PHOENIX — The Phoenix Suns start the defense of their Western Conference Championship Wednesday, and they now know that when the season ends next summer, their 2018 #1 overall pick, Deandre Ayton, will become a restricted free agent as they were not able to come to an agreement on an extension of Ayton's rookie contract.
Ayton had been seeking a 5-year max extension, which could have reached as high as $207 million.
Suns' General Manager James Jones spoke with The Athletic's Sam Amick about the negotiations, saying there weren't any.
"We know it's important to us; it's important to him that we continue to progress and we continue to develop and we win (a title)," Jones said. "So when we talked about a focus this offseason, it was to continue and build this team. so for us, unfortunately, we are where we are (with Ayton). No agreement. We didn't have real negotiations. You talk about conversations (with Ayton's representatives, Bill Duffy and Nima) - it was five-year, max extension like the other peers, the other former No. 1 picks, and that's where the conversation started and ended. Anything less than a five-year max wasn't something to be considered - not something to talk about. It's evident. They talk about us having discussions on a three-year, four-year max (deals). Those are real."
Jones also stressed that Suns and Owner Robert Sarver are committed to keeping Ayton in the Valley.
"He wants to be here. We want him here. We're dedicated to his growth, to his development," Jones said. "It's the same as Day One. That hasn't changed. The contract issue will have to be resolved another day, but our commitment to him and to winning, and his commitment to us and to winning, hasn't changed. And so yeah, today we didn't get a deal done. But we want to bring a championship to this city."
Jones also talked about thoughts of the deal not getting done because Sarver is cheap, saying that is not true.
"It's inaccurate," Jones said. "If you just look at the moves we've made, it's inaccurate. It's just not (true). If you look at all the moves we've made, and the things we've done, from the practice facility to the roster itself to acquiring Chris Paul, going and acquiring Jae Crowder, extending the guys that we have, that's not accurate."
The Suns open their 2021-22 season Wednesday night a 7 p.m. at Footprint Center in downtown Phoenix when they take on reigning NBA MVP Nikola Jokic and the Denver Nuggets.