You’ve heard the news. Deandre Ayton is suspended 25 games for testing positive for a diuretic, usually a sign that a player is trying to flush a banned substance out of their system. He won’t return until December. So, the Phoenix Suns had just 24-hours of real, substantive momentum after their imposing victory of the Kings on Wednesday night. That’s on Ayton. He talks like a star, he plays like a star, now it’s time to start acting like one.
What I love about landmark events like these is that they help us frame all of the little moments that’ve happened in between. Think about your own life. The first time you landed that big job, that was a culmination of the dozens of calls you made to prospective employers, the work you did on a Saturday night when you could’ve been out with your friends, and the extra five minutes you spent putting the finishing touches on your resume. You didn’t just get the job. You got the job because you’re a go-getter. We need to build stories around these things. We need to characterize them. It’s how we understand the world.
Think about Deandre Ayton’s little moments, and how they culminated in this landmark event. He was awesome offensively. He averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds as a rookie. Budding superstar stuff. But then, when the Suns were 4-21, he got into a verbal altercation with Devin Booker, and said, “I don’t care who it is. Nineteen-year vet or 15 years, it don’t matter. We all have a job to do and I have to step it up a little more, too.” That’s the kind of thing a superstar says. Then, it was reported during the preseason that Ayton said “Finally somebody is watching me,” in reference to new point guard Ricky Rubio. That’s a guy that wants to be pushed to greatness, right? Or maybe it’s alarming that the number one overall pick needs to be pushed at all. And finally, we find out last night that he’s suspended 25 games for the diuretic found in his urine.
Landmark events force us to go back and find the little moments that explain, how did this happen? Deandre Ayton plays like a budding superstar. He calls out teammates, a right reserved only for NBA veterans and superstars of any age. But he needs to be pushed? He’s suspended for 25 games during the critically early days of this team’s identity shift? So, he plays like a superstar, he talks like a superstar, but right now, he’s not exactly acting like one.
It’s not all doom and gloom. Young guys do dumb things, and then young guys grow up. We’ve been spoiled by Devin Booker, who’s so gracefully handled the most volatile organization in the NBA at still only 22-years old. The Phoenix market is forgiving and will not probe much. This league is built on drama, and there are far more fascinating stories to cover nationally. Now, during his 25-game suspension, the question is, will Deandre Ayton finally start acting like the superstar he can be?