September 20

Nike Honors Retirement of Chinese Tennis Star Li Na With Campaign

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Li Na, the 32-year-old Chinese Tennis Star announced her retirement on Friday in a long post on social media, saying that her knee injuries had become too much to overcome. “My body is begging me to stop the pounding,” she wrote. Li is a two-time Grand Slam champion and has been an inspiration for her success on the court, but also for her humor, sincerity and individuality. She started out in China’s state sport system and broke away in 2008 to pursue her own training path.

Her relationship with Nike started when she was just a 12-year-old girl training at one of the brand’s tennis camps. The relationship has lasted over two decades, and he Chinese star is so important to Nike that it names a building as its new China headquarters after her. In her retirement letter Li urged her fans to work hard for their dreams, using the phrase: “Be the bird that sticks out.” This phrase derives from the Chinese proverb, “The bird that sticks out always gets shot,’ a sterm reminder to keep in line, follow the rules and be aware of the perils of resisting convention.”

Nike added:

“Li boldly provided an example of someone who stood for what she believed in. She chose her own path outside of the traditional system and soared to a level of success that few Chinese athletes have reached.”

While retired, Ms. Li has said that she wants to start her own tennis academy for young Chinese players, which presents an opportunity to continue her relationship with Nike.

via: AG


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September 20

Double Standard? Nike Remains Silent Reagrding Hope Solo’s Domestic Violence Charges

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Over the last few weeks the talk of the sports world has unfortunately revolved around the recent domestic violence incidents involving Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson and other NFL players. As a result of their actions, Ray Rice has been released from his NFL team the Baltimore Ravens as well as been dropped from most, if not all of his sponsorship deals. Adrian Peterson has been put on exempt on the commissioners list and his sponsors have also taken a step back. Nike, who sponsors both Rice and Peterson, dropped Ray Rice and suspended their sponsorship with Peterson after news of their domestic violence charges broke out to the public. But something that has been flying underneath the radar is the domestic violence charges that were filed against US Women’s Soccer star goalie Hope Solo.

Solo has pleaded not guilty to two counts of misdemeanor domestic violence in an alleged assault of her half-sister and 17 year old nephew last Summer in Kirkland, Washington. Unlike Peterson and Rice who have received harsh punishments from their teams and sponsors due to political and fans pressure, Nike has remained silent on Hope Solo’s situation.

Solo has remained on the Seattle Reign’s roster, as well as the national team, and continues to play as a big year for women’s soccer is looming with qualifying this Fall for next Summer’s World Cup. She has extended her shutout record to 73 games and looks to extend it.

“We are aware that Hope is handling a personal situation at the moment,” said Neil Buethe, U.S. Soccer director of communications, told USA Today’s Christine Brennan, who criticized the organization’s decision to honor Solo’s record last month. “At the same time, she has an opportunity to set a significant record that speaks to her hard work and dedication over the years with the National Team. While considering all factors involved, we believe that we should recognize that in the proper way.”

While women’s soccer isn’t anywhere near as popular as the NFL, Hope Solo is still a role model figure to many young women in the community. Shouldn’t she be held to that same standards as male football players? Is this goalkeeping record standing in the way of domestic violence? Just because this is a domestic violence issue of women against men, it should not change how it is handled.

Nike has yet to take any action or release any statement regarding Solo. Maybe we need to make her the topic of social media for them to pay attention and stop ignoring this issue.

What do you think about Nike not taking any action against Hope Solo for her domestic violence charges?

via: WP


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September 20

Sophomore Season Could Hold Key to Career Relevance for Hornet Cody Zeller

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But if Zeller can’t build on what was a promising second half of last season, it could mean bad news for everyone involved. 

For starters, it puts a dark cloud on Zeller‘s outlook as a prospect. One rough season is reasonable. Two in a row calls for panic. 

A disappointing year from Zeller might also hurt the Charlotte Hornets, a team that could use all the firepower it can get. The Hornets finished No. 24 in offensive efficiency last season, and then lost Josh McRoberts (free agency), who ranked third on the team in scoring, second in rebounding and second in assists.

