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Ayton suspended 25 games for ‘violating anti-drug program’

Just a day after an impressive season opening performance, Bahamian professional basketball player with the Phoenix Suns, DeAndre Ayton, has been named in a violation of the National Basketball Association (NBA)/National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) Anti-Drug Program.

The NBA announced on Thursday that Ayton, who finished third in voting for the Kia NBA Rookie of the Year Award a season ago, has been suspended for 25 games without pay for “violating the terms of the NBA/NBPA Anti-Drug Program by testing positive for a diuretic”. He was set to be the centerpiece of a resurgence by the Suns this season, but out of the gate, receives a 25-game setback.

Ayton, 21, said before Wednesday’s season opener against fellow Bahamian Chavano “Buddy” Hield and the Sacramento Kings that he was “just ready to explode”, referring to the season he intended to have. The Suns finished with a 19-63 win-loss record last season – worst in the Western Conference of the NBA – and missed the playoffs for the ninth straight season.

This year, the Suns were looking for a significant improvement, and started with a bang on Wednesday, blasting the Kings 124-95 at the Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix, Arizona, USA, in Monty Williams’ first game as Suns’ head coach. Less than 24 hours later, their hopes for having an improved season took a major hit.

Ayton’s suspension begins immediately. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft had 18 points and 11 rebounds in Wednesday night’s opener – starting the season with a double-double, a season after he posted a Suns’ rookie record of 39 double-doubles. He had 18 points and 10 rebounds in his professional debut a year ago.

As a rookie, Ayton averaged 16.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, starting almost every game at center for the Suns. He was the only rookie in the league to average a double-double, and was just the third player in the league in the past decade to average a double-double in their rookie season, joining NBA All-Star players Blake Griffin and Karl-Anthony Towns. Ayton was also voted to the NBA All-Rookie First Team. He shot 58.5 percent from the floor and finished with one of the highest field goal percentages among rookies in the history of the league. He led the Suns in rebounding, was second on the team in field goal percentage and third in scoring.

Ayton led all rookies in rebounding and field goal percentage among those with at least 300 attempts, was fourth in scoring and seventh in blocked shots (0.9 per contest). He was 10th in the entire league in field goal percentage, 13th in rebounding and 54th in scoring. On October 27 last year, he recorded 24 points on near-perfect shooting (12-of-13 shots made) along with eight rebounds and five assists in a 117-96 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. With that performance, Ayton became just the second rookie in 40 seasons (first being Adam Keefe) to have at least 12 shots with a 90 percent or higher field goal percentage. He sprained his left ankle on March 30 against the Grizzlies, missing the Suns’ final five games of the regular season, but came back healthy and ready to go this season.

Now, he will have to wait until mid-December to get back on the court.

Jump Line – The Bahamian post player started the season with 18 points and 11 rebounds on Wednesday

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Sheldon Longley

Sheldon Longley joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2001 as a sports reporter. He was promoted to sports editor in 2008. Sheldon has an extensive background in sports reporting. He covered three Olympic Games and three world championships, along with multiple smaller regional and local games.

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