Suns' Devin Booker focused on following footsteps of NBA greats

Booker emerging as young star in the NBA (1:23)

At just 20 years old, Devin Booker has proved to be one of the top shooting guards in the NBA. In his sophomore season with the Suns, Booker credits his success to the experience gained during his first year in the league. (1:23)

The Phoenix Suns' 16-37 record is hardly what any coach envisions for his first full season at the helm. But when your 20-year-old shooting guard can drop 27 points in just over seven minutes, well, the outlook doesn't seem so bad.

"Coaching is easy," Earl Watson joked when asked about Devin Booker's scoring outburst in the second quarter of Saturday's loss to the Milwaukee Bucks.

"I had zero to do with that. Zero. Anything," Watson said. "If you have a player like that, and he's only 20, you think about how [there will be] even more opportunities for him to do that as he continues to grow and evolve in his game. Just when I thought coaching was so difficult ... you get lucky like that. It's like having a cheat code to a video game."

Watson, who played alongside several All-Stars, including Ray Allen and Kevin Durant, said such a dominant display is a strong indicator of big things to come.

"Watching that reminded me of things that Kobe [Bryant] would do," Watson said. "Not just the athleticism and getting to the rim, but how Kobe was so skilled offensively he could just take over a quarter.

"Only an elite player can do that."

Can Booker continue to follow in the footsteps of NBA greats?

ESPN sat down with the second-year guard heading into Friday's matchup with the Chicago Bulls (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) to get his take on his career thus far and what he sees for his near future.

You've been through a full NBA season. What has the second time around been like?

Booker: "I'm comfortable this time around, knowing what to expect. Last year I got a chance to play. A lot of rookies don't get a chance to play. I was thrown right into the fire and was playing major minutes as the youngest player in the league. Instead of watching it, I got the experience of just being in it.

"They say experience is the best teacher and it really is. I know what players I'm guarding, I know how they guard me. It's a big difference between this year and last year, but I'm trying to get wins. That's what it comes down to. I know we have a young team, but we have really good veterans. We're just trying to get wins and compete in the West."

Is there anything you learned from last season that you took into this year, or any adjustments you made as a result of last season?

A: "Everything. Every aspect of the game. I can't say I've mastered any part of my game. Obviously, guarding better. It's tough sometimes. This league is each and every night, and I understand that. So just coming in with a defensive mindset."

In college at Kentucky, you lost one game. What's it like now, when more often than not you're losing?

A: "It's tough. Everybody in the NBA, at one time in their life, were always winners -- always the best player on your team and winning state championships. It's tough, but it's the cream of the crop, it's the best players in the world. So you have to expect that. What I like about it is it's always a challenge. I think it will be better in the future that I'm going through this now; I'll have a chance to win in the future and that will make it that much better."

What has it been like watching teammate Eric Bledsoe take off?

A: "Unbelievable. Since the first open gym last year, I realized how special he was. I just never understood why he didn't get any recognition. I know that comes with winning. If Eric was doing the same things he is now and we were winning, he'd probably be an All-Star. He does amazing things on the court. He makes the game so much easier. He's a special player."

His injury last season opened the door for you to play more. What's it like now to play with him? Has developing chemistry been easy?

A: "At first it wasn't. But we're coming along a lot better now. That's what you have to expect. It has to come with time. I don't think any good backcourt comes together and just right away they're really special together. It's something we're building on. I'm understanding what he likes, he's understanding what I like. We're working off that. Each and every game we're getting better, and especially at this point in the season it's getting a lot better."

Have you found that the experience of playing more point guard, playing more as a creator when he was out, has helped you this season playing off of him?

A: "Yeah, I think it's helped me out a lot. That's how I played most of my career, in high school and throughout that stretch. When I was at Kentucky, people realized I could shoot a little bit better than expected. I've always been more of a create-my-own-shot [player], but we all sacrificed. People didn't know Karl Towns [Timberwolves star and former Kentucky star] could shoot like he can or dribble the ball like he can and pass it. There's a lot to our games that we didn't get to show in college. But what better time to show it than now."

What was it like to get the reception you got last season? Drake coming out in your jersey. LeBron James saying watch out for this guy. What was that like, at that point, at 19?

A: "It's unbelievable. It's something I worked for my whole life, and finally getting recognition for it. It feels good, like getting a chance to talk to Kobe. Things of that nature. Getting the chance to talk to LeBron. People I idolized growing up, and now just earning respect from them. I want to be in this league a long time, I want to follow their footsteps. It's kind of saying I'm on the right path. Obviously, I have a long way to go, but that's what's driving [me]."

Is there anything you learned from them, or that they tried to pass along?

A: "I got the chance to talk to Kobe for a minute. I'm more of a visual learner. I just watch people. You hear stories about Kobe throughout the NBA, about LeBron, on the mindset they take to the floor and the extra work that they put in. If I want to be great, you have to follow those footsteps. Every great I hear about has crazy stories of work ethic, something they do in the gym, something they do in the training room. I just try to stay focused and know the goal that's at hand."

So you've had two quarters where you went off -- 27 and 28 points [in the fourth quarter in Mexico City]. When you're in that mode, does it feel like everything is going in?

A: "I don't realize when I'm in it, because you're just so locked in. If you play basketball long enough, you've gotten hot before. Some people get in that zone where you just feel like you can take over. I get like that sometimes. Everybody in here has probably done it one time in high school or something. Mine just happened to come on the NBA level."

Is it better to score 27 points in seven minutes or hit a buzzer-beater?

A: "Buzzer-beater. [Booker hit a buzzer-beater Friday to top the Sacramento Kings, the Suns' only win in their past eight games.] So I'm going with the buzzer-beater, for sure."

I saw that you already have your own bobblehead. That's how far you've come. That's kind of a rite of passage in the NBA.

A: "It actually looked really good, too. I've seen a few where it didn't really look like the player. But this one actually looked like me. I was surprised. The Suns organization did a really good job with it."

You guys have a mix of veterans and young guys. What sort of impact have some of those guys had on you?

A: "It's been good, man. We have really good vets on this team. Jared [Dudley], Tyson [Chandler], P.J. Tucker. We just got Ronnie Price back. These guys, they've been helping me every step of the way. Just giving me advice, telling me to stay humble. At times they'll get on me, too. But they tell me they expect greatness from me, so that's why they push me. I credit them with everything I've done in the NBA so far. They're my brothers for life. Hopefully I'm the vet for our young crew now -- Marquese [Chriss], Tyler [Ulis] and Alan [Williams] and Dragan [Bender]."

Even though you're younger or as young as them ...

A: "Exactly. We're all the same age, but I have that one year of experience. We know we're probably, most likely going to be the future. We're starting to build now. We've got good veterans around that are going to help us. Now we have to take it from here."