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Center of the Sun: Ayton’s World is open for business

Your weekly roundup of Suns news, rumors, notes and videos from the prior week plus a preview of the week to come.

Utah Jazz v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Welcome to the weekly news roundup of your Phoenix Suns.

Current Record: 13-6

Offensive Rating: 117.0 (2nd)

Defensive Rating: 110.0 (5th)

Net Rating: +7.0 (1st)

Power Ranking:

  • NBA: 4th (↑2)
  • ESPN: 2nd (↑3)
  • CBS: 4th (↑8)
  • NBC: 3rd (↑1)

A 3-0 week for Phoenix. Now that is what we’re talking about!

This week reminded us of the power Deandre Ayton possesses. Too often is he tentative, too often does he play with finesse. Too often he is passive. This week we saw glimpses of what Ayton can be. Aggressive. Powerful. A DominAYTON force.

Dave King did a fantastic job of breaking down the Ayton conundrum. I highly recommend you read it.

What I want to know is why? What has sparked this recent intensity for the fifth-year center? Why now is he playing the way we have wanted him to play?

Oh, I have my theories…

Theory #1: “Because you told me to, Drill Sergeant”

The first is the most simple. No, I’m not saying DA is Forrest Gump at basic training, just doing as he is told. Well, not exactly.

Monty Williams has been in his ear for quite some time. He wants more from DA. Heck, he needs more! Losing Chris Paul and Cameron Johnson has left a significant scoring gap for the Suns. They combined for 27.2 points last season (oddly enough, that is the Suns’ single season scoring title, held by Tom Chambers in 1989-90).

Someone on the team needs to fill in. Ayton can – and should – be that guy.

So my first theory is simply that Ayton has stepped up because his coach and teammates have consistently screamed in his face, pleading for him to be as engaged as possible on the offensive end.

He has delivered.

“Goddamn it Ayton. You’re a goddamn genius. That’s the most outstanding answer I’ve ever heard”. Self realization coupled with coaching from Coach Mont has opened the door for DA to finally realize his potential.

Theory #2: The TNT Factor

Charles Barkley ripped Ayton on Tuesday night’s halftime discord on TNT. Okay, maybe not “ripped”, but definitely provided some value feedback about Ayton, who had scored 4 points at the half against the Lakers.

It’s not the first time we’ve seen Chuck, Shaq, and Kenny provide their unfiltered thoughts on the performances of players in the NBA. Remember Joel Embiid? How he got pasted by their analysis two years ago? All he has done since then is put the work in and make himself a viable MVP candidate.

While we’ve seen Phoenix numerous times play on TNT and heard the halftime banter, this is the first time that they have called out Deandre Ayton specifically for his lack of engagement and his lack of simply being the second best scorer on the team. That’s all Chuck wants.

DA surely got wind of this and perhaps it affected him. If so, his response has been stellar. Thanks Chuck for lighting a fire deep within Ayton’s soul.

Theory #3: Pat Bev Shoved Some Sense Into Him

The big story this week was the “push heard round the NBA” as Patrick Beverley blind-sided Deandre Ayton following a foul by Devin Booker on Austin Reaves. Should Ayton been standing over Reaves? Probably not. But what ensued is unacceptable. And dangerous.

Perhaps being rudely knocked to the ground on a national stage knocked Ayton into a different mode of thinking. It’s changed him.

It’s like when Henry Rowengartner broke his arm in the 1993 classic Rookie of the Year. Henry breaks his arm and miraculously, due to tendons being to tight, can throw a baseball 100 MPH. Next thing you know, he’s pitching for the Chicago Cubs.

Ayton’s fall seems to have activated Ayton Mode, one in which he is a rebounding machine. One in which he actively seeks to be a part of the offense. One in which he aggressively rolls and dunks the basketball!

Our only fear is that Gary Busey starts hanging around Ayton’s mom.

Theory #4: I’m Always Wrong

The final and clearly correct reason for the recent success of DA is simple. I’m always wrong. I am 0-4 for covering Suns games for Bright Side this year. Every time I write a column about free agents Phoenix should target, they never target them. I recently challenged Ayton’s will. He’s responded by making me eat crow.

Thanksgiving is a chance to get together with family and spend quality time together. Emotions run high, the booze can flow, and typically this results in memorable arguments. The type that people don’t talk to each other for 10 years over.

I didn’t have that this year. I drove 12 hours to Amarillo, Texas to spend the holiday with my wife’s family. They’re so damn cordial in Texas, y’all. And nice.

So I took to Twitter, commenting on the Aussie Suns Fans post about Deandre Ayton‘s production relative to touches. There was some good back-and-forth between all of the Suns’ podcasts – Dave King from The Solar Panel, Gavin for the Aussie Suns Fans Podcast, and Justin and Paul from Fanning the Flames – and I thought I made a good argument.

Ayton clearly read that thread and decided once again, to prove me wrong. Thank you for doing so big fella. It’s your world, keep us living in it.

