NEWS OF THE MORNING
MKG discusses contract extension | Suns still unsure about Morris | New practice center could make a better Pacers team
No. 1: MKG discusses contract extension — After signing a four-year, $52 million deal earlier this month to remain in Charlotte with the Hornets, who could blame Michael-Kidd Gilchrist for being optimistic? Such is the case with the small forward who is not only rich but wealthy in soul. The good vibe spilled over in a recent Q&A, in which he spoke about the contract, the outlook for next season and why he wanted to remain with the Hornets rather than explore free agency next summer. Here’s the scoop from Scott Fowler of the Charlotte Observer:
“It’s a great feeling. But I never did any of this for the money, fame, fortune, Instagram followers or Twitter followers. That can all come and go. But ball and family – that’s not going anywhere.
Q. A lot of people may not know the extreme closeness of your relationship with point guard Kemba Walker, who you cite as one of the main reasons you wanted to stay in Charlotte. What is that relationship like?
A. We always talk. I was a freshman in high school when I first met him – think about that. And then I was just a fan of Kemba, who was a senior in high school. I kept following his career.
So when I got drafted, I was like, ‘Oh snap, Kemba Walker’s on my team!’ When I met him, I just kept asking questions every day about everything. He never seemed to get tired of it. We are similar people. We’re both competitive, humble – we just click.
Q. There was a lot made at a similar press conference in Charlotte several months ago – when Panthers quarterback Cam Newton signed his own lucrative extension – about the belief that Newton can lead the Panthers to a championship. Do you feel pressure to do that for the Hornets?
A. When you talk about pressure, all the pressure I ever felt was making it into the NBA and really into college first of all. Because if I didn’t go to college, where would I be? That was pressure, that, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got to go to college somewhere.’
This isn’t pressure. This is adding fuel to the fire. But as far as the pressure part? I’m comfortable in my own skin. I work as hard as I can every day. After that, it’s in God’s hands.
Q. You are known for sacrificing your body on defense and for loose balls. Are you going to continue throwing your body around just as much now that the money has come?
A. Yes. How much can my body take? I don’t know. But that’s how I play. I can’t change it. I wouldn’t change who I am, how I play, how my jump shot used to be, or anything like that. I wouldn’t change a single thing in my life until now. Not a single thing.
Q. The Hornets were a disappointing 33-49 last season and have made huge personnel changes in the offseason. Will this team be a lot better than last year?
A. I like our team. But what do you think?
No. 2: Suns still unsure about Morris — As the start of training camp slowly approaches, there has been a pickup of activity in Phoenix, where players are beginning to file into town and conduct voluntary workouts. Of course, there has been a missing face: Markieff Morris, who’s still miffed about his twin brother being traded to the Pistons and has publicly asked for a trade. Here’s Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic:
Training camp is still a month away. Opening night is two months away. But being five years removed from a playoff appearance, the Suns have a near-ideal turnout in a city that millionaires avoid in August.
Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, Archie Goodwin, Brandon Knight, Alex Len, Jon Leuer, Ronnie Price, P.J. Tucker, T.J. Warren and Sonny Weems have been playing at US Airways Center since Monday.
There is no surprise that Markieff Morris is missing from that list, given his “Keef beef” with the franchise. His trade request fell on deaf ears. The other absent contract players, Tyson Chandler and Mirza Teletovic, are expected to join their new teammates in Phoenix over the next 10 days.
The early team chemistry sessions are important for a roster that will have at least six new players for the regular season. That does not include Brandon Knight, a key cog to this season’s plans after playing only 11 games last season with the Suns.
It would be ideal for Knight to spend September working with his starting power forward but a Morris early arrival is about as likely as a fulfillment of his trade wish.
The Suns need and want Morris. They would not stand much of a chance to replace him by trade. They would have no chance to replace him by free agency. They do not have an adequate existing roster option.
Reasonably, hard feelings should subside by the time he must report to Phoenix on Sept. 28. However, he was steaming six weeks after the trade when he went public to the Philadelphia Inquirer this month. Another six weeks might not help but being around his teammate friends again and meeting a respected frontcourt partner such as Chandler should help him recommit, even if Morris returns to being the quieter person he was before Marcus joined Phoenix.
No. 3: New practice center could make for a better Pacers team — At least that’s the hope of the organization as it hones in on upgrading the team’s training facilities. Well, actually a return to All-Star form by Paul George will help quite a bit, too. But the Pacers are anxious to gain any edge, especially with free agents, and the organization is moving forward with the blueprint. Here’s Dana Hunsinger Benow of the Indianapolis Star:
Having top-notch doctors and sports performance experts one floor above the Pacers’ practice court is a critical component of the $50 million, 130,000-square-foot complex scheduled to open in early 2017, said Pacers President for Basketball Operations Larry Bird.
“They’ve got a lot of research. We feel like we can work hand-in-hand with them,” he said. “In our sport, it seems like the players get bigger and stronger every year and what we try to do, not only for us but for them, is try and maximize their talents.”
Bird envisions St. Vincent — which will not only be a tenant in the building but spent an undisclosed amount for naming rights — testing players with the latest and greatest medical equipment.
“(This partnership allows us to) make sure they’re getting the right sleep patterns, make sure they’re hydrated 24 hours a day,” Bird said. “There are all kinds of different tests that we can do just to make them better at getting their skill level at the highest they possibly can.”
The practice facility will allow the Pacers to build a better team, Bird said, not only with the medical help, but as a shiny state-of-the-art building to lure players.
“It also helps us recruit free agents and bring other players in,” Bird said.
It’s part of a trend. Since 1999, 20 of the 30 teams in the NBA have built or are planning new practice facilities.
The glistening buildings are a good marketing pitch as teams look to upgrade rosters during offseasons. Concocting a championship team often comes down to free agency.
As players whose contracts are up make choices on whether to sign with a new team or re-sign with their current one, it’s certain they are weighing every aspect of the teams they’re considering – including practice facilities.
Many NBA practice facilities are built with frills, including in-house barber shops, restaurants, plush theaters and spa retreats.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Kenneth Faried is excited to see what Emmanuel Mudiay will do in Denver … Is Hassan Whiteside under the microscope already in Miami? … Can Deron Williams be good again? … Yes, the Warriors will probably get that Harrison Barnes deal done.