Ayton On Suns: We're Not That Close To Winning

Deandre Ayton shared his candid thoughts on his rookie season in Phoenix

Reiter Than You
February 07, 2019 - 8:44 pm

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Deandre Ayton was the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft last June. A first-team All-American at Arizona, Ayton had high hopes for the Phoenix Suns, even as a rookie. The Suns (11-45), however, have the worst record in the Western Conference.

How close is this team to winning?

“I don’t think we’re that close right now,” Ayton said on Reiter Than You. “But I will say when it comes to playing hard and playing for each other, it’s there. We have to really be consistent with our maturity in big games, especially when we’re so close and it’s right there – but the simplest mistake can really just be a game-changer. Just that one little patch to cover is that maturity. But one thing about this team: we all are for each other. We all are great with each other. We all talk. We all hang out and spend time at each other’s cribs and (are) just enjoying life and learning. We just have to bring that chemistry to the court.”

Ayton, 20, is one of five players on the Suns averaging double figures. In fact, he is averaging a double-double: 16.4 points and 10.5 rebounds. Phoenix’s top five scorers, however, are 25 or younger.

“Honestly, there’s really no leaders,” Ayton said. “There’s only a few of us that really would say something here and there. But me, I pride myself as one of the actual alpha dogs on the team. I’ll set the tone early in games and just really keep everybody’s energy up and making sure everybody plays as a unit and making sure not only are we playing good, but make sure we’re having fun as well. This is our job, but we have to love doing our job.”

The Suns, who started 4-24 this season, are in the midst of a rough stretch, having lost 12 in a row entering Friday’s game against Golden State. Ayton said the losing has been difficult.

“Most definitely,” he said. “It’s still unacceptable. I still feel bad like it was my first loss in the NBA. I feel the same gut feeling: the ‘I wish I should have’ and ‘I wish I could have done this.’ (That’s) after every loss.”

Ayton spends a lot of time watching film – to see what the Suns are doing wrong, yes, but also to see what other teams are doing right.

“I’d probably say how much work we have to do both on and off the court,” Ayton said, when asked about the most surprising transition from college to the NBA. “Not only do we have to work hard and play to this competitive spirit to where you damn near want to kill our opponents, but also tone it down and realize that you’re a human as well, and sometimes the stuff that you leave on the court comes with you. In most people’s eyes we’re just basketball players, but we’re actually human beings and we want to live normal as well.”