CM – The Phoenix Suns opener overshadowed Deandre Ayton’s contract controversy


Deandre Ayton (second from right) was disappointed that the Sonnen did not offer him a maximum contract. Skeptics wonder if this affects his performance or team chemistry. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images)

PHOENIX – The Phoenix Suns open their regular 2021-2022 season tonight with a home game against the Denver Nuggets at the Footprint Center. On the surface, it’s a night to celebrate the success of last year’s surprise run into the NBA Finals.

But tension looms over the suns that could stifle their attempts to repeat as Western Conference champions.

The greatest and most glaring concern arose when Center Deandre Ayton and the Sonnen failed to agree on a contract extension. Ayton has publicly expressed his displeasure with the stalled negotiations, telling ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski: « I love Phoenix, but I’m really disappointed that we haven’t made a real deal yet. »

Ayton, a University of Arizona fan favorite, was named # 1 overall by the Suns in 2018. The 23-year-old center will become a restricted free agent after this season.

While Suns owner Robert Sarver has not commented publicly on the failed contract talks, General Manager James Jones spoke to Sam Amick of The Athletic and stated that there was little to negotiate with Ayton.

« Anything less than five years maximum was nothing to consider – not something to talk about. It is obvious. You say that we are discussing a three- or four-year maximum (deals). They’re real, ”said Jones. However, as was later reported by The Athletic, Ayton’s agents insist that no maximum contract of any duration was officially offered.

It is unclear why the Suns front office may have been more interested in a shorter three to four year contract. While Ayton took a statistical step backwards last season, his advances on the defensive bore fruit when he became the anchor of the league’s seventh best defensive on points. In the playoffs, Ayton received high praise for his defensive skills against Nikola Jokic, MVP of the season, and it seemed like the big man of the suns had a maximum extension of five years in prospect.

Unfortunately, Sarver ultimately disagreed with this assessment. Ayton joins Anthony Bennett as the only No. 1 in the overall standings who has not renewed his rookie contract since 2008.

But in the backcourt, Sarver and the Sonnen showed a much stronger willingness to get involved. At the start of the off-season, the Suns signed Chris Paul on a four-year $ 120 million deal that could keep the point guard in the Valley through 2025. However, the team has a partial guarantee for the 2023-2024 season and Paul has a player option for the 2024-2025 season, which gives both sides some flexibility in the future.

Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns ended the preseason 3-1, which included a win over the Los Angeles Lakers, and expectations for a team opening their season tonight at home against the Denver Nuggets, are high. (Photo by Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

And just before the deadline for signing extensions for players with rookie-scale contracts on Tuesday, Wing Mikal Bridges and Guard Landry Shamet both signed four-year extension offers, US $ 90 million Dollars or $ 43 million. Bridges has had a career year and excellent defensive performance in the NBA playoffs, and deserves guaranteed overtime.

Shamet, who was traded for the 29th pick to the Suns on Draft Night, and Jevon Carter impressed at training camp and the team is confident that he can make an immediate contribution. But similar to the Paul deal, the last two years of Shamet’s contract are not guaranteed and the suns hold the option for both years.

Suns trainer Monty Williams praised Shamet for completing the extension and showing his commitment to the franchise. Williams and Shamet have already built a relationship with Williams serving as an assistant coach to Brett Brown’s coaching staff for the 2018-2019 season, Shamet’s rookie year with the Philadelphia 76ers.

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« From what we’ve seen so far, and what we knew about Landry, we thought, ‘That’s the kind of guy that may be in our program, ‘ »said Williams.

 » In the programs he’s been on he’s been around vets so he knows what it’s like, hard days, long days, Get through playoff days. « 

While Williams ultimately has no say in contract negotiations, he supports the players and their efforts to make their contribution. As a player in the league for nine years, Williams understands the harsh reality of being an athlete.

« When you see people getting paid, it’s pretty cool, » said Williams. “It’s my job. As I said before, I want to win games and increase the earning power of the players we have in our program. ”

Paul spoke to the media after the shooting on Wednesday morning, suppressing the notion that this stalemate between Ayton and Team Front Office will negatively affect Ayton’s performance on the pitch this season.

« I know the heart of DA, » said Paul. « I know how he competes and I know how competitive he is and at the end of the day he wants to do his job for our team.

 » I know when he steps on the pitch tonight, it’s all about ‘What do you have to do to help our team win.’ « 

While the Suns had a short off-season – the 2021 final ended on the 20th.

 » We (are) just excited, finally up the place to come and play and start building. We have no idea what this team will look like, ”said Paul. « We’re ready to jump right now. »

Kenneth Manoj expects to graduate with a Masters degree in Sports Journalism in December 2021. Manoj, who has worked as a freelance videographer for Riccio Productions, ZAP Entertainment and Harvard University, works at the Phoenix Sports Bureau.

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