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'Hawks in the NBA

Cliff Alexander shows improvements at workout

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) wrestles under the bucket with TCU Horned Frogs center Karviar Shepherd (14) during the first half at Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) wrestles under the bucket with TCU Horned Frogs center Karviar Shepherd (14) during the first half at Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. by Nick Krug

After one disappointing season at Kansas, forward Cliff Alexander appears to be making the best of his uphill climb toward an NBA career.

When your college basketball résumé includes such numbers as 7.1 points per game, 17.6 minutes per game and eight games missed due to an NCAA investigation, there isn’t much with which to impress the organizations you’re hoping agree to offer you a contract.

The 6-foot-8 1/2 big finds himself engrossed in the pre-NBA Draft process with his stock in a deficit. As a projected second-round pick, he’ll have to spend the next several weeks wowing coaches and management at workouts to sneak his way into the first round of the June 25 draft, in Brooklyn.

Training in his hometown of Chicago recently, Alexander spoke with Slam’s Rodger Bohn about the challenging road in front of him. He also said his one-season stop in Lawrence wasn’t a total loss.

“I learned a lot of knowledge from Coach (Bill) Self,” Alexander told Slamonline.com. “I learned the history of basketball and was just a sponge to everything that he told me.”

While Alexander often struggled to stay on the floor for Kansas, Self complimented the freshman forward on several occasions during this past season for being one of the more coachable players on the team.

That trait should help the young post player, now that his sole focus turns to showcasing his abilities as a player. Alexander acknowledged in the Slam interview he needs to improve his ball-handling and develop a more consistent jumper. Still, the 239-pound big man thinks he has more to offer, and his best attributes will help his cause.

“I’m going to surprise teams with my physical ability,” he predicted. “I didn’t really get a chance to show that at Kansas. A better Cliff Alexander, that’s all.”

To that point, Bohn reported Alexander looked best during drills that relied on his strength and athleticism, as shown in the highlight video put together by City League Hoops.

The big guy definitely has himself in outstanding shape, so give him credit for that. Probably the most impressive thing about the whole ordeal Alexander went through, which hurt both KU and his standing as a draftee, is that he responded the best way imaginable. It looks like he’s channeled his frustrations into making himself a more appealing player.

Although, Alexander is only putting up practice jumpers in the video — without the pressure and fatigue of in-game situations — those look good, too. The same goes for his footwork, which is one of the many aspects of his overall game he’ll have to continue to develop in order to successfully implement such maneuvers against NBA defenders.

Those finishes at the rim stand out, as well. Alexander isn’t exactly explosive when he leaves the floor, as far as the speed with which he gets to the rack, but he consistently finishes with strength — and throw-downs.

Some have claimed Alexander could only play center in the NBA because of his skill set, and his lack of height makes him undesirable. Actually, what position he plays — power forward or center — will depend solely on a team’s needs and style. In the right situation, he could come off the bench at either position.

In a list of the top 10 power forwards available from NBA.com’s David Aldridge, Alexander ended up just outside, in the realm of honorable mention.

Here are the prospects Aldridge ranks ahead of him:

1. Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky

2. Kristaps Porzingas, Latvia

3. Trey Lyles, Kentucky

4. Myles Turner, Texas

5. Bobby Portis, Arkansas

6. Kevon Looney, UCLA

7. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville

8. Jarell Martin, LSU

9. Chris McCollough, Syracuse

10. Jordan Mickey, LSU


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Reply 24 comments from Freedman Moor Joe Ross Noel Graham Biek Texashawk10_2 Kristen Downing Ashwin Rao

Stock watch: Lottery possible for Oubre, but Alexander seemingly destined for 2nd round

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

Now that the NBA Lottery and Draft Combine have concluded, the landscape for the 2015 draft began to come into focus a little more this week.

We know that Minnesota, the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia won the rights to picks 1, 2 and 3, but we also now have the exact order for the entire first round. That information is more important to one-and-done Kansas wing Kelly Oubre Jr., than his KU teammate, big man Cliff Alexander, of course.

Since Oubre officially declared for the draft, his name has been thrown out as an option in the later half of the lottery, most often in the 10 to 14 range.

Here’s a look at the order for the first 14 picks, keeping in mind it’s difficult to come up with a scenario in which Oubre would go much higher than No. 8 overall:

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1. Minnesota

2. L.A. Lakers

3. Philadelphia

4. New York

5. Orlando

6. Sacramento

7. Denver

8. Detroit

9. Charlotte

10. Miami

11. Indiana

12. Utah

13. Phoenix

14. Oklahoma City

Who knows which NBA front-office types and/or coaches will become enamored with Oubre’s skill set in the weeks to come, but he said at the combine he wants to prove he is one of the top talents in this rookie class.