Charlotte’s backcourt got a nice boost with the addition of Lance Stephenson, and that should make it tougher. But in terms of frontcourt depth, Al Jefferson might need some support. 

As a 2013 No. 4 pick with two years of college ball under his belt, Zeller should be expected to contribute regular, productive minutes in 2015. 

Even with the departure of McRoberts, Zeller looks poised for a role off the bench, but that shouldn’t diminish its significance. 

The Hornets bench is pretty weak. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Bismack Biyombo aren’t giving you much offense, and Gary Neal shot 35.3 percent from the field last season. 

Marvin Williams starting at the 4 doesn’t exactly scream mismatch either.

Zeller has an important job to do this upcoming season. The Hornets are going to need someone to step in and keep the pressure on when Jefferson takes a seat.

And that has to be on Zeller, who was drafted as high as he was based on his size, athleticism and offensive game. 

But it’s pretty clear he’ll have some adjustments and improvements to make moving forward. Zeller‘s weaknesses and concerns from college seemed to carry over to the pros, while he’s had trouble tapping into his strengths. 

He’s just not very good at taking or playing through contact. That showed at Indiana, and it showed last year in Charlotte, where he shot just 54.3 percent at the rim. His undersized, sub-6’11” wingspan doesn’t help.

“Taking the ball stronger to the basket. … that’s one of the things he has to do a better job of,” assistant coach Patrick Ewing told Fox News.

Adding upper-body strength will help, which, according to coach Steve Clifford, he did this summer, but Zeller will ultimately have to evolve into more of a stretch or pick-and-pop big man.

Last year, he failed to capitalize on the perimeter despite showing shooting potential out of college. Zeller hit just 27.3 percent of his shots from 16 feet out to the arc, per sports-reference.com. 

He has to become a threat in the mid-to-long range next year. Not only will it help stretch the defense, but he’ll get more balanced looks on straight up-and-down jumpers than he will trying to finish in traffic down low. 

“I think that is going to add so much more to my game,” Zeller said referring to his jumper via Fox News. “It will open more driving lanes for me and open more for my teammates. That’s something I have been working on.”

Defense is a whole other issue. Zeller averaged 4.3 personal fouls per 36 minutes and blocked just 41 shots in 82 games in 2013-14. Chances are defense will take some time, which he’s expected to get this year, though Zeller doesn’t quite project as your traditional rim protector. 

On the bright side, he did appear to find somewhat of a groove down the stretch of last year. He shot 55.8 percent in March and 51.3 percent in April, numbers that helped raise the bar for him in 2014-15. 

Hopefully for the Hornets, Zeller starts where he left off, given the positive vibes and expectations surrounding the franchise. 

In what looks like a mediocre East outside the top few teams, Charlotte might not need Zeller to sneak into the playoffs. Between Kemba Walker, Jefferson and Stevenson, plus Gerald Henderson now a fourth option, this team is going to win some games.

But an effective Zeller up front—one that runs the floor, knocks down open shots and finishes opportunistically inside—could really add a much-needed punch of frontcourt offense. If he’s on his game this year, the Hornets could have weapons at every position.

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September 19

What Does Kobe Bryant Have Left to Prove to Rest of the NBA?

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But Kobe Bryant is Kobe Bryant. Real or make-believe, there would always be something left for him to prove to the Los Angeles Lakers, to his peers and to the NBA at large.

Similar careers are winding down in dissimilar fashion. Tim Duncan has nothing left to prove five championships and 17 years in. Not even the harshest critics are looking for Kevin Garnett to use his 20th season as a clock-contemning renaissance. 

Like always, Bryant remains different.

With the end swiftly approaching, and with almost 18 months of atypical hardship in his rearview mirror, Bryant enters the final phase of his career on a different mission, facing a new opponent: the gap between who he once was and who he is now. 

 

Doing More (or the Same) with Less

Physical limits aren’t a concept Bryant has ever accepted or acknowledged. Minutes caps have been foreign. Injuries are annoyances that can be swatted away like gnats. Weaknesses only exist if you admit to them.

