PHOENIX -- On a night that was supposed to be about two touted rookie debuts, it was a return that stole the show Wednesday in Phoenix.
Returning from a broken hand suffered late in the summer, Devin Booker shook off some early rust to showcase his star potential and the reason the Suns locked him up to a five-year maximum deal in July.
"Every day in the summer, I worked hard for this day, for this season," Booker said. "I knew going forward that the organization was there for us, that was going to be very special. With my contract also, it's going to be a big year for me."
Booker, who is still somehow only 21 years old, was molten lava hot in the fourth quarter, scoring 19 -- on 6-of-6 shooting, including 4-of-4 from 3 -- of his 35 points in the final frame as the Suns pulled away late against the Mavericks 121-100. Booker's 35 points are the most by a Suns player in a season opener since Kevin Johnson had 39 in 1995.
"You're just in that zone, man, trying to win the game," Booker said. "My idea this year to get the most wins as possible and make the playoffs. We owe that to this city. It's been a long drought for these fans. I know that comes with a lot of responsibility for me."
Booker even heard a few MVP chants as he was shooting free throws in the fourth quarter, though while appreciated, it was maybe a little too much.
"I heard 'em, man," he said. "That's love, man, but I wouldn't take it that far. We still have to win a lot of games to do that."
Deandre Ayton, the No. 1 overall draft pick this summer, said early on Wednesday his focus for his first professional game was to just win the opening tip, and then take it from there. He tried to normalize as much of the day as he could, planning out a simple routine that included a nap, talking to his husky, Rocky, and playing NBA 2K as the Suns against the Mavs.
He said he shut off the video game at halftime because he was losing, and he also lost the opening tip to DeAndre Jordan. But no bother, as he was solid in his debut, scoring 18 points on 8-of-11 shooting, with 10 rebounds and 6 assists, and an actual real-life win.
"I've been watching all summer. I knew he was something special," Booker said of Ayton. "I think people are always nervous for your first game. It's usually three trips down the court and then it just comes back to basketball. When you're that talented and have the abilities he does, the game is just going to come to you."
Ayton is the third player in Suns history to record a double-double in his debut, joining Alvan Adams and Shawn Marion.
Third overall pick and Rookie of the Year favorite Luka Doncic had a few eye-catching moments, primarily in the first half, where he flashed his skill and flair with a no-look lob to Jordan and then a smooth behind-the-back pass to a cutting Jordan for a dunk. Doncic (10 points on 5-of-16 shooting, 0-of-5 from 3) struggled shooting the ball, and was lost a bit in the flow of the game as it went down the stretch, but his feel and comfort with the game was on full display.
"I would say play better," Doncic said on assessing how he played. "For me, I will play better."