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Deandre Ayton calls praise from Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic ‘amazing’

Nikola Jokic #15 of the Denver Nuggets attempts a shot over Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns during the second half of the NBA game at Phoenix Suns Arena on January 23, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

There’s nothing like earning the admiration of your peers.

Deandre Ayton, having strung together four strong games for the Phoenix Suns, on Saturday received a high compliment from one of the best players at his position. After the Nuggets defeated Phoenix in double overtime, Denver center Nikola Jokic said Ayton was “amazing.”

Ayton on Tuesday spoke to the importance of receiving that recognition from an All-Star.

“That’s amazing. I’m doing something right,” the Suns center said. “I give him his praise. … That’s the No. 1 center in this league to me. Just what he do and what he brings to the game is tremendous. I always look up to him and try to take things from him and just try to learn from it and put it in my game as well.

“I love competing against him. (We) talk here and there while we’re battling. It’s just good spirits. Just to hear that, it makes me want to keep working … just hearing the recognization of my hard work is amazing. Makes me want to keep working harder and harder.”

The 25-year-old Jokic is a two-time All-Star currently putting together his best season yet.

He’s in the top-15 of the three major categories, averaging 25.4 points, 11.9 rebounds and 9.3 assists per game.

Ayton made Jokic work in a weekend double-header.

Even though Jokic averaged 30 points in the two games, Ayton held him to 9-of-21 shooting in the second game of a back-to-back set.

“He’s amazing. Give the guy credit. He’s amazing,” Jokic told reporters after the Saturday game. “He’s really solid. He knows like what he needs — I think that’s the best thing a young player can have: that mindset.

“He play(s) really good defense. He stopped me five, six, seven, eight times. Give that guy credit. He was really good tonight.”

Jokic had apparently told Ayton to his face that he recognized his growth from the timid second-year player who struggled against the Nuggets just a year ago.

To Ayton, who is averaging 15.0 points, 12.2 rebounds and 1.9 assists this year, the words work to motivate him.

“It’s just him seeing me as a player from when I got in the league, like, ‘Dang D.A., finally, you guys look good,'” Ayton said.

“(Other players) see it. It means we’ve been working hard and we’re a young group. Hearing that from him, it means a lot.”


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