Bryant is the same player who ruptured his Achilles, tried to walk it off and then sank two free throws before beginning this long, winding, uncertain road he’s still on. The day he copped to being human—and was serious—would be the day basketball was played on the moon.

That day has come and gone, and the Intergalactic Basketball Association (IBA) still hasn’t been formed.

Battling injury has forced Bryant to prepare for the end; preparing for the end has left him pensive and candid—a process that began prior to 2012-13 but accelerated in the wake of abrupt strife. Where Bryant once wouldn’t be caught visiting reality, he now dwells there exclusively.

“I can say I want to be able to jump as high as I used to. I want to be as fast as I used to,” he said in August, per the Los Angeles Daily NewsMark Medina. “But no; I don’t jump as high as I used to,” Bryant said. “That’s okay. I’m not as fast as I used to be. That’s okay, too. I’ll figure out another way to do it.”

Nary a person associated with the Lakers seems to believe Bryant’s proposed reinvention is far-fetched. The team has been assembled to meet both the demands of its dollars-dependent future and the notion that Bryant can still transcend mediocrity.

New head coach Byron Scott told Medina that he expects Bryant to average 20 points per game next season. He also hinted at minutes restrictions. Bryant himself has been studying Paul Pierce and the way in which he’s dominated without all-world athleticism and excessive explosion, according to Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Ballard.

The ground beneath Bryant is corroding. What he’s done for so long, he’s now trying to do differently. He’s trying—whether he admits it or not—to validate his two-year, $48.5 million extension, trying to ensure his twilight is more than lottery berths and injury stints. 

Continued relevancy is the mission, and it’s one Bleacher Report’s Kevin Ding says Bryant will not lose sight of:

In a broader sense, Bryant is very much determined not to become McGrady…or anything close to him.

First of all, Bryant is resolute about maximizing and relishing the latter years of his career. Anything less would taint the bar he has set for himself so far.

McGrady doesn’t motivate Bryant, per se, yet his presence a year after retiring at age 34 can’t help remind what disappointment could await if Bryant doesn’t adhere to his same standards now that his body and game have changed.

Michael Jordan is another name worth mentioning here. After years off—the second time—he returned to the hardwood, noticeably older, unmistakably worse but still fit to stand alongside the best. 

Can Bryant do all this—adjust, adapt, thrive—at 36 years old? Can he score 20 points a night? And, most importantly, can he do that in accordance with minutes restrictions?

Averaging under 30 minutes a night remains possible, especially early on. Playing at a superstar level when being constrained by availability is difficult, and it’s something Bryant has never done nor had to do. 

Only nine times since 1983 has a player 36 or older eclipsed the 20-point mark, according to Basketball-Reference.com. Only five qualified players in league history have pumped in 20 points per game while logging under 30 minutes. That is the individual standard Bryant will be held to. 

Because he’s so sure of himself, and his team is so sure of him, his new reality bears a striking resemblance to the old one. Bryant is different, as are the circumstances, but he’s still out to prove his star hasn’t yet gone supernova.

 

Finding Purpose

Not to be overlooked is the symbolism behind Bryant’s immediate future.

This isn’t just the end of a career. It’s the (hopefully) slow, gradual death of an era. Bryant has always been more than a player. He is a brand by himself.

Built into his brand is an unrivaled complex.

Winning has mattered more than anything to Bryant. Some might find solace and strength in his 2014-15 crusade if he stays healthy and productive. Bryant won’t.

Even as the Lakers have devolved into an incomplete puzzle without any sense as to when they’ll be whole again, Bryant is ever the optimist, fostering hope and belief. On paper the Lakers aren’t constructed to win anything next season, not even their own draft pick, which is top-five protected and owed to the Phoenix Suns.

Care to venture a guess as to how much stock Bryant places in bleak and bulldozed outlooks? 

Of course not. He has no vested interest in outside perception.

“But Boozer does this, Jordan Hill does that, Lin adds that,” Bryant told Ballard of his teammates. “If we can figure out that puzzle, we’re going to shock a lot of people.”

And so the quest for a sixth championship continues.

