After being unceremoniously bounced from the playoffs of the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the second year in a row, the Phoenix Suns have retooled, and one who was at the center of trade talks, has returned to the nation of his birth.
Bahamian DeAndre Ayton is back home, and took time to make a donation to Junior Achievement (JA) Bahamas yesterday, in the amount of $10,000. It was at the time when Bahamian media caught up with the starting center of the Suns, looking to make another run at it with his team for the 2023-2024 season. The Suns came up short as a championship contender in the NBA for the third year in a row this past season, and after coming up short offensively and defensively, Ayton said he has to take it upon himself to continue to get better.
The Suns lost to the eventual champions Denver Nuggets four games to two in the Western Conference semifinals, and Ayton’s numbers dropped significantly from the regular season. He went from 18 points and 10 rebounds per game with 58.8 percent shooting on the floor to 10.8 points and 8.2 rebounds with 57.8 percent shooting against the Nuggets. He sat out the game six loss with a rib contusion. During the regular season, he averaged a double-double for the fifth year in a row.
“It’s about basically changing the narrative … I could feel the whole world hating me, in a way. I’m the guy a lot of people point at, and I see it and I feel it, but mainly I’ve been working hard five to six days per week since we lost, motivating myself to change the narrative of what people think about me. I feel like I have no fans right now. My goal this whole summer is to change the narrative – unlock whatever it is and focus on me and change the whole thing,” he said yesterday.
As mentioned, the Suns have retooled bringing in former All-NBA player Bradley Beal in a move that eventually landed veteran point guard Chris Paul with the Golden State Warriors. The Suns also brought in veteran guard Eric Gordon and versatile forward/center Bol Bol and hired former championship coach Frank Vogel as the man to help get them over the top.
NBA superstars Kevin Durant and Devin Booker return to lead the charge.
“There is a lot of pressure for sure, a lot of heat coming. There is a lot of great teammates and a lot of great guys. There’s no excuse now. We just have to go out there and go after the whole thing,” said Ayton.
As far as suiting up for The Bahamas is concerned, Ayton remains non-committal. The Bahamas will take on Cuba, Argentina and Panama in a FIBA (International Basketball Federation) Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament in Santiago del Estero, Argentina, next month. Just the winner of that mini tournament will move on to the next stage of the qualifying process for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“I was born in The Bahamas and my mom is Jamaican. I love The Bahamas, but on my mom’s side, she’s not going to let me forget where I really am from, and that’s Jamaica as well. In the Caribbean, it’s not just about one island. You just have to go out there and represent yourself as best as you can and represent who you are. Right now, I’m just keeping everything under wrap and making sure I train every day, but I’ll think about it for sure,” said Ayton.
At this time, the Bahamian big man said he just wants to open doors for kids to have an education and excel in life.
“I don’t want people to feel like coming from The Bahamas you have to have some kind of athleticism or some kind of gift to reach your goal or some kind of success in life,” he said. “There are a lot of talented people here in The Bahamas and I feel like we just need the right resources for us to expand and really see what we have going on. Being in a position that I am in and having an opportunity to go the United States, and seeing the resources over there, I’m just happy to be on this platform to give kids in The Bahamas a chance to try something they would like to do. This is the least that I could do. I appreciate the love and support on the court while I do my thing so I had come back home and show some love.”
Ayton said he takes The Bahamas with him wherever he goes and continues to represent “the 242” (The Bahamas) in everything he does and is a part of, whether it’s on or off the basketball court.
The Bahamian basketball star recently released his new tennis shoes, adorned in both Bahamian and Jamaican colors, in a social media hype video, proclaiming his love and affinity for both nations. One of the versions of the Puma Rise Nitro DA1 PEs has the Bahamian flag and the inscription “242 to the World” on it.
“The meaning behind the shoes is just to represent where I’m from,” said Ayton in the video. “I’m representing two strong-minded ethnicities. It’s just something I want to share and show the Caribbean that I’m truly representing them the best way I can. Growing up in The Bahamas, and experiencing that island life, it’s freedom. You get to understand the true meaning of humility and having that pride that I’m from here.”
The Bahamian star player added that the new sneakers represent his culture.