Author’s Note: Don’t complain. You knew this was coming.
It isn’t the $133 million the Phoenix Suns have just committed to a player they have serious reservations about that is the true sunk cost of the DeandRAY Ayton contract.
Author’s Note: And now we’re done. We promise.
It’s the amount of money they will be spending to goat-proof general manager James Jones’s office from what we expect to be the traditional Bob Sarver backlash.
You know the story. He put a number of goats in former general manager Ryan McDonough’s office in an attempt to prod McDonough to find a GOAT like the Mercury’s Diana Taurasi, and goats, being particularly dim at inspiration, filled McDonough’s carpet with goaty offerings. McDonough is now in broadcasting, and Sarver has moved on to other unpleasantries that have not yet been dismissed as an ownership quirk by an NBA investigation designed to pretend none of it ever happened.
In short, Sarver will take a dim view of being outmaneuvered by Ayton, his representatives, and the Indiana Pacers into paying a maximum contract to a player the organization has reservations about following a superb regular season and a deeply weird postseason. His hyperpredilection for video games has been used as a reason why he played poorly enough to barely play in the Suns’ Game 7 loss to Dallas. That and Sarver’s historical reluctance to spend money have come in conflict with the team’s sudden resurgence (they’ve already supermaxed Devin Booker), so the assumption was that the Suns might not match any max offer from another team, let alone one from Eastern Conference afterthought Indiana.
But the Suns did, meaning that they either have to come to an accommodation with Ayton and PS5 and he and it with them, or live with the damaged relationship until January 15, the first day they could trade him and his elephantine contract. It also essentially eliminates the logical avenue for acquiring Kevin Durant, the key ingredient for any team with a need to win now and no plans for the future.
In other words, there is one way this can go well and about 30 in which it can turn to smithereens, and once Sarver survives the investigation into his essential toxicity, he is likely to re-toxify the office Jones now inhabits, only this time with elephants followed by a pack of wild dingoes in case Jones pretends not to notice the elephants in the room. Sarver is not a man overburdened by the onus of nuance.
All this hinged on Ayton, and a merger as tenuous as Brooklyn’s with Kyrie Irving. Indeed, this has an excellent chance to expand the Nets’ brand Dysfunction.com to the western half of the nation—a form of league expansion Adam Silver isn’t quite as keen on as he is hustling up billionaires to pay for the rights to Seattle and Las Vegas.
This is so tragically good and hilariously bad in so many deliciously wonderful and revoltingly terrible ways. If Ayton gets traded in January, he would join a class of max-one-and-dones (players who signed a max extension and then left for another team within a year) that includes John Wall, Ben Simmons, Paul George, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and perhaps Durant, and that means the NBA has created a way for players to get max money while providing minimum service. This defeats the owners’ rationale for giving max money, because contractual disloyalty is supposed to be their perk alone.
So Ayton becomes a test case in much the same way that Durant does, only with a mammalian twist. If/when this goes foul, there is likely to be a run on huge circus animals rentals, and not just in Phoenix. In short, the day of the pink slip and the cardboard box may be over, to be replaced by the more visually and nasally arresting view of hippos in the parking lot.
We’re almost done with the Rays Week thing. On behalf of everyone here at Defector, this has been a disaster.