James Jones: Suns preferred deal shorter than 5 years for Deandre Ayton
The Phoenix Suns tip off their 2021-22 season on Wednesday night at Footprint Center against the Denver Nuggets.
But prior to the NBA’s opening night, the time period for contract extensions for players on rookie contracts came to a close.
And with that came a four-year, $90 million extension for Suns forward Mikal Bridges and a four-year, $43 million deal for guard Landry Shamet.
However, the obvious missing name from that list is Phoenix’s No. 1 overall pick in 2018, center Deandre Ayton.
On Wednesday, Suns general manager James Jones told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo that Ayton wanted nothing less than a five-year deal, but that the team wasn’t interested in offering a contract of that length.
“For a multitude of reasons but ultimately when we looked at it from a team-building or roster construction standpoint, it just wasn’t our preference,” Jones said. “And we decided that that wasn’t something we wanted to do. That’s really what it came down to.”
“We had great discussions initially, he added. “We discussed a multitude of things but ultimately, a four-year deal, a three-year deal just wasn’t something that was an option. And it was five years and that’s it. So that’s pretty much where it ended.
“Like I said it’s unfortunate because it’s not reflective of our commitment, our desire to Deandre. It’s just at that point in time, we couldn’t come to an agreement.”
Jones and Ayton will now have to shift their focus from the negotiating table to the court, which is something the general manager is not too worried about spilling over onto the hardwood as the Suns look to defend their Western Conference title.
“For us and for a multitude of reasons that the five-year max wasn’t something that we were gonna do. We just couldn’t get beyond that and so everything else really didn’t matter,” Jones said. “Nothing else really happened. No other conversations were considered.
“Like I said, it’s something that for us we just hope as we continue to build this team and as we go on this journey this year to chase a championship that people will understand that the commitment to this team, the commitment to winning by everyone involved — the coaches, the front office the players — that we’re all on the same page and that eventually we’ll get to where we need to be.”
And after coming off a season in which Phoenix reached just its third NBA Finals in franchise history, head coach Monty Williams and Co. will now have much higher expectations going into this season compared to last year.
“I’m not worried about that. I’m not concerned about that,” Jones said. “I’ve said before that I’m more focused on making sure that these expectations we have for ourselves that we don’t get overly locked in and too stressed about excellence and trying to win a title. That puts more pressure on people than anything else when you set a high goal. …
“The way Deandre approaches the game, the way our guys approach the game — they just play, they just compete, they just hoop and that’s why they’ve improved and I expect that to be the case this year too.”