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Williams on Deandre Ayton missing coronavirus test: Mistakes happen

Los Angeles Clippers' Marcus Morris Sr., right, defends Phoenix Suns' Deandre Ayton (22) during an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP)

Not all head coaches would back up Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton the way Monty Williams has.

The 22-year-old big man missed his required COVID-19 testing on Sunday, causing him to be out of the Suns’ starting lineup in Monday’s win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

That follows Ayton being suspended 25 games after the season opener for failing a drug test, and the No. 1 overall pick from the 2018 NBA Draft has certainly had performances where some coaches would voice their displeasure through the media.

That hasn’t been Williams all season, and he continued with that after Monday’s slipup.

“You have to be able to give people breaks,” he said Monday. “It wasn’t intentional, and thankfully, he was able to get tested early enough to get the results back so he could come and play. And the guys received him with open arms because we all understand we’re human.”

The Suns without Ayton in the first quarter were out of rhythm and outscored 37-23. It clearly affected their play, and if they wouldn’t have been so lucky to be playing a Thunder team without several key players in the second game of a back-to-back, they could have lost.

Williams wouldn’t approach criticizing Ayton’s decision-making, a choice to better his team and not one he himself should take any heat for.

The Suns certainly understand by now how to get the best out of Ayton, and it’s a strongly educated guess to say that it’s not calling him out publicly. And I will present another hypothesis that he got a talking-to privately.

Ayton did something stupid, but Williams wouldn’t even go there.

“Getting tested every day is just different for us,” he said, noting he has moments where he double-checks in his head if he got his testing done. ” You just get confused by it, and I know I’m not the only one that’s done that.”

Williams said he did not consider sitting Ayton for his mistake and wouldn’t comment on it any further.

“You just kind of have to check yourself all day long,” Williams said of testing.

That’s something Ayton did not do on Sunday, and it nearly costed the Suns a game they very likely need to win in order to have a chance at still making the playoffs.

Despite that, Phoenix stuck to the mantra of “navigating the uncertainty” the bubble presents to them, something All-Star guard Devin Booker reinforced himself when asked of Ayton’s goof.

Booker, as he has throughout the entire season, echoed Williams’ leadership and backed up his big man.

“An off-day, I mean, it could slip your mind. It’s not the first thing I’m thinking about when I leave practice, I can tell you that,” he said.

“It is a long walk (to the testing center), I ain’t gonna lie.”

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