Deandre Ayton Fires Warning Shot Ahead of Knicks-Blazers Game

Deandre Ayton fired up against Knicks

Getty Deandre Ayton #2 of the Portland Trail Blazers reacts during the fourth quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks.

The New York Knicks begin their West Coast trip this Thursday night, March 14, at Portland where resurgent Deandre Ayton is waiting for them.

“I’m more dominant. People like to laugh at it but it’s the truth,” Ayton told reporters after he led the Trail Blazers to a 106-102 win against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday, March 13. “I just be trying to bust that ass.”

Ayton’s warning shot to the Knicks came with confidence built on a dominant 3-game stretch.

The former No. 1 pick will test the depleted Knicks frontcourt 24 hours after his 33-point, 19-rebound effort against the Hawks.

Over his last 3 games, Ayton is averaging 28.3 points on 62.5% shooting and 17.7 rebounds.

“We’ve unlocked him and we’re getting the best version of him offensively,” former Knicks guard and current Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups told reporters of Ayton. “He’s been a monster man! He’s been a monster on that glass. I mean he’s just been all over the place.”

Isaiah Hartenstein, who is still not 100% healthy from Achilles soreness, will have his hands full against a motivated Ayton.

“I hear [the criticisms] and I love it,” Ayton told reporters. “I thank these haters for it because it’s making me approach this game the right way and carry the PDX on my back all the way. So I thank them. I’m wearing the cape all the way.”

Helping Hartenstein to contain the 7-foot Trail Blazers center is Precious Achiuwa, who is averaging 12.7 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks since January 30.

Knicks’ Dominant Defense

If Ayton has been a dominant offensive force over his past three games, the Knicks have been doing the same on the defensive end.

They have held their last three opponents under 80 points with their latest win a 106-79 rout of the Philadelphia 76ers that marked OG Anunoby‘s return from an 18-game absence due to an elbow injury.

Their win also spoiled All-Star guard Tyrese Maxey’s return from concussion protocol for the 76ers.

The Knicks have never had a dominant defensive stretch like this since 2000.

“The thing is, 20 years ago that really was the style of play,” Thibodeau told reporters. “So to be able to do it in today’s game, it’s a credit to the team and you have to be tied together and you have to be working together and have to be able to count on each other and I think that’s the way our team is playing.”

Knicks Sign Insurance Big Man

The Knicks have picked up Mamadi Diakite for a 10-day contract, according to Fred Katz of The Athletic.

The 6-foot-9 Diakite is unlikely to be part of the Knicks rotation but serves as insurance while their starting frontcourt duo of Randle and Mitchell Robinson are still on the mend.

Diakite went undrafted in 2020 but he was able to land a two-way contract, which was later converted into a multi-year deal with the Milwaukee Bucks. He won a championship with the Bucks in 2021 as a reserve.

The 27-year-old Diakite was on the opening night roster of the Westchester Knicks in October last year before signing a 10-day contract with the San Antonio Spurs in January. He returned to Westchester on March 6 after the Spurs waived him. A week later, the Knicks rewarded him with a 10-day contract.


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