Individual performance won’t mean anything to Bryant if it’s not accompanied by something more. Knowing him, and given all he’s said, he’ll want additional purpose out of his final days. He’ll look to carry the Lakers like has so many times before.

Finding those who are sure that he can won’t be hard. That’s the power of his brand. But now that brand—which will change as Bryant changes—is being tested against a different NBA.

One-man shows aren’t the crux of contenders. Superteams are everywhere. The Western Conference is a powerhouse gauntlet and haven for superstar unions. Bryant is charging forward, basically on his own, facing those he once called—and hopes to still legitimately call—peers, many of whom are now playing together.

Already out to prove his time near the top isn’t over, Bryant’s looking to show his standing can promise the Lakers are fighting for more than a new era that isn’t yet here.

 

Understanding the Stakes

If Bryant retired today, he could walk away proud of the legacy he’s leaving behind—the 31,700 points..the five championships…the two Finals MVPs…the lone league MVP.

By any measure, Bryant has done enough to secure his place in history. So strong is his standing that anything he doesn’t do can neither taints nor bruises his remarkable on-court reputation. Consistent detractors—both past and present—can even find appreciation for what he’s already done.

Yet once again, because he’s Bryant, there’s still something to be desired. And while many will paint this final fight as Bryant vs. Time, Bryant vs. Conventional Wisdom or Bryant vs. Himself, it’s really Bryant vs. Everyone. 

Further shoring up his reputation as one of the most pleasantly illogical stars ever will pit Bryant against players a decade or more younger than him. It pits him against the top talent he’s no longer supposed to be; it places the Lakers—a team that, in theory, he should no longer have to carry—on his shoulders.

Endings are supposed to be sweet. Bryant’s, more so than most, will be a challenge—one in which he must prove the player he is now, differences and all, is fit to rival the one he once was. 

 

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September 19

What a Sign-and-Trade for Eric Bledsoe Would Have to Look Like

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The mechanics of pulling off such a separation, though, are only getting more complicated.

In fact, even with the latest intriguing development in the ongoing saga, we’re still left with more questions than answers.

Per Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com:

With just days before the start of training camp, the Minnesota Timberwolves are making a final push to acquire restricted free-agent guard Eric Bledsoe in a sign-and-trade with the Phoenix Suns, sources told ESPN.com. 

The Wolves are offering Bledsoe the four-year, $63 million maximum-level contract that he has been seeking, sources said.

OK, great. We have what appears to be a deal.

But the Timberwolves don’t have the cap room to fit Bledsoe on a max deal, and we don’t know who they’d theoretically send back to Phoenix to make the money work. Are the Suns getting Ricky Rubio? Perhaps Nikola Pekovic?

Could the Wolves somehow foist Kevin Martin on Phoenix?

The problem here is that Bledsoe‘s situation is so complicated, we can’t really ascertain his value to another team—or the Suns, for that matter.

Thanks to restricted free agency, Phoenix can match any offer Bledsoe gets from another team. That’s likely why no suitors made such an offer over the summer. Now, most teams are too capped out to sign Bledsoe to a max offer sheet, which means a sign-and-trade swap is the only viable way to get a deal done.

From the Suns’ perspective, that might beat the alternative of dealing with a disgruntled Bledsoe (who turned down a four-year, $48 million offer from Phoenix) for another season and then losing him for nothing.

Then again, Phoenix might prefer to do that instead of taking back a costly asset just to make the money work in a sign-and-trade.

Tricky stuff, huh?

There are plenty of other options beyond the Timberwolves out there as well.

Perhaps the Suns would rather try to swing a similar sign-and-trade deal for Rajon Rondo. The Boston Celtics are in nearly as shaky of a position with their own point guard, and Rondo doesn’t fit into a rebuilding process that is still at least two or three years away from completion.

If Boston were willing to max out Bledsoe, the money would work out nicely, as Rondo is due to make just under $13 million in the final year of his deal.

Of course, if the Suns really wanted Rondo, they could simply wait until next summer to sign him outright. That’s a play most Bledsoe suitors could make as well.

What’s more, we don’t even know if a point guard is what the Suns would want in return for Bledsoe. We can take them at their word that three point guards are part of their strategy because they prefer to play two at once (hence the Isaiah Thomas signing over the summer).

