Deandre Ayton cashed in as a restricted free agent this offseason, returning to Phoenix after the Suns matched Indiana’s four-year, $133-million offer sheet. Landing a nine-figure deal from a team with legitimate championship aspirations (nobody won more regular-season games than Phoenix a year ago) should be a cause for celebration, should it not? Ayton doesn’t see it that way, doing little to hide his disdain for a team and organization that, based on his recent body language, the disgruntled seven-footer wants nothing to do with.
Channeling his inner Tim Robinson (“I don’t even want to be around anymore”), Ayton moped his way through another lifeless interview Tuesday at Suns training camp, revealing he and coach Monty Williams have yet to clear the air since their sideline blowup during Game 7 of last year’s Western Conference semis, neither willing to address the elephant in the room. “No, I haven’t spoken to him at all. Ever since the game,” said Ayton, making little effort to diffuse the tension. “I’m just here to work, man.”
Insulted the Suns declined to offer him a max extension, Ayton had been rumored as a potential trade candidate this offseason. However, those talks dried up quickly, with Phoenix ultimately retaining Ayton following a brief flirtation with Indiana. Ayton’s options are extremely limited with Phoenix unable to trade him until January 15th at the earliest. The CBA also stipulates he can’t be dealt to Indiana at any point this season.
Now trapped in Phoenix, potentially for another four years, with a coach he hates, playing for a team that not only lowballed him in contract negotiations but blocked him from going elsewhere as a free agent (not to mention all the behind-the-scenes drama with disgraced owner Robert Sarver putting the Suns up for sale), it’s easy to see why Ayton would be less than thrilled by his current circumstances. Unfortunately, there’s not much he can do but grin and bear it, at least until January, when the Suns, if compelled to trade him, can begin that process.
Led by veteran Chris Paul, the Suns know their championship window is closing quickly and Ayton, for all his baggage, gives them their best chance to bring a Larry O’Brien Trophy to the Valley (he’s averaged a double-double each year since arriving as the No. 1 pick in the 2018 Draft). With that in mind, if Phoenix has any intention of getting back into Ayton’s good graces, now would be the time to make amends.