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'Hawks in the NBA

Jeff Withey: Not just a shot-blocker anymore

New Orleans Pelicans center Jeff Withey (5) poses at the Pelicans NBA basketball media day in Metairie, La., Monday, Sept. 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

New Orleans Pelicans center Jeff Withey (5) poses at the Pelicans NBA basketball media day in Metairie, La., Monday, Sept. 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Get ready to have your mind blown. This is a blog about a blog.

We have second-year NBA center Jeff Withey, of the New Orleans Pelicans, to thank for this meta experience.

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Last week, Kansas University’s all-time block king (311) started up his own blog — food and fashion.

In Withey’s own words, here is a synopsis of his new venture:

“As a professional athlete I get to travel to great cities and experience some awesome food. Along with my love for food and travel, I also love fashion. The NBA is known to have some of the best dressed men in all of sports. At least that's what we like to think ;-)  Here's a look into what inspires my style and my taste buds!”

So far, Withey has posted some photos from a market in Denver, as well as some insight into his style and go-to online stores.

On the court, Withey’s Pelicans are off to a good start, at 7-5. Even better news for him: the past couple of games have actually brought him playing time.

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The lean 7-footer logged a season-high 16 minutes Friday at Denver (where he responded with nine points and six rebounds), and he played 11 minutes the next night, at Utah (eight points, two blocks).

Considering he already has six DNP-CD’s on the season, that’s a step in the right direction for the young backup big man.

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2014-15 season outlook: Jeff Withey

Hunker down, get hydrated and tell your loved ones you will see them next spring.

Hopefully that’s not your mindset, but people should be warned: The at times seemingly never-ending NBA regular season is in full effect.

Thankfully for us, all we have to do is sit back, watch and enjoy. To make sure you’re fully prepared for the long haul, we have rolled out a season outlook for each former Kansas University player who currently calls The Association home.

Jeff Withey — New Orleans Pelicans

7-foot Center | Second season

New Orleans Pelicans' Jeff Withey (5) dunks over the defense of Miami Heat's Shawn Jones during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball preseason game in Louisville, Ky., Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014. New Orleans defeated Miami 98-86. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

New Orleans Pelicans' Jeff Withey (5) dunks over the defense of Miami Heat's Shawn Jones during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball preseason game in Louisville, Ky., Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014. New Orleans defeated Miami 98-86. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

2013-14 numbers: 58 games | 11.8 minutes | 3.3 points | 2.6 rebounds | 0.9 blocks | 53.3 FG% | 71.2 FT%

If you haven’t heard much about Jeff Withey recently, there is a reason for that.

The second-year big man out of KU plays for a New Orleans team with bigger/stronger/more talented options in the paint.

The Pelicans aren’t your typical NBA team. They start two guys at power forward and center who give them a twin-towers look on defense. NBA superstar-in-the-making Anthony Davis is their 6-foot-10, shot-swatting 4, and Omer Asik gives them a 7-foot defensive presence at the 5.

If New Orleans wants a little more offensive pop, it can bring Ryan Anderson in as a stretch-4 and slide Davis over to center. And the Pelicans’ backup 5 is 7-foot-2 Alexis Ajinca.

All of those guys push Withey down to the bottom of the depth chart.

New Orleans coach Monty Williams has only opted to play Withey in three of the team’s eight games. Withey played just two minutes apiece in Pelicans wins over Orlando and the Lakers, and played five minutes in an absolute rout of Minnesota.

Basically, if Withey is on the floor, the game is already over.

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As Nakia Hogan wrote for NOLA.com, Withey finished his rookie season strong and he hoped to play a more prominent role for the up-and-coming franchise this season.

However, Withey struggled to establish himself in the preseason, making it easy for New Orleans to keep him at the end of the bench.

Williams told NOLA.com that he thinks the 7-footer will work through the issues that slowed his growth.

"Obviously, Jeff is a guy who hasn't played as well as he would have liked to," Williams said. "But he constantly works on his game, so it'll come."

So what do we expect out of Withey for the 2014-15 season?

Unless some drastic change comes from Withey’s play in practices or injuries plague New Orleans’ frontcourt, it doesn’t look like he will be part of the team’s plans.

The 82-game NBA season is such a grind, though, Withey is sure to get some minutes one way or another along the way. Will he make the most of those opportunities, and prove he belongs in the Pelicans’ rotation? That part is up to him.

If he does, his second season in the league could be a fun one, with New Orleans trying to surge out of the lottery, and into the playoffs.


