Monday, August 15, 2022

Deandre Ayton ‘happy’ to sign new deal with Suns, put free agency behind him: ‘This is a blessing’

For a while, there was some serious uncertainty surrounding Deandre Ayton’s future in Phoenix. Ayton and the Phoenix Suns failed to agree on a contract extension last offseason, and the team didn’t offer him a five-year deal at the onset of free agency this summer. As a restricted free agent, Ayton went on to sign a four-year, $133 million max offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers — a deal the Suns matched in order to keep the big man in Phoenix for the foreseeable future. 

The uncertainty of his situation wore on Ayton, who was eager to have a long-term home in the league. Now that he has that commitment from the Suns, he’s ready to put the process behind him and return his full focus to the court. 

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“The shift in free agency brought a lot of uncertainty through the whole process,” Ayton said, via ESPN. “I got to give a lot of respect to the Pacers organization. They were aggressive from the start and showing a lot of love. And we agreed to a max offer sheet. The Suns matched. Now, I’m back in Phoenix as a Sun. I’m happy. The process is over. I put all this behind me and focus on chasing a championship this upcoming season with my brothers.”

At just 23 years old, Ayton got a first-hand look at the business side of basketball throughout his free agency, and that will likely have a major impact on his perspective over the course of his career. Despite the way things played out, Ayton doesn’t hold any ill will against the Suns. Instead he’s appreciative of the commitment they’ve mad to him. 

“This is a blessing,” Ayton said of his new contract. “This contract not only has generational impact for my family, but also with the way we are able to work in the Phoenix community and home in the Bahamas. That is the things that we go by. … I’ve come to understand that this is a business. So, I was more anxious to know the end of the result so I could focus, move on and just get back to work. I just treated everything like a business. Just keep being professional, approach everything with professionalism and not looking too deep into it.”

Ayton is happy to be back in Phoenix, and the feeling is mutual. Suns general manager James Jones said that retaining Ayton was a priority for the organization, and he referred to the former No. 1 overall pick as “vital” to the Suns’ success. 

“We wanted Deandre here,” Jones said. “He’s vital to what we do, at the core of everything that we do. And throughout this whole process it was, it rang true. We wanted to keep him here, and the moment we can come to an agreement, we would. So, waiting 24 hours, 48 hours, that wasn’t something we needed to do because going into it, we knew this is where he wanted to be and where we wanted him to be.” 

The uncertainty regarding his future in Phoenix was looming over Ayton all of last year, and he still had an extremely solid season, averaging 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game while shooting a career-high 63 percent from the field. Now that his situation is settled, perhaps he’ll take another step forward in the coming season. The Suns could certainly use it as they will be looking to make another deep playoff run after being eliminated in the second round by the Dallas Mavericks last season.  

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