The Damian Lillard trade keeps on giving to the Portland Trail Blazers after the team acquired and subsequently rerouted Jrue Holiday from the Milwaukee Bucks to the Boston Celtics for more assets. The centerpiece of the original Lillard deal, though, was Deandre Ayton.
The former Suns big man was the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft but never became the player Phoenix had hoped. He helped the franchise advance to the 2021 NBA Finals alongside Devin Booker and Chris Paul, but he didn’t live up to the potential the organization and Suns fans believed he had.
He’s ready for a fresh start and a new role in Portland, though – and a new identity, according to the 25-year-old himself.
Deandre Ayton dubs himself ‘DominAyton’ at Portland Trail Blazers Media Day
Ayton took the podium at Blazers Media Day and fielded questions from reporters about what he learned in Phoenix, what it takes to make the NBA Finals and what his role will be in Portland, among other topics.
One of his responses was an instant classic. Per Sean Highkin of Rose Garden Report on X (formerly Twitter), Deandre Ayton is now, “DominAyton.”
Ayton isn’t the only member of the Blazers who knows what a fresh start could bring, though. Portland Head Coach Chauncey Billups – who was the third-overall pick in the 1997 NBA Draft and bounced from Boston to Toronto to Denver to Minnesota before becoming “Mr. Big Shot” and winning an NBA Championship with the Detroit Pistons – pointed to his own experience when asked about Ayton, per Highkin:
"“I always have a unique perspective because of my playing career. Sometimes it’s just time for a change. I think that was probably what happened with him [in Phoenix]. For me, I’m really excited about DA. He’s already a top-5 center in the league and there are so many levels he can get to. We’ve got to help him reach his potential. That’s my responsibility as a coach.”Blazers Head Coach Chauncey Billups on Deandre Ayton"
Blazers fans will welcome a Billups-like shift from Ayton as the franchise moves on from the Damian Lillard era. For now, they’ll apparently have to hope he starts DominAyton.