Deal terminated: Phoenix Suns Coach terminate Deandre Ayton’s return After confirmed $47m trade decision for….

One game, one month, or even one full season cannot properly determine the winners and losers of an NBA trade. But in his first game back in the Valley Tuesday night, Deandre Ayton — and Jusuf Nurkic — reaffirmed everything we knew about the trade that will define this Phoenix Suns season.

The validations started well before the game, when a bubbly Ayton fielded questions in the visitor locker room of the Footprint Center. He’s historically preferred not to talk before games, but he made an exception, understanding it was a special occasion.

Ayton didn’t know what to expect from his reception but was gracious with his time and responses. He joked that he needed directions to the visitor’s locker room and praised a fanbase that was frequently split between two extremes when it came to his game.

“Reception? I don’t even know,” Ayton said. “I know Suns fans, if you ain’t wearing the same jersey as them, shit, good luck! They goin’ with their team regardless of who on it, whoever in the jersey, but I don’t know how that should go.”

It didn’t take long to find out. Before the game, the Suns played a brief video tribute on the jumbotron. Ayton was mostly greeted with cheers, but there was a smattering of boos as well. Those boos got louder when Ayton was introduced in starting lineups, and when he backed down Nurkic in the post

“He’s played in the league for a little bit, played in the Finals,” Billups explained. “His institutional knowledge is a lot different than some of our young guys, ’cause he’s played for some really good coaches and played with some first-ballot Hall-of-Famers. He brings a level of leadership with his voice that guys will listen to, and he’s been pretty good with that, using that voice out there on the floor.”

But in reality, he’s the vocal leader of one of the worst teams in the NBA — all while being an inconsistent hub on offense. It’s obviously unfair to hold a young, rebuilding franchise like the Blazers to the same standard as a team like Phoenix, but Ayton’s production has dipped at the same rate as his team’s guard play.

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