PHOENIX SUNS

Jock Landale, Suns teammates come to defense of Deandre Ayton

May 6, 2023, 2:45 PM

The Phoenix Suns got a much-needed win in game 3 over the Denver Nuggets, but center Deandre Ayton remains a hot topic in the Valley.

Ayton has been criticized not only during these playoffs but throughout his tenure in Phoenix for a somewhat lazy attitude that has shown on the court many times.

The latest instance occurred with seven minutes remaining in the fourth quarter on Friday when the $133 million man was benched for the likes of Jock Landale to finish the game.

Ayton finished with four points, nine rebounds and a block in 26 minutes played.

Landale spoke to reporters on Saturday and was asked about replacing the big man for the end of the game (Ayton was not made available to the media).

“Look, it’s hard for me to sit back and be OK with all the slander that’s thrown at D.A.,” Landale told reporters after practice.

“People are making him out to be a selfish individual who is playing terribly all the time and hurts the Phoenix Suns, but it’s Deandre Ayton. D.A. has had 30-20 games on the regular for a month at a time for us this season. D.A. has held down some big-time areas of games for us this year and I am kind of sick of hearing people (expletive) on him nonstop. I know it comes with the business and that is your guy’s job, but it’s other people’s right to say what they want to say. D.A. has been (expletive) great for us.”

Landale also said that when Ayton was pulled from the contest, he sat down with the backup big and spoke about all of star Nikola Jokic’s moves and tendencies. He said Ayton also does this with Bismack Biyombo as well.

Kevin Durant said postgame Friday that he was encouraged by how Ayton stayed engaged in the game on the bench and was still mentally with the team all the way to the last buzzer.

To Landale, this speaks about Ayton’s character and what a great teammate he really is.

“He is allowed to have a bad night, we are basketball players and playing against a two-time MVP right now, it’s tough,” Landale said.

“There is a little bit of growing pain, but at the same time, he does so many great things for us. He is a great guy on the bench, a great locker room guy, there are so many positives that people seem to just leave out and ignore. They just want to harp on the negatives. I know part of that is to push him to be better, but man, sometimes the guy just needs to be left alone.”

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