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#pounditFriday, June 21, 2024

Suns GM responds to Deandre Ayton’s recent comments about being hated

Deandre Ayton during a game

Apr 19, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton (22) against the New Orleans Pelicans during game two of the first round for the 2022 NBA playoffs at Footprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton has been the subject of several trade rumors this offseason. The 25-year-old has seen all those headlines too.

The Suns big man hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations of being the first overall pick in a 2018 NBA Draft that featured All-Stars Luka Doncic and Trae Young. It’s no surprise that some see Ayton as the scapegoat for Phoenix’s consecutive early postseason exits.

That burden has weighed heavily on Ayton, who recently opened up about it to Eyewitness News Bahamas.

“I can feel the whole world hating me,” Ayton said, via Donnie Druin of Sports Illustrated.

“I’m the guy a lot of people point at, and I see it and I feel it. Mainly I’ve been working out five or six days a week since we’ve lost. It’s just motivating myself to change the narrative of what people think about me. No matter how you put it — I feel like I have no fans out here. I can feel it, because the whole world is saying it. My goal over the summer is to change the narrative. Just unlock whatever it is and completely focus on me.”

Ayton’s candid admission wasn’t lost on Suns General Manager James Jones. In a recent sitdown with The Arizona Republic’s Duane Rankin, Jones was asked to weigh in on Ayton’s comments.

Jones noted Ayton is “extremely self-aware” about public opinion — a reality exacerbated by social media. Jones also asserted that Ayton is being made to live up to extremely highexpectations that have skewed the way the big man is being viewed.

“I think what gets lost is his desire to be great and how much winning matters to him. I’ll say it again, he’s not even 25 years old (turns 25 Sunday) and he’s six years into his NBA career. He’s an 18 (points per game) and 10 (rebounds per game) player, and if you were to ask the game’s greatest players how easy it is to do that, they’ll tell you it’s extremely difficult, but even that bar isn’t high enough for him and others,” Jones told Rankin.

Ayton will likely remain under intense scrutiny next season on a star-studded Suns team with championship aspirations. Overcoming that adversity with his play will go a long way toward changing the narrative around him.

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