Player of the Week

Deandre Ayton

23.7 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.3 blocks, 1.7 fouls

67.4 FG%, 81.3 FT%

Ummm...duh? Five consecutive double-doubles. A 29/21 game. Enjoy those moments. Hopefully they’re not few and far between.

Game Recaps

Phoenix Suns vs. Los Angeles Lakers (W, 115-105) FULL RECAP

Phoenix Suns vs. Detroit Pistons (W, 108-102) FULL RECAP

Phoenix Suns vs. Utah Jazz (W, 113-112) FULL RECAP

Highlights/Post Game Podcasts


382. Suns (11-6) vs. Lakers Post Game Pod:


383. Suns (12-6) vs. Pistons Post Game Pod


384. Suns (13-6) vs. Jazz Post Game Pod

News & Notes

Arizona Sports: Suns’ Shamet thankful to feel OK after concussion, hopes to play Saturday

CBS Sports: Lakers’ Patrick Beverley suspended three games for ‘forcefully shoving’ Suns’ Deandre Ayton from behind

Burn City Sports: Suns Take First Place in Western Conference

Fan Nation: Dominant Deandre Ayton is Exactly What Phoenix Needs

Arizona Sports: Suns’ Damion Lee ‘blazing own path’ out of brother-in-law Steph Curry’s shadow

Marca: The Phoenix Suns player’s awesome viral dance with a young fan

Basket News: Lamar Odom says the Phoenix Suns mascot is racist

NBA Analysis Network: 3 Major Jae Crowder Trade Suitors To Monitor

Fan Nation: Cam Johnson Feeling Good About Suns, Injury Rehab

Quotes of the Week

“That’s mine. I’m going to hear this crowd go crazy.” — Ish Wainright

“I just think they got a little more frustrated than we did, which led to that altercation.” — Torrey Craig

“Just nonsense. Not for the basketball court.” “Pat need to stop pushing people in the back man. Push them in the chest.” — Devin Booker

“At the end of the day, you’ve got to come back here and say it really wasn’t worth it.” — Deandre Ayton on the Patrick Beverley shove

“For the people who got shorted on turkey, I got more turkey.” — Cameron Johnson

“I’ve done it a few times....shit didn’t work.” — Devin Booker on changing his shoes at halftime against the Jazz

“I’m the tone-setter. When I do that, my team follows and everything falls into play and we play Suns basketball the right way.” — Deandre Ayton

Key Stat


The number of points the Suns average in the clutch (last 5 minutes, score within 5 points) this season. That is tied for second best in the league, but somehow the team is 3-4 in clutch games.

Injury Status Report

Chris Paul (heel) is OUT, will be reevaluated this week

Cameron Johnson (right meniscus) is NO TIME TABLE FOR RETURN

Jae Crowder (something in the orange) is NOT WITH TEAM

This Week in Suns History

November 14, 1997

Okay, so it’s not exactly “this week” in Suns history. As I eagerly thumb through the annals of the Phoenix past, I find interesting things that are noteworthy. This one happened to be in the month of November, so I’m running it this week. I thank you for your understanding, patience, and willingness to accept things a week or two late.

Let’s talk overtime.

What is the longest game in Suns history relative to overtime? They’ve played in numerous double-OT games, and quite a few triple-OT affairs as well, most memorably their first ever 3OT game, Game 5 of the 1976 NBA Finals.

But only once has the game gone into quadruple-overtime.

The 1997-98 Phoenix Suns were a team in flux. Two years removed from seeing Charles Barkley leave the franchise, GM Bryan Colangelo was attempting to rebuild and retool. Phoenix was a destination, and a 31 year-old Cliff Robinson joined the team in free agency. Cedric Ceballos was back on the team, Jason Kidd was running point, and the leading scorers that season were Rex Chapman (15.9 points-per-game) and Antonio McDyess (15.1).

Sixth Man of the Year candidate — and eventual winner that season — Danny Manning added 13.5 points and 5.6 rebound coming off of the bench.

The 4-1 Phoenix met the 5-1 Portland Trail Blazers, led by Isaiah Rider and Rasheed Wallace, in Portland for an early season Western Conference battle. What ensued was the longest game in Suns history.

I could break the game down blow by blow, highlighting Danny Manning’s 35 bench points, second-year Steve Nash’s 10 fourth quarter points, and a Rex Chapman three-pointer that forced the third OT. The analysis of this game could be it's own 2,000 + word article. Which it is.

Read the AP’s breakdown of the game above. Or watch the clip below.

What a game.

It was the first 4OT the league had seen in 3,939 days — 10+ years — as the previous 4OT game was played between the Golden State Warriors and New Jersey Nets. It was the third 4OT game in Blazers history.

Suns Trivia

Speaking of overtime, how many times in the history of the Phoenix Suns have they navigated an entire season without going to extra frames?


The 2011-12 Suns squad never played an overtime game.

