Bahamian DeAndre Ayton, the starting center of the Phoenix Suns in the National Basketball Association (NBA), said this week that he hasn’t spoken to Suns’ Head Coach Monty Williams since the conclusion of Game Seven of last season’s Western Conference semifinals, raising speculation as to the relationship between the two and the response he will give on the court this coming season.
In an attempt to soften the blow, Williams said he hasn’t spoken to a lot of players since their season ended abruptly to the hands of the Dallas Mavericks in last season’s playoffs, giving them a chance to recover from the devastating loss and refocus their energy toward this season.
The Suns were the number one seed in the Western Conference of the NBA, finishing with a 64-18 win/loss record – a full eight games ahead of the second-place Memphis Grizzlies. They were favored to beat the fourth-seeded Mavericks and advance to the Western Conference Finals for a second year in a row.
However, they had arguably their worst game of the season in that Game Seven against the Mavericks.
Ayton played just 17 minutes on the floor. He was 2-for-5 from the field for five points and added four rebounds, coming off a season in which he averaged a double-double for a fourth year in a row. He was benched during that stunning Game Seven loss, falling out of favor with Williams.
Trade rumors surfaced again in the offseason, and Ayton eventually signed a four-year, $133 million offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers. However, with him being a restricted free agent, the Suns had 48 hours to match the offer, and they did, locking down their former No. 1 overall draft pick for four years.
Following the Suns’ media day, Ayton said he hasn’t spoken with Williams since the benching.
“I haven’t spoken to him at all, ever since the game,” Ayton told reporters after the team’s first practice of the season on Tuesday. “I can show him better than I can tell him. It’s life. Nobody cares about the uncomfortable nature of it, it’s how you perform and what you bring to the table. What’s said is already said.”
Ayton worked out at the Suns facility for weeks leading up to training camp, but Williams said he purposely decided to leave players alone a little this summer.
“I think one-on-one’s are always needed between guys I’ve been around for awhile,” Williams said. “Some guys need it and some guys don’t. I’ll identify that as the season progresses. I’ll talk to everybody as I always do during camp and it won’t be an issue at all.”
Be that as it may, Ayton says it’s all business for him this season as he tries to solidify himself as one of the better centers in the league, thereby justifying the investment made in him.
“When I’m in between those lines, man, I work,” Ayton said. “I know I’m not playing for myself. I have an organization across my chest and a name on my back I have to represent, I’m just here to work.”
The Suns were blown out on their home floor, losing by 33 points to the Mavericks in Game Seven of their Western Conference semifinal series. The previous year, they came within two games of winning the NBA title, falling to the Milwaukee Bucks in six games.
On Monday, Williams said he believes Ayton could put any lingering issues behind him.
“He’s just too good of a player, and he’s a good dude,” Williams said. “There’s times where you bump heads on certain issues, but that doesn’t define a person in totality, and I think sometimes that stuff just gets blown out of proportion and rightfully so, when you don’t know all the facts.”
Ayton averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds in 58 games last season. As mentioned, he has averaged a double-double in each of his four years in the league.