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WHEN THE TAILGATE DROPS, THE BULL SHIRT STOPS!

Deandre Ayton spent Wednesday with the Phoenix Suns with the feeling that this was the start of a beautiful relationship.

The 7-foot-1 Troy Apke Color Rush Jersey , 250-pound center went through what he said would be his only pre-draft workout and expressed supreme confidence that the Suns will use the No. 1 overall pick to select him.

”I know I’m going No. 1,” he told reporters.

Not that the Suns have assured him of that, he’s just that confident that the team won’t pass on his combination of size, strength, athleticism and shooting touch.

”Nobody told me,” he said. ”That’s just me. I think I deserve that. I’ve worked hard.”

It would be a comfortable fit for Ayton, who was born in the Bahamas and moved to the Phoenix area during high school. He said most of his family now lives here. Ayton played his one year of college basketball a couple of hours down Interstate 10 at the University of Arizona.

”Everybody knows us now,” he said. ”This is our second home so we just feel welcome, and it would be a blessing if I become the No. 1 pick and stay here and make this home.”

Ayton said teaming with young Suns star Devin Booker would be ”Shaq and Kobe 2-point-0.”

”We could really make something happen in Phoenix,” he said. ”We could really have a spark and start a winning legacy.”

There hasn’t been much winning in Phoenix lately. The Suns have missed the playoffs eight years in a row and had the NBA’s worst record last season at 21-61, second-worst in franchise history.

But there is a young core of talent and most of those players, including Booker and Josh Jackson, watched what Ayton described as ”a pretty intense” individual workout.

For nearly an hour, Suns coach Igor Kokoskov and his staff put Ayton through a series of game situations, as much as possible given the fact no other players were on the floor.

”It was everything that we expected form Deandre,” general manager Ryan McDonough said. ”Obviously we’ve watched him closely at Arizona and we’ve scouted him heavily in person in games, at practice and on film. He showed us what we expected to see.”

McDonough said ”it’s pretty rare” to find such a player.

”I think this is my 16th draft in the NBA,” McDonough said, ”and you can probably count on one hand the number of guys with his size, athleticism, footwork, balance, touch. It’s a unique package.”

He was particularly impressed with Ayton’s outside shooting touch.

”We knew he was big and strong and athletic and moved well at that size, had good length, had great hands,” McDonough said, ”but to see him make shot after shot in a workout in different scenarios.”

And he’s just 19 years old.

The Suns plan other workouts with candidates for the No. 1 pick later this week. The group won’t include Luka Doncic, who is still playing in Europe.

Phoenix is not tipping its hand, but Ayton will be hard to pass up.

”The strength of our team right now are young perimeter players, led by Devin Booker, Josh Jackson and T.J. Warren,” McDonough said. ”We’ve been looking for a center to kind of anchor our team offensively and defensively. We think Deandre has that kind of potential. … He’s certainly a unique player and a unique talent that I think would fit in great with the rest of our roster.”

Ayton averaged 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds in his one season at Arizona. He brushed aside questions about his defense.

”I don’t think that’s a weakness Eagles Josh Sweat Jersey ,” he said. ”I haven’t had the opportunity to really guard any bigs in college. I was always on the perimeter with the guards.”

Still, he pointed out, he averaged 2.3 blocked shots per game.

On offense, Ayton said, ”I can score inside and out.”

”There will be a lot of mismatches because if I guard them they have to guard me at the end of the day,” he said. ”I can score, I can pick and pop, I can pick and roll, I can put the ball on the ground, rebound, push the ball. It’s an open floor now. Nobody is really double-teaming or triple-teaming.”

He said there is no current player on which he patterns his game. But he mentioned two pretty good ones from the past.

”Kevin Garnett, his intensity on both ends of the floor, how he changes the game, rebounding. From offense to defense, him starting the pick and roll, stuff like that,” Ayton said, ”how he’s so vocal with his teammates. And Hakeem Olajuwon, with his footwork down low, I try to really pick up a lot of stuff with those guys.”