Upcoming Games

Monday, November 28 — Phoenix Suns @ Sacramento Kings

Wednesday, November 30 — Phoenix Suns vs. Chicago Bulls

Friday, December 2 — Phoenix Suns vs. Houston Rockets

Sunday, December 4 — Phoenix Suns @ San Antonio Spurs

The Kings. The Sacramento “Light the Beam” Kings. Yes, that is a phrase many of us have not heard, especially given the Kings lack of success over the past 16 years.

When the Kings win at home, where they will be playing Phoenix on Monday, they light their “victory beam”. It is powered by four purple lasers that are mounted atop the grand entrance of Golden 1 Center and illuminate the sky over the skyline of downtown Sacramento. When the Kings win, one of their players does so.

Sacramento is currently 2nd in the Pacific Division and 6th in the Western Conference with a 10-8 record. The team returns home after a three game road trip, having lost their last two at the hands of the Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics. They return home to a raucous crowd that has been longing to see good basketball.

The franchise has struggled in years past, averaging a record of 29-53 during their absence from the playoffs — last making the postseason in 2006 — and have not had a winning season since then.

But this isn’t them Kings.

Sac Town is 2nd in points-per-game (119.1), led by a resurgent De’Aaron Fox (25.1 points) and his pick-and-roll partner — the man with a massive noggin — Domantas Sabonis (16.9 points, 11.1 rebounds). Kevin Huerter is hitting 47.3% of this three’s. Former Hornet and Laker Malik Monk is a problem coming off of the bench, averaging 13.4 points.

The Suns will have to take advantage of the Kings’ porous defense — 117.1 points given up (26th in the league) and 114.6 defensive rating (25th) — to topple the Kings, who are 6-3 at home. Sacramento is a team that gives Phoenix fits. Since 2019, the Suns are 6-5 against the Kings.

Following a brief one-game roadie in Sacramento, the Suns return home for two games, the first of which is against the 8-11 Chicago Bulls. DeMar Derozan is averaging 26.2 points, Zach LaVine is averaging 21 points, but the struggling. The team isn’t big on the three-ball — they take the 29th most in the league at 29.5 per game — and they are below average when it comes to rebounding (19th).

The Suns are currently on a 5-game winning streak against the Bulls, having last lost to them on March 18, 2019.

Note: I’m covering the Bulls game on Wednesday, and if you recall, the Suns are 0-4 when I do so (13-2 in all other games). If you were a betting man, your money probably should be on Chicago.

The Rockets come to town on Friday, and they bring with them some exciting young players. Second-year shooting guard Jalen Green can light it up, rookie forward and 3rd overall pick Jabari Smith, Jr. can be a handful, and USC alumnus Kevin Porter, Jr. attacks defenses.

They might be last in the Western Conference relative to record, but they are 3rd in the NBA in free throw attempts. Get ready for a young team that can’t really shoot, but sure likes to play with pace.

Sunday afternoon will see the Suns playing the Spurs for the first time this season. They too are a team in the cellar of the West, having a league worst defensive rating of 118.5. They are led in scoring by Devin Vassell, a prospect I was high on for the 2020 NBA Draft. The team is banged up, and while we don’t know what the injury report will look like next Sunday, plenty of players might not be available to play.

A wounded dog is dangerous. They’ll be at home, they’ll be rostering players who are eager to earn more playing time, and it is the Suns who are coming to town. Target acquired.

For what it is worth, the Suns are 3-0 thus far this season on Sunday.

Weekly Prediction: 3-1

Yeah, that’s right. I nailed last week, predicting the Suns would go 3-0. So I can get things right!

This upcoming week feels like 4-0 to me. Phoenix is player three sub-.500 teams who are trying to find themselves. The Suns know who they are. When the going gets tough, they have to ability to rely on their chemistry, depth, and history playing together to put together positive possessions.

I’m predicting 3-1, however, because we all know weird things happen in the NBA. Foul discrepancy, a turned ankle, an off night. Too many factors can equate to a loss.

What do you think?


What will the Suns record be this week?

This poll is closed

  • 47%
    (55 votes)
  • 47%
    (56 votes)
  • 5%
    (6 votes)
  • 0%
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    (0 votes)
117 votes total Vote Now

That’s all I have for you this week, Bright Siders. The Suns welcome December as the best team in the Western Conference. Think about that. Has this season met your expectations thus far? If you were told prior to the start of the season that Cam Johnson would have a meniscus tear and Chris Paul would miss 7+ games due to injury, do you think that the Suns would be atop the west? I don’t know if I could answer that with a resounding, “yes”.

I’m continually impressed by this team’s resiliency, their ability to adjust, and the joy in which they do it. They’re fun to watch.

My drive back from Amarillo on Saturday was excruciatingly long. Driving across the baron New Mexican desert, into the high deserts of Arizona, and down the scenic Beeline Highway, I knew what awaited me when I arrived at home: couch, an ice cold beer, and the Suns game.

Tired as I was, I joyfully watched an amazing Ayton performance. Yeah, somehow I live-streamed a podcast after it too. Why? Because this team is effing fun.

Dance through your week they way the Suns danced with this kid. Have a good one fam.

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