NBA schedule gives Devin Booker, Suns an early shot at redemption

Aug 18, 2022, 7:27 PM
Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns handles the ball against Reggie Bullock #25 of the Dallas Maver...
Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns handles the ball against Reggie Bullock #25 of the Dallas Mavericks during the first half in Game Seven of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Semifinals at Footprint Center on May 15, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Most rivalries come from the same bloodline. They are born from geography and tradition. They stand the test of time.

But the best rivalries are volcanic eruptions, spontaneous combustions, spawned from the fires of contempt. They burn hot and they burn out fast, when a score is finally settled.

They are Jordan’s Bulls against the Bad Boy Pistons. They are Terrell Suggs’ Ravens against Ben Roethlisberger’s Steelers.

They are the Suns and the Mavericks, a grimy grudge-fest that will resume on Opening Night in Phoenix, a rivalry best defined by the names on the back of the jerseys.

When last seen, the Mavericks were whooping and hollering their way out of Footprint Center, having dealt the Suns one of the most embarrassing losses in NBA history. The Suns trailed by 30 points at home, at halftime, in a Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals. The crowd was stunned, shocked and reduced to audible gasps. Those in the building will never forget those awful sounds.

When it was over, many of the Dallas players were openly mocking Phoenix fans who chanted “Suns in Four!” after Game 2.

“Suns in what?” they collectively chanted after Game 7. “Suns in what?”

I watched them all thunder their way to the locker room. And then I saw Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd throw me a wink, a former player who once ran the show in Phoenix, who knew exactly what he had done to the Suns.

The series was full of antagonists. After a scorching victory that staked the Suns to a 2-0 series lead, Devin Booker and Chris Paul seemed to identify Luka Doncic as the pigeon, the weak link on the opposing defense. During Game 5, Booker trolled Doncic by playing dead under the basket, only to raise his head, glance at a fan and call his performance the “Luka Special.”

In retrospect, it was an embarrassing and extremely rare display of immaturity.

Doncic responded with the force of Thor’s hammer. He called out the Suns for being classic frontrunners, for yapping when things are going their way. He had as many points at halftime of Game 7 as the entire Suns team (27). He put Booker in his place, something few NBA players have ever been able to accomplish.

This isn’t the first time the Suns/Mavericks have flashed as a rivalry. In a previous era, Steve Nash badly wanted to prove Mark Cuban wrong, the Mavericks owner who wouldn’t pay Nash over fears of his long-term health. Nash settled that score by winning consecutive MVP trophies.

As fruits of the 2018 NBA Draft began to bloom, a Suns-Mavericks rivalry seemed inevitable and unavoidable, forever tied to the careers of Doncic and Deandre Ayton, who was selected No. 1 overall and two spots ahead of the Mavericks superstar.

Now, it has gone from simmer to boil. They have JaVale McGee. We have an NBA team in desperate need of revenge. We have a point guard who might still be angry over the treatment of his mother at American Airlines Center. But moving forward, it’s really Doncic against Booker. Heavyweight against heavyweight. The way the NBA demands.

Kobe Bryant once wrote the words, “Be Legendary” on a pair of shoes he gifted to Booker. But Doncic showed Booker how it’s done, temporarily booting him from the head table of the NBA elite. And now it’s time for atonement, starting with a pound of flesh on Opening Night.

Penguin Air


Comment guidelines: No name-calling, personal attacks, profanity, or insults. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate comments by reporting abuse.
comments powered by Disqus

Dan Bickley

Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury looks down during the second half of an NFL football g...
Dan Bickley

Pressure on Cardinals’ Kingsbury builds after Payton rumors, loss to Chargers

It's unlikely Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury loses his job, but pressure builds after a loss to the Chargers and a rumor about Sean Payton.
11 days ago
(Facebook Photo/David Glasser Foundation)...
Dan Bickley

Giving thanks to a sports community that shows up in the worst of times

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the love, empathy and strong sense of community inside this transient, crazy, divisive sports town.
16 days ago
Kevin Givens #90 of the San Francisco 49ers sacks Colt McCoy #12 of the Arizona Cardinals during th...
Dan Bickley

The truth of the Cardinals comes out in Mexico City

Once the ball is in play, pro football is brutal and honest. Once again, it wasn’t pretty for the Cardinals on Monday night in Mexico City.
17 days ago
Eno Benjamin #26 of the Arizona Cardinals runs the ball and is knocked out of bounds during a prese...
Dan Bickley

Eno Benjamin’s release spotlights pattern with Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals have a history of players in small offensive roles getting upset at the inconsistency of their playing time.
23 days ago
Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals looks on from the sidelines during the third quarter of th...
Dan Bickley

Cardinals organized, empowered vs. Rams without Kyler Murray at QB

Colt McCoy’s spot start on Sunday gave Kliff Kingsbury a chance to provide some clarity, maybe even hope for the future.
25 days ago
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker, middle, goes between Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert (27...
Dan Bickley

Devin Booker is delivering a refined brand of fury this season

Devin Booker is playing without fear, even though his reputation was dragged this offseason, turned into a meme.
28 days ago
NBA schedule gives Devin Booker, Suns an early shot at redemption