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Tuesday, Oct. 31 marks the start of the 2012-13 NBA season. There are currently a total of twenty-three former UK players in the league. Eighteen of those players made the rosters of their respective teams.
Daniel Orton was beat out by his college teammate, DeAndre Liggins for a roster spot with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Liggins earned adequate praise from Thunder head coach Scott Brooks for his preseason play and phenomenal work ethic.
“(Liggins) brought it every day in practice. Brooks told John Rohde of The Oklahoman. “Every game we threw him in there, he made something happen. He’s a rebounder, he’s a defender and he plays with a lot of toughness.”
Other players who were unsuccessful in making NBA teams were veterans Jamaal Magloire, who was waived by his hometown team, the Toronto Raptors, and Kelenna Azubuike, who failed to earn a roster spot with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
On the other end of the spectrum, many former Cats will be in contention to make an All-Star team in 2012-13. Rajon Rondo is an obvious selection to make the Eastern Conference squad as he has solidified himself as one of the world’s best point guards.
DeMarcus Cousins became the centerpiece of the Sacramento Kings offense in last year’s shortened season. The 6-foot-11 big man is one of the most dominant post players in the game and will more than likely be in the All-Star conversation at the center position in the Western Conference.
John Wall has received as much pressure as anyone since he entered the league in 2010. As a rookie, he was immediately asked to turn around an abysmal Washington Wizards franchise. Now in his third year, Wall has the supporting cast to make strides in the Eastern Conference, which will allow his name to come up when talking about All-Star guards in February.
“This is a big year for him and it’s time to take the next step,” Wizards head coach Randy Wittman told Frank Hanrahan of Sheridan Hoops. “It’s his third year and he knows the ins and outs of what to expect.”
After the extraordinary year that Anthony Davis had in 2011-12, he is the pre-season favorite to win “Rookie of the Year” honors in the NBA this season.
“He grew and grew and continued to grow,” LeBron James said to Tom Haberstroh of ESPN.com. “He’s a special player. New Orleans got a good one.”
Although Davis will make a huge contribution as a rookie, the New Orleans Hornets will likely not be able to contend with the top teams in the Western Conference.
Davis’ teammate with the Hornets, Darius Miller, was able to make a contribution during the team’s preseason games. Miller logged double-digit minutes in all but one game and shot an unbelievable 71 percent from beyond the 3-point line. Miller, who holds the record for career games played in a UK uniform with 152, will likely continue to boast his reserve role for the Hornets, but will have the opportunity to see time off the bench as a rookie.
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was the heart and soul of last season’s championship team at UK. That role will carry over to the NBA with the Charlotte Bobcats. Statistically, he was not at his best during the preseason averaging just six points and four rebounds. However, he was able to be a defensive stopper and brought energy to a depleted Bobcats roster. Cats’ fans can look for him to do the same throughout his rookie season as he develops his offensive game.
Still early in his career, Patrick Patterson has been plagued with injuries. As of now, Patterson is etched in as the starting power forward for the Houston Rockets.
“In my (mind), we had OK years, but not good enough,” He said to David Barron of the Houston Chronicle. “ We put ourselves in positions to make the playoffs (but didn’t). … So last year was a letdown in my eyes. This year, we need to start off at the right pace.”
If Patterson can stay healthy, this may be the year that he takes his game and his team to the next level.
Also with the Rockets is rookie forward, Terrence Jones. Jones was one of the top young players that participated in the NBA’s “Summer League” in Las Vegas. His success carried over to the pre-season games, as he averaged more than 10 points and 5 rebounds per game.
Jones is on a team that is jam-packed with players at his position. But he is a versatile player who will have an opportunity to see the floor as a rookie.
Jones’ counterpart for two seasons at UK, Doron Lamb, is now with the Milwaukee Bucks. Lamb was forced to take a spectators role for most of the pre-season after he suffered an injury in his left elbow. In his first game back, the 6-foot-4 shooting guard finished with 12 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter.
“It felt great just to be out there with my teammates,” Lamb said during a conversation with the Journal Sentinel. “I learned a lot from my veteran guys. They helped me through hard times when I was hurt.
Although Lamb missed some crucial time during training camp, he definitely has the ability to fill the role as a scorer off the bench for the Bucks’ second unit.
