Deandre Ayton will remain with the Phoenix Suns after they matched the four-year, $133 million offer sheet the restricted free agent signed with the Indiana Pacers, but the big man was reportedly looking forward to playing with the Eastern Conference team.
According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski (h/t colleague Marc J. Spears), "Ayton was enthusiastic about the possibility of pairing with talented young guard Tyrese Haliburton and becoming a centerpiece of the Pacers' rebuild."
That enthusiasm apparently went both ways, as Indiana sought a sign-and-trade to acquire Ayton and cleared $4.7 million in salary-cap space. Yet the Suns were not interested, and the Arizona product now has a yearlong no-trade clause.
While he will make less money than he would have if Phoenix had offered him the five-year, $179.6 million deal it could have July 1 and he had agreed, Ayton was still thrilled with the new contract as he approaches the fifth season of his career.
"This is a blessing," Ayton told Spears. "This contract not only has generational impact for my family but also with the way we are able to work in the Phoenix community and home in the Bahamas."
The Suns lost to the Dallas Mavericks 123-90 in Game 7 of their second-round series despite winning an NBA-best 64 games in the regular season.
Ayton played just 17 minutes and had what Spears described as "a verbal spat on the bench" with head coach Monty Williams.
"Game 7 was an anomaly," Ayton said. "We let that get away from us as a team. That is all in the past. We're going to look forward. We are going to move on."
Moving on means the core of Ayton, Chris Paul and Devin Booker will be tasked with competing against the Golden State Warriors and others in the daunting Western Conference.
The big man reportedly would have enjoyed playing with the Pacers in the Eastern Conference, but he is staying with the only NBA team he has known.