DAN BICKLEY

Silence between Deandre Ayton, Monty Williams defies all expectations

Sep 27, 2022, 5:13 PM | Updated: Sep 28, 2022, 9:03 am

The Suns are not healed. They are not a basketball team in full. They feel more like a crime scene.

They will not vibe their way to a championship in 2022-23.

Embers are still burning everywhere. Robert Sarver is begrudgingly selling the team following an NBA investigation, creating a swirl of change at the top. Jae Crowder is seeking a trade, no longer a functioning part of the group. And in the strangest development yet, Deandre Ayton said he has yet to speak with head coach Monty Williams after their highly publicized blowup on national television in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals.

Strange.

You expect a little more outreach from Williams, a religious man who talks about the importance of relationships and family; a spiritual man who gave that weepy speech in the bubble after winning a playoff lollipop and consolation prize; and a forgiving man who bounded into the Bucks locker room to personally pay his respect to the opposition just minutes after they stole our trophy.

The indifference of Williams is stunning. So much that it must be the entire point.

It means the Suns are done coddling Ayton. Or maybe they’re done with Ayton, period. They will now treat him with callous hands instead of kid gloves. It will be all business and nothing personal. They will do what it takes to keep him out of a comfort zone, to ensure he accepts whatever trade scenario they present on or after Jan. 15th.

Nothing else makes any sense.

Initially, many fixated on how unhappy Ayton seemed on Media Day. How his spirit seemed broken. How he acted like a hostage. How the smile was missing from his voice.

It was jarring because Ayton didn’t seem a bit resentful when the Suns reflexively matched a Pacers’ offer sheet that will pay him $133 million over four years. He even willingly did a photo shoot for the marketing department.

Turns out the real story is the cold shoulder from Williams, who hasn’t bothered to have a single conversation with the player he benched in that fateful Game 7, the one he reportedly blamed for quitting on the group, the one he effectively singled out for one of the worst losses in NBA history.

Is it a forewarning and foreshadowing of tumultuous trade rumors ahead? Does it that mean Kevin Durant is still in play down the road?

You hope general manager James Jones has something on boil because his basketball team is less talented and more divided than the crew that blew a 2-0 lead in the second round of the playoffs.

Alas, the wreckage from the Suns’ postseason nosedive is legendary. Until they change the course of history, they will never live down the Luka Special or the 30-point halftime deficit in Game 7. It represents one of the worst choke jobs in basketball history. It is an embarrassment that requires atonement.

For starters, maybe this team needs to lose the innocence and the goofiness. Just like Williams needs to get a little more hardcore, in control and rough around the edges.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@arizonasports.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 6 a.m. – 10 a.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.

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