Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton, as explained by Al Green’s I’ll Be Home For Christmas

Times are tough for beleaguered Phoenix Suns center, Deandre Ayton. People want different things during holiday season. Ayton’ just wants to come home for Christmas.

If you squint your mind’s eye you can see Phoenix Suns big man, Deandre Ayton, at home, sitting alone late one night, slumped deep into the couch with his foot—the one with the protective walking boot—resting on the coffee table next to a half-drank cup of warm eggnog. The blue glow of the TV his only light.

It’s been a rough go for Ayton this year. A 25 game suspension; now this turned ankle. Could be worse, I guess. He could be out the whole year.

But all the talk about how well they’ve played without him, rumors of trades, and worst of all, that the Suns picked him number one instead of Luka, all that talk has gotten him down. So he sits, staring into the blue void.

Now Ayton’s thinking, Christmas is coming. It’s the time of joy and cheer. He needs something to raise the mood.

“Alexa,” he says, “Play something Christmas-y.”

From off to the side Alexa comes to life, her green and red glow lighting the side of Ayton’s face. The song was All I want for Christmas Is You, but instead of the bright and bubbly Mariah Carey, it was the Michael Bublé version and there was no joy in that.

“No Alexa. Play a Christmas song. Something happy.”

It’s Christmas time

There’s no need to be afraid

Band Aid. Nice song, but he needed something to pick him up, not remind him that his high-class problems were nothing compared to people starving in Africa.

“Skip Alexa. Play something classy. Something with soul. Something to sooth my broken soul,” realizing how goofy he sounded talking to a robot like he was.

But Alexa knew exactly what’s needed. Through the air came that soft soul-soothing sound:

I’m dreaming tonight of a place I love

Even more than I usually do

And although I know

It’s a long road back

I promise you

It was Al Green singing I’ll Be Home For Christmas. And although it was it was missing the pep of Mariah Carey, or the playfulness of Donny Hathaway, Ayton knew right away this is what he wanted to hear.

I’ll be home for Christmas

You can count on me

Please have snow and mistletoe toe and presents under the tree

Can they count on me?

Not so far. So far all I’ve left them with is longing and anticipation. Maybe some regret, watching Luka Doncic have an MVP season.

Christmas Eve will find me

Where the love lights gleam

I want you to know, I’ll be home for Christmas

If only in my dreams

It was the break in the song now. Ayton sat up, taking his booted foot off the table. He took a sip of the warm eggnog, wiping the residue of white cream from his upper lip as he stood from the couch.

Maybe it was the music, or maybe it was the effects of eggnog left out and gone bad, but he started to sway from side to side, like a tree in the wind, as his head trailed slightly behind, caught in the groove.

Then Al Green came back, pleading:

Please have snow and mistletoe toe and presents under the tree

Ayton stepped around the coffee table, lost in the music, his feet stepping in time. Even with the boot his footwork was fantastic—soft and quick and smooth—moving with the grace of a dancer.

Christmas Eve will find me

Where the love lights gleam

I want you to know, I’ll be home for Christmas

If only in my dreams

So this Christmas, as the Phoenix Suns try to work out what needs to be worked out on the court, remember it could be worse. It could be last year.

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And if it helps, squint your mind’s eye and picture how they might look with Ayton out there with them. It could happen. Even if it’s only in your dreams.

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