The Suns were among the NBA’s biggest disappointments in 2022-23, and much of the blame was thrust upon center DeAndre Ayton.
Phoenix’s big man heard the criticism surrounding his play, particularly in the playoffs, and he admitted that he’s hoping to change the narrative around him.
Via Eyewitness News Bahamas, Ayton discussed his motivation heading into the 2023-24 season.
“I can feel the whole world hating me, in a way,” said Ayton. “I think I’m the guy a lot of people point at. And I see it and feel it. But mainly what I’ve been working on five to six days per week since we lost is motivating myself to change the narrative of what people think about me. … I feel like I have no fans out here. And I can feel it because the whole world is saying it. My goal over summer is to change the narrative. Just unlock whatever it is, and just completely focus on me and change the whole thing.”
The Suns were eliminated in the Western Conference semifinals by the Nuggets in six games. Across 10 appearances in the playoffs, Ayton averaged 13.4 points and 9.7 rebounds, both down from his regular-season averages of 18.0 points and 10.0 rebounds. His interior defense also drew criticism from observers during the postseason.
Phoenix anticipates to be back in contention for an NBA title in 2023-24, following the offseason acquisition of Bradley Beal. There were rumors of a potential exit for Ayton this offseason, but the Suns ultimately held onto the former No. 1 pick, who’s set to enter his sixth season in the league.
Effectively locked in as Phoenix’s starting center for the upcoming campaign, the 24-year-old is looking to prove his doubters wrong and get back into the good graces of fans.