’Hawks in the NBA 2014-15 season outlooks:

• Cole Aldrich — Knicks

Darrell Arthur — Nuggets

Tarik Black — Rockets

Mario Chalmers — Heat

Nick Collison — Thunder

Joel Embiid — 76ers

Drew Gooden — Wizards

Xavier Henry — Lakers

Kirk Hinrich — Bulls

Ben McLemore — Kings

Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris — Suns

Paul Pierce — Wizards

Thomas Robinson — Blazers

Brandon Rush — Warriors

Andrew Wiggins — Timberwolves


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2014-15 season outlook: Andrew Wiggins

Hunker down, get hydrated and tell your loved ones you will see them next spring.

Hopefully that’s not your mindset, but people should be warned: The at times seemingly never-ending NBA regular season is at hand.

The first handful of games tipped off this past week, marking the start of the 82-game grind.

Thankfully for us, all we have to do is sit back, watch and enjoy. To make sure you’re fully prepared for the 2014-15 campaign, we’ll be rolling out a season outlook for each former Kansas University player who currently calls The Association home.

Andrew Wiggins — Minnesota Timberwolves

6-foot-8 Guard | First season

Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Andrew Wiggins goes up to dunk in the first quarter of an NBA preseason basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Friday, Oct. 10, 2014, in Minneapolis. Watching, left, is Thaddeus Young. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Andrew Wiggins goes up to dunk in the first quarter of an NBA preseason basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers, Friday, Oct. 10, 2014, in Minneapolis. Watching, left, is Thaddeus Young. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Andrew Wiggins figures to have a long, successful career ahead of him.

However, the one-and-done KU product is learning quickly nothing comes easily in the league.

In Wiggins’ first official game with Minnesota, he only played 19 minutes and didn’t make a field goal until the second half. He at least looked good doing so, with a smooth 3-pointer for the first bucket of his career at Memphis on Wednesday.

Wiggins had six points and three rebounds in his first game with the Timberwolves — a loss. The next night, he made four of nine shots for eight points and added four rebounds.

Once again, the building blocks of a future NBA all-star were on display, especially on an and-one take to the rim that showed off his hang time.

The Timberwolves won their Thursday game against Detroit, but game No. 3 of 82 came against one of the Eastern Conference’s top teams, Chicago.

The individual highs and lows of that one encapsulate what the next six months will look like for the 6-foot-8 rookie guard.

At one point, Wiggins pinned Joakim Noah’s take to the glass with two hands as a help defender, then made sure Nikola Pekovic got out of his way so he could save the ball from going out of bounds.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZGPh_TL9RI

That defensive aggression took him too far late in the game, though. As Jerry Zgoda chronicled for the Star Tirbune, Wiggins essentially gave away a Minnesota victory Saturday night against the Bulls, in the game’s final second.

Chicago’s Jimmy Butler baited Wiggins into a foul with Minnesota leading by one with less than a second remaining. Butler went to the foul line and hit both free throws to win the game.

“For sure, I could have changed the outcome of the game,” Wiggins told the Star Tribune. “I don’t know what I was thinking. It was a good play by a veteran player and a learning experience for me.”

Zgoda added Wiggins said that lesson was: “stay down.”

While the rookie seems to be enjoying the beginning of his career, with features on him popping up not only on sports websites but also in GQ, he obviously has a lot to learn before he reaches the level most deem him capable of achieving.

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So what do we expect out of Wiggins for the 2014-15 season?

Ups and downs, for sure. But plenty of highlight plays popping up via YouTube, Vine, Instagram, GIFs and any other place where people get posterized these days, too.

He’ll have a shot at challenging for Rookie of the Year. But Wiggins will have to outperform Milwaukee’s Jabari Parker, Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel and Orlando’s Elfrid Payton to do so.

The Timberwolves play in the Western Conference, which has at least 11 legitimate playoff contenders. Minnesota isn’t one of them.

Wiggins will start all season, learn on the fly and catch ridiculous alley-oops from point guard Ricky Rubio. Some nights, he’ll look like a star. Other games, he’ll look lost.

Rookies don’t come into the NBA and automatically dominate unless their names are LeBron or Shaq. Wiggins isn’t a once-in-a-generation superstar, but he just might be the best former Kansas player in the league for years to come. (Depending, of course, on his KU teammate Joel Embiid’s longterm health).

Here is one guarantee on Wiggins’ career: It will be fun to watch.


