Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton will return from his 25-game suspension Tuesday against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Ayton was suspended on Oct. 24 for violating the terms of the NBA/NBPA Anti-Drug Program by testing positive for a diuretic.
The former No. 1 overall pick recently publicly addressed his suspension for the first time, saying he was “really shocked and embarrassed” when the NBA called to tell him the news.
“But most of all I just know I disappointed everybody that’s in my circle,” Ayton said. “I started to think to myself how my career is gonna be.”
Ayton’s head coach and teammates are excited to have him back, hoping his return will provide a spark for a team that has gone 3-8 in their last 11 games.
“He is a rim protector, he can rebound, he can score,” head coach Monty Williams said. “And we certainly need that pressure on the rim on offense. All of that stuff along with moving the ball, I am hopeful that it translates into us playing even better than we have.”
“We’re looking forward to it,” Aron Baynes said. “He’s a phenomenal player, and he’s definitely got a lot of energy. He’s gonna come in and add to us.”
“It will be easier with DA (Deandre Ayton) on the court,” Dario Saric said, but then admitted, “He’s kind of like a new player. We’ve only had one game with him but we’ll see. We know he’s an excellent quality player for our team. He’ll help us for sure.”
Mikal Bridges discussed how having Ayton makes them more unpredicatble in pick-and-roll.
“It changes a lot,” Bridges said. “Just having another different person with him rolling, Baynes popping. You’ve got two bigs who can mix it up, so the defense will have to switch their cover every time one of them comes in. Another person to mess up their defensive schemes.”
It’s clear that Ayton’s presence was missed and he will look to make that presence felt again on a team that will be in the middle of what should be a heated playoff race in the Western Conference.