Deandre Ayton takes center stage in Las Vegas
Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton warms up on the court prior to his NBA Summer League debut versus the Dallas Mavericks on July 6, 2018 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev.
LAS VEGAS-- In a town that is ruled by the likes of Donny and Marie, Gordon Ramsay, and the ageless Mariah Carey; the buzz surrounding Deandre Ayton’s Phoenix Suns debut was above and beyond any other Las Vegas staple on Friday night.
The crowd didn’t have to wait long to be wowed by the No. 1 draft pick. His one-handed alley-oop sent the crowd into a frenzy as he showed a flash of his athleticism to correct himself in mid-air, catch the ball and flush it down with full force.
“I was just excited to get out on the floor, and make a highlight play,” Ayton said, who admitted that there was some pre-game jitters before his professional summer league debut.
The one-handed slam aside, Ayton was quiet throughout the first half offensively as the dunk was only two of the four points he produced.
“I felt a lot of energy, I felt like a rookie, I could feel all the energy around me, and I was speeding myself a lot on a few jump shots in the first half,” Ayton said.
Dallas did everything it could to stop the 7-foot Bahamian from getting going early as Ayton was double-teamed repeatedly after touching the ball in the post, forcing the center to be more of a distributor of the ball. Ayton passed out of the double-teams and hit open teammates on the perimeter instead of backing down and instilling his dominance on his opponent like he so often did during his stint in the Old Pueblo.
Ayton took out his offensive frustrations out on the defensive side of the ball in the first half as he protected the rim (one recorded block) and did well when switched on ball-handlers.
The second half was much of the same for Ayton, who struggled to get going on a possession-to-possession basis due to Dallas’ insistence on Ayton having the ball in hands as little as possible.
Ayton finally hit the double-digit points mark with eight minutes left in the game, which is not the usual for onlookers who got used to seeing Ayton put up double-doubles with ease at Arizona.
Even with Ayton’s personal struggles, the Suns had no problem handling the Mavericks, winning by a score of 92-85, with the Suns second stringers getting extra reps in the fourth quarter which made the score closer than I seemed.
Ayton’s first game in a professional uniform shouldn’t be used as any sort of measuring stick, as Ayton himself even admitted that he has some adjusting to do before Saturday’s marquee match-up with the player picked after him in Marvin Bagley III.
Even though Ayton didn’t blow anybody away with ridiculous stats, he showed enough flashes to the anxious crowd for them to be satisfied and come back tomorrow. Ayton’s status as a potential NBA game-changer has drawn top billing, and doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.
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