You can feel it coming sometimes. Like a gurgle in your stomach, you know something crappy is just around the corner. Graphic, I know. It doesn’t make you feel good and you know it’s not going to end well.
No, I’m not talking about that last trip you took to Taco Bell. Those chalupas get you every time, man. I’m talking about when Devin Booker begins chirping at the referees.
Most of the time you can empathize with the two-time All Star. Much akin to other stars in the league, he knows how to strategically create contact with an opposing player while in the act of shooting. It is an art. The difference between Booker and the likes of Dame Lillard? Booker doesn’t always get the calls.
There is no “star” treatment for Devin Booker. And it frustrates him.
How Booker responds to his lack of respect is what makes our stomachs turn. Luka Doncic cries. James Harden moans. Trae Young looks befuddled. Some stars plead with the referees for a call. Some question to understand. Some do the “Tim Duncan”:
Booker does none of the above.
He shoots daggers at the zebras with his eyes and the verbal assault begins. We all see it and once it begins, you know what is coming. Let’s face it: Booker can look mean.
Couple that with f-bombs and b-words and there is it is understandable why the refs blow their whistles, take their hands, form the letter “T”, and indicate that it is on number 1 from Phoenix.
Devin Booker, who has 9 technical fouls this season, is tied for 6th in the NBA. Booker has been fined $26,000 for his on court antics this season.
But how many of those technical fouls are valid and how many were justified?
It is hard to judge each situation with a level of unbias. I am a fan, after all. I am excited to see where this journey of observation will take me. Will I remain unbias and factual, or will the inner-Suns fan emerge from my veins like the Incredible Hulk?
We’ll need a scoring system, right? This is how I am approaching each foul that occurred:
- Validity: If you pull out the NBA rule book and look up what constitutes a technical foul, did the actions of Devin Booker create a valid call?
- Justified: This is where bias entered the conversation. Given the game situation and what lead up to the whistle being blown, was the call justified or did the referee respond to Devin’s emotion with their emotion? Plenty of gray in this area.
I’ll rate each call on a 1 to 10 scale and we’ll see where we end up, shall we? I have also annotated what referees were working the games and annotated if they were part of a crew who had multiple run-ins with Booker.
And away we go...
Technical Foul #1:
December 26, 2020: 2:17 Q2 - Kings 52, Suns 47
Referees: Bill Kennedy, Nick Buchert, Derek Richardson
All right, Booker’s first technical foul on the season. Let’s begin to delve.
This extracurricular foul occurred in the Suns’ second game of the season and on the first night of a back-to-back against the Sacramento Kings. De-Aron Fox drove around him to the left and Devin took a shot at swatting the ball. It appears that he whiffed on the attempt, but the whistle filled the Golden 1 Credit Union Center.
Truthfully, I do not remember this one. I went back and searched through the archives to find out exactly why both Booker and Fox were teched up on this play and it doesn’t seem like much happened, nor it was warranted. My guess is there was some back-and-forth between the former Kentucky Wildcats leading up to this, as well as some Booker death glares towards the refs.
I’ll give it a 5 on validity due to the likelihood that Devin was nagging the officiating crew up up this point. As for justified, there wasn't anything I saw that justified the call. So a two it is.
Technical Foul #2:
January 3, 2021: 7:20 Q4 - Clippers 98, Suns 94
Referees: James Williams, Derrick Collins, Derek Richardson (2)
Remember this one? Spicy!
Cameron Payne rotated over, and in true Cam Payne fashion, tried to make something happen. He went for a block on a Paul George. When the two collided, PG13 wasn’t too pleased and stood over Payne. Enter the Booker.
The two exchanged words as Booker defended his teammate, to which George (allegedly) replied, “You better watch you mouth”. Was this technical foul valid? Absolutely. 10. The words Booker (allegedly) said were definitely NSFW, so he earned this $2,000 fine.
Should Booker have put himself in the situation to get a tech? Now that is up for debate.
Paul George noted via Bleacher Report that since losing in the playoffs last seasons, “there was always peace when I am on the floor but for whatever reason, there’s a lot of chirping and people living in the past”. Perhaps the Clippers choke job in Orlando has paved the way for opposing players to use it as fuel to get under the Los Angeles’ skin.
I am all for protecting your teammates. In this situation, however, I don’t believe Booker needed to start going at George. PG13 simply stood up and towered over the guy who brought him to the ground. Just watch the tape.
Regardless, I give it a 10 on validity. Justified? a 10 as well. As much as I love Booker standing up for a teammate, he had no business hopping in the fray and starting a verbal conflict.
Technical Foul #3:
January 18, 2021: 2:57 Q1 - Suns 18, Grizzlies 10
Referees: Ken Mauer, Michael Smith, Matt Boland
MLK Day in Memphis on TNT. National TV. Booker gets a tech. Doh!
Booker drives left, pumps, and gets Gorgui Dieng to commit to the shot. He jumps up and into him, which is a foul 9 times out of 10. Unless you’re Devin Booker. He doesn’t take the shot and lands on the floor at which time Matt Boland whistle blows. Not to call Dieng for a foul but to call Booker for the travel.
Devin is frustrated and throws the ball against the Bleacher Report logoed side wall.
For validity, due to the micro-tantrum Booker (and ball) he threw, he deserved the tech. By the rules of the road, it’s a 10.
Now is this technical foul justified? I mean, he was fouled on the play, right? He did what everyone in the NBA does, pump fakes a defender into a foul. And the referee chose not to call it. I’d be pissed too. I think Booker’s response is acceptable. Only two things were hurt on this play: the Bleacher Report sign and Matt Boland’s feelings.