Ayton called himself the most competitive player in the draft. He said there’s none of the laid-back attitude that’s a trademark of his homeland.

”I left at age 12, so I got a little Americanized with the competitive level,” he said.

Ayton planned to get together with Booker and other Suns players to watch Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Wednesday night.

Pittsburgh Steelers starting left guard Ramon Foster's right knee injury isn't as bad as initially feared.

Foster was injured Saturday and left the team's first padded practice of training camp on a golf cart. Head coach Mike Tomlin said Sunday that Foster had his knee evaluated and the injury won't require surgery.

Tomlin offered no additional details on the injury or a timetable on Foster's recovery, but team president Art Rooney II said the Steelers are hopeful to have Foster back in time for the regular season.

Regardless, it appears as if the Steelers won't lose their starting left guard for an extended period of time.

"I never speculate," Tomlin said. "I'm always hopeful, (and) I was that. So, we got relatively good news."

The Steelers' offensive line depth took a hit in the spring when they lost former fourth-round pick Jerald Hawkins to a torn quadriceps.

It didn't look good for the Steelers when their most seasoned member of the offensive line went down on Saturday. Foster lay on the grass, holding his right knee after Landry Jones tossed an incomplete pass to Antonio Brown.

"It's always a tough moment when someone goes down, especially in practice," left tackle Alejandro Villanueva said.

Ben Roethlisberger was on one knee next to Foster, while injured linebacker Ryan Shazier and other teammates gathered.

"Ramon is a key guy and a key figure on this team," guard B.J. Finney said. "I think it did kind of jolt everybody Geno Atkins Jersey , but it made everybody realize that you're only one play away from playing."

Foster, who enters his 10th season, has been a consistent force on the offensive line.

He has appeared in 130 games with 115 starts since 2009, most on the team during that span. Some players looked visibly shaken on the field as a steady stream of veterans, including the starting offensive line, checked in on Foster before he left practice on a cart.

"Everybody loves Ramon and everybody wants him back," Finney said. "But it's the mentality that the next guy's gotta come up and we've gotta keep things going."

That's where Finney steps in. Finney might not be a household name, but he has been effective with the Steelers.

Finney, who enters his third season, has appeared in 27 games with seven starts, including four last season. He started for Foster at left guard Oct. 15 against Kansas City, and helped Le'Veon Bell rush for 179 yards, tied for the 10th-most single-game rushing yards in team history.

"B.J.'s got experience, which is key in this league," right guard David DeCastro said. "He's played some big snaps for us."

In his first career start at left guard in 2016, Finney was part of an offensive line that helped Bell rush for 144 yards and Roethlisberger throw for 300 yards and five touchdowns. That same season, he started for Foster at Buffalo and helped Bell rush for a team-record 236 yards.

"I don't want the other guys to suffer from me coming in, so my mentality is to always make sure I'm not going to bring everybody down or hold anybody up," Finney said.

Finney landed a spot with the Steelers after signing as an undrafted rookie free agent. It was a similar story in college as Finney was a walk-on at Kansas State, and finished as one of just three players in school history to earn all-conference honors four straight years.

Finney has proven reliable in Pittsburgh at both guard spots and center.

"It's not a new thing for me, so I know that I can play at this level and I can do a good job filling in when I have to," Finney said.

Finney is going to have to fill in as the Steelers starting left guard, at least until Foster returns.

"It's really tough," DeCastro said of Foster's injury. "A guy that's been here that long, and part of the group that we have, it's difficult, but luckily it's not too bad and he'll be back."

NOTES: S Morgan Burnett missed his third practice with a hamstring injury. ... WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (undisclosed), OLB T.J. Watt (hamstring), TE Vance McDonald (foot), S Sean Davis (groin), and LB Olasunkanmi Adeniyi all left Sunday's practice early.

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