’Hawks in the NBA 2014-15 season outlooks:

• Cole Aldrich — Knicks

Darrell Arthur — Nuggets

Tarik Black — Rockets

Mario Chalmers — Heat

Nick Collison — Thunder

Joel Embiid — 76ers

Drew Gooden — Wizards

Xavier Henry — Lakers

Kirk Hinrich — Bulls

Ben McLemore — Kings

Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris — Suns

Paul Pierce — Wizards

Thomas Robinson — Blazers

Brandon Rush — Warriors


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2014-15 season outlook: Brandon Rush

Hunker down, get hydrated and tell your loved ones you will see them next spring.

Hopefully that’s not your mindset, but people should be warned: The at times seemingly never-ending NBA regular season is at hand.

The first handful of games tipped off Tuesday, and nearly every other team played its opener by Wednesday, marking the start of the 82-game grind.

Thankfully for us, all we have to do is sit back, watch and enjoy. To make sure you’re fully prepared for the 2014-15 campaign, we’ll be rolling out a season outlook for each former Kansas University player who currently calls The Association home.

Brandon Rush — Golden State Warriors

6-foot-6 Shooting guard | Seventh season

Golden State Warriors guard Brandon Rush, right, puts up a shot as Los Angeles Lakers forward Jordan Hill defends during the second half of a preseason basketball game, Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Golden State Warriors guard Brandon Rush, right, puts up a shot as Los Angeles Lakers forward Jordan Hill defends during the second half of a preseason basketball game, Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

2013-14 numbers: 38 games | 11.0 minutes | 2.1 points | 1.2 rebounds | 33.3 FG% | 34 3pt% | 60 FT%

Injuries and a bad situation made Brandon Rush’s past few years in the league forgettable.

He only played two games before suffering a season-ending injury in 2012-13. Then Rush got traded to Utah, where the Jazz never integrated him into the rotation or game plans last year.

As our Gary Bedore wrote earlier this month, when he caught up with the former Jayhawk in Kansas City, Missouri, Rush described his previous two years as “brutal.”

Good news for the on-again, off-again Warrior: He is back in Golden State, playing with one of the top teams in the Western Conference — as opposed to, you know, the Jazz.

The Warriors inked Rush to a two-year free agent deal this summer and he is more than happy to not only put on those snazzy blue and gold uniforms again, but also have a complimentary role off the bench.

Golden State has one of — if not the most — talented starting backcourts in the NBA, with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. So Rush’s minutes could be sporadic, with Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa also backcourt options.

Rush actually missed Golden State’s season-opening win Wednesday night, at Sacramento, because he was inactive with a back injury.

When he is healthy, Rush figures to give new Golden State coach Steve Kerr some scoring and defense off the bench. Which of course were two things he did very well back in 2007-08 at KU — a time in Rush’s life recently re-visited by Laurence Scott for Warriors.com

So what do we expect out of Rush for the 2014-15 season?

Well, most importantly, he is going to be happy. Even if his role is limited, there is something special about playing with a team that feels like it has a shot to get to the NBA Finals.

When the Splash Brothers need a breather, Rush will be there to provide it. And we could see a lot of Rush in the playoffs if Golden State can secure a top seed and take the next step with a new coach, in Kerr.


’Hawks in the NBA 2014-15 season outlooks:

• Cole Aldrich — Knicks

Darrell Arthur — Nuggets

Tarik Black — Rockets

Mario Chalmers — Heat

Nick Collison — Thunder

Joel Embiid — 76ers

Drew Gooden — Wizards

Xavier Henry — Lakers

Kirk Hinrich — Bulls

Ben McLemore — Kings

Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris — Suns

Paul Pierce — Wizards

Thomas Robinson — Blazers


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2014-15 season outlook: Thomas Robinson

Hunker down, get hydrated and tell your loved ones you will see them next spring.

Hopefully that’s not your mindset, but people should be warned: The at times seemingly never-ending NBA regular season is at hand.

The first handful of games tipped off Tuesday, and nearly every other team played its opener by Wednesday, marking the start of the 82-game grind.

Thankfully for us, all we have to do is sit back, watch and enjoy. To make sure you’re fully prepared for the 2014-15 campaign, we’ll be rolling out a season outlook for each former Kansas University player who currently calls The Association home.

