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Suns coach Monty Williams ‘tempered’ after Deandre Ayton’s 20-20 game

Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) shoots with New York Knicks forward Marcus Morris Sr. (13) and Knicks center Mitchell Robinson (23) looking on during the second half of an NBA basketball game in New York, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020. The Suns defeated the Knicks 121-98. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Monty Williams will take it. The Suns head coach is not transfixed on it or calling it an “aha moment” because he can’t afford not to see the big picture.

Deandre Ayton’s first career 20-20 performance in a 121-98 win Thursday against the New York Knicks was a positive sign, but Williams knows that one game doesn’t mean a breakout — not for his team and not for his 21-year-old center.

Ayton scored 26 points, adding 21 rebounds, two blocks and two assists. He was amped up having been inserted back into the starting lineup, and the Suns (17-24) have now gone 6-4 in their last 10 games.

“(I) always at least try to be tempered in my evaluation of young players in this league,” Williams told Doug & Wolf Friday on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station. “Obviously last night, D.A. played, had a monster game but I’m with our guys every day. I’m more inclined to look at the habits in practice and the consistency and the things that we want to get to. I love when he plays that way but as his coach and someone who’s with him every day, I don’t think that’s going to happen all the time. I wish it would.”

Williams did like Ayton’s first half.

The center hit double-figures early in the second quarter and had a double-double by halftime. He caught lobs, ran the floor and crashed the offensive boards.

To Williams, Ayton’s defensive engagement stood out.

“I love the fact that he was able to play 20 minutes in the first half, because we needed him to play that way,” Williams said. “I thought he played close to a 10 as far as intensity and early, loud and continuous communication in pick-and-rolls and stuff like that. I love the numbers but I was looking at it as a whole perspective, if you will.”

Williams has told Ayton in the past that “he’s a thermostat, he’s not a thermometer.” The big man’s goofy personality and raw skillset gives him the ability to change the temperature in the locker room or on the court.

But Williams isn’t throwing a party for one mostly-dominant performance or making it bigger than it is. Regarding his team and Ayton, Williams knows that only time and work can bring consistency.

“I didn’t say a word to him,” Williams said of how he handled Ayton’s performance postgame. “I pat everybody on the back. I talked to the team about this is the team we want to be consistently. We defended and held another team under 100 points, we had 31 assists and we got contributions from everybody.

“When I saw D.A. on the bus, he walked by me and it was a pat on the shoulder. I think guys want that from their coach and coaches because it’s a sign we’re all together in the locker room, on the floor and on the bus.”


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