the playoffs,” Booker said. “I’m serious. This is probably my last year ever not making the playoffs. That’s putting pressure on myself that I need. I felt like I was playing in pointless games sometimes.”
“My whole career, except the NBA, I’ve been a winner, so I want to get back to that,” he added.
Booker has one year remaining on his contract with the Suns before he becomes a restricted free agent. He could potentially sign an extension with the team before his contract is up. Although Booker said he hasn’t had any discussions with the franchise yet, he wants to remain in Phoenix and isn’t disenchanted with the Suns.
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“Don’t believe the nonsense,” Booker said. “With TV, they just want something to talk about. I’ve always said since my first day here — I fell in love with the city. I fell in love with the fanbase and the dedication they show to this team. I want to be here, yes.”
“I always think about turning around the franchise to how it used to be. You see highlights of Barkley, Nash and all them and you see how lively the arena was. One of my goals is to get it back that way,” he added.
Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough didn’t mince words when speaking about the past season.
“It was a challenging season,” McDonough said.
McDonough said the Suns were ready to take the next step in a rebuilding effort towards fielding a competitive team next season.
“We’ll have a top-four pick in a loaded draft,” McDonough said. “We have the ability to create a lot of cap space to bring in a couple of players.”
He noted other organizations that he said the Suns have studied such as the Golden State Warriors and the Oklahoma City Thunder, who faced 20- and 30-win seasons while building their rosters of superstars.
“Three years is the right way to gain the right amount of young talent,” McDonough said.
Over the past three years, the Suns have drafted Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, T.J. Warren, Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss. It’s a team of players who are in their early 20s. McDonough said he’ll be looking to bring veteran players to the team in free agency over the summer.
McDonough also noted that he’ll look to hire a new coach before the NBA Draft and draft combine. The combine is on May 16, so Suns fans should expect a hire before then. Interim coach Jay Triano has been the only Suns coaching candidate named so far.
“We’ve reached out to coaching agents and agencies,” McDonough said. “Later today or tonight we’re going to be getting right into the coaching search.”
Triano was thrust into the role of Suns coach early into the season, after former coach Earl Watson was fired after three games. He said despite the disappointing season, he thinks the young players on the team have learned a lot.
“We knew going into this year that we weren’t going to win an NBA championship,” Triano said. “We had a couple of players achieve career highs, including T.J. and Book.”
He also mentioned bringing in a strong, veteran presence during the offseason. A veteran that could teach younger players while still producing on the court.
“The voice in a locker room carries a lot more weight when they’re a contributor,” Triano said. “Young players need those guys on the court.”
Free agency starts on July 1, and the NBA Draft takes place on June 21. McDonough shut down talk about trading the team’s top-four pick, unless he was presented with an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“The only way we’d part with our first pick is in a blockbuster deal, maybe if we got a young superstar, which is the hardest thing to do in the league,” McDonough said.
After two straight years with the No. 4 pick in the draft, the Suns will hope to land a top-two slot in the draft lottery. It’s a spot that would guarantee them either the top collegiate prospects in University of Arizona center DeAndre Ayton or Duke University big-man Marvin Bagley III, or the top international prospect, Real Madrid’s Luka Doncic.
Adding either of those players plus a strong free agency could give Suns fans more to look forward to in the 2018-19 season.
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