Thomas Robinson — Portland Trail Blazers

6-foot-10 Power forward | Third season

Los Angeles Lakers' Julius Randle, left, goes up for a shot against Portland Trail Blazers' Thomas Robinson during the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014, in Ontario, Calif. The Lakers won 94-86. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Los Angeles Lakers' Julius Randle, left, goes up for a shot against Portland Trail Blazers' Thomas Robinson during the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014, in Ontario, Calif. The Lakers won 94-86. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

2013-14 numbers: 70 games | 12.5 minutes | 4.8 points | 4.4 rebounds | 48.1 FG% | 56.4 FT%

In his still young NBA career, Thomas Robinson has called three different franchises home. He could be changing zip codes again, bringing that number to four, by the time his fourth season rolls around.

Reports surfaced earlier this week — days before the start of the regular-season schedule — that Portland wouldn’t exercise its option on Robinson’s contract, choosing instead to let him become a free agent next summer.

Obviously, this made Robinson, a Trail Blazers backup who doesn’t typically get a ton of media attention, a popular interview on the eve of his team’s season opener. The Oregonian’s Jon Freeman detailed Robinson’s Tuesday Q & A, as reporters asked about his reaction to this personally disappointing news.

"It's a business. That's all you've got to understand,” Robinson said. “You've got to realize that it's bigger than you sometimes in this league. At the end of the day, it's just a business. So all I can do is keep working hard. I know I belong in this league, I know I'm a worthy player in this league. I actually think I'm above average if I had the chance. But, like I said, it's all about just working and understanding that it's a business. You can't take nothing personal.”

While this move by Portland could be some incentive for Robinson to prove himself and earn that next contract (maybe from the Blazers) in the months ahead, it also could be a sign the organization isn’t interested in keeping him in its future plans. One could also speculate this decision makes Robinson a more valuable trading chip, because many teams tend to look for expiring contracts that will help them free up salary cap space for the summer.

So Portland figures to have some suitors if it decides to flip Robinson’s contract in a move to brings in some sort of proven veteran(s) that will help the team advance past the second round of the Western Conference playoffs.

Although Robinson can play above the rim on both ends of the floor, it seems the Blazers’ frontcourt depth (LaMarcus Aldridge, Robin Lopez, Chris Kaman) makes him the odd man out when it comes to significant playing time.

In Portland’s season debut Wednesday night, a 106-89 win over Kevin Durant-less Oklahoma City, Robinson played just two minutes. That’s not a good sign for the free-agent-to-be.

So what do we expect out of Robinson for the 2014-15 season?

Either he finds something within himself to make Portland take notice and give him more minutes, the Blazers try to move him or they keep him around to let his contract come off the books just in time to re-sign Aldridge next July.

Robinson has the athleticism to be an impact energy guy off the bench in the NBA. This season could determine his value, not only in Portland (one of the better teams in the West), but also around the league, for years to come.


’Hawks in the NBA 2014-15 season outlooks:

• Cole Aldrich — Knicks

Darrell Arthur — Nuggets

Tarik Black — Rockets

Mario Chalmers — Heat

Nick Collison — Thunder

Joel Embiid — 76ers

Drew Gooden — Wizards

Xavier Henry — Lakers

Kirk Hinrich — Bulls

Ben McLemore — Kings

Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris — Suns

Paul Pierce — Wizards


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2014-15 season outlook: Paul Pierce

Hunker down, get hydrated and tell your loved ones you will see them next spring.

Hopefully that’s not your mindset, but people should be warned: The at times seemingly never-ending NBA regular season is at hand.

The first handful of games tipped off Tuesday, marking the start of the 82-game grind.

Thankfully for us, all we have to do is sit back, watch and enjoy. To make sure you’re fully prepared for the 2014-15 campaign, we’ll be rolling out a season outlook for each former Kansas University player who currently calls The Association home.

Paul Pierce — Washington Wizards

6-foot-9 Small forward | 17th season

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) looks to score as Charlotte Hornets center Al Jefferson (25) and Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) defend during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game, Friday, Oct. 10, 2014, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) looks to score as Charlotte Hornets center Al Jefferson (25) and Charlotte Hornets guard Kemba Walker (15) defend during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game, Friday, Oct. 10, 2014, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

2013-14 numbers: 75 games | 28.0 minutes | 13.5 points | 4.7 rebounds | 45.1 FG% | 37.3 3-pt% | 82.6 FT%

Did you ever get used to seeing Paul Pierce in a Brooklyn uniform?

Well, you won’t see that again this season. The long-time Celtic and one-year Net is now a Wizard, after signing a two-year free-agent deal with Washington this past summer.

Presumably this move doesn’t give Pierce any magical powers (of which we know) unless you count playing in the NBA for 17 years as wizardry.

