Suns’ Booker felt disrespected by T-Wolves’ Dieng, moves past scuffle

Jan 23, 2019, 2:19 PM | Updated: 10:02 pm
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Mi...
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
(AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — Devin Booker went through a series of one-on-one games Wednesday against Jamal Crawford, Josh Jackson and Elie Okobo less than 24 hours after he earned an ejection against the Timberwolves the night before.

The Suns’ star took verbal jabs at the rookie Okobo and admitted he fouled him more than he did Crawford or Jackson.

Toughening his rookie up with tough love is all good — it’s competing.

Booker, however, didn’t feel that what Minnesota Timberwolves center Gorgui Dieng said or did Tuesday in a Phoenix loss was within the lines of competition. He felt disrespected.

And that’s why Booker shoved Dieng after taking an elbow and some words from the T-Wolves center, leading to an ejection and failed locker room confrontation after security stopped the two from meeting in the tunnels of Talking Stick Resort Arena.

“It was tough. Whenever our team doesn’t have it from an energy standpoint, I try to take it to the next level. I think a lot of people read into it a lot more than it was,” Booker said Wednesday, the first time he spoke to the media since the incident.

“I’m not going to make it any more of a story than it already is. Just a fierce competitor, high-emotion game and that’s what happens sometimes.”

Suns coach Igor Kokoskov said after the game he needed his star to be on the court, not in the locker room. Player and coach briefly discussed the altercation, but Kokoskov felt Booker’s body language and attitude at practice Wednesday allowed them to quickly move on.

“I like what he was telling me this morning,” the coach said.

Booker declined to speak on what was said between he and Dieng during the game but did admit he felt disrespected.

“Yeah, and I addressed that. Obviously it got a little bit out of hand. That’s basketball,” the guard said. “I’m not saying anything that was said, but like I said, I keep coming back to respect. Something’s said out of line, I’ll just address the situation and say how I feel.

“I don’t care how anyone feels about my game,” he added. “It’s more of a(n) out-of-line, calling somebody out their name type of thing — respect standpoint from that point of view, off-the-court, man-to-man type of thing.”

Booker’s first technical rescinded

Booker said he’d cleared the air with the official who prior to his third-quarter altercation called a second-quarter technical on him as he clapped from the bench following a foul on Jackson.

After halftime, the referee said he reviewed tape that showed Booker didn’t say anything to him as initially thought. The technical, however, could not be rescinded officially until after the game.

Nonetheless, NBA rules allow referees to eject players for one technical foul if they deem it appropriate. That’s what happened to Dieng after he and Booker got into it.

Injury updates on Ayton, Holmes, Warren

Phoenix has missed centers Deandre Ayton (ankle sprain) and Richaun Holmes (foot sprain) in their last two games, both losses to the T-Wolves. Neither practiced on Wednesday, though Kokoskov said there’s a “slim chance” Ayton could play Thursday while hosting the Portland Trail Blazers.

T.J. Warren, who left Tuesday’s loss with a sore ankle, also has a “slim chance” at returning, while Holmes is questionable, according to Kokoskov.

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