Before the All-Star break Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton had a new hairstyle and was enjoying the last game before his time off against a depleted Golden State Warriors. An easy win but the effort still had to be put forth. After the Suns took the victory against the Warriors, the second half of the season started and this time it will mean something for the Phoenix Suns.
Time off is always nice, but visiting the gym to demand better and question yourself as to why you were not an all-star is something Ayton did or didn’t do. There is a possibility that we see Ayton come out Thursday night against the Portland Trail Blazers and show us he is ready to perform.
What a way to start the game for Ayton. The alley-oop after the Suns gained control from Ayton’s own opening tip. Either the Suns drew that one up or Ayton is ready to get back at it. His patience is broken and he is ready to go right out of the gate while he waits on his tippy toes to respond to ball movement.
In the first quarter you can see Ayton making A+ effort on the defensive end with switches on Damian Lillard leading to turnovers and running the fast break finishing with a dunk. It was a man who looked like he missed out on something special- that being the all-star game.
Ayton asks, ‘did you miss me?’ Yes I did. Stats wise not too impressive but his flow to the game is there.
There he is! 5:59 to go in the second quarter and Ayton is back in the game with hesitation on a bricked shot but the back to back hustle screens that followed brought back a little peace.
A presence in the paint needs to be seen from Ayton in order to control the game. The way you can tell if Ayton is ready to play lockdown defense is if his arms are out wide. After coming back into the game, the hands are on his side when defending and a little thrust in his lower body towards the opponent.
The energy returned as Ayton was able to get the hands up for a double team and rotate back to the paint. You can never knock the hustle on the rotations on defense and the hard set screens. The results cannot be controlled 90% of the time when he isn’t gifted the ball. I screamed “throw it up to DA” reminding myself of when Chris Paul threw one down on the other end of an alley-oop in the all-star game.
The glass is an issue, not just in the first half, but also the second. The only way to deal with it for Ayton is to walk away and shake his head. The paint area is a nightmare for him at the moment and maybe kept him up the night before. Can the beast in the paint for Portland be held in check? Three straight buckets in the paint later, Ayton may have figured something out.
Sneaking into the cracks to grab a few put-backs helped Ayton gain a little more respect on the court but is it enough? An early exit to the bench in the third quarter. The rest to save him for the final blow in the fourth is in the works or will Dario Saric remain in the game until the final buzzer?
Crunch time has been a toss up lately between Saric and Ayton. Paul and Saric have shown to have a chemistry on the court and it isn’t surprising that Ayton is passed over by Saric when it comes to crucial minutes.
Right now you can see the battle for big minutes from the big men on the team to start the second half of the season.
The curtain has closed on Ayton and a call for an encore will not be heard.
Body language grade: C