Deandre Ayton downplays ‘noise’; Chris Paul and Monty Williams talk futures

May 12, 2023, 1:12 PM | Updated: 1:59 pm

Following an elimination loss by the Phoenix Suns, center Deandre Ayton used exit interviews Friday to downplay rumors about his unhappiness on the team and to shrug off rumors of a continued relationship clash with head coach Monty Williams.

Ayton was asked about those reports and if he would re-affirm his commitment to Phoenix, like he always has in the past.

“I love Phoenix, man,” Ayton told reporters at the team’s practice facility the morning after a 125-100 Game 6 loss to the Denver Nuggets in the second round. “Honestly, I’m going to continue playing hard for Phoenix … I don’t listen to the outside noise. I’m here, I’m happy. We didn’t finish the year the way we wanted to.”

Ayton is owed $32.5 million in 2023-24 and has two more years on the max contract that the Suns matched when the big man was in restricted free agency last summer.

But Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro and ESPN’s Tim MacMahon have reported in the last two days that there are rumblings that Ayton and the team could take a peek at moving his contract. That would help them better bolster the roster around Devin Booker and Kevin Durant.

Ayton on Friday pushed back against those rumors. He also credited his teammates with supporting him through a season that ended with a rib contusion, which kept Ayton out on Thursday night. He added that his relationship with Williams was not problematic despite his own complaint to begin the year, that Williams hadn’t spoken to him all offseason despite his benching that ended the 2021-22 season and lengthy free-agency process.

“It might look like (Williams and I have a rocky relationship) through the lens, but at the end of the day, what family don’t have some (arguments), especially when we’re on the same mission?” Ayton said, adding that he and the coach grew stronger through the team’s on-court struggles in the middle of the year.

“It’s always been good. Like I said, what family don’t argue?”

Williams’ own future in Phoenix could be in question with a new owner entering his first offseason. Mat Ishbia also has a brief history of engineering the trade of Kevin Durant days into his tenure.

NBA-wide, the coaching profession remains volatile as ever.

The coaches who led their respective clubs to NBA titles from 2019-21 are no longer with their teams. Mike Budenholzer (Bucks, 2021) and Nick Nurse (Raptors, 2019) were fired in the past month, while Frank Vogel (Lakers, 2020) was let go before 2022-23.

“I’ve always felt like I have to do my job, not worry about it,” Williams said when asked about his job status. “You do scan the landscape to see what’s going on and see it’s part of anybody’s tenure. From my perspective, you do the best you can … I’m not close-minded to what I’ve seen around the league.”

The same control-what-you-can-control mindset is held by starting point guard Chris Paul. He’s set to make $30.8 million in 2023-24 but has about half of that deal fully guaranteed.

“My contract not up,” Paul said when asked if he’d be back next season. “But unfortunately, I’m not the GM or anything like that. We’ll see.”

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