Deandre Ayton

Suns Notes: Ayton, Paul, Payne, Landale

Deandre Ayton was named the Western Conference Player of the Week. The Suns have seen stretches of dominance from Ayton during his career but he hasn’t been able to sustain it.

The former No. 1 overall pick believes that putting up big numbers should be the “norm” at this stage of his career. Phoenix is certainly paying for that kind of production after matching Indiana’s four-year, $133MM offer sheet this summer.

“I want to be a great player, and you’ve got to be willing to put up numbers and win games night in, night out,” he told Gerald Bourguet of GoPhnx.com. “So I think I’m to that point where this should be a norm. This is how I’m supposed to play.”

We have more on the Suns:

  • Chris Paul missed his 10th straight game on Monday due to right heel soreness, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes. The Suns have gone 6-3 entering the game with Sacramento since Paul has been sidelined. Cameron Payne is averaging 17.7 points and 6.8 assists since he became a starter in place of Paul.
  • Backup big man Jock Landale has played sparingly but he provided a spark in a one-point win over Utah on Sunday, Rankin notes. Landale had four points, an offensive rebound and an assist in a five-minute cameo. “I think that’s the benefit of being on this team is we have three guys pretty much at every position that can hold it down,” Landale said. “They call on me to come in and help out and I just went in there and played hard and that’s the stuff I can control is going in and playing hard and helping the team out.”
  • In case you missed it, general manager James Jones was promoted to president of basketball operations. Get the details here.

Deandre Ayton, Giannis Antetokounmpo Named Players Of The Week

Suns center Deandre Ayton and Bucks big man Giannis Antetokounmpo have been named the NBA’s players of the week, the league announced (via Twitter).

Ayton, the Western Conference winner, led the Suns to a 3-0 week with averages of 23.7 points, 16.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.3 blocks while shooting 67.4% from the field and 81.3% from the free throw line. Phoenix is currently 13-6, the No. 1 seed in the West.

Antetokounmpo, the East’s winner, led the Bucks to a 3-1 week with averages of 35.3 points, 9.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists on .611/.250/.644 shooting. He’s the first player of the 2022/23 season to win the award a second time. Milwaukee is currently 14-5, the No. 2 seed in the East.

According to the NBA (Twitter links), the other nominees in the West were Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Nikola Jokic and Ja Morant, while Bam Adebayo, Caleb Martin, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Tobias Harris, Shake Milton, Bennedict Mathurin, Myles Turner and Donovan Mitchell were nominated in the East.

Lakers’ Beverley Likely To Face NBA Discipline After Shoving Suns’ Ayton

With just under four minutes remaining in the Suns‘ win over the Lakers on Tuesday night, Lakers guard Patrick Beverley and Suns center Deandre Ayton were involved in an on-court altercation that resulted in technical fouls for both players and an ejection for Beverley.

Following a Devin Booker foul on Austin Reaves that was ultimately ruled a Flagrant 1, Ayton grabbed the ball and stood over Reaves, who was down on the floor. Beverley shoved Ayton from behind, knocking him to the court and resulting in a brief skirmish between Lakers and Suns players (YouTube video link)

As Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes, Beverley explained to reporters after the game that he was looking out for his backcourt partner.

“Got a person on the ground, two people looking over mean-mugging and puffing their chest out and referees don’t get into it to kind of separate it, control the game, so I’m going to stand up for my teammate,” Beverley said. “… Obviously, it’s unfortunate that it happened on national TV. But you know me: Regardless of what’s going on, I’m a big fan of protecting my teammates. … I’m a foxhole guy. I put on the jersey, and I commit to a team, I commit to a city, and it’s kind of my motto.”

Beverley received postgame support from head coach Darvin Ham and several teammates, including Reaves himself, who said he told Beverley “four or five times” that he appreciated him. Ham acknowledged that Beverley will likely face NBA discipline for the incident, but said he wasn’t upset about his point guard’s reaction.

“Pat Bev, you don’t want just to be a tough man competition; you actually want to play tough basketball. But at the end of the day, I’m not mad at him,” Ham said, per McMenamin. “He’s there protecting his teammate, and I’m sure he’ll probably go through some type of consequence for that.”

At the very least, Beverley seems likely to be facing a fine of up to $50K for his actions. Chris Mannix of SI.com and Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter links) were among the reporters to suggest that a suspension isn’t out of the question, particularly since Beverley has a history of on-court chippiness.

Suns head coach Monty Williams told reporters during his postgame media session that “the league needs to take a look at those kinds of plays,” referring to them as “silly” and “unnecessary,” while Booker alluded to Beverley’s reputation in an on-court interview with TNT’s Chris Haynes after the game.