Technical Foul #4:
February 16, 2021: 46.1 Q1 - Suns 33, Nets 22
Referees: James Capers, Kevin Cutler, Ray Acosta
You watch this play by the Suns and, at first, you don’t see the technical. Big butt Saric is down low fighting against Jeff Green and is fouled by Landry Shamet on the play. But no whistle is blown.
How did Booker get hit with a foul on this one? Because, at the top of the screen, you see Devin wearing out James Capers on behalf of his teammate. He gets up out of his seat and let’s him know what he saw from his vantage point. The zebras don’t always like that and in this case he was hit with a tech for his vocal opinion.
Noticing a trend so far? There is a reason Chris Paul and Jae Crowder came to Phoenix. The reputation of Devin Booker, outside being an elite scorer of the basketball, is he is a loyal teammate. The man of few words has plenty when you wrong his teammates.
He stepped on to the court of play and harassed an official. Validity? 10.
Again I am faced with the dilemma: was the tech justified? By definition, yes. But then I watch the play again and see why Devin did it. If James Harden drove down the lane and was hit like Saric was, he’d be at the line. All Devin wants is consistency. So far, the only consistency is Booker calling out the referees for not doing their job.
I feel the bias bubbling up inside of me...
Technical Foul #5:
February 19, 2021: 3:19 Q3 - Pelicans 89, Suns 86
Referees: Josh Tiven, Curtis Blair, Jenna Schroeder
Three days later, Devin chalked up his fifth technical foul of the season.
Booker thought he was fouled by Sindarius Thornwell on a drive to the rim. Sinda-who What-well? Yeah, that guy. Where some names get the call simply based on reputation, Booker does not. His chirping began as he looked into the corner towards Jenna Schroeder and expressed his thoughts on her ability to judge what is a foul and what is not. Simultaneously, while his head was turned toward Ms. Schroeder, he inadvertently kicked the ball. I think.
Bam. Technical foul.
I’m sorry, but this is a 0 on the validity meter in my personal and humble opinion. The referee was looking for a reason to be punitive in a moment in which she was being held accountable by a player. Unless Booker went into verbally abusive mode, I do not believe this was warranted.
I do remember that the rest of the game, Booker (in petty fashion) would purposefully give other referees the ball during dead ball situations.
Technical Foul #6:
February 24, 2021: 9:21 Q4 - Hornets 103, Suns 99
Referees: David Guthrie, James Williams (2), Scott Twardoski
On the day in which Devin Booker found out he would once again be an All-Star reserve he added another technical foul to his resume.
It was a rough night for Devin as found himself on the pine most of the game due to foul trouble. So you know he was agitated. Then Hornets bench, led by Devonte Graham, was hounding Booker all night and following a fast break dunk, Booker let them know his thoughts.
I guess you are permitted to talk junk from the bench to the players on the court but not vice versa. Wow. I am finding myself viewing everyone of these technical with a completely biased opinion. I’m becoming full on Voita Hulk.
The game ended with Devin Booker being fouled by Gordon Hayward on a three-point attempt that could have tied the game. It’s almost as if sometimes the refs are fed up with Booker and call the game with emotion rather than impartially.
Technical Fouls #7 & #8:
March 2, 2021: 7:10 Q3 - Suns 70, Lakers 63
Referees: Marc Davis, Tyler Ford, Justin Van Duyne
The morning of March 2 was a fulfilling one for Devin Booker. The NBA announced that he had earned the Western Conference Player of the Month award. He must’ve felt good as the league provided some validation for his efforts in the month of February.
That night the Suns played the Los Angeles Lakers and the eyes of the basketball world were watching. It was a clash against two top-tier Western Conference foes. What did that audience get to see? A look at the treatment Devin Booker receives.
With 7:10 left in the third quarter, LeBron James aggressively drove left and drew a foul from a back-peddling Deandre Ayton. Booker did not like the call. He stood up for the non-vocal third year center and in doing so was called for a technical foul by Tyler Ford.
Rumor has it Devin expressed his frustration with the tech by profanely calling Ford a word that rhymes with “snitch”. He assertively bounced the basketball to head referee Marc Davis, at which point Justin Van Duyne call a second technical foul which led to Booker’s ejection.
The response from national pundits was similar to what Suns fans have been stating for quite some time relative to the Booker calls: don’t be so sensitive and let the guy play.
Should Booker have kept is cool? Sure. It continues be an issue. He steps in the line of fire and antagonizes the referees.
Did he need to get tossed? Hell no.
Technical Foul #9:
March 21, 2021: 8:24 Q3 - Timberwolves 65, Suns 64
The next 21 points: Timberwolves 11, Suns 10
Referees: Eric Lewis, Tyler Ford (2), Scott Twardoski (2)
Here we go again, Devin and the extra-circular verbiage.
If you recall this is the game in which Monty Williams was tossed because he had it with the refereeing as of late. The Phoenix Suns are last in the league in free throw attempts, which can be interpreted as they aren’t getting any calls.
The refs were losing control of this game as the tempers from Phoenix were high. SO what do you do? Call one on Booker for providing what I am sure was effective and constructive feedback.
Like Theodore Roosevelt, he typically speaks softly and carries a big stick. When situations present themselves in which he feels that either he or his teammates are disrespected, however, he’ll let you know.
There is a saying “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”. Too often Booker finds himself in situations in which he complains in a manner that incites an emotional response from the officials. This is an area he must learn to control as the playoffs loom. Points will be at a premium and calls may not go his way.
When I began writing this piece over 10 days ago, it was my intention to be as impartial as possible. As time went on and as I analyzed each situation, I feel that I became as jaded as the referees who made the calls.
My conclusion is that the human factor is what makes basketball imperfect, both via refereeing and observation. We are emotional beings who allow those feelings to cloud our perceptions and judgements. Good, bad, or indifferent, that is how the game is played. To be a champion, you must adjust.