PHOENIX SUNS

Ex-NBA players critical of Deandre Ayton’s comments on having nothing to prove as max player

Jan 24, 2024, 1:03 PM | Updated: 3:18 pm

Deandre Ayton, Portland Trail Blazers...

Deandre Ayton #2 of the Portland Trail Blazers looks on before the exhibition game against the New Zealand Breakers at Moda Center on October 10, 2023 in Portland, Oregon. The Portland Trail Blazers won 106-66. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

(Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

Deandre Ayton may not be in Phoenix anymore, but he is now in the headlines for a comment made about signing a max contract while with the Suns.

Ayton told long-time NBA reporter Mark Medina in his Basketball Intelligence newsletter released Tuesday that he has “nothing to prove.”

“I’m a max player, and I’ll continue to be a max player,” he said in a teaser quote revealed before a subscription paywall.

The context, of course, is missed to some degree. The story includes quotes from Portland Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups complimenting Ayton for keeping his head up and remaining professional without complaining about his role or stats on a struggling team.

Deandre Ayton’s comments on being a max player draw criticism

Former NBA players Chandler Parsons and Danny Green expressed shock that Ayton would say he’s got “nothing to prove in this league,” context considered or not.

“No, I’m not buying that. First of all, everybody, whether you’re a max player or a min player … you’re always trying to prove something,” Parsons said. “To even say this is so soft and so weak and so irritating. … LeBron James is still trying to prove something.”

Green agreed with Parsons — every player has something to prove.

“As a max player, you have to prove night in, night out you’re a max player,” Green said. “Carry that weight not only on the court but off the court of how you show up to games, availability, how you treat the younger … kids in your group.”

Added Parsons: “Quotes like this is why you now understand why (the Suns) traded him, why they had issue with him, why they shipped him to Portland.”

Phoenix matched the Indiana Pacers’ four-year, $133 million offer sheet with Ayton coming off the center’s strong play in a 2021 NBA Finals run.

That decision was heavily criticized by some then. It became even more heavily scrutinized as Ayton was benched in the last game to end the Suns’ 2022 playoff run and then sat out with a rib injury in the season-ending loss a year later.

The context of the past week was also not helpful to Ayton’s narrative.

He missed a Portland home game against the Brooklyn Nets because he couldn’t leave his neighborhood due to icy road conditions in a city not equipped for it. Ayton’s defensiveness about why and how he missed that game didn’t do much to help his cause.

“There’s a young group in Portland that needs that leadership,” Green added of Ayton missing the Brooklyn game. “(He) should be at these games, finding ways to make it through the ice, some way.”

In three games since then, Ayton has scored 12, six and five points. He shot a combined 38% in the past three games and failed to reach double-figure rebounding.

Compared to his Suns tenure, when he was hard to keep off the court despite his inconsistencies, he has lost playing time to 27-year-old NBA rookie Duop Reath, who has hit double-figures in five of his last six games.

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Ex-NBA players critical of Deandre Ayton’s comments on having nothing to prove as max player