“Pat needs to stop pushing people in the back, man,” Booker said (video link). “Push them in the chest. That’s all I’ve got to say.”

Neither the Lakers nor the Suns are back in action until Friday, so the NBA may decide to take a little time to determine what sort of penalty might be appropriate for Beverley and possibly other players involved in the altercation. Although the Lakers guard didn’t regret standing up for a teammate, he said he could have taken another approach to confronting Ayton and is bracing for some kind of league discipline.

“Very unprofessional by myself. Definitely could have reacted in a different way,” Beverley said, according to McMenamin. “So, yeah, I’m a big boy. I’ll take my lumps however they come.”

Western Notes: Ayton, Bertans, Russell, Jazz

Deandre Ayton is only averaging 1.9 free throws per game and Suns coach Monty Williams is lobbying for his center to get more favorable whistles, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes.

“DA doesn’t get the benefit of some of the contact,” Williams said. “If a guy is driving to the basket and you hit him the way that he’s getting hit around the basket, backing people down or fighting for position, I think you probably get the free throw line a bit more, but it’s a totally different world for the guys who are posting up. You can pretty much beat him up down there.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Mavericks forward Davis Bertans is close to returning from his injury but he’s been understandably cautious after undergoing two major surgeries on his knee, according to Eddie Sefko of Mavs.com. “Every small thing can leave some effect on it,” Bertans said. “Maybe I could have been back a little sooner, but we wanted to be as cautious as possible. We got a deep roster, and we were just making sure this is the only time I miss games this season.”
  • Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell, who is headed to free agency next season, had a confidence-boosting 30-point outing against Cleveland on Sunday, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic notes. “I thought he played an excellent game. It was good to see that. Happy for him,” coach Chris Finch said. “You could tell he was locked in. He had put the extra work in. Really looked confident shooting the ball.”
  • Should the Jazz still think about tanking after their hot start? ESPN’s Kevin Pelton (Insider link) explores that question, concluding that Utah shouldn’t entertain playing for lottery positioning right now.

Suns Notes: Ayton, Crowder, Saric, Obama

When the Suns announced on Saturday that Deandre Ayton had sustained a sprained left ankle, the team indicated that its starting center would be reevaluated in one week. However, it appears that Ayton may be able to return before hitting that one-week mark.

Suns head coach Monty Williams told reporters on Thursday that he didn’t have a “definitive answer” on whether Ayton would be available for Friday’s game vs. Portland, but the big man practiced in full on Thursday and has been listed as probable for tonight’s game, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic.

Reserve centers Bismack Biyombo and Jock Landale have handled the five spot in Ayton’s absence, with Biyombo replacing the former No. 1 overall pick in the starting lineup. Biyombo blocked a total of nine shots in his two starts.

Here’s more on the Suns:

  • With Jae Crowder still on the Suns’ roster nearly a month-and-a-half after he and the Suns reached an agreement to work together to seek out a trade for the veteran forward, Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports puts together a few hypothetical Crowder packages, exploring what deals with the Wizards, Jazz, Bucks, Celtics, Raptors, Clippers, and Spurs might look like.
  • After missing the entire 2021/22 season due to a torn ACL, Dario Saric hasn’t been part of Phoenix’s rotation so far this season, logging just seven total minutes in two appearances this season. The Suns forward, who averaged 21.6 MPG in 116 games from 2019-21 before getting injured, is trying not to get discouraged by his lack of playing time, Rankin writes for The Arizona Republic. “I try to come into the gym every day, work hard,” Saric said. “Keep my conditioning up and wait for my chance or come in and have some positive things on the court, but it’s not easy. I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy when it’s not. I don’t know. Just try to keep conditioning up and do whatever I can control.”
  • Appearing at a political rally in Phoenix, former U.S. president Barack Obama addressed rumors that he’s part of a prospective ownership group with interest in buying the Suns, neither confirming nor outright denying that claim. “I didn’t know I was in the market and, by the way, neither did Michelle,” Obama said, per Rankin of The Arizona Republic. “But I will say this. The Suns are looking pretty good. I’ve got to admit that. I think they have a few more wins than my Bulls right now.”

Central Notes: Haliburton, Turner, Bogdanovic, Green

When the Pacers attempted to recruit Deandre Ayton in free agency this past offseason, Tyrese Haliburton traveled to Santa Barbara, California with president Kevin Pritchard, general manager Chad Buchanan, and head coach Rick Carlisle to be part of the team’s pitch to the Suns center.

