NBA rumors: Damian Lillard interested in playing with Deandre Ayton

Jake Fischer on Deandre Ayton: He wants to max, he doesn’t want to come down from that. So that’s the case, if one team offers him the max, which I think seems pretty possible… Detroit gets mentioned a lot. Like Portland, it seems like he’s an another guy that Dame has interest in playing with. Toronto gets mentioned, San Antonio has been mentioned.

More on Deandre Ayton Free Agency

The Suns are at least projecting right now that they are not going to let Deandre Ayton go for nothing. The season ended messily with tension between Ayton and head coach Monty Williams, but Phoenix’s front office views him as too valuable to let him go for nothing, with the subsequent option of keeping him on as much as a four-year deal if only to judge his trade value later. Whether that’s bluffing to help facilitate sign-and-trade options or not, that’s the posture they’ve taken.
Which team will Deandre Ayton play for next season? That’s a question that has gained more credence over the last few weeks, and one that hints at what should be the most interesting storyline heading into this offseason. The Suns’ soon-to-be 24-year-old big man, who was the No. 1 pick in 2018, enters restricted free agency this summer after Phoenix flopped in the postseason. Rumors continue to intensify regarding Ayton and his relationship with the organization that drafted him. We’ll elaborate on this below, but sources tell The Athletic that it’s “more likely than not” that Ayton plays somewhere other than Phoenix next season.
One of those destinations could be Detroit, where the rebuilding Pistons enter free agency with a lot of cap space, a franchise player in Cade Cunningham and one of the league’s more obtainable and attractive trade chips in Jerami Grant. The Pistons are expected to do their due diligence and make a run at Ayton, per sources. However, the extent to which Detroit is willing to go to obtain his services is murky.
How sure are you that his time in Phoenix has come to an end? John Hollinger: I was skeptical until I started talking to a few more people recently. Now, I think it’s more likely than not that he’s in a new destination next season, especially if the Suns can work out a sign-and-trade that brings back some value. For whatever reason, I don’t think Phoenix is totally comfortable going forward with him on a big-money deal, and I think Ayton might be okay with going somewhere else if he can have a bigger offensive role.
Ayton is expected to command a maximum salary, sources said, but there is skepticism among league executives the Suns would match such a lucrative offer.
After the Suns declined to sign Ayton to a five-year, rookie-scale max extension before the 2021-22 season, restricted free agency is now on the horizon for the athletic big man. During the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, Ayton’s agent Bill Duffy discussed Ayton's future on SiriusXM’s NBA show. “We’re disappointed. We wanted a max contract,” Duffy said. “He went out and was a solider the whole year, played well, improved his statistics. So, we’re proud of him. A lot of guys handle things differently, but he was very mature about it. Things will work out for Deandre. He’s a valuable player. There’s other teams in the league as well. He’s a restricted free agent, so we’ll see how this process unfolds.”
Then there’s Deandre Ayton. The talented 23-year-old big man has averaged a double-double in each of his four NBA seasons – and someone Shaquille O’Neal said the Suns should give "what he wants” this summer. “Had a great year, just one of those nights,” said O’Neal as Ayton finished in Sunday’s Game 7 against Dallas with a career playoff-low five points on 2-of-5 shooting. “Phoenix had a great year, just one of those nights. This is a classy organization. This is a classy team. Can’t say bad things about them. They played hard. Again, even great players have one of those nights.”
O’Neal, and fellow TNT NBA analysts Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley discussed Ayton’s future with the Suns after the top overall seed was eliminated by the Dallas Mavericks in Sunday’s Game 7 in Phoenix. “You’ve got to re-sign Ayton,” Barkley said.
Jones told Burns & Gambo on Wednesday that he believes Deandre Ayton will be back with the Suns next season. “Deandre had an amazing season and he’s progressed every year and improved every year,” the GM said. “He’s been here and so he’s a big part of what we do. His future with us is something we will address at the proper time which is in the future. He’s a free agent and I’ve said all along, he’s about the same things we’re about which is winning. We’ll address it at the proper time.”
On possible supermax deal for Devin Booker and rookie extension for Cam Johnson. If Booker makes All-NBA this year, he’ll be eligible for a four-year deal worth $211 million while Johnson is up for a rookie extension heading into his fourth NBA season: James Jones: “That’s a part of the business. As your team improves, typically your payroll increases. We’re focused on improving the team and those guys, they deserve the credit. They deserve the accolades and the financial rewards that come with being good players and productive players. It doesn’t preclude us from doing anything. We’re not talking about a luxury tax issues or avoiding those things. That’s not something that’s going to prevent us from continuing to build this team and keep this team together.”