That’s what our vision is,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said, per Bryan Gibberman of ArizonaSports.com. “You hear the three-headed monster about big guys all the time, but maybe we got the three-headed monster in the guards. There is going to be two of those guys on the court at all times. When it happens, teams are going to have to plan for that and really focus.”

Or, we can view the Thomas signing as evidence that Phoenix planned to deal Bledsoe all along.

So deepens the complexity of the Suns’ situation.

If Phoenix can’t get anything done before Oct. 1, Bledsoe can simply take the $3.73 million qualifying offer, play out the season and sign wherever he wants in 2015. Teams around the league know that, and the resulting game of chicken is the reason we still haven’t seen any real movement on the Bledsoe trade front.

In an interesting wrinkle, the Atlanta Hawks have almost $13 million in cap room, according to ShamSports.com. Would they view Bledsoe, at a max or near-max deal, as a big enough upgrade to send Jeff Teague, some salary filler and a pick back to the Suns?

Could they move enough money to sign him to a max offer sheet without giving anything up?

And if the Hawks could do that, would Phoenix just match after all?

Questions, questions, questions.

Even if we think we know a few things for sure—like, say, that the Suns have already placed a $12-million-per-year value on Bledsoe—we have to factor in Phoenix’s bargaining position. With no reason to bid against themselves, there’s really no reason for the Suns to make a last, best and final offer that reflects what they believe Bledsoe‘s actual value to be.

They have every incentive to let the rest of the league set the market and react accordingly. For all we know, the Suns have been willing to max out Bledsoe all along; they just weren’t going to do it until somebody forced them to.

When Bledsoe told Kyle Burger of WVTM-TV in Birmingham “I can understand the Phoenix Suns are using restricted free agency against me,” he knew what he was talking about.

If reports out of Minnesota are true, it would appear at least one team definitely thinks Bledsoe is a max player. And the Wolves could do a lot worse than adding a supremely athletic combo guard to their stable of No. 1 draft picks and untested talents.

Assuming, of course, the Suns won’t try to pry away guys like Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett or Zach LaVine in the bargain.

You’d expect Phoenix, a playoff contender, would rather have known commodities like Pekovic or Rubio in a sign-and-trade anyway. At the same time, we should never put asset accumulation to the point of absurdity past the Suns. They managed to hoard three first-round picks ahead of the 2014 draft, so we know they like young talent.

The truth is, we won’t know what a potential sign-and-trade for Bledsoe will look like until we see one. The range of possibilities is just that vast.

In a sense, that’s appropriate. All offseason, the only certainty in the Suns-Bledsoe marriage has been uncertainty.

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September 19

Pharrell x adidas Originals Collection (In-Depth Look)

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Earlier this year, adidas Originals announced a long-term partnership with Pharrell Williams and we are already seeing what the collaboration of the two has in store for us, with the fist limited edition pieces. We took a brief look at the collab already, but prepare yourself because we are going deep this time.

A tremendous amount of detailing and planning went into this collaboration, from the logo to the apparel and back to the sneakers themselves. Starting with the logo, we can see the adidas Three-Stripe branding transform into an equal sign where the third stripe shows Pharrell’s name. Considering Pharrell went into the collaboration with equality in mind, it’s easy to see what guided the duo in the making of the three-stripe logo, next to the adidas Trefoil.

 On September 20th, select pieces from the collaboration will be made available worldwide. This includes the classic Superstar track jacket and the adidas Originals Stan Smith. The jacket features a contrasting three-stripes design and is available in 3 different colorways. The Stan Smith model is dressed in 3 corresponding monochromatic uppers–including Blue, Red and Black.

But considering this collaboration has long-term success in mind, we will be seeing more from the duo this October, November and December. The first limited edition pieces will be available globally this Saturday, at select sneaker boutiques, concept stores and adidas Originals flagship stores if you’re interested.