Indiana’s four-year, maximum-salary offer sheet for Ayton was ultimately matched by Phoenix, but Haliburton said it “meant a lot” that the club included him in its recruitment of the former No. 1 pick, writes Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. As Fischer details, it’s part of the Pacers’ plan to give the third-year guard the reins during the team’s rebuilding process.

“He is the franchise guy, very, very openly,” one rival executive told Fischer, referring to Haliburton. “They have handed him the keys, and they’re betting he can be their alpha guy.”

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • After sharing his thoughts on a possible trade to the Lakers, Pacers center Myles Turner wanted to make clear during a conversation with Michael Scotto of HoopsHype that he’s still committed to his current team. “I’m excited about what we have here in Indiana,” Turner said. “I understand that some of the things I might’ve said in that podcast (with Adrian Wojnarowski) could’ve gotten misconstrued answering hypothetical questions. This isn’t a hypothetical. I’m here in Indiana. I’ve got real estate in Indiana. I’ve got a fan section in our own arena. I’m a Pacer. I’ve been a Pacer my entire career. I can’t tell the future, but where I’m at right now, I’m very happy.”
  • Given how much projected 2023 cap room they had, the Pistons essentially did some offseason shopping early by extending Bojan Bogdanovic, writes Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press (subscription required). Sankofa likes the decision to lock up Bogdanovic, noting that he’s exactly the type of player Detroit’s roster needed.
  • Bucks rookie guard A.J. Green is expected to be sidelined for about three weeks due to a nasal fracture, the team announced today in a press release. Green, who underwent surgery to repair the fracture, is on a two-way contract with Milwaukee and has just appeared briefly in one game so far this season.

Injury Updates: Davis, Ayton, Leonard, Noel

One downside to the Lakers‘ first win Sunday night was continuing back pain for Anthony Davis, writes Dylan Hernandez of The Los Angeles Times. Davis, who had been listed as questionable for the game, was grimacing and limping around the court, Hernandez observed. Afterward, he admitted being in a “pretty good amount of pain.”

Davis sat out Friday’s game due to lower back tightness, and his health is a constant concern after playing a combined 76 games over the past two seasons. On Sunday, he told reporters that he doesn’t know what to expect regarding his back from day to day, adding, “It kind of just comes and goes.”

An eight-time All-Star, Davis is crucial to any success the Lakers hope to have this season. He’s averaging 23.8 points and 10.6 rebounds through five games, along with 2.4 steals and 2.0 blocks.

“AD’s impact is not only huge defensively, but also very efficient offensively, giving us possessions at the rim, knocking down the jumper, just all around very efficient tonight,” LeBron James said.

There’s more injury news to pass along:

  • The Suns are grateful that Deandre Ayton‘s sprained left ankle wasn’t more serious, per Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Ayton got hurt Friday when he landed on the foot of Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas after taking a jump shot. “When you look at the play, just one of those plays that should’ve been called a foul,” Phoenix coach Monty Williams said. “Just kind of go from there, but for me, I’m just grateful it wasn’t worse. We will look at it in another week to make sure he’s ready to go.”  
  • Injury management continues for Clippers star Kawhi Leonard, according to Law Murray of The Athletic. Leonard sat out Sunday’s loss to the Pelicans to protect his surgically repaired right knee and won’t play tonight against the Rockets. He has only played twice this season, coming off the bench both times, and is averaging 12.5 minutes per game.
  • There’s a chance Nerlens Noel could make his debut with the Pistons tonight, tweets James L. Edwards of The Athletic. Jalen Duren didn’t travel with the team to Milwaukee after rolling his ankle in Sunday’s game, and Marvin Bagley III remains out with an MCL sprain. Coach Dwane Casey has said Noel, who is reconditioning after plantar fasciitis, might be available to play in an emergency.

Deandre Ayton Out At Least One Week With Ankle Sprain

Suns center Deandre Ayton, who sprained his left ankle in Friday’s win over New Orleans, has been ruled out for Sunday’s game vs. Houston and will be reevaluated in one week, the team announced today (Twitter link via Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic).

As Rankin notes, Ayton sustained the injury when he landed on Jonas Valanciunas‘ foot after attempting a shot during the first quarter on Friday. The former No. 1 overall pick left the game and didn’t return, with Bismack Biyombo and Jock Landale handling center duties for the rest of the night.

Both Biyombo and Landale figure to play increased roles for Phoenix during the next week while Ayton remains sidelined. He’ll likely miss at least Sunday’s game vs. Houston, Tuesday’s contest vs. Minnesota, and the first half of a back-to-back set vs. Portland next Friday and Saturday. It’s unclear at this point whether the 24-year-old might be cleared for the second half of that back-to-back.

