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Bahamian NBA trio ready for the season

Bahamian National Basketball Association (NBA) players Chavano “Buddy” Hield, of the Indiana Pacers, DeAndre Ayton, of the Phoenix Suns, and Kai Jones, of the Charlotte Hornets, were all at their respective media days on Monday.

Ayton is back manning the middle for the Suns for a fifth season after he and the Suns finally came to an agreement over the summer. Ayton and the Suns agreed on a four-year, $133 million contract in July. The former restricted free agent is now looking forward to the season.

“I was happy. It was all done … I guess,” Ayton said. “I’m locked in on getting better and starting training camp.”

Ayton averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game last season while shooting 63.4 percent from the field and 36.8 percent on shots from deep.

“I’ve been working on everything,” he said. “I’m just trying to be the most dominant person I could be right now, and I feel like I can do that.”

Ayton said he is looking to be relentless this season.

The Bahamian post player said that he hasn’t spoken to Suns’ Head Coach Monty Williams since the two had an exchange of words back in the playoffs in May against the Dallas Mavericks. The big man said he prefers to let his actions do the talking.

Hield will start off his seventh season with the Indiana Pacers after being traded from the Sacramento Kings last season. This time, the 29-year-old is a veteran, and he spoke about the youthfulness of the team.

“It’s energetic, a lot of the guys are new and are learning how to be a part of the NBA life and how we go about it every day. It’s a fun group. Everybody is just hands on each and every day,” he said. “The young atmosphere keeps you healthy. Running around with young guys, I love the competitive spirit they bring every day. It’s a grind, it’s a challenge everyday, but once you’re mentally prepared and locked in and prepare the summer to be around young athletic talent, there’s nothing to worry about.”

Shooting guard Hield started in all of the 26 games he played in for the Pacers last season. He averaged 18.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game for the Pacers. He made 44.7 percent of his shots and 36.2 percent of his shots from deep. The Grand Bahama native averaged 3.1 made three-pointers per game for the Pacers.

Once again, Hield has been part of trade speculations with the Los Angeles Lakers but he remains locked in for the Pacers.

Jones enters his sophomore season, having played most of his rookie season in the NBA G-League for the Greensboro Swarm.

“I had a beautiful experience and a lot of fun,” Jones described his rookie season.

The 21-year-old said he just wants to work hard and be the best version of himself every day. He plays the forward/center position and wants to take his development one day at a time. His new Head Coach Steve Clifford spoke about what Jones brings to the table.

“Kai (Jones), to me, right now is more of a center, he can play some four. Even for our league, he is an exceptional athlete, and physical. How quickly he puts himself in a place where he can legitimately play night in and night out in NBA games is just purpose of play, and for all young players, especially his size, that’s the hardest thing. Playing to your strengths and helping your teammates play to their strengths … all I know about him is he is a phenomenal worker, so we will see,” Clifford said.

Jones finished with averages of 18.3 points and 11 rebounds per game in 24 games for the Swarm. He shot a blistering 62 percent from the field. He showed his defensive ability when he came away with 1.6 steals and two blocks per contest.

He will have to battle for a frontcourt spot as the Hornets are almost saturated there.

Ayton and the Suns will open preseason play with a matchup against the Adelaide 36ers – an Australian professional men’s basketball team – on Sunday October 2. That game will be played at 10 p.m. at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona.

The Hornets also open preseason play on October 2. Jones and the Hornets will take on the reigning Eastern Conference Champions Boston Celtics at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. That game starts at 1 p.m. that day.

Hield and the Pacers will start their preseason on Wednesday October 5, taking on the Hornets on the road at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. That game tips off at 7 p.m.