It’s something else when there’s a problem between Booker and Ayton.
From rookie Mikal Bridges and Kokoskov having friction during the game to Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker exchanging words afterward, there’s clearly tension and a disconnect with this team right now.
Phoenix’s top two players, Booker and Ayton, exchanged words after the 10-minute cooling off period as members of the media entered the visiting locker room for the tail end of that conversation.
These two have had words before on the court, with Booker correcting Ayton on what to do on certain plays. Both have agreed to hold players accountable, but this felt different.
Ayton, via Gina Mizell of The Athletic:
“This is my team,” Ayton said. “I feel everything. … When we lose and stuff like this, I’m hurting. I take it (with) pride. I’m the guy that’s gonna be here for (several) years.
The 10-minute cooling-off period is standard NBA procedure. And post-game arguments – especially on bad teams, like the 4-21 Suns – are typical.
But players usually wrap up arguments before the media enters the locker room. That Booker and Ayton didn’t speaks to the intensity of this exchange.
Ayton’s comment about how long he’ll be in Phoenix comes across strangely. His contract runs three more seasons after this. Booker’s has five more seaons remaining. However, the Suns can make Ayton a restricted free agent and maintain team control while Booker will become an unrestricted free agent after this deal. Still, they both appear to be in it for the long haul. Maybe Ayton didn’t mean relative to Booker.
I also wouldn’t be surprised if Ayton felt slighted by Booker’s “I’d like the super team to come to me” quote. Ayton is already there.
One grumpy December night doesn’t portend long-term problems between Booker and Ayton. But it’s not an encouraging sign.