‘It’s go time’: Booker, Ayton eager to start after key offseason additions

Devin Booker (left) is excited that he will be wearing the same Phoenix Suns jersey as Chris Paul. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Suns fans are certainly excited for the arrival of Chris Paul, but center Deandre Ayton might be the most excited of all.

“We got CP3 in Arizona, y’all trippin’,” Ayton said Thursday in a press conference via Zoom. “We got Chris Paul in Phoenix!”

Arizona sports fans have endured a lot of heartbreak over the years, and Suns fans are no exception. After the team went 8-0 in the NBA bubble in Orlando, yet still failed to reach the 2020 playoffs, it felt like the latest in a long line of proverbial slaps to the face.

Once the Suns’ season reached its bitter end, trade rumors again began swirling around star guard Devin Booker, and fans prepared for the worst.

Every year, it seems like the same old story. Players and fans get excited at the chance to finally break the cycle of misery, only to be let down.

This time, however, there’s a legitimate reason to believe that cycle might end.

Fresh hope arrived when the Suns made waves across the NBA on Nov. 16 by acquiring Paul, the 10-time All-Star guard, from the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“He’s an ultra-competitor, and he’s been (one) for many long years, that’s why he has the resume that he has,” Booker said Thursday. “But his leadership, even in the short time (he’s been) here … just makes you want to work that much harder.”

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The Suns also signed free-agent forward Jae Crowder to a three-year contract on Nov. 28, solidifying the team’s frontcourt.

Aside from the on-court talent the two veterans bring, a lot has been made of the improvements they can make to the culture around the team.

“I feel like the culture has definitely changed, even from the bubble to now,” Booker said. “I think with the additions of the players that we added, we have a depth team with a lot of (basketball) IQ and guys that know how to play the game.”

Booker also mentioned how this is an important step in Phoenix becoming a destination city for high-level players.

“That says a lot. I think that was what was most important for this organization and this team this summer, was having guys who wanted to come here,” Booker said. “A guy like Jae wanting to come here, a guy like Chris, a Hall-of-Fame guy wanting to come to Phoenix after what we’ve been through for the past five to 10 years, so I think that’s a step forward for this organization. People really see something’s brewing over here.”

The Suns will have a new look in 2021, and not just on the roster. A newly-renovated arena, brand new practice facility and the new ‘The Valley’ City Edition uniform are all contributing to the new identity the team is trying to build.

“It’s perfect timing, we have a new arena, new practice facility that we’re in now, so it’s a great culture around here, and it’s still building,” Booker said. “We’re having fun in here, the energy’s high, the personality’s out, and the competitiveness is there.”

The Suns are in a transition period, and the NBA is taking notice. Paul might not be the only new piece of the puzzle, but he’s certainly the most exciting.

“Just knowing the type of tradition, and the type of dude, and the type of career (Paul’s) had, and the foundation he’s laid in this league, it’s tremendous,” Ayton said. “And knowing that I’m going to be a part of his legacy? I can’t stop moving, I mean we’ve been working hard, I want to lift more weight, it’s go time.”

The Suns are tentatively scheduled to begin their 2020-21 season at home Dec. 23 against the Dallas Mavericks.

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Ethan Greni is a transfer student from California who expects to graduate in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Greni is a digital reporter covering hockey for Cronkite News.