“Had a great year, just one of those nights,” said O’Neal as Ayton finished in Sunday’s Game 7 against Dallas with a career playoff-low five points on 2-of-5 shooting. “Phoenix had a great year, just one of those nights. This is a classy organization. This is a classy team. Can’t say bad things about them. They played hard. Again, even great players have one of those nights.”   O’Neal, and fellow TNT NBA analysts Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley discussed Ayton’s future with the Suns after the top overall seed was eliminated by the Dallas Mavericks in Sunday’s Game 7 in Phoenix. “You’ve got to re-sign Ayton,” Barkley said.
“(McGee) played well, he was a great addition to the team, but it all hinges on Deandre Ayton,” Barkley said. “It’s him and Booker. They are the guys going forward. Chris is going to be 38 (years old). He’s going to get the ball to the right person, but it’s time for Booker and Ayton. You can’t have a bad game like they did. Chris, he had a tough night, but Ayton and Booker, they’ve got to play well."
Deandre Ayton will be a restricted free agent this offseason after the Phoenix Suns were unable to sign him to an extension. "Going into this season, Deandre Ayton did not feel valued by this Phoenix organization," said Adrian Wojnarowski on Monday. "They were not able to come to an agreement on a rookie extension. He saw many of the top players of his class get extensions. He wanted a max deal. He would not move off that. "So now he moves toward restricted free agency this summer where now he'll have some more options. But ultimately Phoenix can still match an offer out there and keep him if he signs an offer sheet with another team."
"Deandre Ayton is going to get a max contract in the marketplace somewhere. Phoenix really has to look at the allocation financially of how they want to distribute salaries.  "The relationship with Monty Williams had been one of the real benefits. I think their ability to work together and build a relationship. It will be interesting how that season ended impacts this. It will really be one of the stories of this offseason because there are a lot of teams figuring out how to acquire [Ayton]."
Gerald Bourguet: Monty Williams on whether DA is a part of the Suns' long-term plans: "Deandre's situation is something that we'll deal with this summer. I don't want to say anything in regards to that. James and I are going to have conversations about the team in general."
But what happens if Phoenix uses the threat of restricted free agency and a limited market of teams with available cap space as leverage? Would the Suns tell Ayton to go out and get an offer sheet from another team, with the belief it would get matched? ESPN is projecting four teams -- the Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Orlando Magic and San Antonio Spurs -- to each have more than $30.5 million in available cap space. A fifth, the Portland Trail Blazers, would need to waive starter Josh Hart to create a max slot. Each of the four teams (and possibly Portland) can offer a four-year, $131.1 million contract.
Considering Phoenix is now getting a discount of $46 million (but with one less year), the likelihood is that the offer is matched. In total, 17 players have signed an offer sheet, with seven going unmatched. The latest was in 2020 with Bogdan Bogdanovic and the Sacramento Kings. The risk for the Suns is a contract laden with an advance payment, trade bonus and fewer years. Instead of having Ayton under contract through the 2026-27 season, there would be the possibility of him becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2024 or 2025. A sign-and-trade is also an option, but that would require the Suns to cooperate.
Ayton will be eligible to re-sign with the Suns for up to five years, $176.9 million. That would give him a starting salary of $30.5 and would propel Phoenix into a luxury tax payment starting in the low $30 million range. He is also eligible for up to four years, $131.2 million either through an offer sheet or sign-and-trade to another team. He will have a qualifying offer worth $16.4 million he can fall back on which would allow him to hit unrestricted free agency in 2023, but that scenario is unlikely.
The full maximum salary could be a sticking point in negotiations. If the Suns don’t offer it, it’s possible Ayton receives a maximum offer sheet for them to match. Just about every team with significant cap space could conceivably haveinterest in him, such as the Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies, Orlando Magic, Portland Trail Blazers, and San Antonio Spurs. It seems more likely than not that the Suns will do what it takes to keep Ayton since losing him could ruin their title odds.
Michael Scotto: I’ve heard some people in that front office that have an eye for Jalen Brunson. I’ve also heard there are people in the front office that could see Mitchell Robinson, who’s an unrestricted Knicks free agent, as a guy that they’d also look at. Deandre Ayton’s name has been floated out there too. My observation on this is guys like Brunson and Robinson are targets for Detroit because they’ll command less money (than Ayton). With Ayton, you’d have to give him a full max to try to get him there and out of Phoenix going into his (restricted) free agency. I think that would be tough. Whereas, with Brunson, Dallas knows there’s going to be a market for him. One of the reasons they got Spencer Dinwiddie was a hedge to cover themselves depending on what the market bears for Brunson. The Knicks have Robinson entering free agency and also have an eye for Brunson with the relationship with Leon Rose. They do need a point guard looking ahead. Immanuel Quickley is there, but it seems like he’s viewed as a microwave scorer off the bench, and Tom Thibodeau likes him off the bench in that role.
