Phoenix’s Kelly Oubre Jr. and Josh Jackson talk about Devin Booker being ejected in Tuesday night’s 118-91 loss to Minnesota at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
Duane Rankin, Arizona Republic
Devin Booker’s mind seemed to be somewhere else Tuesday night.
Maybe it was back in Minnesota where he had a technical foul and two costly turnovers in the fourth quarter of a two-point loss.
Wherever it was, it didn’t appear to be in the game and his frustration boiled over into a potential altercation in the Phoenix Suns’ 118-91 loss to the Timberwolves at Talking Stick Resort Arena.
“It’s just been a couple of games guys have been frustrated,” Suns forward Kelly Oubre Jr. said. “At the end of the day, we control our own actions and our own destiny. I’m sure he’ll be fine. It’s just something that happened and as a man, you don’t let somebody bow you in the face and not do anything about it or at least address them. I salute him for that.”
After picking up his second technical after an exchange that led to an ejection Tuesday, Booker was looking to get at Gorgui Dieng, who knocked him down with an elbow after a turnover with 5:24 left in the third quarter with the Suns trailing, 82-62.
The two exchanged words and Booker retaliated by putting his hand up in the area of Dieng’s face. Quincy Acy stepped in between and moved Dieng out the way while Jerryd Bayless stepped in front of Booker.
That led to a scrum involving players, coaches, security and referees. Booker and Dieng drew technical fouls and were ejected by referee Eric Lewis.
“I think he’s trying to hit me,” Dieng said. “Everybody could see. It was clear. I wasn’t trying to throw a punch. He’s trying to hit me. I just laugh it off.”
However, Dieng, as he leaving the the court, motioned for Booker to meet him in the hallway. Booker was looking to do so, but Suns director of team security, Max Cayard, was holding him back by the back of the jersey as Booker was trying to run off the court to get at Dieng.
According to those in the area, Dieng got to the top of the hallway between the locker rooms as he left the court first, but went back inside the visiting locker room before Booker got to the other end of the hallway near the Suns’ locker room where he would’ve likely seen him.
Dieng made light of the situation, saying “I wanted to just exchange jerseys with him,” when asked if they were going to meet in the hallway, but earlier took a jab at Booker.
“I know in this league a lot of guys think they’re tough.” Dieng said. “And they’re not.”
We don’t have Booker’s side because he left before media availability, just as he did after Sunday’s loss. Going back to that game, Booker was talking to the referees a lot.
At one point, Oubre Jr. was urging him to bring the ball up court instead of talking to a referee. He also stared in the direction of the referees during a timeout while his teammates were on the bench.
Two days later, Booker was once again having dialogue with the referees, especially after his first technical in the first half – from the bench.
Those around the area said Booker didn’t say a word, but referee JB DeRosa talked with Igor Kokoskov about the technical.
Something was said by someone, but this was all part of a night Phoenix (11-38) started without Deandre Ayton (left ankle sprain) and Richaun Holmes (right foot sprain).
The two missed a second straight game with injuries sustained in Saturday’s 20-point loss at Charlotte.
TJ Warren didn’t return in the second half Tuesday with a sore right ankle he reinjured Sunday night.
“I think it’s a chronical thing,” Kokoskov said. “It keeps getting a little bit worse.”
Then Booker ended what was already a frustrating night for him with ejection.
So the final score isn’t surprising.
Josh Jackson scored a season-high 27 points, but Phoenix was outrebounded, 64-34. Minnesota (23-24) made 15 threes and Karl-Anthony Towns led five players in double figures with 25 points and 18 rebounds.
Booker’s reaction to the second technical foul is surprising.
“He wants to be out there with the guys, so I understand why he’s upset,” Kokoskov said.
Booker’s the team leader in points, assists – and now technical fouls with eight. The final one and aftermath is part of a bigger topic of conversation that goes back to last week’s heartbreaker at Toronto that ended with Pascal Siakam’s winner at the buzzer.
Jackson drew two technical fouls and was ejected in the fourth quarter.
“We didn’t get no calls, man,” Jackson said after that game. “Simple as that. I felt disrespected. That’s what happened ultimately and I don’t let nobody disrespect me. That’s what happened.”
Booker joined Jackson on that disrespectful narrative, but put a slight twist on it.
“I think we’re looking for respect that we have to earn still,” Booker said after that game. “We realize that. We’re at the bottom of the West. They’re at the top of the East. We can come in and complain about calls every game, but nobody respects us and we should know that by now. Everybody knows that. If you’re not one of those top teams, you’re going to have to work for it.”
Booker also said “you have to see the bigger picture. Realize you can’t do anything about it anymore and just move on to the next play.”
Now he seems to be having a hard time doing that right now.
Because Booker’s probably feeling disrespected as a franchise player who Kokoskov said earlier this season isn’t getting enough respect.
He’s been talking to the referees more and more. Add the frustration of losing and you have a player who needed to be escorted off the court.
“We’ve all been there before,” Jackson said. “Frustrated. It’s kind of hard to listen to anybody in the moment. Too bad I couldn’t get to him before, but what I said to him after is I’ll see you at home because I knew it was his second tech and I knew he was going be out of the game.”
Jackson let out a smile towards the end of that, but turned serious when continuing to address not only what’s becoming an growing problem for Booker, but the Suns as well.
“I’ve learned from it, he’s learned from it,” Jackson said. “We’ve both been through similar situations like that, but we just can’t let our emotions get the best of us all the time. We really could’ve used him out there and the end of the game.”