Ex-Cats

Former Kentucky player becomes L.A. Lakers’ most-disliked opponent

Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo Ball, left, attempted to move past Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray during the second half of their game in Los Angeles on Tuesday night. Murray has drawn the ire of Lakers fans after an apparent display of disrespect toward Ball in a previous matchup this season.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo Ball, left, attempted to move past Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray during the second half of their game in Los Angeles on Tuesday night. Murray has drawn the ire of Lakers fans after an apparent display of disrespect toward Ball in a previous matchup this season. AP

Jamal Murray, the former University of Kentucky basketball star who now plays for the Denver Nuggets, has apparently become the least favorite opposing player of the Los Angeles Lakers.

During the Lakers’ 112-103 win over the Nuggets on Tuesday night in Los Angeles, fans booed Murray at every opportunity and broke out into a chorus of “Murray sucks” chants, as well.

The animosity seems to stem from the teams’ matchup in early December when Murray purposely dribbled the ball around Lakers guard Lonzo Ball as time ran out of the Nuggets’ win.

Ball, son of the outspoken LaVar Ball, had two memorable games as a UCLA Bruin against Kentucky last season that included some trash talk on his father’s part. Murray was already in the NBA that season. Coincidentally, Julius Randle, a fellow former Kentucky player, took issue with Murray’s apparent show of disrespect and stepped into his face at halfcourt.

On Friday, when the teams met again, Murray appeared to get into a verbal confrontation with Lakers head coach Luke Walton after demonstrably celebrating a steal late in another Nuggets victory.

“I felt like for the second time that we played here, Murray was a little disrespectful at the end of the game,” Walton said after Friday’s game. “Some of the trash talking to our guys.”

Murray said Friday that he’s just trying to play hard. The Nuggets are vying for a playoff spot.

“We can’t afford to lose this game,” Murray said Friday. “I went out there and played with the fire that everybody loves to watch me play with and I can’t control what the other team’s going to feel. I’m going to go out there and hoop.”

Tuesday, Murray scored 18 points and hit three three-pointers, occasionally silencing the boisterous fans.

But the Lakers got the win and the last dig at Murray in the game. Lakers guard Isaiah Thomas dismissively tossed the ball across court directly at Murray as Los Angeles let one of its final possessions run out.

Jared Peck: 859-231-1333, @JPSaysHere

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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