Deandre Ayton enjoyed quarantine, is bringing killer mentality to Orlando

Jul 2, 2020, 3:20 PM
Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns warms up before the game against the New York Knicks at Madis...
Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns warms up before the game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on January 16, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

We all have learned more about ourselves as we quarantined during the COVID-19 pandemic. More specifically, how we handled extra time at home isolated.

Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton enjoyed himself and sounded like someone who avoided dustups with his mental health.

“I didn’t really have a hard time,” he said Thursday of the quarantine. “I had a break. I was happy.”

Ayton and other NBA players were forced to be away from basketball for a bit. Suns wing Mikal Bridges said it was the longest he had spent away from the game.

It’s not that Ayton was inviting it but he certainly enjoyed himself before adding basketball back into his schedule.

“I felt like I was back in high school,” he said. “I played ‘(NBA)2K’ all day. Skipped some sleep playing the game all day.”

Ayton got to spend more time with his family too. In particular, the 21-year-old has a younger sister he doesn’t know all that well that he used the time to grow closer with her.

“She was a little shy around me, not knowing me too well,” Ayton said of her, noting it as “filling in that blank in my personal life.”

When Ayton talked about going to the park with his family and dogs, meeting other dogs and people, he even simplified it to “being a human” more.

He sounded refreshed to step away from everything during what has been an eventful second season to say the least with a 25-game suspension for a positive drug test.

One of the best-kept secrets of the league was Ayton finding stretches of pure domination — ahem, I mean, “DOMINAYTON” to respect the man’s brand — in the earlier parts of 2020.

As covered fully in this space at the time, Ayton figured out his best route to doing so was playing with full energy, being relentless to be around the rim on offense while playing composed, impactful defense on the other end. It was less so about production and more so about his mindset while playing, with the right one providing great numbers anyway.

All of this was in the midst of a portion of the Suns’ season that feels like ages ago, one that had Ayton injure his left ankle on March 3, the last game he played before the season was put on pause.

At the time after that game, it sure didn’t look good for Ayton as he used crutches to get around the locker room. He was in a walking boot later that week.

It sounds like an injury that could have ended Ayton’s season, as he called what was listed as an ankle sprain a “bone bruise.”

Like teammate Kelly Oubre Jr. with a torn meniscus, a majority of Ayton’s rehab had to be done from home.

“The rehab was tough because quarantine and reaching out to people that couldn’t come see me to help me physically and trying to read certain things to help me work out my ankle when I don’t know the terminology of it,” he said.

Ayton said he remained patient and, now that he’s healthy, will have an opportunity to remind everyone the level his game reached in year two.

He sounds like he’s bringing the right mentality to the bubble in Orlando.

“We ain’t come to play games,” Ayton said. “Y’all can be in front of the cameras and smiling. We (are) smiling, but we coming to tear y’all’s heads off in a minute.”

Besides credit going to Ayton first, some of it should also go to head coach Monty Williams, who Ayton brought up unprompted on how they are approaching the eight-game run.

The coach has got his young team feeling a certain type of way.

“It’s so much confidence going into this,” Ayton said. “Coach [leads] us in the right way.

“We as a team, and coach being our leader, we’re good.”

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Deandre Ayton enjoyed quarantine, is bringing killer mentality to Orlando