Those years of experience actually are what made D.C. interested in the veteran, though. The Washington Post’s Mike Wise just wrote about the future Hall of Famer’s role with the mostly young, up-and-coming Wizards — a team that considers itself in the mix with Cleveland and Chicago in the race for first place in the Eastern Conference.

Wise reported on how the Wizards want Pierce to impart some of his wisdom — or “Truth” — on the young backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal, and the rest of the roster.

What’s more, Washington still thinks Pierce has enough in his holster to deliver some clutch shots for a team that envisions winning plenty of close/important games in the months to come.

“I feel like you get me on that stage, big game, bright lights, I can still perform at a high level,” Pierce told the Post. “Not as consistently as before. And I know I’m playing with better players that need the ball and I don’t have to do as much.

“But any given night on a big stage I feel like I can still be the best player on the court. And that’s with whoever is out there — Kobe, LeBron, Durant. Any given night.”

Speaking of some of those guys… Pierce made some waves on the eve of the season-opener. He said on “Mike and Mike” that he “can’t stand” LeBron James and other players because he wants to “beat all of them.”

Pierce appears to be embracing his role of crotchety old veteran. On the first night of the preseason — probably to send some kind of message to Chicago, such as “We’re coming for you” — Pierce fouled Jimmy Butler pretty hard in the open court, and later poked Joakim Noah in the face.

So what do we expect out of Pierce for the 2014-15 season?

Despite all the mileage on those legs, Pierce appears to be locked in as Washington’s starting small forward. He won’t fill up the stat sheet like he did in his heyday, but he will knock down shots and get to the foul line when Washington needs him to.

And the way he has acted the past few weeks, it looks like he’ll do all he can to get the Wizards to play with an edge and believe they are THE team in the East — not some also-ran.


’Hawks in the NBA 2014-15 season outlooks:

• Cole Aldrich — Knicks

Darrell Arthur — Nuggets

Tarik Black — Rockets

Mario Chalmers — Heat

Nick Collison — Thunder

Joel Embiid — 76ers

Drew Gooden — Wizards

Xavier Henry — Lakers

Kirk Hinrich — Bulls

Ben McLemore — Kings

Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris — Suns


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2014-15 season outlook: Marcus and Markieff Morris

Hunker down, get hydrated and tell your loved ones you will see them next spring.

Hopefully that’s not your mindset, but people should be warned: The at times seemingly never-ending NBA regular season is at hand.

The first handful of games tipped off Tuesday, marking the start of the 82-game grind.

Thankfully for us, all we have to do is sit back, watch and enjoy. To make sure you’re fully prepared for the 2014-15 campaign, we’ll be rolling out a season outlook for each former Kansas University player who currently calls The Association home.

Marcus and Markieff Morris — Phoenix Suns

Marcus: 6-foot-9 Small forward | Fourth season

Markieff: 6-foot-10 Power forward | Fourth season

Phoenix Suns forward Marcus Morris, left, congratulates his twin brother, Markieff, after he scored against the Sacramento Kings during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, April 16, 2014. The Suns won 104-99.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Phoenix Suns forward Marcus Morris, left, congratulates his twin brother, Markieff, after he scored against the Sacramento Kings during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, April 16, 2014. The Suns won 104-99.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Marcus 2013-14 numbers: 82 games | 22.0 minutes | 9.7 points | 3.9 rebounds | 44.2 FG% | 38.1 3-pt% | 76.1 FT%

Markieff 2013-14 numbers: 81 games | 26.6 minutes | 13.8 points | 6.0 rebounds | 48.6 FG% | 31.5 3-pt% | 79.2 FT%

When twin brothers Marcus and Markieff Morris left KU for the NBA in 2011, it seemed unlikely they would ever be able to call each other teammates again.

But now it looks like they could spend the prime of their careers — if not longer — together. Phoenix signed the Morris bros. to four-year contract extensions just before the start of training camp, meaning they will (barring a trade of one or both of them) share the same Suns locker room through at least the end of the 2018-19 season.

At the press conference announcing their new deals, the Philadelphia natives showed their excitement about spending the foreseeable future in the desert.

Said Marcus: “From the day I got traded here, it just felt like it was right.”

Markieff said neither of them were even thinking about contracts when Phoenix approached them about locking them up.

“We were just getting ready for the season. It kind of hit us and came out of nowhere, actually,” Markieff added.

Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris (11) shoots over Flamengo forward Walter Herrmann (1) of Argentina, in the second quarter during an NBA preseason basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris (11) shoots over Flamengo forward Walter Herrmann (1) of Argentina, in the second quarter during an NBA preseason basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2014, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

After making a run at the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award last season, Markieff (13.8 points, 6.0 rebounds in his third year) won’t be eligible for that hardware this time around. Coach Jeff Hornacek wisely moved the big man into the starting five, where Markieff can play a stretch-power forward or even a stretch-center spot, knocking down jumpers when Phoenix’s trio of explosive guards — Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas — attack the paint.

That means Markieff could put himself in the hunt for another award: Most Improved Player. More minutes and better stats are ahead for him.

Phoenix Suns forward Marcus Morris, top, grabs a rebound away from Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Phoenix Suns forward Marcus Morris, top, grabs a rebound away from Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Then again, maybe he’ll have to fight off Marcus for that honor, because he could end up as a starter for the Suns, too.

Marcus averaged 9.7 points and 3.9 rebounds last season in 4.6 fewer minutes a game than his twin brother last season. But Marcus started five games for Phoenix in the preseason, he and Markieff work extremely well as a tandem, and his only competition for minutes at small forward comes from P.J. Tucker, and rookie T.J. Warren. The one player who could eat away at his minutes is two-guard Gerald Green, because Phoenix figures to fly up and down the floor and use smaller lineups.

So what do we expect out of The Morrii for the 2014-15 season?

Career numbers from each of them, for one thing. The twins figure to have even more confidence after inking those new deals and they mesh well with Phoenix’s style/strengths.

The Suns won 48 games last season and missed the playoffs. That’s crazy. That’s also life in the Western Conference. You could easily argue that all eight teams who finished ahead of Phoenix last year — San Antonio, Oklahoma City, L.A. Clippers, Houston, Portland, Golden State, Memphis and Dallas — are capable of doing so again.

But if the Morris twins and the rest of the Suns stay healthy and one of those other teams suffers some kind of blow, there is at least one playoff berth for the taking. Or Phoenix just keeps getting better and supplants Memphis or Dallas. You never know.


’Hawks in the NBA 2014-15 season outlooks:

• Cole Aldrich — Knicks

Darrell Arthur — Nuggets

Tarik Black — Rockets

Mario Chalmers — Heat

Nick Collison — Thunder

Joel Embiid — 76ers

Drew Gooden — Wizards

Xavier Henry — Lakers

Kirk Hinrich — Bulls

Ben McLemore — Kings


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2014-15 season outlook: Ben McLemore

Hunker down, get hydrated and tell your loved ones you will see them next spring.

Hopefully that’s not your mindset, but people should be warned: The at times seemingly never-ending NBA regular season is at hand.

The first handful of games tip off Tuesday, marking the start of the 82-game grind.

Thankfully for us, all we have to do is sit back, watch and enjoy. To make sure you’re fully prepared for the 2014-15 campaign, we’ll be rolling out a season outlook for each former Kansas University player who currently calls The Association home.

Ben McLemore — Sacramento Kings

6-foot-5 Shooting guard | Second season

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, right, drives to the basket against Toronto Raptors forward Tyler Hansbrough, left, during the fourth quarter of an NBA preseason basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014. The Kings won 113-106. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, right, drives to the basket against Toronto Raptors forward Tyler Hansbrough, left, during the fourth quarter of an NBA preseason basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014. The Kings won 113-106. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

2013-14 numbers: 82 games | 26.7 minutes | 8.8 points | 2.9 rebounds | 37.6 FG% | 32 3-pt% | 80.4 FT%

Coming off a rookie season that had both memorable moments (see: a Western Conference Rookie of the Month Award; dunking over Shaquille O’Neal at All-Star Weekend) and forgettable ones (exhibit A: shooting slumps; exhibit B: temporarily losing his starting spot), Ben McLemore enters Year 2 of his career riding some positive momentum.

• (For whatever it’s worth) The young 2-guard helped Sacramento win the Las Vegas Sumer League tournament.

• He shed the No. 16 Kings jersey he wore during his first year for the more familiar No. 23.

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• The Kings picked up their team option on his contract for the 2015-16 season.

• McLemore got to travel to China with his team for bonding and shenanigans.

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• He provided at least one example of his improved shot, nailing 3-of-4 from downtown and scoring a preseason-high 22 points versus Brooklyn on Oct. 15.

• For the love of all things holy, the guy had a street named after him.

