Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images
Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams and big man Deandre Ayton may have some catching up to do in the fall because they apparently didn’t talk during the summer.
Ayton told reporters Tuesday that he hasn’t spoken to Williams “at all” since he was benched during Phoenix’s Game 7 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in the second round of the playoffs.
He also said “I can show him better than I can tell him” when asked what he would say to Williams if they spoke.
Gerald Bourguet @GeraldBourguet
Deandre Ayton said he and Monty Williams have not spoken about their sideline incident in Game 7: pic.twitter.com/Z9rHYHr5yX
Ayton played just 17 minutes in that game, which Phoenix lost by 33 points.
For his part, Williams downplayed their lack of communication and said he doesn’t talk to many players during the offseason:
Kellan Olson @KellanOlson
We spoke with Monty Williams about 20 minutes after. Here is what he had to say on a few questions about it. Downplayed it and said he hasn’t talked to a lot of guys on the team.
Was asked if there is an issue that could linger and he said “not at all.”https://t.co/jIEVXRsJe2
ESPN’s Marc J. Spears noted the coach and player “engaged in a verbal spat on the bench” prior to the benching. Spears also spoke to each one individually about the situation in July, and Ayton was focused on moving forward while describing his relationship with his coach as “calm.”
“Game 7 was an anomaly,” he said. “We let that get away from us as a team. That is all in the past. We’re going to look forward. We are going to move on.”
Williams said: “I didn’t feel like I had to say anything. I was just doing my job. We had a bad day, but we had an unbelievable season. Unfortunately, in sports and even in society, we focus on the one bad thing. It hurt like crazy, and it still hurts.”
It seemed as if that may have been the center’s final game with the Suns at times this offseason.
He signed a four-year, $132.9 million offer sheet with the Indiana Pacers as a restricted free agent, but Phoenix ultimately decided to match it and bring him back into the fold.
“Yeah, I’m alright,” Ayton told reporters Tuesday when asked if he was happy to return. “When I’m in between those lines now I just work. I’m not playing for myself. I have an organization across my chest and a name on my back I have to represent. I’m just here to work, man.”
It didn’t come across as a ringing endorsement, and he will surely have to find a way to speak to his coach during the 2022-23 campaign if the Suns are going to bounce back from their shocking playoff loss and live up to their potential as a championship contender.
The trio of Ayton, Chris Paul and Devin Booker is among the best in the league, especially if the big man takes another jump after averaging 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game while shooting 63.4 percent from the field in 2021-22.
He will attempt to do so while playing under a spotlight this season after the playoff loss and an offseason of uncertainty.
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