Arizona Basketball

Arizona Wildcats open 2016-17 NBA season with 12 players


Yahoo! Sports writer Jeff Eisenberg researched NBA opening-day rosters and determined the Arizona Wildcats have the sixth-most former players suiting up at the start of this season.

The list: Kentucky (23), Duke (20), Kansas (15), North Carolina (15), UCLA (13), Arizona (12), Syracuse (11), Florida (10), LSU (8), Michigan State (8), Texas (8) and Washington (8).

Six of the 12 Arizona players are Lute Olson-recruited players, a phenomenal number considering Olson has not coached since the 2006-07 season. With the way Sean Miller is drawing five-star talent annually, his NBA-player count is sure to rise.

Olson has as many NBA players as Miller presently, and he has more than Louisville coach Rick Pitino (4), Gonzaga coach Mark Few (3), Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger (2), San Diego State coach Steve Fisher (1) and West Virginia coach Bob Huggins (0) to name a few.

The following is a list of the Arizona players who are active players with the NBA season starting this week.

JERRYD BAYLESS, POINT GUARD, PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

NINTH YEAR IN NBA

Jerryd Bayless is likely to miss the first month of the season to rest his sore left wrist and avoid surgery. The injury hasn’t allowed him to play in any preseason games. He was originally coach Brett Brown’s first choice to start at point guard, but given his absence as well as teammate Ben Simmons’ (foot), many of the playmaking duties will fall to another former Wildcat — TJ McConnell — and Sergio Rodriguez. They’re currently locked in a battle for the starting point guard spot. Rodriguez has flashed his passing ability in the preseason with a team-best 5.8 assists per game, but McConnell offers an immense upgrade on defense. Whoever ultimately starts in the season opener against the Thunder on Wednesday may not play significantly more minutes than the other, but McConnell will likely get first crack at slowing down Russell Westbrook.

CHANNING FRYE, FORWARD, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

12TH YEAR IN NBA

Not much changed for Channing Frye following his first NBA championship. He returned to his life of relative anonymity in the Pacific Northwest, he enjoyed his same walks to Lewis & Clark College and he didn’t even bother to watch the replay of the Cavaliers’ Game 7 championship victory. “I watched it the actual time,” Frye joked with the Akron Beacon Journal. “I didn’t play.” Frye only played a total of 33 minutes throughout the seven-game series against the Golden State Warriors. He didn’t play at all in the last three games and missed the only three shots he took in the series. His only points came at the free-throw line in the Game 1 loss at Oracle Arena.

AARON GORDON, FORWARD, ORLANDO MAGIC

THIRD YEAR IN NBA

USA TODAY REPORT
During his first two NBA seasons Aaron Gordon was known much more his slashes to the basket and gravity defying dunks than his jumper. Now the third-year Magic forward is being asked to be much more in the system of new coach Frank Vogel. Perhaps more than any of his teammates, Gordon will have the biggest shift moving from power forward to small forward with the goal of becoming a complete player who can impact the offense much the way Paul George did for Vogel in Indiana. It’s a move Gordon feels naturally suits him. “It gives me more freedom, I can control the offense a little bit more, direct traffic,” said Gordon, who at this point is best known for his acrobatics in the 2016 slam dunk contest. “But like I’ve said I’ve been playing basketball, I’ve played at multiple positions. I’m happy where I’m at.”

JORDAN HILL, FORWARD, MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES

EIGHTH YEAR IN NBA

Jordan Hill was the third and final free agent acquisition by Timberwolves president Tom Thibodeau and general manager Scott Layden this off-season. After Kevin Garnett’s retirement and the announcement that Nikola Pekovic is out for the season, the addition of Hill is necessary. Hill is still essentially the fifth big man on the roster; the starters still figure to be Gorgui Dieng and Karl-Anthony Towns. Behind them, Nemanja Bjelica is the backup power forward and free agent signing Cole Aldrich is the second-string center. Hill, along with Towns and Dieng, can play both the four and the five. Despite playing about two-thirds of his minutes over the course of his seven-year career at center, Hill has been more productive playing power forward.

SOLOMON HILL, FORWARD, NEW ORLEANS PELICANS

FOURTH YEAR IN NBA

TIMES-PECAYUNE REPORT
In preseason, New Orleans Pelicans small forward Solomon Hill displayed his strength as a defender. He was active and versatile enough to defend power forwards and shooting guards on the wing. But when the Pelicans extended Hill a four-year, $50 million contract in July, they expected Hill would provide more than just defense. Starting with this week’s opener against Denver, the Pelicans need him to make open 3-point attempts, and aggressively look to score. He did not do enough of both in the preseason, averaging 7.8 points on 34 percent shooting. In the Pelicans’ preseason finale against Orlando, a 114-111 overtime loss, Hill took only three shots and scored five points in 34 minutes. “I think he will find himself (in the offense),” Coach Alvin Gentry said. “If he’s going to play 25 minutes, I think that we want to have him get up more than two or three shots. Once again, you’re talking about situations where guys are trying to fit in and he wants to understand his role and that might take just a little bit to develop but I think he’ll be fine.”