James Edwards: I agree. I like Ayton. I don’t think they’re going to go that deep into the well for him. Same for Miles Bridges. He’s a guy that’s been attached to them because he’s from Flint, Michigan. I like Miles, but if you end up with a forward in the draft and you already have Saddiq Bey, I don’t see committing that type of money.
Scotto: Detroit is a team I’ve heard that has interest in him. They’ll be linked to Deandre Ayton as well. The price gap between Mitchell Robinson and Ayton is going to be pretty significant. If Detroit can get other free-agent acquisitions, I think they’re certainly going to look at Robinson. Harold Ellis, who used to work for the Knicks, is with Detroit, so they’ve got some good inside knowledge on Robinson there.
But the deadline for Ayton came without the Suns presenting a max offer, thus making him a restricted free agent next offseason. “It didn’t work out and I got it out of my mind right away,” Ayton, 23, said. “What I can do to make it rub in everyone’s faces is to bust my ass, work hard and win games. At the end of the day, it’s all about winning. If you want to get something and earn something in this league, you have to be a winner. Do something that leads to winning. Me putting my head down and working is just closing out all of that noise. I’m not really worried about all of that.
“You had the time to do the negotiations. You had a deadline and it didn’t work out. Boom, Bada, Bing. You still got to work. You still got to play in between the lines. Still got to make sure this dude don’t dunk on me, score on me or do something to win the game. Still got to do that. And that’s just my competitive spirit.” Ayton, who is averaging 16.3 points and 11.1 rebounds per game this season, plays like a throwback center, from his game to his sideburns to his competitive spirit. The 2019 NBA All-Rookie first-team selection can score in the post, knock down the midrange jumper and block shots. The spotlight of the class of 2018, however, has often shined on two hot-scoring popular guards in Doncic and Young, who have both been NBA All-Stars while Ayton has not.
Far away from home in Phoenix, it’s that Bahamian mindset that has helped Deandre Ayton have peace with his unrewarded contract situation with the Suns. “I’m not really worried about things like that and having all the stuff mixed in my head,” Ayton told The Undefeated recently. “I’m just putting my head down and working. Me? I’m from the Islands. We work for what we want. It is well-deserving with how I am playing right now. I’m going to bust my tail and get something I deserve.”
Deandre Ayton was upset an extension didn’t get done coming off a trip to the Finals and the way he played in the playoffs. So far this season, I’ve been told that he’s happy because he loves winning. His goal is to play at an All-Star level and get back to the championship with the Suns, and the rest of it (his next contract) will play itself out. Kudos to Monty Williams and Mark Bryant, who’ve been able to get through to him to keep his mindset in a good place. He’s on the edge of being top-15 in player efficiency rating in the league right now.
Part of the issue with Deandre Ayton not getting the extension was other guys getting the max extension and him believing that he’s just as important as those guys are, and he went to the Finals. He had some help with Chris Paul and Devin Booker, but he got to the Finals and was an integral part of that, so he’s looking at that, and he’s looking at the guys who got a max. The whole part of respect was huge for him, and not getting it was a sign of disrespect in his estimation.
As the leader here, and a guy who is so good when it comes to the interpersonal stuff, what’s your perspective on DA (Ayton) and the question of whether there might be a butterfly effect negatively from his situation? And if so, how do you massage that? Monty Williams: Yeah, I don’t believe there will be because you still get to play ball. We all still get paid. For me — and I can’t speak for anybody else — my goal is to help guys win and get paid. So when a guy doesn’t get what he wants, and (the two sides) don’t agree, I take that like I didn’t do enough, you know what I’m saying? Like, that’s my job. And that’s how I look at it. You know what I mean? I heard all the stuff (about his situation), and I’ve been privy to information and conversations. But for me as a leader on the floor, that’s what I take seriously. Now I’m not the reason guys get paid. But when they don’t get what they want, or negotiations go awry. I’m like, ‘Well, how do I help them out?’ Because that’s my job is to help that guy achieve all those goals. That’s how I look at it.
The 23-year-old big man admitted he was not happy with how negotiations went and in turn will become a restricted free agent following the 2021-22 season. “With D.A. and his situation, we talked about it,” Paul told Yahoo Sports. “He knows what he has to do. The goal for everybody is to see everyone getting paid. His situation is what it is, but it’s going to work out for him. We hope it works out for him. The biggest thing we know we can do is go out there and win games.”