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So, yeah, McLemore is happy about all of those things, and earning a spot as Sacramento’s starting shooting guard — even if that means he’ll have to battle rookie Nik Stauskas for those minutes.

Really, the worst thing he has endured lately was a brutal head-to-head collision with Wayne Ellington in a preseason game a few days ago.

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But he has been cleared to lay in Sacramento’s season opener Wednesday against Golden State.

Now the youngster known for his crazy hops and sweet-looking (if not yet totally effective) stroke can make more plays off the dribble, and he has freedom and confidence to shoot at will when he’s open.

“This summer I worked really hard on the different aspects of my game,” McLemore recently told reporters.

If McLemore has indeed made the kind of jump from freshman to sophomore year Sacramento envisions, he should be the team’s best guard — or at least the Kings' top scoring option in the backcourt, where he teams with Darren Collison, Stauskas, Ramon Sessions and Ray McCallum.

With small forward Rudy Gay and big man DeMarcus Cousins in the frontcourt, the Kings have talented pieces. But… They play in the Western Conference. Last season the Kings (28-54) finished with a better record than just the L.A. Lakers and Utah out West.

Even if the team improves on the court, it might be difficult to claw out of that cellar. The West is just loaded. And a Sactown playoffs appearance sounds like fan fiction.

So what do we expect out of McLemore for the 2014-15 season?

Cameos in the nightly highlight reels with explosive dunks and some hot shooting nights. More importantly, McLemore figures to develop and become more well rounded and effective at the pro level.

While Sacramento should again struggle, this season could go a long way toward determining just how well the rest of McLemore’s career goes.


’Hawks in the NBA 2014-15 season outlooks:

• Cole Aldrich — Knicks

Darrell Arthur — Nuggets

Tarik Black — Rockets

Mario Chalmers — Heat

Nick Collison — Thunder

Joel Embiid — 76ers

Drew Gooden — Wizards

Xavier Henry — Lakers

Kirk Hinrich — Bulls


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2014-15 season outlook: Kirk Hinrich

Hunker down, get hydrated and tell your loved ones you will see them next spring.

Hopefully that’s not your mindset, but people should be warned: The at times seemingly never-ending NBA regular season is at hand.

The first handful of games tip off Tuesday, marking the start of the 82-game grind.

Thankfully for us, all we have to do is sit back, watch and enjoy. To make sure you’re fully prepared for the 2014-15 campaign, we’ll be rolling out a season outlook for each former Kansas University player who currently calls The Association home.

Kirk Hinrich — Chicago Bulls

6-foot-4 Guard | 12th season

Chicago Bulls' Kirk Hinrich, left, and Minnesota Timberwolves' Mo Williams dive for a loose ball during the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game Friday, Oct. 24, 2014, in St. Louis. The Timberwolves won 113-112. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Chicago Bulls' Kirk Hinrich, left, and Minnesota Timberwolves' Mo Williams dive for a loose ball during the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game Friday, Oct. 24, 2014, in St. Louis. The Timberwolves won 113-112. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

2013-14 numbers: 73 games | 29.0 minutes | 9.1 points | 3.9 assists | 39.3 FG% | 35.1 3-pt% | 76 FT%

Kirk Hinrich might have one of the cushiest jobs in the NBA right now.

Chicago brought him back on a two-year contract with a player option for 2015-16 and all the league vet has to do is come in off the bench and keep the Bulls’ machine rolling along.

Even when Derrick Rose missed the bulk of the previous two seasons, Chicago made the playoffs and earned a reputation as one of the stingiest teams in the league. Now Rose is back, the Bulls’ roster is stacked and the words “Eastern Conference champs” are starting to swirl in The Windy City.

Hinrich, trusted by coach Tom Thibodeau and beloved by the organization for which he has played nine of his previous 11 seasons, will mix and match in the backcourt with Rose, Jimmy Butler and Aaron Brooks — all of whose jobs figure to be made way easier by the frontcourt power/skill of Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and rookie Nikola Mirotic. Not to mention lottery pick Doug McDermott.

The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson wrote this week about what Hinrich brings to one of the NBA’s projected top teams: stability.

He could start the Bulls’ season opener if Butler (thumb injury) can’t play at New York Wednesday night. And, obviously, Hinrich is excited about the damage Chicago is capable of this season.

"Cleveland is going to be really good," Hinrich told the Tribune. "I think we can be real good too. We have a lot of good new pieces. The core that we have back has proven to be solid. And Derrick looks great.

