Phoenix Suns big man Deandre Ayton returned to the court for Tuesday's matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers following a 25-game suspension for violating the league's anti-drug policy, and he opened up about his experience prior to the contest.
"It's frustrating and I know what I did and it was the biggest mistake and unintentional mistake that happened in my life," Ayton said, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. "It was something to learn from and build from it. It's a mistake and everybody makes mistakes. It's just how you bounce back really. I think that is what everybody is waiting for. I did my time so I'm here."
Youngmisuk noted the 21-year-old practiced with the team and remained a part of the Suns' preparations even though he couldn't play, and the No. 1 pick of the 2018 NBA draft credited the organization for helping him.
"I learned that I have a ... this organization that I am part of, really loves me and supports me," Ayton said. "They helped me through this journey and I matured a lot."
Phoenix was inconsistent at best without its center and entered play Tuesday with an 11-15 record.
It can certainly use someone with Ayton's skill set considering he helped lead the team to a 124-95 victory over the Sacramento Kings in his only game this season with a double-double of 18 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks.
The performance came after the University of Arizona product averaged a double-double as a rookie at 16.3 points and 10.3 boards a night, flashing his potential as a building block for the organization.
While the Suns haven't been to the playoffs since the 2009-10 campaign, they have some young difference-makers in Ayton, Devin Booker, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Mikal Bridges. There is reason for optimism heading into the future, but Ayton must be a significant part of it if the team is going to fulfill that potential.
That he said he learned from the suspension figures to only help him as his career progresses.