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September 19

Take Another Look at the Air Jordan 14 “Black Toe” (You Know You Want To)

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We’ve taken a look at the Air Jordan 14 “Black Toe” a number of times now but you can never look at these beauties too many times: you could never really get enough. The Air Jordan 14 “Black Toe” is sure to be a sneaker that everyone is going to try to cop, but not everyone will be successful in their attempts. This version of the AJ 14 may work a simple color palette, but the design is anything but.

Other silhouettes may have made this palette look a little too plain, but the AJ 14 serves as the perfect base for the color scheme and creates a sleek, chic design. The Air Jordan 14 “Black Toe” is the perfect cop for sneakerheads who tend to stray away from louder colorways. These kicks will be hitting select retailers beginning September 20th, and if you think

Photo Credit: Scotty Marshall


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September 19

You’ll Wish They Weren’t Just For Women: Nike WMNS Air Max 90 – Pure Platinum / Dark Grey –

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Leave it to the Nike Air Max 90 to work a colorway for the ladies without any use of Pink. Time and time again we see WMNS releases that utilize Hyper Pink or Pastel Pink, etc etc. But the latest version of the Nike WMNS Air Max 90 comes correct, working a no-nonsense type of design. The upper trades off between different shades of Grey, while the midsole of the sneaker is split between Black and White. While there is no Pink, one could have hoped for a little more color. Then again, this rendition is ideal if you’re looking for something that can be a classic or for everyday wear.

There is no word of an official release date as of yet but be sure to check back with us, as well as with your local Nike retailer, for the latest information.

Source: TE


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September 19

J.J. Hickson Suspension a Blessing in Disguise for the Denver Nuggets

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Whereas Ray Rice is staring down an indefinite one from the NFL (on account of well-documented domestic abuse), The Denver Post‘s Christopher Dempsey reports that, “[Denver] Nuggets forward J.J. Hickson‘s season will be delayed five games after he was suspended Wednesday for a violation of the NBA‘s drug policy.”

Dempsey adds that, “The suspension is for use of recreational drugs. If it was a suspension for use of performance-enhancing drugs, it would have been made public, under terms of the NBA’s drug policy.”

And as USA Today Sports notes, “The five-game suspension likely comes from a third failed marijuana test, based on the league’s anti-drug guidelines.” 

So a slap on the wrist was probably in order here, and that’s exactly what Hickson got.

Paradoxically, Hickson and the Nuggets alike may come out ahead from the minor setback.

After playing 69 games for the Nuggets last season—52 of which he started—the 26-year-old tore his ACL in late-March. While CBSSports.com’s Matt Moore notes that he “was expected to be ready for the start of next year,” taking things a bit more slowly after training camp (and the preseason) can’t hurt.

It would have taken the six-year veteran some time to work himself back into form anyway. A mandatory break in the action may alleviate any pressure to make a significant impact right out of the gate.

Hickson—who’s also played for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Portland Trail Blazers and Sacramento Kings—put up solid numbers last season, averaging 11.8 points and 9.2 rebounds in just 26.9 minutes per contest. The North Carolina State product has never been a dominant presence, but he’s a fine fit amongst Denver’s ensemble cast.

And his services in the paint became especially pivotal after center JaVale McGee went down for the season after just five games.

It’s only appropriate that McGee should be one of the chief benefactors from Hickson‘s early absence.

In his first full season with the Nuggets (2012-13), McGee only saw action for 18.1 minutes per game. But with the 26-year-old scheduled to earn $11,250,000 this season, you’d expect Denver to get its money’s worth this time.

One less big man to start the season certainly won’t hurt that effort. Whether Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw opts to start McGee from the outset—or at all—there will be a little extra playing time in which the 7-footer can regain rhythm lost over the course of an entire season away from the floor.

It’s worth recalling that McGee averaged 10.1 points, eight rebounds and 2.4 blocks per contest during his 2010-11 campaign with the Washington Wizards. Through 41 games of the following season, those numbers escalated to 11.9 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game.

Then came the trade to Denver.

The production hasn’t been the same since, largely because the opportunities haven’t either. Denver’s depth has become something of a two-way sword—giving Shaw plenty of options while limiting some players’ individual development.

