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Fledgling Phoenix Suns scoring sensation Devin Booker has graduated from wondering why NBA journeymen would dare muster “the nerve to talk to me” to telling assistant coaches, “Don’t say anything to me,” so the kid who wanted to be Kobe Bryant when he grew up is progressing just fine.
With just under a minute left in a seven-point game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Booker somehow got off a 3-point shot around two defenders and fell to the ground in front of a referee. Had the shot gone in and he drawn a foul, the Suns guard might have drawn his team within a single possession.
As it were, the shot rimmed out, and the whistle never came. Instead, as Suns center Tyson Chandler sent Lakers forward Brandon Ingram to the free throw line, Booker turned his ire toward the L.A. bench. He jawed with someone as he backpedaled to mid-court, and when the foul was called, he marched back toward the Lakers bench and had words with whoever it was who set him off:
Theories were floated about who may have instigated Booker. Fellow University of Kentucky product Julius Randle and Lakers teammate Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who formed a wall between Booker and the L.A. coaching staff, were prime candidates, and Lakers assistant Brian Shaw — a notorious trash-talker from the bench — was in the mix. All could be seen talking to Booker as he approached.
But Booker offered some clarity in his postgame interview, via The Arizona Republic:
“It was one of the coaches,” said Booker. “I know a lot of those guys over there. I know [Lakers head coach] Luke, Miles [Simon], B-Shaw. It wasn’t any of them, so I don’t know who it was — that guy.”
So, who was it? “I’m not here to tell on anybody,” he said.
Booker finished, “If you’re not my coach, I don’t know you. Don’t say anything to me.”
So, the sleuthing continued, and it revealed a pretty clear suspect: Lakers assistant Jesse Mermuys.
The coach could pretty clearly be seen jawing in Booker’s direction after the shot sailed wide:
Arizonans may recall Mermuys from his playing days at Glendale Community College, but maybe not.
For the record, Booker shot better than 50 percent from the field and scored a game-high 36 points — 15 more points on one fewer shot than the Lakers’ last four lottery picks combined on Tuesday night.
So, yeah, maybe let the players handle the trash talk.
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