On Thursday afternoon, the Brooklyn Nets traded Trevor Booker to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas and a 2019 second-round pick.
Philadelphia had been shopping Okafor for quite some time and they finally found a deal that general manager Bryan Colangelo felt made sense for their roster. Booker, like offseason acquisition JJ Redick, is a respected veteran leader who can help the 76ers on and off the court.
For Brooklyn, general manager Sean Marks has had to get creative to add young players to the roster since the Nets don’t own many of their draft picks. This deal nets them a 21-year-old center, 24-year-old guard and second-round pick to add to their young core that already includes D’Angelo Russell (21 years old), Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (22), Spencer Dinwiddie (24), Jarrett Allen (19), Caris LeVert (23) Isaiah Whitehead (22), and Allen Crabbe (25) among others.
Booker is a 30-year-old power forward who is averaging 10.1 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists this season while shooting 51.3 percent from the field.
HoopsHype caught up with Booker to discuss how he learned of yesterday’s trade, his future in Philadelphia, the 76ers’ bright future, what he’ll bring to the table on and off the court for his new team and much more.
First of all, how did you get the news that you were being traded to Philadelphia?
Trevor Booker: I was taking my pre-game nap. My wife came in and woke me up to tell me what she heard. She had heard that I was being traded to Philly. Next thing you know, my [hotel] room phone started ringing and when she answered it, they told her to wake me up. Then they told me to come downstairs to meet with Sean [Marks] and that’s when I found out officially.
You chose to go there as a free agent and we had talked about how you were really enjoying the city. Were you upset when you got the news, and did it surprise you?
TB: Actually, it wasn’t that tough. Of all my years in the NBA, I kind of felt like this would be the year that I got traded. It was my first time. I didn’t really have too many feelings. I was excited more than anything, just because I’m going to an up-and-coming team like the Sixers. But I wouldn’t say that I was surprised.
If you have to get traded, Philly is certainly a good place to land since they’re playing really well and they should only continue to get better. What started going through you head when you found out that it was Philly that dealt for you?
TB: I was really excited. I can’t wait to get there and see what I can help them with. They have a good mixture of young players and veterans, so I think I’ll fit right in.
When we talked on The HoopsHype Podcast over the offseason, you raved about their young core – particularly Joel Embiid. You said you’d take Embiid over Anthony Davis if you were starting a team. This year, he’s averaging 23.5 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2 blocks. What are your thoughts about getting to play alongside him?
TB: It’s very exciting to get to play alongside him. He’s already one of the best players in the NBA. I’m definitely looking forward that, along with playing next to Ben Simmons, Dario Saric and all the rest of the guys.
Simmons has been a monster, averaging 17.7 points, 9.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 2.2 steals while shooting 50 percent from the field. We didn’t get a chance to talk about him over the offseason, so what are your thoughts on his game so far?
TB: He’s been phenomenal. He can score the ball, rebound it, pass it… he’s just an all-around player. It’ll definitely be great to play with somebody like that.
The trade was just finalized last night, but what’s the timetable for you get to Philly and complete the physical and all of that?
TB: I’m actually heading to Philly right now. I left Mexico [where the Nets were playing the Thunder] at about 8 pm last night and got into Houston, but my flight to New York was delayed. I didn’t get home until about 5 am and as soon as I got home, I had to pack about three or four bags and that took about 45 minutes. I didn’t get into bed until about 6 am. Now, I’m right back up at 8 am and I’m heading to Philly now.
Wow. For 76ers fans who may not know as much about your game, what do you hope to bring to the team on the court?
TB: I’ll bring a lot of passion; I’m a passionate player. I’m a guy that’s going to be aggressive, provide energy and be a pest on defense. I’m pretty much a bigger TJ McConnell.
They’re going to love that comparison. Now, one of the reasons Brooklyn signed you is because you’re also a great leader and mentor to young players. What are you hoping to do for the 76ers off the court?
TB: I’ll make the guys aware of all the seminars and events that the National Basketball Players Association puts on for them and I also want to help them get involved in something off the court, especially if it helps prepare them for life after basketball. I just want to help their awareness.
It seems like Philadelphia will only continue to improve as the season goes on since Markelle Fultz should get healthy, Simmons and Embiid should get even more comfortable with more experience and the new veterans like you and Redick should get acclimated. How good can this 76ers team be?
TB: I mean, if you look at the team right now, they’re in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They’re the eighth seed. Hopefully we can continue to play well and if we do get into the playoffs, it’ll be a great experience, especially for the young guys. It’ll be great to get back to that [playoff] atmosphere. We’re just going to keep building and keep improving that chemistry. We want to just keep getting better and progress throughout the season.
What do you think of the job Brett Brown has done?
TB: He’s done a tremendous job. You can tell that he’s a super smart coach. When I was playing against him, you could always tell how smart he was just from going against him. When it comes to Xs and Os, in-game adjustments, pre-game [game plans] and getting his players to play really hard, he does a great job.
You’re in the final year of your contract and you’ll be an unrestricted free agent in July. It certainly seems like the 76ers could be a top team in the East in two or three years. Could you see yourself staying in Philadelphia long-term?
TB: Definitely. I see a really bright future for this team so if they want me to stay there long-term, I’d definitely love to be a part of it.