Suns’ Deandre Ayton ‘disappointed’ on contract but focused on Finals run

Oct 20, 2021, 11:09 PM | Updated: 11:51 pm
Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) battles Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) for the ball...

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic (15) battles Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) for the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

Deandre Ayton and the Phoenix Suns tipped off their 2021-22 NBA season with a rocky start, a 110-98 loss to the Denver Nuggets at Footprint Center.

The rough stretch on the court mirrors a similar situation between the team and big man after failing to reach a contract extension before the deadline earlier this week.

Following Wednesday night’s contest, Ayton spoke to reporters for the first time since the deadline passed.

“Really one thing about me throughout my whole life I’ve always learned to control what I can control,” Ayton said postgame. “At the same time, obviously I’m disappointed but I’m still trying to get us back to the Finals.

“I still have to represent the team and myself as well. And I’m just a competitor, man. I just like to compete to the best and every time I’m between them lines that’s what you’re gonna see outta me, nothing else.”

The dispute between the Suns and Ayton’s contract extension comes down to the year amount, with the center wanting nothing less than a five-year deal.

However, general manager James Jones told Arizona Sports’ Burns & Gambo prior to Wednesday night’s game that the team’s preference was a shorter contract because five years wasn’t something Phoenix wanted to do from a roster-building standpoint.

“If you’ve been following me for a long time, I’ve always hit the rock bottom,” Ayton said. “There’s always something up with me. But to be honest, I play to the best of my ability when my back’s against the wall. I know the true meaning of professionalism and when I’m between the lines nothing else matters.”

On the other side of the coin is forward Mikal Bridges — who was drafted No. 10 by Phoenix in the same draft — and received a four-year, $90 million extension.

Buy Ayton says their respective contract extension situations are both not discussed nor a distraction when it comes to their performances on the court.

“Things like that are beyond us. We don’t really talk about that,” he said. “We’re just keeping each other accountable, working hard and bettering ourselves. All of that other stuff, we let our agents handle it, man. Things are going to fall in place. But at the end of the day you have to work, we have to work hard and make sure we win some games.”

The 2018 No. 1 overall pick out of Arizona played 33 minutes against the Nuggets, racking up six boards, two assist and 15 points — three of which came from deep.

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