EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

Deandre Ayton lets game come to him with double-double in Suns win

Jul 7, 2018, 8:56 PM | Updated: 11:02 pm
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)...
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

LAS VEGAS — Deandre Ayton had an awkward Summer Suns debut on Friday.

With the Dallas Mavericks employing a consistent double-team in Summer League, Ayton couldn’t look to score or even get the ball much. Beyond that, he was dealing with a combination of nerves and excited energy that also was affecting his performance.

Ayton said Friday “all the butterflies are out” and he would be ready to bounce back on Saturday, and he did just that in the Suns’ 71-63 win against the Sacramento Kings.

In what was by no means a dominating performance, Ayton still managed 21 points and 12 rebounds on 11 field goal attempts.

Ayton did some prep before the game and also got advice from others following the Dallas game on Friday.

“Watched a lot of film last night, paced myself,” Ayton said. “My teammates really talked to me after the game (and said) ‘just slow down. Everybody has those moments in the first game.’ Once I got it out my system I was fine.”

Ayton said he was trying to let the game come to him and that showed. Despite not taking a ton of shots, Ayton wasn’t shy about making an extra pass and kept himself available around the basket.

“I tell [my teammates] if you don’t see the pass don’t throw it,” Ayton said. “Don’t force it. I’ll let the game come to me. I’m not the guy who really tries to force myself to hunt shots down. I’ll find it off offensive rebounds, go straight up to get my feel of the game, get in rhythm.”

While the adversity wasn’t extra defensive attention, Ayton still faced it with battling for post position.

The Suns ball-handlers had five turnovers trying to feed Ayton in the first half, which head coach Igor Kokoskov attributed to a few different areas.

“That was a big problem,” Kokoskov said of the turnovers. “We have a presence inside. [Ayton] has to do a better job of sealing in the lane, showing a big target, helping our guards, holding position in the paint but also definitely we have to do a better job of finding our guys.

“It’s a process for us because a lot of these guys never probably played with a such a big target [like] Deandre.”

The coach said Ayton knows he has to improve there and at the end of the day, this is a rookie’s second Summer League game.

“I never had somebody really try to like really go at me, me posting up,” Ayton said of Sacramento’s Harry Giles challenging him.

“It’s very different in the NBA. These guys are strong, they’re hungry, they’re going at you,” Ayton said.

That’s where another adjustment has come for Ayton. After dealing with his first game for the Suns and a gameplan built around stopping him on Friday, the game against Sacramento was about embracing the physicality of being an NBA big man.

“It [looks] different on TV, but if you really look at the big guys down low, we throwing punches, we headbutting each other, we scraping each other … it’s a dogfight out there.”

FREE THROWS

— Josh Jackson caught a nasty elbow from Marvin Bagley III in the second quarter while battling for position inside. Jackson would get four sutures above his right eye but continued to play in a mask.

He had a monster block on Marvin Bagley III that came within possessions of his return.

Jackson said after the game he wasn’t sure if he will play or not on Monday against the Orlando Magic and would have a concussion test after the game. After shooting 4-of-16 on Friday, Jackson was 3-of-12 on Saturday and assumedly would like the chance to have a bounce-back performance.

— Dragan Bender played his worst game in a Suns uniform in a long time. The Croatian didn’t make any of his five field goal attempts and had three turnovers, meaning he now has more turnovers (8) than points (5) through two games. Defense and making the occasional threes won’t be enough for Bender to earn real minutes next season. He has to clean up the sloppy plays.

Penguin Air

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