Duane Rankin: "One thing about me, throughout my whole life, I've always learned to control what I can control. At the same time, obviously I'm disappointed, but I'm still trying to get us back to the finals." #Suns big Deandre Ayton addressing contract talks as they ended w/o an extension. pic.twitter.com/nJPmkUMqCi
The 2018 No. 1 overall pick — who helped lead Phoenix to the 2021 NBA Finals — was reportedly expecting an offer, but it never came. Ayton expressed his disappointment about the development. He can still re-sign with the Suns in restricted free agency after fielding offers from around the league. “My biggest advice for him is: control what you can control and that’s how you go out and hoop,” Paul said, per AZ Central’s Duane Rankin. “Things happen, the business of the game, but I know DA’s heart … and how competitive he is. At the end of the day, he wants to do a good job for our team. And I appreciate him for that. I know when we step out on the court tonight, it’s going to be all about what he’s gotta do to help our team win.”
Scotto: Deandre and his representation, Billy Duffy and Nima Namakian, made it clear they wanted a max, and Phoenix made it clear they didn’t view him as a max player. With that in mind, I was checking in with executives around the league for their thoughts on the Ayton situation. The first executive said to me, “That owner (Robert Sarver) is cheap, and he’ll get killed for it again. He finally had some goodwill making the Finals, and he pulls this (not extending Ayton). The fact is the kid earned it. Yes, prior to last season, I’d have questions about it, but he performed the whole season, and you invested a number one pick in him. He was a little bit, maybe, slow to develop, but he got there. I don’t think he’s mature enough to handle stuff like that (no extension), so I think it could hurt him for a while. Monty (Williams) seems to have a way with him, so maybe they can pull him back in and say, “Do your job and get paid.”
Deandre Ayton maintained his “max or no deal” stance and will look to secure a maximum contract next offseason. After Mikal Bridges and Landry Shamet signed their respective extensions, the Suns are set to be significant taxpayers next year once they presumably give Ayton his next contract. Phoenix could have a luxury tax bill close to $45 million next season if Ayton receives a maximum salary. There certainly should be a team willing to offer a maximum deal to Ayton like the Pistons or Spurs next offseason. The maximum a new team can offer Ayton is $44.6 million less than the one the Suns can offer him.
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September 26, 2022 | 8:22 am EDT Update

Russell Westbrook: 'I'm not even close to being done'

The Los Angeles Lakers star guard Russell Westbrook is confident that he’s nowhere close to running out of steam. “I’m not even close to being done,” Westbrook said. “I’m super grateful and blessed to be able to go compete year after year, and that’s all I can do is prepare myself, my mind, my body for as long as I play.”
He is set to enter this final year of his current five-year contract that he signed with the Timberwolves back in 2018. During a media day press conference Wiggins was asked about his contract situation going into the 2022-2023 season. “It doesn’t really weigh in a lot. I play basketball and I just let my agents whatever all that. My plan is just to hoop and then whatever happens, happens,” the former number one draft pick said. “I know my agents and the team probably have a plan or something. Right now I’m just focused on the season of what’s coming ahead.”
If Scariolo could bring somebody from his EuroBasket 2022 winning roster, considering how Virtus Bologna looks like this year, he wouldn’t have doubts. “Taking into account the needs and characteristics of our club, perhaps Juancho Hernangomez would be the icing on the cake, the perfect fit”, he said. “Emotionally and technically, any of those players, knowing their ability to make something positive, even if not necessarily all with a lot of talent, I know that they could enter with productivity in a team like ours. But speaking of any need to the role, surely it would be Juancho”, he added about the rest of the current Spanish roster.
In a recent press conference, the 21-year-old got brutally honest about how therapy helped him get through some of his darkest days. He was continuously rehabbing his knee, but at the same time, he also had to take care of his mental health (h/t ClutchPoints on Twitter): “Just to be vulnerable for a second… I did go to therapy a lot just to express my thoughts and my feelings and how I felt, because it was a hard time for me, especially going through that injury,” Wiseman said. “I love basketball so much, I just want to be out there with my team. When I wasn’t out there, it was very hard for me.”
Fournier was invited to the show En Aparte on Canal +, where he didn’t mince words on how he felt about the EuroBasket’s outcome for France. “When you work so hard for that gold medal and you get the silver, or the bronze, I take it as an insult,” the captain of the French team said. “When I receive this medal, when I put it around my neck, it sends me straight back to failure. It’s hard and I want to get rid of it,” he added, before clarifying that his gesture “isn’t a sign of disrespect at all.”