Phoenix Suns Center Deandre Ayton Suspended For 25 Games By NBA
STEVE GOLDSTEIN: Pheonix Suns Center Deandre Ayton is out of the game for the next 25 at least after testing positive for a substance known for masking performance enhancing drugs. Ayton has said taking the diuretic, intended to cleanse the body of sodium and water, was an unintentional mistake, and he's apologized for letting the community down. It's a community that's been behind him since his college days. Before Ayton was the Suns' center, he was an Arizona Wildcat in Tucson, where his talents led him to be the first overall pick in the 2018 NBA draft. Bruce Pascoe of the Arizona Daily Star has covered Ayton and his rise to the NBA and joins us for a couple of minutes to talk about the latest. Bruce, good morning.
BRUCE PASCOE: Morning.
GOLDSTEIN: So with Deandre Ayton, it's it's complicated in the sense that though apparently nothing's been proven yet, he was seen somewhat connected to coach Sean Miller and whether Ayton was given money to go to the U of A. Is there anything based on having covered Ayton that indicates to you that there's something more underhanded about him than any other player, frankly?
PASCOE: I wouldn't say more than any other player, but I will say he was super high profile, everybody knew — really, since he's been in ninth grade — that he would kind of be what he is today. So when you have that kind of stature, there's people around you and, you know, or whatever. And there's I'm sure there's temptations. But I will say that he always appeared to be a likable guy and a pretty good character guy. And they have drug testing here in the NCAA, and he didn't he didn't fail any of those tests. So who knows, exactly? There are, of course, allegations as far as the payments, alleged payments that the NCAA is looking at right now. We still don't know exactly how that's going to play out.
GOLDSTEIN: Did any of that ever seem to affect his play at the U of A or how he was feeling about things? They were bounced in an upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Did any of that seemed to hang over him at all, or was he just sort of a guy went about his business?
PASCOE: You know, that's a good question. I think it he was pretty good at going about his own business. I think, if anything, the whole thing kind of affected that team. I don't think him individually. He really had a pretty outstanding year, especially toward the the end and in the Pac-12 Tournament, and then that that first round loss was almost a bizarre game for a lot of reasons. And I don't know that I would necessarily pin it on him. The one game that I really remember it affecting him was in a positive way. It was after ESPN had a report that Sean Miller had actually discussed the payment — discuss paying Ayton with an agent, which has since been you know, Miller has since denied it. But the fact is that report came out, the very next day to have a play at Oregon. And in that game, I don't remember the totals, but he was he was unbelievable in that game. And this was at Oregon, where their students were on the side of the court. And they're all there literally waving money at him and [100 Grand] candy bar wrappers and shouting at him. They booed him every time he touched the ball. And you know, he had — definitely it was a double-double. I can't remember the exact numbers, but he was terrific. So it motivated him. You know, whether or not the whole distraction, you know, it's tough to say if it was on him because he had a really good year. But I do think, again, I do think it affected the team as a whole?
MARK BRODIE: Bruce, understanding that this news is still relatively fresh coming out yesterday. Any sense of what folks at the U of A are thinking about what has transpired with DeAndre over the last 12 hours or so?
PASCOE: No, I don't, because I haven't had any contact with anybody there. There's sort of in a closed situation now, practicing. They haven't really started playing games yet or anything. So I don't have a feeling they're really at all.
GOLDSTEIN: Bruce, I think there are some who had sarcastically say, well, if he misses 25 games, that's actually closer to the length of an NCAA season. Is there any reason to think that this would affect the player going forward or even any anything connected to the U of A? I was even thinking of that as well. Is there any reason to think that that people would have negative feelings toward him? Because it seems as though this is one of those things. It's very rare to happen in the NBA. Other sports, it seems to happen more.
PASCOE: Right. Yeah. It's a good question. I don't know. You know, I think it's one of those things where some people are going to believe it some way, and some people aren't. You know, he says he accidentally ingested it. I know they had a player here Allonzo Trier who played with Ayton, and he had a situation where he missed half a season for an agent he had claimed that somebody outside of the university had accidentally given him. And that was the story. And eventually he had to go back ... a long story, but he had missed a couple of games the next year when it was still in his system. But in any case, yeah. It's hard to say, you know. And yeah, we'll see. You know, in the NBA, there's a different set of people. And, you know, I just don't know exactly what you make of that, at least at this point.
GOLDSTEIN: All right. Bruce, thanks for a few minutes. Bruce Pascoe of The Arizona Daily Star. Good to talk with you.
PASCOE: All right. Thank you.