Welcome to the Valley of the Suns

Simba French

 Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22). AP

Bahamian seven-foot center DeAndre Ayton said he wanted to do a backflip, a near impossible task for a man that height, when he got confirmation that his team, the Phoenix Suns, acquired veteran point guard Chris Paul (CP3) in a trade this past abbreviated offseason in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

Paul was one of several new pieces that the Suns added to their roster. Another one of the Suns’ key pickups was defensive specialist Jae Crowder.

In Paul, they get a seven-time NBA All-Defensive First Team member and two-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team player. Not to mention, they get a 10-time NBA All-Star. Crowder is known around the league as a tough defensive player who can add tenacity and depth to a contender. He is coming off an improbable run with the Miami Heat to the NBA Finals last season. Ayton is looking forward to being on the court with the duo and feed off the defensive knowledge that they bring to the team.

“Knowing that we have to compete every day – that competitive spirit that they got is a norm. Being on defensive teams is not a given, that is somebody going out there competing every day on both ends of the floor. That is all those dudes do – we are going to have to do it. They have already stamped in this league that they are known for that,” Ayton said. “Me and Book (Devin Booker) are known for offense but we need that defense. I want to be that presence at the rim. Just them being defensive players already and knowing that they are going to be vocal and tell us young guys how to do this – not that we don’t do it, but them just giving us constructive criticism, is going to help us so much.”

The Suns finished in the middle of the pack in defensive ratings in the league last season with a rating of 110.8. With a locked-in Ayton on defense along with Paul and Crowder, the Suns are expected to finish higher this season. Last season, Ayton averaged 1.5 blocks per game, an improvement from 0.9 in his rookie season.

The third-year center was in the NBA bubble restart in the summer, helping the Suns finish with a perfect 8-0 record during that time. Ayton said that he and Booker spoke when they were playing in the bubble and that he told him what they can do in the league, and that they can compete in this league. After the bubble experience, he said he is willing to put in the required work.

“Coming out of the bubble did something to me – working every day, having this professionalism and being this professional that I am, and embracing that and actually approaching my craft seriously where it is like ‘Dude if you’re not with this then get out of here’,” Ayton said. “I worked so hard coming out of the bubble that I am not worried about what’s next. I know that these results will make their way, that is how hard I am working every day. I thought I was working hard during the suspension and my injuries, but no.”

The 2018 number one overall draft pick in the NBA said the two new acquisitions can help him develop and he is willing to learn more from their winning mindset.

“They are winners -– that is the biggest difference, they win,” Ayton said. “Being around a winner who probably won more than 10 games or like 14 games in a month – that is the type of people who I am going to be around. What that immediately does is when you win about five games and the hype is on you, those dudes handle that type of hype. Being in the bubble, we only had eight games. What about when its 72 games and we won eight in a row? We have more to go and to have those teammates who are going to say, ‘We ain’t do anything bro, like relax we ain’t do anything’. We are going to have that maturity on the team to tell players that we are not there yet and that is what we need.”

The Suns get their 2020-2021 regular season underway on Wednesday, December 23 when play the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. The game will tip off at 10:30 p.m. and will be broadcasted on ESPN.

They tip off their four preseason games on Saturday night when they take on the Utah Jazz in an away matchup at the Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah. That game will tip off at 9 p.m. and will be aired on NBATV.

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