NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Deandre Ayton and the Phoenix Suns continue to maneuver through the National Basketball Association (NBA) regular season, picking up more wins in the last two weeks than they did in the first two months of the season.
Ayton has played a vital role for the Suns so far this year, averaging 16 points and 11 rebounds per game and is a top candidate for the NBA’s Rookie of the Year Award. The 7-foot center has scored 20 or more points in four of his last five games, and although he’s found success early, he said he’s still getting adjusted to some of the nuances of playing in the big league.
“You really have to be built for this life,” Ayton said following a win over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday. “It takes time. Long road trips, playing five out of seven on the road is tough.
We’re just on the rise right now, learning how to close out games against big teams.
“We’re getting personal. You have to take losing personal. You have to have pride. You can’t be comfortable losing. So, guys came together, locking everyone and the media out and just performing.”
Ayton added that although there is a lack of veteran leadership on the team, they’ve found ways to grow as a group.
“You have to learn to do so many things in the NBA,” he said. “You have to have a mindset that you only want to win. So, everyone tries to contribute to every win.”
This season, Ayton became just the fourth rookie in the last 36 years to score 300 or more points and pull down 200 or more rebounds in his first 20 games in the NBA. He is currently second in the league in field goal percentage among those with at least 300 attempts. He is also 13th in the league in rebounding and leads the Suns in both categories.