PHOENIX SUNS

Devin Booker: ‘Me and Luka’s respect for each other has been mutual’

Dec 24, 2023, 3:56 PM | Updated: Dec 25, 2023, 3:23 pm

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns passes the ball around Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks ...

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns passes the ball around Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks during the first half of Game Five of the Western Conference Second Round NBA Playoffs at Footprint Center on May 10, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Ahead of Devin Booker’s and the Phoenix Suns’ Christmas matchup with familiar foes Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, both guards spoke about their longstanding rivalry.

While the two guards have shared bad blood in the past, both players shared a mutual level of respect ahead of Monday night’s matchup.

“I think that’s just another moment that proves what social media is about and people try to stir drama and look for anything clickbait,” Booker told reporters on Sunday.

“Me and Luka’s respect for each other has been mutual and at a high level since he came into the league.”

Much of the animosity can be traced back to when the Suns and Mavericks played in the 2022 Western Conference semifinals. Phoenix led the series 2-0 and then 3-2 before Doncic and Dallas advanced to the conference finals with a 33-point blowout victory in Game 7 in Phoenix.

“Obviously, a playoff series gets super competitive as every game does, but the world just takes it and runs with it and that’s fine,” Booker added Sunday. “It’s good for the game, good for traction, good for views but there’s no problem amongst each other. We just compete at the highest level.”

In the 2018 NBA Draft, the Suns passed on Doncic and drafted Deandre Ayton at No. 1 overall. The Slovenian guard who played for Real Madrid was picked third by the Hawks (and later traded to Dallas).

In a recent interview with ESPN’s Malika Andrews, Doncic also talked about his respect for Booker. This comes after the two guards got into an on-court face-to-face argument in March.

Leaked audio of last season’s exchange was shared (explicit language warning) on social media.

“That’s a charge,” Booker can be heard saying.

Doncic later turned to Booker and said, “Shut the (expletive) up.” Booker replied, “Don’t (expletive) with me,” before the two players got in each other’s faces.

“Don’t play with me,” the Suns’ guard added before the altercation was broken up.

When asked if there could be more fireworks or animosity on Monday, Doncic downplayed it.

“It’s competitive basketball,” Doncic said. “I really love his game, the way he plays. A lot of times I watched the Phoenix Suns actually because of him. He’s a really, really great player. But obviously, we have this competition whenever we face each other.

“I mean, I don’t know we’ll see (if anything will happen on Monday). But like I said, actually, I respect him a lot. I love his game. I love the pace of his game.”

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