Phoenix Suns: Ty Jerome had a surprising veteran mentor this season

Ty Jerome had an up-and-down rookie season for the Phoenix Suns, but through it all, he had a veteran helping him get through it, but it might not be who you expect.

Every rookie has a vet. That’s what I read, anyway. A guy who takes a young player under their wing, shows them the ropes, and plays the role of big brother. Phoenix Suns rookie, Ty Jerome, recently interviewed with Yahoo’s Ben Rohrbach to talk about who his veteran mentor on the team was, and the answer might surprise you.

At least, it surprised me.

Jerome made a point to call out Devin Booker as a guy who went out of their way to help him since day one but then gushed over his relationship with, of all people, Tyler Johnson.

This season, Tyler Johnson was not exactly the most likable player for Phoenix Suns fans, and a lot of it was to no fault of his own. His monstrous salary ($19.25 million) was astronomically disproportionate to his level of play, even if he were playing well, which he wasn’t.

Because of this, he couldn’t play well enough for many fans no matter what, but behind the scenes, he was a beacon of light for the young, wide-eyed rookie out of Virginia.

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Jerome got off to a rough start to this NBA career, spraining his ankle just days before the first regular-season game, forcing him to miss six weeks. He got hurt again just a could months later after sporadic playing time. Through all that, it was Tyler Johnson who kept his spirits up.

“When I wasn’t playing, Tyler would play one-on-one before games and work out after games together. He really went out of his way. It’s easier when you have someone to go at it with and help you work, so he was that guy for me when he didn’t have to be. He was making the second-most money on our team, so for him to be that guy with a rookie speaks a lot about who he is. He did a lot for me.”

Of course, the NBA would teach Ty Jerome another tough lesson: business is business. After failing to work out any kind of trade at the deadline, the Phoenix Suns waived Tyler Johnson, stealing Jerome of his veteran big brother.

“It was super tough for me [when Johnson was waived] because he was one of the guys I grew closest to. When he left, that sucked. We still speak not daily, but definitely weekly. We were on FaceTime two days ago, so we stay in touch. Even when that happened, he would still text and FaceTime me, letting me know he would still watch our games when I played, so that was cool.”

I say good for Tyler Johnson. From what I understand, he really is a good guy, and this story almost makes me feel guilty for ripping on his underwhelming performance and his goat beard so much this season.

Almost.

Hopefully, he gets picked up by another team in this offseason at a salary commensurate to his basketball (and veteran presence) skill level.

Jerome went on to say that in terms of rookie treatment, he had it pretty good as most everyone was nice to them. Occasionally, they had to go get doughnuts or something, but that was about it.

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The entire interview is worth a read and gives some good insight into what goes on behind the scenes for a rookie in the NBA.

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