Summer pickup games have become a social media ritual for NBA players during the offseason. And whether it’s Ben Simmons shooting threes, aging stars like Dwyane Wade schooling regular folks in an open gym, or the blessed image of Kelly Olynyk balling out while wearing a hat, these settings are bound to produce viral moments.
They can also produce viral moments when they go wrong, and Devin Booker just learned this lesson the hard way. During a run loaded with current pros led by trainer Chris Johnson, Booker was caught arguing with Joakim Noah when the opposing team started to double-team him.
Here’s the exchange:
Booker: “Hey, bro. We’re not doubling in open gym, bro.”
Noah: “Yeah, we are.”
Booker: “I get that sh-t all season, bro. C’mon.”
Noah: “Yeah, we are.”
Booker: “Let’s work on our game, bro.”
Noah: “It’s part of the game.”
To Booker, pickup games are about showing off your talent in all the ways you can’t against NBA teams game-planning to stop you. It would be a possibly acceptable argument if Booker were an accountant or an engineer or a blogger (guilty) just looking to get some cardio in. Booker is way too good of a pro to be aiming that low during his summer pickup runs.
What you didn’t see in the viral clip of Booker complaining is him absolutely lighting up the gym. The full mix includes step-back jumpers against Tony Snell, easy drives past Ben Simmons on the perimeter, and incredible up-and-under layups.
Booker had no problem retweeting these highlights that made him look good. When the opposing team actually started to defend, he immediately took issue with it. His highlight mix even includes this exchange:
Guy in the gym: You gotta chill out, Book.
Booker: I’m just working, bro. I haven’t been to the playoffs yet.
And this is where his argument about double-teams falls apart. Complaining about seeing a double-team in pickup games is lame for an amateur if you have even two percent of a competitive bone in your body. It is especially lame for a pro who is gloating about burning Ben Simmons off the dribble when he’s barely trying.
If Devin Booker really wanted to get better, he would be using this setting to prepare himself for the season. Finding an open teammate against a hard double-team is a skill. So is splitting a trap. Seeing these coverages against NBA players in the summer would only help him in Phoenix.
Booker claims he’s working so he can finally help the Suns make the playoffs for the first time in his career. But when put in a situation he might see on an NBA floor, he starts protesting.
Booker has been an electric scorer throughout this NBA career, but there has been some valid criticism of his game. He gets his numbers, but doesn’t always have an impact on winning.
Maybe Booker is getting in his feelings because these are the only conditions in which he would actually be one of the most valuable players in the league: in games where no one gave a hoot about defense. If he’s serious about improving his game and getting the Suns to the postseason, he should be using open runs like this one to work on skills that will help him get there.