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Deandre Ayton: ‘Phoenix is going to be a lit city’ for 2021-22 NBA season

The Suns’ starting center is ready to run things back in 2021-22

NBA: Finals-Phoenix Suns at Milwaukee Bucks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Here is what Phoenix Suns starting center Deandre Ayton said during the team’s Media Day before training camp on Monday.

His thoughts on the offseason:

“I just know Phoenix is going to be a lit city with their excitement. I don’t know, it’s just some guys we got now, it’s all business. They can feel the pressure, all of us back in town, working. It’s just great to see.”

On how much the addition of Suns backup center JaVale McGee motivates him:

“A lot. A lot. As another guy, almost the same size as me, finally. It’s like a dream come true now. I get some help down low, and I can get a little breather while I’m on the bench, all my guys taking care of business.”

If he and McGee have a bet for who can get more rebounds next season:

“Nah, we ain’t got that yet. Double-double machine over here, but I don’t know about him.”

On how he processed the Suns’ trip to the Finals:

“I still couldn’t believe I went to the Finals. After seeing all the content come through and all the highlights, I couldn’t believe that was me, being 22 and doing the things I did out there on that platform. It was hard to process, knowing that we lost all the games and what you could have done or should have done. It’s just basketball — at the same time, I know me and my guys tried our best. It’s always a trial run next year, and I think we finally got back to where we’re a team and we know what needs to be handled.”

On what he learned from last season:

“Just competing every day. Just not really worried about that last shot or the really ticky, simple things that really bothered us. Fatigue kicked where a little bit mental breakdown in some areas, and we could have really picked up on. Just rewatching the games and knowing the emotions that was going through that game, I know we’re way better than that now.”

On what it was like for him to play in the Finals:

“I mean, I’m really excited, because now I know how the league is. I know what they threw at me and I know what’s going to be thrown at me. So I know the type of level of commitment I have to give to my team and type of dedication it takes to even touch the playoffs and stuff like that. So just to see the number of fans and people that love you, that stuff is addicting right there, man. Just being on top of the world and people getting to see your talents and hard work.”

On what it’s like being a father:

“I get a lot of help. It’s a whole village raising my child right now. I got people from my mom’s side, girlfriend’s side. Everybody’s in town, just having all hands on deck, helping me out. Helping us out.”

On the expectation for the Suns this season:

“We know the task at hand. I think we got enough vets, that we just can’t throw the ball out there and say we know what we’re doing. But I think, like you said, the guys that were out there and played, definitely can set the foundation of how we play and what our culture is like for the other guys. I think guys that we added to the team will can adjust.”

If he is fully vaccinated:

“Yes.”

If the Suns feel like they have a better team this season:

“I mean, not all of us have been in the locker room all together yet. But I’d say I can definitely feel a different type of energy, being around a lot of older guys and being around a dude like JaVale, who’s really intelligent and that could teach me a lot. And just having guys like CP, Book and Jae Crowder still on the team, they just know me and know the young guys and how to get to us. It’s a lot more confidence going into this season.”

On how his performance in the playoffs affected him:

“I think it’s funny — I sacrificed a lot. I don’t think the world’s really seen my game and the type of window I have to where, I already know what the requirement is. It’s just me adding on, being more of an offensive threat and doing the things I want to do now. Where, I already got everything handled to where I don’t have to, how long I stay in the key or how long I switch, I already have all that stuff handled. Being that, my foundation.”

On his mindset going into this season:

“To be honest, having a dude like JaVale can really add on my shot-blocking a little bit more and just being a presence down low. But just knowing my terminology and how to communicate is one of my best things. And just being the first man back on defense and protecting that paint is my main job. Just really, communication. Nothing is really changing. I’m still a competitor, I don’t play with that defense. And that was it.”

On going back to the Bahamas this offseason and the ‘Valley-Oop’ against the Clippers:

“I mean, people bring up the ‘Valley-Oop’ a lot. But I would say going back home, it brought me some humility, brought me back down to earth. I mean, curfew was 9 p.m, so I had to be in bed early. So just going back home, I just really wanted to put my son in some emotional water and just say I did that. That’s it.”

On what he wants to say to doubters:

“It’s almost like, ‘I told you so.’ I mean, it’s funny. It’s just funny to me, that the world thinks I’m developing when I’ve been this guy the whole time. I just finally got to a point where you guys can see that I can compete at every level.”

On whether he wants to share the floor with McGee at times this season, putting Ayton at the power forward position:

“That’s my dream, mayne. That’s my dream. I played that ‘four’ in college, I need some reassurance, if (Suns coach) Monty (Williams) is listening.”

On what he would say to people who diminish the Suns’ Finals run:

“I don’t know, we did what we can. I have a group of guys and a coaching staff that took care of me individually, where they taught me the game, they took their time and they developed me. Excluding all the other guys on this team, and I think we all know that we have a lot more to improve. But it’s a lot of things there.”

On how much he wants to see him and JaVale on court same time:

“A lot. A lot.”

If he’s had a 1-on-1 conversation with McGee:

“Nah, not yet.”

On whether he’s bothered by people not picking the Suns to repeat their run:

“I know there’s a lot of people that don’t — they think it was a fluke. But hard work always speaks for itself and we don’t really pay attention to what other people got going on for themselves. We just put our head down and we get working.”