In his first public comments since being handed a 25-game suspension in October, Phoenix Suns center DeAndre Ayton expressed remorse for taking a banned diuretic that violated the terms of the NBA/NBPA Anti-Drug Program.
Ayton scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in 24 points in his first game back as the Suns fell 120-99 to the Los Angeles Clippers on the road Tuesday.
“I know what I did,” Ayton said before the game. “It was the biggest mistake, and unintentional mistake that happened in my life and it’s just something to learn from and just build from it. It’s a mistake and everybody makes mistakes.”
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) December 18, 2019
Ayton last played in the Suns’ opener on Oct. 23, where a strong 18-point, 11-rebound performance quickly turned into a disappointment after his suspension was announced the following day. The former No. 1 overall pick claimed that he did not know what he had put in his body, and that one lesson learned was that he should close his circle much tighter.
“And, well, probably cooking my own food,” Ayton said.
Ayton stayed active
The 21-year-old managed to be around the team during his suspension, practicing and watching games even though he had to leave the arena before tip-off. He said his teammates kept him involved and didn’t leave him out but “they handled their business [without me].”
Ayton added that he did not appeal the suspension because he did not want to create further distraction. Instead, he focused on improving his game on his own.
Suns’ rebuild continues
Ayton has been overshadowed by other members of the 2018 draft class, namely Luka Doncic and Trae Young, who had outstanding rookie seasons. In 71 games last season, Ayton averaged 16.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game on a rebuilding Suns team. Phoenix looks improved this season, sitting at 11-16, and getting Ayton back could mark a push toward reaching the .500 mark. As Ayton and Devin Booker develop, the Suns could be a budding team in the West.
For now, Ayton will try to re-establish himself on the team and take small steps to recover from what had to be a frustrating two month absence.
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