"The window may be closing for me and I want to keep it open as long as I can. I want to give all I've got but at the same time enjoy it."

Hinrich at least proved he can occasionally bust that window wide open during the preseason. He nailed 11 of 14 shots and scored 26 points Oct. 19 versus Charlotte.

You can imagine what kind of “what-the?” responses showed up on Twitter after that “Captain Kirk” performance.

None by Sam Smith

So what do we expect out of Hinrich for the 2014-15 season?

Occasional blasts of offense, mixed with constant professionalism and the kind of non-highlight plays that have kept him around in Chicago: steals, defense, floor burns, annoying the guys he guards, etc.

Also, don’t be surprised when Hinrich and the Bulls (OK, Rose, Noah, Gasol and the Bulls, who also have Hinrich on their team) make a deep playoff run. Does Chicago have enough to get past LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers in the East? We’ve got plenty of basketball ahead of us to figure that part out.


’Hawks in the NBA 2014-15 season outlooks:

• Cole Aldrich — Knicks

Darrell Arthur — Nuggets

Tarik Black — Rockets

Mario Chalmers — Heat

Nick Collison — Thunder

Joel Embiid — 76ers

Drew Gooden — Wizards

Xavier Henry — Lakers


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Reply

2014-15 season outlook: Xavier Henry

Hunker down, get hydrated and tell your loved ones you will see them next spring.

Hopefully that’s not your mindset, but people should be warned: The at times seemingly never-ending NBA regular season is at hand.

The first handful of games tip off Tuesday, marking the start of the 82-game grind.

Thankfully for us, all we have to do is sit back, watch and enjoy. To make sure you’re fully prepared for the 2014-15 campaign, we’ll be rolling out a season outlook for each former Kansas University player who currently calls The Association home.

Xavier Henry — Los Angeles Lakers

6-foot-7 small forward/shooting guard | Fifth season

Los Angeles Lakers forward Xavier Henry, right, dunks as New York Knicks guard Iman Shumpert defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, March 25, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Lakers forward Xavier Henry, right, dunks as New York Knicks guard Iman Shumpert defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, March 25, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

2013-14 numbers: 43 games | 21.1 minutes | 10.0 points | 2.7 rebounds | 41.7 FG% | 34.6 3-pt% | 65.5 FT%

Xavier Henry hasn’t played a competitive game of basketball since April 1. But his injury issues didn’t stop the Lakers from re-signing him as a free agent this past summer.

A banged-up knee and wrist forced the young perimeter player out of L.A.’s lineup for almost half of last season. And with Opening Night quickly approaching, Henry never got to play in the preseason.

In fact, the L.A. Times reported he recently traveled to New York and Germany in search of an answer for his bothersome right knee. Henry traveled half-way around the world to receive what is known as Regenokine treatment — something Lakers star Kobe Bryant has gone through to keep his aging body as fresh as possible.

The Times’ Eric Pincus reported the procedure involves removing blood from a specific part of the body, spinning it in a centrifuge and creating a serum to inject back into the impacted area.

The good news for the 23-year-old is when he re-gains his health, he will get re-inserted into L.A.’s lineup with the expectation to produce.

Outside of Kobe Bryant, the Lakers have Wesley Johnson, Wayne Ellington, Nick Young (also injured right now) and Jordan Clarkson as their options at shooting guard and small forward. So a healthy Henry easily could turn into a sixth-man option for L.A.

Whenever Henry gets back, he admitted he will have to shake off some rust.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OIxlCV5-Wv0

“I could always run out there and be like, ‘Let me play,’ and then too many things go on, something starts to hurt. I need to make sure I come back when I can fully help the team,” he recently told reporters.

So what do we expect out of Henry for the 2014-15 season?

If the Lakers actually think they can get back to the playoffs, they will just have to out-shoot/out-score people (they don’t exactly have any defensive stoppers). And Henry can definitely contribute in those categories as a backup, which he proved during his breakout 2013-14 season (10.0 points per game in 21.1 minutes).

When his body is at full strength, Henry can hit three-pointers or attack the rim (with no apologies to former Kansas teammate Jeff Withey).

And Kobe will need all of that kind of help that he can get.


’Hawks in the NBA 2014-15 season outlooks:

• Cole Aldrich — Knicks

Darrell Arthur — Nuggets

Tarik Black — Rockets

Mario Chalmers — Heat

Nick Collison — Thunder

Joel Embiid — 76ers

Drew Gooden — Wizards


Follow @BentonASmith on Twitter

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