Eric Gordon: Then-Suns teammate Deandre Ayton was ‘big part’ of joining Bahamas team

Nov 8, 2023, 10:18 AM

Eric Gordon drives against Deandre Ayton...

Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon (10) shoots past Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) as forward Cameron Johnson, left, looks on during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Houston. (AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

(AP Photo/Michael Wyke)

Phoenix Suns guard Eric Gordon had some vague understanding of the rift between his new team and center Deandre Ayton when he signed as a free agent this summer.

Ayton’s name had been bandied about in trade rumors before and after Phoenix in the summer of 2022 matched a max contract offer sheet he signed with the Indiana Pacers. The big man’s up-and-down play in two conference semifinal losses in the past two years didn’t help matters as the Suns, under new ownership, entered this offseason needing to balance a roster that had so many lucrative contracts on it.

That context had Gordon excited to join Ayton on the Bahamian national team for FIBA Pre-Qualifying play, where they advanced to give themselves a shot at Olympic action next summer.

And then, just before NBA training camp, Ayton was traded.

“I always kind of knew — I heard about the relationship between the Suns and him,” Gordon told Burns & Gambo Tuesday on Arizona Sports. “I was kind of hoping — I was anticipating he would at least start off the year (with the Suns) and all that and then right before training camp that happens.

“‘Cause he was a big reason why I played for the Bahamas, to see if I could get chemistry going with him and try to have his mind right before the season came. The NBA’s a business. Things happen.”

Ayton was traded in the Damian Lillard blockbuster that netted the Suns center Jusuf Nurkic, wing Nassir Little and guard Grayson Allen, a three-for-one swap that helped depth and divvied the cash accordingly.

Gordon said he didn’t have any intimate knowledge about the void between Ayton and the Suns heading into the year.

But he did feel something was off when he played Phoenix, most recently as last year’s first round, when Gordon’s Los Angeles Clippers lost to the Suns.

“You could just see it when you’re playing with him in the playoffs,” Gordon said. “Deandre’s a talented player … Early on in his career, when you come off pick-and-roll with him, this dude, he was just playing bully ball, he was dunking the ball, he was very active.

“You could always just see the disconnect on the floor sometimes. You could just see it on the floor but at the end of the day, he’s still a good player, he had a good career here and he’s going to continue to have a good career in Portland.”

Ayton’s fresh start with the Blazers has included hiccups, though not necessarily those of his making.

Through seven games, Ayton is averaging 10.4 points, 13.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game, the last two reflecting his activity is up. But it’s a nearly eight-point dropoff from last year in about the same amount of minutes (30 per game).

It’s had a lot to do with Portland not having a Chris Paul-esque lead guard to set Ayton up. The center is relying on rookie guard Scoot Henderson and second-year pro Shaedon Sharpe, plus Malcolm Brogdon, who has started the last two games with Henderson suffering a sprained ankle.

Ayton’s shot volume at 8.9 attempts per game is well below his previous low through five seasons in Phoenix of 10 per game (2020-21).

His shooting percentage (57%) has dipped as well.

Portland ran off a three-game winning streak to reach 3-4 at this point, and the team still has massive spacing issues with an NBA-worst 29.5% accuracy from three-point range. That hasn’t helped Ayton’s cause, either. He and Blazers head coach Chauncey Billups have downplayed the lack of offensive inclusion.

“There’s a new thing we got going over here so it’s not really about me,” Ayton said, according to OregonLive.com. “It’s about how we’re going to figure this thing out and win games.

“All I’m trying to do is show them that hey, when DA rolls to the rim, you’re going to be open,” Ayton said of his teammates. “I’m going to roll hard, but make sure you knock down your shot.”

Empire of the Suns

Devin Booker and Desmond Bane scrap for position in Suns-Grizzlies...

Kevin Zimmerman

Devin Booker’s return helps Suns beat Grizzlies in learning session

Devin Booker took advantage of the Memphis Grizzlies' overly aggressive defense to score 34 points in a Phoenix Suns win.

38 minutes ago

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns takes a shot against Jacob Gilyard #0 of the Memphis Grizzlies ...

Kellan Olson

Phoenix Suns own strong odds to advance in NBA In-Season Tournament

NBA In-Season Tournament action ended on Friday with the Phoenix Suns having a great chance to advance to the knockout stage.

6 days ago

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns makes a three-point basket with 1.7 seconds left in the fourth ...

Kellan Olson

Devin Booker leads shorthanded Suns to 7th straight victory in win vs. Knicks

The Phoenix Suns escaped Madison Square Garden with a 116-113 victory over the Knicks, their seventh consecutive win and best of the season.

6 days ago

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns handles the ball against Bismack Biyombo #18 of the Memphis Gri...

Kellan Olson

Suns keep in-season tournament hopes alive, beat Grizzlies behind Booker’s 40

Even in a shorthanded state, the Phoenix Suns were just fine with Devin Booker, defeating the depleted Memphis Grizzlies 110-89.

8 days ago

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker and Golden State Warriors guard Chris Paul (Felisa Cardenas/Arizona...

Kellan Olson

Phoenix Suns find 5th straight victory in odd game vs. Warriors

It was win No. 5 in a row for the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday, a 123-115 final over the Warriors that was as eventual as it was weird.

10 days ago

Chris Paul #3 of the Golden State Warriors reacts to referee Scott Foster #48 during the first half...

Kellan Olson

Suns offer unique perspective on latest Chris Paul, Scott Foster saga

The Phoenix Suns have seen Chris Paul's unique dynamic with official Scott Foster up close and personal. They did again on Wednesday.

10 days ago

Eric Gordon: Then-Suns teammate Deandre Ayton was ‘big part’ of joining Bahamas team