Last year, the Phoenix Sun finished the regular season with the best record in the NBA, despite being two wins away from winning the championship.
Notwithstanding the stellar regular season, they were defeated in seven games by the Dallas Mavericks in the Western Conference semifinals in May; it was a disappointing end to an otherwise promising season.
Deandre Ayton was enraged at the start of free agency when the Sun failed to reach an agreement with him and instead signed star guard Devin Booker to a massive extension.Ayton had to sign an offer sheet with the Pacers in free agency before the Suns agreed to pay him. This irritated Ayton, who has been a highly productive player since being selected first overall by Phoenix in the 2018 draft.
Aside from that, the team dealt with Robert Sarver’s pending sale of the organization after announcing his intentions to sell his stake, and this was after he was recently suspended with a $10 million fine by the NBA following the completion of an investigation into inappropriate behavior at his workplace.
The Sun with high hopes enters the 2022-23 season knowing full well that anything less than another NBA finals appearance is unlikely to qualify as a successful season in the locker room.
Ayton was bothered by the way the Suns handled his contract, his presence at the team’s media day demonstrates this and even though he remained with the Suns on a new contract; doesn’t signify a perfect relationship between the two parties. Herevealed that he didn’t speak to Suns coach Monty Williams for the entire offseason while benching in the second half of Phoenix’s Game 7 playoff loss to the Mavericks last season.
When asked if he was glad to be back in Phoenix, Ayton replied simply, “Yeah, I’m fine.” He clarified his response as follows: “I just work when I’m between those lines. I’m not in it for myself. I have a logo across my chest and a name on my back that I must represent. I’m just here to do my job, man.”
Ayton is an important part of the team’s success on both ends, and he must stay focused, perhaps this situation will be resolved by the start of the season; Monty Williams and Ayton appear to need to have a conversation to iron things out. This is because Ayton isn’t the first player in NBA history to feel belittled by a team, everything else will fall into place if he goes out there doing his business on the court.
Ayton isn’t the only player who’s had an issue with the organization, so is Jae Crowder, a veteran forward who missed training camp and has been absent from the team as Phoenix seeks a trade for him. He reportedly requested a trade after learning that his role would be reduced in the 2022-23 season.
Crowder has been with the Suns for the past two seasons after signing with the team in November 2020. He also helped the Suns reach the NBA Finals in 2021, and he was a key member of the team’s rotation again last season, starting all 67 of his games. He averaged 9.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game in 28.1 minutes per game this season.
Assuming his time in Phoenix is up, it will be interesting to see how much the Suns miss him but his current contract has one year and $10 million left on it before he will become an unrestricted free agent next summer. It is difficult enough for an NBA team to perform at a high level without outside distractions, so it will be up to the veterans on the roster to keep the outside noise out of the locker room, since the Robert Sarver situation has drawn a lot of negative attention to the Suns, and it’s fair to wonder how much of a distraction it will be for the rest of the season.