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Phoenix’s Deandre Ayton sticking close to Suns as he serves suspension

(AP Photo/Matt York)

The Phoenix Suns are turning heads early on in the new NBA season, playing competitive basketball on their way to a 5-3 start.

And they’re doing so without one of their key pieces in center Deandre Ayton.

But while the big man sits on the outside looking in as he fulfills his 25-game diuretic suspension, Ayton is doing all he can to make sure he’s not missing a beat.

“DA’s great, he’s been around everyday,” Suns head coach Monty Williams told the Doug & Wolf Show on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station on Friday. “He’s in our building early in the morning and he leaves in the evening. We have a plan in place for him, he’s playing 4-on-4, sometimes 5-on-5, with players and coaches, so he’s fine.

“He obviously feels bad that he’s not around to help his team and [Thursday] night was a night where if DA plays we have pressure on the rim, we have a rim protector taking away the lobs and the shots that Jimmy [Butler] was making around the basket. Last night was a night where you’re like ‘man, if we had DA and Aron [Baynes] this might be a different outcome.'”

In Thursday night’s loss to the Heat, the Suns stayed right with Miami up until the fourth quarter, falling 124-108. Butler was public enemy No. 1 for Phoenix inside, as the small forward dropped 34 points five rebounds, including a 10-for-10 free throw effort, and four assists.

While Ayton has been out serving his suspension, fellow center Baynes has stepped up in his absence, averaging 16 points to go with 5.6 rebounds and carving a nice role this season

Baynes’ play has been critical in the team’s successes but also adds a predicament to Williams’ rotation.

How will the minutes work out between the two big men once Ayton is reinstated?

For Williams, he views the big man’s return to the hardwood a bit differently than other NBA coaches.

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” Williams said. “I know that’s coach speak but when we do get DA back, in my opinion, it’ll be like signing a big-time free agent. And I’m sure the guys will welcome the numbers, the athleticism and everything he brings to the table.

“I’ll talk to our sports science people about how to implement him back into the fold because you can play 4-on-4, 5-on-5 all you want but the NBA game is different, so we’ll have to come up with a plan as to how we’re going to ease him back into it.”


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