“I mean, we talk, man,” Ayton said, according to Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. “At the end of the day, it’s like we’re trying to contribute to a win. Everything is back to normal. Nothing has changed to be honest. Yeah, I may have come to media day (Sept. 26) just bland, but I wasn’t trying to give nobody no damn story or nothing, but it flipped on me. So, I can’t really say nothing. Just let everybody run away with it. All I know is we’ve been in here working. We’ve been battling each other, beating up each other in training camp. Coach has been loving it.”
The 24-year-old Ayton signed an offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers during the offseason. That was then matched by the Suns, who had previously selected Ayton with the top overall pick of the 2018 NBA Draft.
Yet, coming back to the Suns didn’t erase the controversy that stemmed from Williams’ benching of Ayton during the Suns’ final game of the 2022 NBA Playoffs.
That contest was Game 7 of the Suns’ Western Conference semifinal matchup against the Dallas Mavericks. Despite the game being played on the Suns’ home court, the team offered a listless performance in which it was blown out in a 33-point rout.
Ayton played only 17 minutes during that game and remained outraged after being taken out by Williams. After the Suns’ first training camp practice, Ayton indicated that he and Williams hadn’t spoken with each other since that contest.
“I haven’t spoken to him at all, ever since the game,” Ayton told reporters. “I can show him better than I can tell him. It’s life. Nobody cares about the uncomfortable nature of it, it’s how you perform and what you bring to the table. What’s said is already said.”
He then followed those comments by essentially saying that despite whatever conflicts exist between him and Williams, he can focus on doing his job on the court.
The frustration of both Ayton and Williams was undoubtedly connected to the fact that the Suns had won 64 games during the 2021-22 campaign.
That came the season after they were just two games away from capturing the franchise’s first NBA title before falling in six games to the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2021 NBA Finals.
It makes sense from Williams’ perspective to smooth over any bumps in his relationship with Ayton, given the latter’s abilities on the court.
In his four seasons with the Suns, Ayton has averaged a double-double of 16.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. In addition, he’s also averaged 1.6 assists and 1.0 block per game.
Williams knows that coaches are generally much more expendable than players like Ayton, who’s in the first year of a new four-year deal with the Suns. That deal is worth about $133 million.
For now, Williams, Ayton and the rest of the Suns squad are focused on the start of the regular season next week. They will hope to avoid a sense of deja vu, as they take on the Mavericks in their regular season opener on Oct. 19.