RONDAE HOLLIS-JEFFERSON, FORWARD, BROOKLYN NETS

SECOND YEAR IN NBA

NEWSDAY REPORT
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has played all of 29 games in his NBA career; at 21 years old, he’s among the very youngest on a Nets team in the middle of a youth movement. And, beginning Wednesday, he’ll be tasked with helping take one of the worst defenses in the league and making it respectable. All in a day’s work, huh? To his credit, Hollis-Jefferson hasn’t shrunk back. Not that it makes the task all that much easier. “It’s tough, because it’s not only defense but energy, too,” acknowledged Hollis-Jefferson, who along with veteran forward Trevor Booker are the undeniable defensive leaders. “You’ve got to pick up full-court and hopefully your guys follow you as far as pressuring up, and stuff like that. Sometimes it’s tough, but I feel like it’s starting to rub off on the guys. Like when I pick up full-court, that means, hey, they’ve got to pick up and they’ve got to pressure up the guy with the ball, they’ve got to add in some denies. I feel like for the most part we’re going towards that.”

ANDRE IGUODALA, FORWARD, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS

13TH YEAR IN NBA

Andre Iguodala’s game defies convenient categorization. The box score generally doesn’t do it justice, yet box-score stats heavily influence value. Which puts Iguodala, in the final year of his Warriors contract, in a bit of quandary. The 32-year-old small forward is a key member of the team and would like to receive another contract. How does he suppress the thought of a new deal while simultaneously hoping to get one? “It’s human to have it in the back of your mind,” Iguodala told CSNBayArea.com on Monday. “But I would never let that get in the way of us winning. That’s just the nature of my game anyway. Although I do try to sometimes, tell myself to be selfish when I’m out there, once I’m out there I’m always looking to make the right play. I may think, ‘Shoot, I should’ve shot it,’ but I end up passing it anyway because it’s the right play.” Iguodala is a highly intelligent but largely intangible force who at his best plays lock-down defense, disrupts opposing offensive schemes, sets up teammates to score and occasionally pitches in with points of his own.

RICHARD JEFFERSON, FORWARD, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

16TH YEAR IN NBA

Cleveland’s 2-guard spot will occasionally feature Mike Dunleavy and Richard Jefferson. Each of these veterans is expected to get some light minutes although their position will likely be hard to define. In many cases, LeBron James will be acting as a point guard, and the Cavaliers will have him surrounded by shooters, effectively negating positions altogether.

STANLEY JOHNSON, FORWARD, DETROIT PISTONS

SECOND YEAR IN NBA

MLIVE.COM REPORT
A rookie season of highs and lows, and a second-half shoulder injury, had Stanley Johnson pressing. To try and counteract that, Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy urged Johnson to keep it simple on the floor. That meant a focus on rebounding and defense, with the belief his shot would follow in time. Nearly a month into training camp, and the regular-season opener Wednesday at Toronto, Van Gundy is revisiting that message with Johnson as he enters his second year. “I still think he’s a guy with a really bright future, and he’s struggling right now,” Van Gundy said. “I think pressing and trying to do too much.” Van Gundy was happy with Johnson’s play in Detroit’s preseason finale Wednesday. He had seven points on 3-of-7 shooting, two rebounds and three assists against the Raptors. Van Gundy also wants more defending, rebounding and better decision-making with the basketball. Despite averaging 8.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game last season, Johnson finished third on the team with 2.4 turnovers per 36 minutes — a rate he maintained in the recently completed preseason.

T.J. McCONNELL, POINT GUARD, PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

SECOND YEAR IN NBA

It was initially believed that McConnell would get the first crack at replacing Bayless in the starting five for the season opener, but with Rodriguez getting the start in the 76ers’ preseason finale, he now looks like the leading candidate for that duty. Regardless of which player he tabs for the start, Brown is expected to distribute the minutes relatively evenly between the two point guards in the opener, and could end up rotating both McConnell and Rodriguez in and out of the lineup during Bayless’ absence.

JASON TERRY, POINT GUARD, MILWAUKEE BUCKS

18TH YEAR IN NBA

MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL REPORT
When the Milwaukee Bucks took the floor at the Kohl Center for a preseason game Saturday night against the Dallas Mavericks, it’s likely guard Jason Terry will be a healthy scratch for the second time in as many preseason contests. It may not be the last preseason game he sits for either. Head coach Jason Kidd isn’t in a rush to play Terry during the preseason — he’s already seen what he needs from the 39-year-old who is entering his 18th season. “I think we know what Jason can do for us,” said Kidd, who was Terry’s teammate for five seasons in Dallas from 2008-’12. “I know what he can do and in practice he’s shown what he can do. He’s played for a while. I think we all know.” Terry’s not bothered by the current setup in the slightest. In fact, he believes it suits him well.

DERRICK WILLIAMS, FORWARD, MIAMI HEAT

SIXTH YEAR IN NBA

Miami Heat forward Derrick Williams has never been comfortable enough to think about the idea of buying a place to live. When a player has moved around the NBA much as he has, it’s best just to stick to renting. Still, Williams is growing a bit more comfortable in South Florida, taking a break from being the professional new kid at school. He finds himself in position to land a starting spot for one of the league’s most stable franchises. “I’ve usually just stuck to renting apartments,” Williams said. “So far, it’s been good in Miami. Hopefully, I can settle down here for a couple years and stay consistent in that as well.” Consistency has been anything but a part of Williams’ career. At 25, he’s playing for his fourth team since being drafted No. 2 by the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2011. The constant bouncing around has made it almost impossible for him to get comfortable. Williams played for seven coaches in five seasons before signing with the Heat during the offseason. In the past two years alone, he dealt with five different coaches. When he asked to name them, he quickly rattles off Terry Porter, Michael Malone, George Karl, Kurt Rambis and Derek Fisher.



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