Hickson‘s five-game suspension won’t have any long-term impact on that depth, but it could allow guys like McGee to establish an early tone—setting themselves apart as cornerstones of Denver’s interior rotation.

Starting power forward Kenneth Faried will be one of those cornerstones, and by now he deserves every minute he can get.

The 24-year-old is coming off another highly efficient season (54.5 percent from the field), averaging a career-best 13.7 points to go along with 8.6 rebounds per game.

More impressively, Faried established himself a certifiable leader this summer with Team USA at the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain. He used his starting role and 21.4 minutes per game to average 12.2 points and 7.7 rebounds—all while converting on a ridiculous 63.3 percent of his field-goal attempts.

He also took advantage of the confidence head coach Mike Krzyzewski invested in him.

His message was they need me,” Faried told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. “They need me to step up and be a leader and vocal and be one of the loudest people on the court. He wants me to be the loudest and make sure everybody [does] what they’re supposed to do.”

Will that newfound leadership translate with the Nuggets?

“In Denver, I would be considered one of the top players on our team, but we have older vets on our team, guys who’ve been through it,” Faried added. “So I more take the back seat and watch them guys and try to learn off of them. But for Coach [K] to say that to me on the USA team, I’m gonna take that back to Denver and now try to be more of the vocal leader.”

Faried played just 27.2 minutes per game in Denver last season, a mark that reasons to rise regardless of Hickson‘s status. 

That said, Hickson‘s suspension may erase any notion Shaw might have had about treating the 4 spot as a platoon situation. This is a position that has Faried‘s name written all over it, and there should be no mistaking that from day one.

Scheduled to make just $2,373,537 this season, Faried is also in line for a contract extension should one be successfully negotiated by the Oct. 31 deadline. If the two sides don’t arrive at an initial agreement, Faried would become a restricted free agent next summer—potentially making this season’s output all the more pivotal.

The final piece to the Hickson-less puzzle is Timofey Mozgov, a 28-year-old center who’s spent all but 34 games of his four seasons with the Nuggets. Mozgov saw his minutes and production skyrocket last season after Hickson went down in March.

After averaging around 21 minutes for most of the season, Mozgov played 29.9 minutes per game in April. He averaged an impressive 15.9 points and 9.1 rebounds through those eight games, well above the 9.4 points and 6.4 rebounds he posted for the season.

McGee’s presence may preclude similar production to start the 2014-15 campaign, but the point remains: The Nuggets have several well-deserved options who all stand to benefit from Hickson‘s unpaid vacation.

Hickson‘s minutes won’t be distributed equally among the other three big men. Some may even get mopped up by reserve power forward Darrell Arthur who—like Mozgov—saw a slight spike in activity during late last season after Hickson was injured.

But the opportunity for Denver’s bigs to start the season on strong footing is unmistakable. A little extra playing time could go a long way toward establishing their rhythm and confidence as the Nuggets embark upon their bid to re-enter the playoff picture.

What becomes of Hickson when he returns remains somewhat unclear. While he may certainly slide into an already-deep supporting cast, the Nuggets could ultimately determine a trade is in order.

How Hickson performs upon returning may very well determine which course the club pursues.

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September 19

Report: Timberwolves Offer Eric Bledsoe a Max Deal

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According to multiple reports, the Minnesota Timberwolves are trying to engage the Suns in a sign-and-trade, and have offered the restricted free agent guard a max contract.

Bledsoe has made it clear that he’s willing to ink a one-year, $3.7 million qualifying offer with the Suns enabling him to enter unrestricted free agency next summer. Per ESPN:

The Wolves are offering Bledsoe the four-year, $63 million maximum-level contract that he has been seeking, sources said. Bledsoe and the Suns have been in a stalemate all summer after the team offered him a four-year, $48 million deal in July.

 

This is a renewal of talks that have stretched over the past several months. The teams had discussions involving a Kevin Love trade that would involve Bledsoe but never made serious traction on a deal.

 

The Wolves, who acquired No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins after trading Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers last month, see Bledsoe as a strong running mate to their new franchise player and have made some aggressive offers to Phoenix to try to get them to accept a deal.

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