The Phoenix Suns’ season ended in devastation on Sunday when they lost Game 7 of their second round series to the Dallas Mavericks 123-90. Their 33-point loss was their worst home loss in a Game 7 since the St. Louis Bombers lost by 39 points in 1948.
While the night didn’t go according to plan for anyone at the Suns, it was particularly rough for Deandre Ayton. The big man finished the game with five points and four rebounds in just 17 minutes. Part of that was due to the nature of the game, but even with such a blowout, most of the Suns’ starters still played more than 30 minutes.
Postgame commentary from Sun’s head coach Monty Williams only added to the intrigue.
When asked about Ayton’s lack of playing time, said Williams, “it’s internal.” When asked to explain this quote, he declined.
Star guard Devin Booker, meanwhile, wasn’t exactly making a strong case for Ayton returning next season.
“His contract situation is between him and the front office,” Booker said. “I worry about him as a brother. I’m just making sure his mentality is right…whatever happens, happens. It’s kind of hard to see that far into the future.”
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Ayton didn’t speak to the media after the game so we don’t know his side of the story. However, the Suns will be doing exit interviews over the next few days, so we should be hearing from him at some point in the near future.
In any case, his lack of playing time and the Suns’ early exit from the playoffs do not bode well for Ayton’s future at the club. As Booker alluded to in his quote, Ayton will meet the limited free hand this summer.
The two sides couldn’t agree on a renewal last year, and Ayton was angered by the franchise after failing to secure a full $172.5 million maximum contract over five years, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst. While the Suns may have been open to a shorter Max deal, no formal offers were ever made.
What all this means for this summer is hard to say. Ayton might want to go elsewhere and meet up with other clubs to see if one gives him a real Max deal. However, the Suns can match any offer hand and it’s hard to imagine them just letting him go without receiving anything in return, opening up the possibility of a sign-and-trade. Of course, there’s always a chance that things will settle down over the next few weeks and Ayton will either sign a new long-term deal with the club or accept the $16.4 million year-long qualifying offer.
In any case, it will be exciting to follow the Ayton situation.
https://www.cbssports.com/nba/news/suns-monty-williams-hints-at-internal-reasons-for-only-playing-deandre-ayton-17-minutes-in-game-7-loss/ Suns’ Monty Williams hints at ‘internal’ reasons why he only played 17 minutes against Deandre Ayton in Game 7