Josh Harrellson has been on the move since he entered the league with the New York Knicks in 2011. This season “Jorts” is taking his talents to South Beach to join the reigning NBA champions, the Miami Heat. Harrellson recently earned Miami’s final roster spot and could work his way onto the court in a reserve role. The Heat lack depth at the center position so it is likely that Cats’ fans will get a chance to see the former UK fan favorite in action during the 2012-13 season.
Also fulfilling the need for depth on their particular teams will be veteran leaders Keith Bogans (Brooklyn Nets), Chuck Hayes (Sacramento Kings) and Nazr Mohammed (Chicago Bulls).
Headlining UK’s group of NBA seasoned veterans is Tayshaun Prince. Prince is the leader on and off the court for the Detroit Pistons, which is a team filled with youth. Prince has maintained the same role as the starting wing for the Pistons. His consistent play will only continue throughout the 2012-13 season.
One of Tayshaun Prince’s young teammates is point guard, Brandon Knight. Knight found himself in the starting line-up for the Pistons during what was his rookie season last year. In 2012-13, Knight will continue as the starter and as he continues to develop, his production will only increase.
Going into this season it seemed as though Marquis Teague would get the opportunity to play big-time minutes as a rookie with the absence of Derek Rose. But due to the off-season additions of Nate Robinson and Kirk Hinrich, the Chicago Bulls have filled the void that was left at the point guard position.
“One guy goes down, another guy steps up, same with Marquis (Teague.) If I go down, Marquis is ready,” Nate Robinson told Scott Powers of ESPNChicago.com.
So, barring injuries, Teague may be seated at the end of the bench in Chicago and could possibly serve some time in the NBA’s “Developmental League” while he polishes his game.
One major surprise from this years pre-season was the emergence of Enes Kanter. Although he was drafted in the top-3, the 6-foot-11 center struggled throughout his rookie season with the Utah Jazz. He needed a year to catch up for the time that the NCAA forced him to sit out at UK.
“He feels good about his body, he’s running the floor, he’s getting to his spots early,” Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin told The Salt Lake Tribune of Kanter’s offseason improvements. “When he gets the ball in his area he’s doing a great job of making guys pay.”
Utah is a team that is loaded with frontcourt depth, but if Kanter’s success carries over to the regular season it will be impossible to keep the big man off the court.
Jodie Meeks is a player that saw his role decrease when he made the decision to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers this off-season. Meeks will spend the 2012-13 season backing up Kobe Bryant, a task that he is looking forward to.
“You just focus on getting better every day.” Meeks said to The Orange County Register. “Everybody knows you’re not going to take his spot. So for me, it’s just an opportunity to learn from one of the best to ever do it.”
Eric Bledsoe will be sharing Staples Center with Jodie Meeks, as he suits up once again for the Los Angeles Clippers. When the two teams from L.A. faced off during the pre-season, Bledsoe came up with one of the more impressive performances in all of the pre-season. He finished with 22 points, 11 assists and 9 steals in 44 minutes of play.
“He almost had a triple-double tonight and it almost seems like he’s not trying at times,” Bledsoe’s teammate, Blake Griffin said to ESPNLosAngeles.com. “He can disrupt the flow on defense so easily. The playoffs last year were huge for him and it gave him the confidence to come out and play like this.”
Bledsoe surfaced as a young star during the Clippers’ run in last season’s playoffs. He has the ability to play multiple positions due to his strength and length. The combo guard established himself as one of the premiere on-ball defenders in the league. His tenacity and athleticism is something that the Clippers will need in their regular rotation.
NBA TV Schedule: Former UK Players
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Washington Wizards (John Wall) @ Cleveland Cavaliers 7 p.m. on FSO
Boston Celtics (Rajon Rondo) @ Miami Heat (Josh Harrellson) 8 p.m. on TNT
L.A. Lakers (Jodie Meeks) vs. Dallas Mavericks 10:30 p.m. on TNT
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Sacramento Kings (DeMarcus Cousins, Chuck Hayes) @ Chicago Bulls (Nazr Mohammad, Marquis Teague) 8 p.m. on WGN
Thursday, November 1, 2012
Brooklyn Nets (Keith Bogans) vs. New York Knicks 7p.m. on TNT
Oklahoma City Thunder (DeAndre Liggins) vs. San Antonio Spurs
Friday, November 2, 2012
Miami Heat (Josh Harrellson) @ New York Knicks 8 p.m. on ESPN
L.A. Clippers (Eric Bledsoe) @ L.A. Lakers (Jodie Meeks) 10:30 p.m. on ESPN