After having his four-year, maximum-salary offer sheet from Indiana matched by the Suns this offseason, Ayton had gotten off to a strong start, averaging 18.3 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game in his first four appearances (30.7 MPG). He had four points and three boards on Friday before exiting the game.

Pacific Notes: Ayton, Williams, Suns, Lakers, Roberts

After Suns head coach Monty Williams downplayed what from the outside appeared to be a somewhat contentious relationship with Deandre Ayton – the two hadn’t spoken for months during the offseason after Ayton was benched in a Game 7 blowout to Dallas and then entered restricted free agency – the center says he’s communicating with his coach again.

I mean, we talk, man,” Ayton said, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic (subscription required, hat tip to Kurt Helin of NBC Sports). “At the end of the day, it’s like we’re trying to contribute to a win. Everything is back to normal. Nothing has changed to be honest.

Yeah, I may have come to media day just bland, but I wasn’t trying to give nobody no damn story or nothing, but it flipped on me. So, I can’t really say nothing. Just let everybody run away with it. All I know is we’ve been in here working. We’ve been battling each other, beating up each other in training camp. Coach has been loving it.”

Of course, it would be strange if Ayton and Williams hadn’t resumed speaking considering they have to interact with each other regularly, but calling these answers — and his demeanor — “bland” (video link) is a little disingenuous, since his replies were curt and he certainly looked like he’d rather have been anywhere else at the time.

Still, he’s under contract for four more years and can’t be traded until January 15, and Williams signed a long-term extension over the summer, so the two will have to work together for at least a few more months, if not longer, so it’s only natural to try and make the best of the situation. Evidently that’s what Ayton is trying to do.

Here’s more from the Pacific:

  • John Hollinger of The Athletic questions whether it was the right decision for the Suns to essentially run things back two years in a row, especially after a disappointing second-round playoff exit, and expresses skepticism about the team’s depth. He also thinks Phoenix might find it difficult to land a “win-now” replacement for Jae Crowder, which could further compromise the depth chart. Ultimately, Hollinger believes the Suns will take a significant step back from last season’s league-leading 64 wins, predicting that they’ll finish with a 50-32 record, tied for the fourth seed in the West.
  • In another article for The Athletic, Hollinger previews the Lakers‘ 2022/23 season. He thinks that Kendrick Nunn‘s return to action will be a boon for L.A., and believes they made some decent moves around the edges, but a lot of things will have to go right for them to return to contention. Hollinger predicts the Lakers will go 40-42 this season and finish as the ninth seed in the West.
  • Former Warriors assistant coach Joe Roberts has passed away at age 86, the team announced (via Twitter). A former NBA and ABA player, Roberts coached the Warriors from 1974-79, including the team’s first championship-winning club in 1975. Roberts served as head coach for the final 44 minutes of the series-clinching Game 4 after Alvin Attles was ejected, the Warriors noted in their press release. We send our condolences to Roberts’ friends and family.

Suns Notes: Ayton, Williams, Sale Price, Crowder, Preseason Loss

Suns center Deandre Ayton raised a lot of eyebrows when he said at the start of training camp that he hadn’t spoken to Monty Williams since the team’s playoff flameout last season. The Suns coach calls it a non-issue, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic tweets in a video clip.

“I coach him hard every day in practice,” Williams said. “You see he’s here getting his work in and that’s what we expect of our guys. … We don’t need to air anything out. That’s my point. I’m not going to keep addressing that. He’s the player, I’m the coach.”

We have more on the Suns:

  • Joe Tsai bought the Nets for an NBA-record $2.35 billion in 2019 and an investment banker that spoke with ESPN’s Baxter Holmes believes the Suns will sell for higher price. Suspended owner Robert Sarver has begun the process of selling the team. Some of the factors that could drive up the price include the warm-weather climate and proximity to Los Angeles, Las Vegas and the Bay Area, as well as the team’s new practice facility and renovated arena. In recent days, Suns executive VP and CFO Jim Pitman relayed to team employees that a fully executed sale of the team could take 6-9 months, Holmes adds.
  • Experts that spoke to Marc Stein said the Suns’ sale price could reach the $4 billion threshold, he reports in a Substack post. That’s potentially 10 times the $401MM purchase price that Sarver’s ownership group paid in April 2004.
  • A source told Stein over the weekend that the trade chatter regarding the Suns’ Jae Crowder being swapped for the Cavaliers’ Cedi Osman isn’t much more than that. Crowder is sitting out training camp while awaiting a trade.
  • The Suns lost an exhibition game to the Adelaide 36ers and Rankin notes that the team lacked energy and enthusiasm. The defense was especially poor, as it surrendered 134 points.