Moore: My friend and I disagree on Deandre Ayton's contract situation with Phoenix Suns

·4 min read

A good friend of mine is a lifelong Suns fan.

He goes back way further than Nash and Stoudemire or Barkley and Majerle. We’re talking Hawkins and Scott. Van Arsdale and Westphal. And we’re talking about a championship drought that goes back to 1968-69.

(If this keeps up, we’ll be talking about my friend the way we used to talk about Cubs and Red Sox fans.)

Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton looks on during an NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday, March 23, 2022, in Minneapolis.
Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton looks on during an NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday, March 23, 2022, in Minneapolis.

What my friend thinks ...

Here’s what he wants to say to Deandre Ayton and his agent, Bill Duffy, about the contract dispute that’s threatening to derail this franchise’s best-ever opportunity for an NBA title:

“You may totally disagree with this and can tell me seven ways to Sunday why I’m wrong, but I think it’s time for a tough open letter to Deandre Ayton and his agent,” my friend wrote.

“Deandre may feel betrayed that he didn’t get a max contract, but these relationships go both ways. Deandre began the 2019 season with a monumental betrayal of his coaches and teammates. His 25-game drug suspension cost him a third of the season and probably set back this team’s development by a year.

“To have done that to teammates who trained all offseason to be ready for the season might have been unforgivable. But they forgave him.

“Further,” my friend wrote, Suns insider Duane Rankin’s “piece today underscores how an active center can expose the Mavs, but Deandre wasn’t active in the Suns-Mavs series. He was MIA. Deandre is a gifted big man whose best skills — his defensive footwork and lateral movement — are not obvious to the casual fan.

“But he’s still making a lot of his rookie mistakes, dropping passes, failing to secure the ball after a rebound (other teams have been constantly slapping the ball away from him), failing to block out (perhaps a factor of the way he’s expected to play the game.)

“Chris Paul has more than once talked about how rare the atmosphere is on the Phoenix Suns. The best locker room Paul has experienced in his long career.

May 10, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona; USA; Suns guard Chris Paul talks with center Deandre Ayton on the bench during game 5 of the second round of the Western Conference Playoffs.
May 10, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona; USA; Suns guard Chris Paul talks with center Deandre Ayton on the bench during game 5 of the second round of the Western Conference Playoffs.

“Deandre should be very cautious about greener pastures. He may find himself separated from his best friends and a winning program.

“The Suns will pay him, but he has not yet earned a max contract.

“He still has much to prove. And if he thinks it’s tough to get motivated now, wait until he’s on a team that’s losing 60 games a year.”

More from Moore: Phoenix Suns should pay Deandre Ayton, but will he accept the raise?

What I think ...

My friend raises some interesting points.

Here’s what I would say to Deandre Ayton and his agent, Bill Duffy, about the contract dispute that’s threatening to derail this franchise’s best-ever opportunity for an NBA title:

“Deandre Ayton handles adversity better than most. That’s why his potential is so high.

“He’s faced down two major scandals — the UA pay-for-play allegations and the positive drug test — and come through it by focusing on getting better every day.

“Deandre has matured into a devoted young father who seems only to care about getting better at basketball and going home to play video games. He’s not out all night, looking for a good time. He’s not throwing money at his child and calling it ‘parenting.’

“Plus, he helped the Suns get to the Finals and set a franchise record with 64 wins.

“My friend is right that a good situation has value that dollars can’t match. He’s also right that good relationships go two ways.

Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) drives the ball against Dallas Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber (42) during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix.
Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) drives the ball against Dallas Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber (42) during the first half of Game 2 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Wednesday, May 4, 2022, in Phoenix.

“I’d ask what the Suns have done to show that they respect and appreciate Ayton? They stuck him with Coach Igor as a rookie, not exactly a big man’s dream. Coach Monty is tremendous, but he’s not exactly maximizing Ayton’s gifts.

“Why didn’t Phoenix figure out how to get Deandre the ball against Dallas? Duane’s piece today underscores what an active center can do against the Mavs — if somebody throws him the ball.

“Ayton has plenty of growing to do as a player. That’s no shock. But his ceiling is a lot higher than he’s been able to show: If you think guys like Embiid and Jokic are skilled, wait until you give Deandre similar freedom.

“I want Deandre to stay in Phoenix.

“He’s proved he can handle adversity better than most and that he wants to be great.

“But if I were advising him, I’d tell him to go where he’s loved and appreciated.

“That starts with a proper raise.

“If I were advising the Suns, I’d suggest they hurry up. Tomorrow’s price is not today’s price.”

One thing, I’d like to add: I want both sides (Ayton and the Suns) to remember my friend. He’s been invested in this team as long as anyone.

He deserves a title, and he doesn’t have another 53 years to wait.

Few of us do.

Reach Moore at gmoore@azcentral.com or 602-444-2236. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @SayingMoore.

There's plenty Moore where this came from. Subscribe for videos, columns, opinions and analysis from The Arizona Republic’s award-winning sports team. 

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Moore: My friend and I disagree on Deandre Ayton's contract situation