PHOENIX SUNS

Deandre Ayton ‘happy to put free agency behind’ him, re-signs with Suns

Jul 18, 2022, 7:34 PM | Updated: 8:33 pm

Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns reacts against the New Orleans Pelicans during Game Four of t...

Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns reacts against the New Orleans Pelicans during Game Four of the Western Conference First Round NBA Playoffs at the Smoothie King Center on April 24, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton officially re-signed with the organization on Monday, the team announced.

Included in the press release was Ayton’s first time being quoted since the Suns’ season ended.

“I’m happy to put free agency behind me and ready to work and compete for a championship with my teammates,” Ayton said in the release.

Ayton did not speak with the media after the Suns were eliminated in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Dallas Mavericks. Ayton got into a verbal exchange with head coach Monty Williams when he checked out of the game for the last time in the early third quarter, and when Williams was asked about it postgame, the coach said “it’s internal.”

Ayton had previously not spoken anywhere else publicly since then or during his restricted free agency when buzz grew that the Suns could potentially sign-and-trade the 23-year-old.

“Deandre is a force on both ends of the floor, who has elevated his game every year and will continue to do so,” general manager James Jones said in the release. “DA is so important to what we do and without him we could not have reached our recent levels of success. We are excited to keep Deandre at home in the Valley where he belongs.”

Shortly after the signing became official, a story from ESPN’s Marc J. Spears dropped that quoted Ayton, Jones and Williams.

In the piece, Spears writes that Jones told Ayton the plan throughout free agency was to re-sign him. It also includes a tidbit from Ayton that he and Williams are on good terms.

Suns head coach Monty Williams added he was ecstatic Ayton was back as his starting center, and he knew all along “we were going to match any offer.”

“James and myself, we talk a lot and he’ll let me know what’s going on with the contract and ask for my opinion,” Williams said to ESPN’s Andscape. “I try to stay out of persuading him when it comes to him making decisions. But we knew any offer that he got, we were going to match.

“… I’m happy for Deandre just because I know this is what he wanted. He wants to be in that class of players that’s regarded in this way. So, from that standpoint, I think as a competitor, that’s what you want. When you see a guy working for that, that part is pretty cool.”

The Indiana Pacers agreed to a four-year, $133 million offer sheet with Ayton on Thursday, one that the Suns matched in three minutes. Phoenix and Ayton did not come to an agreement on a contract extension last October, which brought on restricted free agency for Ayton. The Suns did reach an agreement with wing Mikal Bridges, a member of Ayton’s draft class.

Ayton was selected first overall by the Suns in the 2018 NBA Draft. In his fourth year, Ayton averaged 17.2 points, 10.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game while shooting 63.4% from the field. He was a key part of Phoenix’s run to the 2021 NBA Finals and a franchise-record 64 wins last regular season.

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