Deandre Ayton Could Have Scooted On His Butt

The Blazers beat the Nets on Wednesday night, 105-103, with the help of an Anfernee Simons buzzer-beater, and without the help of starting center Deandre Ayton, who received the rare DNP (Sheet of Ice). The big man reportedly could not get out of his house due to a storm that has encased much of Portland in ice. According to Blazers in-house beat reporter Casey Holdahl, Ayton “tried for hours to combat the sheet of ice leading out of his neighborhood and the team sent people out to help as well, but to no avail.” But did the former No. 1 pick really try everything at his disposal?

That city isn’t built for those conditions. My first visit to Portland coincided with the largest snowstorm in two decades, and as I shuffled through the snow, looking around at a city in total stasis, I was startled by its apparent capitulation to the elements, the general lack of preparation, infrastructure, and having-dog-in-it. But a once-promising big man seeking a foothold in the NBA should be held to a different standard than the municipality of Portland. One might expect to find a little more dog therein. A higher motor.

Motor has long been a question haunting the large but often listless center. When confronted with that doubt by a reporter during the 2023 playoffs, Ayton, then with Phoenix, offered this spiritually flaccid reply: “Motor? I don’t know what that is. Motor, come on. I play both ends of the floor, my name is DominAyton, I anchor the Phoenix Suns on both ends of the floor. Motor? Really? We’re gonna talk about motor, man? Nope! I run on Tesla battery, fully charged.” Shockingly this did not convince his employer of his value; the Suns were dispatched by the Nuggets in six games and Ayton was traded in September.

But I know what would’ve answered all questions about Ayton’s motor, now and for all eternity: scooting along the ice, on his butt, to some area where he could have been safely retrieved, or even directly to the team plane. [CORRECTION: As it was a home game, Ayton could have scooted to the arena.] It is relevant that Ayton is not a small child or a bear but in fact a seven-foot-tall, 247-pound man? No, and I’m not asking him to do anything irresponsible, like sliding face-first on his belly in the manner of a penguin—I’m talking about a measured and cautious scoot, with the support of both hands and heels, over a perhaps 12-hour period. Is it relevant that Ayton was just coming off an 11-game absence for knee tendinitis? No, and I’m sure there would have been many therapeutic aspects to this endeavor. Is it relevant that Ayton has only previously lived in the Bahamas, San Diego, and Arizona, and this may well have been the 25-year-old’s first-ever exposure to dangerous winter conditions? No. Everyone can learn to adapt, and most can scoot.

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