Feb 10, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) reacts on the court during the game against the Golden State Warriors at Talking Stick Resort Arena. The Golden State Warriors won 112-104. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

October 26, 2016

Jackson Dorsey

Suns bring young talent and excitement into new season

The Phoenix Suns showcase one of the NBA’s youngest teams this season behind 19-year-old star Devin Booker.

Booker was recently voted by the NBA’s General Managers as the player most likely to have a breakout season. Former Los Angeles Lakers ball boy, Time Warner Cable employee and current Blaze Radio NBA host, Eliav Gabay, shares the sentiment.

“When it comes to the Suns, I’m really thinking of developing Devin Booker, riding that horse, he’s such a beast, something really special, you can see it from summer league,” Gabay said.

The Suns open their season tonight at 7 p.m. against the Sacramento Kings at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

Booker shined earlier in this year’s summer league, posting an average of 26 points, 5 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game, placing him second in points and third in assists.

In Gabay’s experience with the Lakers, he worked with the likes of NBA legend Kobe Bryant and former Sun’s great Steve Nash. After the Sun’s matchup with the Lakers last season, Bryant addressed Booker with high praise, “passing the torch” to Booker. Booker’s jump to stardom, Gabay says, is something that should be expected.

“Just the way Kobe treated him last year, he knew this guy is legit, he is the future of the NBA,” Gabay said.

Booker is only one of the Sun’s many “teenage talents.” Accompanying Booker are 18-year-old Dragan Bender, the Sun’s first overall pick in this year’s draft and 19-year-old Marquese Chriss, former Washington Huskies standout.

These “building blocks” are something that longtime fan Keegan Kelly says will be necessary in bringing the Sun’s back to basketball relevance.

“I remember when Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire took the NBA by storm,” Kelly said. “It’s such a young team, so it’s hard to tell what their strengths will be, but talent is on their side and a better team chemistry.”

Team chemistry was a focus of the Suns during the offseason. Disbanding of the controversy-ridden Markieff and Marcus Morris twins, as well as incorporating high-fives as a team stat, were two initiatives the Sun’s took in growing comradery.

Kelly says this emphasis bodes well for the Suns.

“The difference with this season, is that the Suns have a direction, they don’t have the locker room trouble with the Morris brothers, everyone is on the same page and confident in the young talent,” Kelly said.

With the plethora of young talent, the Suns bring back several veterans including NBA champions Tyson Chandler and Leonardo Barbosa as well as the return of head coach Earl Watson.

Former season-ticket holder Harley Yearout said he was disgruntled with last season’s 23-59 record, and said he will need to see a change in leadership in order to return as ticket holder.

“You get a lot of perks, access to a club, free food, the atmosphere is great, but it’s hard to make all the games and frankly, the product on court wasn’t great last year,” Yearout said. “The common fan doesn’t want to see a bad team; they don’t appreciate the rebuilding process, but Chandler is the real leader of this team, he’s a champion and a former defensive player of the year. It’s his job to pump up the squad to what it used to be.”

The mix of veteran leadership, young talent and Watson’s coaching style, will be key factors in the Suns success this season, Gabay said.

“It’s all about the veterans teaching the young guys, and the young guys being sponges,” Gabay said. “I think Watson will be able to manage it well, He’s comfortable, he’s really grown with this team and has no issues with coming in to this season.”