Alexander, meanwhile, has much more work to do, just to validate himself as a player who is worth a late first-round pick. Last week he claimed there is more to his game than some may realize.

Many websites posted updated mock drafts with the lottery order in place. Check out where the following sites predicted Oubre and Alexander will end up (some sites don’t include second-round projections).

MOCK
DRAFTS
Kelly Oubre Jr.
projections
Cliff Alexander
projections
NBADraft.net 15th 39th
MyNBADraft.com 15th 38th
DraftExpress.com 10th 41st
DraftSite.com 20th 41st
Chad Ford, ESPN.com 17th N/A
SheridanHoops.com 11th N/A
BleacherReport.com 15th N/A
Sam Vecenie, CBSSports.com 12th 37th
Gary Parrish, CBSSports.com 11th 35th
Zach Harper, CBSSports.com 10th 29th

Kelly Oubre Jr.

Kansas' Kelly Oubre participates in the NBA draft basketball combine Thursday, May 14, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Kansas' Kelly Oubre participates in the NBA draft basketball combine Thursday, May 14, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

— SF, 6-foot-7, 204 pounds, 19 years old, from Richmond, Texas —

Average mock draft position: 14th

Current high: 10th (DraftExpress.com and Zach Harper, CBSSports.com)

Current low: 20th (DraftSite.com)

Stock assessment: Slightly slipping. Oubre hasn’t dropped too far since we last checked in on the mock drafts, two weeks ago. His average position then was 13th, and at 14 he’d still end up in the lottery — and become the 14th player from Kansas to get picked in that range in a span of 16 seasons.

Five of the 10 prognosticators listed above think Oubre will go that early, with Miami and Indiana standing out as popular destinations for the long, lean small forward. Three different mocks sent Oubre to Atlanta, the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed this season.

Toronto, Milwaukee and Utah also could land Oubre, according to some forecasts.

If Miami, which owns the 10th pick, indeed is interested in Oubre, it sounds like he’d be ecstatic to join the organization. As detailed by the Palm Beach Post’s Jason Lieser, Oubre sat down for an interview with Heat president Pat Riley at the combine.

“It was great,” Oubre said. “He’s a legend who has coached greats in the past, and seeing what he knows about the game of basketball is something I would never take for granted. I listened to every single thing he said. I asked him a couple questions, also, to see if I could pick his brain for things I need to know about my future.

“One of the things that stuck out to me was he said, ‘If you want to play for us, you’ve gotta be in the best shape of your life.’ I like to run and gun. If I’m running, I’m scoring in transition, and that’s what I do best.”

Cliff Alexander

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander chases after a loose ball with Kansas State forward Stephen Hurt (41) during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander chases after a loose ball with Kansas State forward Stephen Hurt (41) during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

— PF/C, 6-foot-9, 254 pounds, 19 years old, from Chicago —

Average mock draft position: 37th

Current high: 29th (Zach Harper, CBSSports.com)

Current low: 41st *(DraftExpress.com and DraftSite.com)*

Stock assessment: Falling. More mocks listed Alexander as a first-round pick last time around, and his average spot has dropped six spots since then.

Only one of the seven above projections that included the second round had Alexander going in the first, and it was 29th overall — the next-to-last pick in Round 1 — to Brooklyn.

Potential second-round suitors for the project power forward included Charlotte, Detroit, Philadelphia and (again) Brooklyn.

The good news for Alexander is it sounds like he’s entering this pre-draft process with realistic expectations. At the combine, he told zagsblog.com he kind of expected his stock to take a hit because of the way his one season at KU turned out.

One un-named scout told zagsblog.com, though, teams are less interested in Alexander because he has “limited upside” and he would be undersized in the NBA as a center.

“It is a shame that the NCAA ruled him ineligible at the end of his freshman year,” the scout said, “because he really needed at least one more year of college. He is a D-League guy no matter where he gets drafted.”


— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.


Reply 7 comments from Joe Ross Shimsham Greg Lux Rodney Crain Humpy Helsel Phil Leister

LeBron James credits old rival Paul Pierce with shaping his career

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce, center, dunks as Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, left, and center Anderson Varejao of Brazil, right, watch during the second half of Game 4 in a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Sunday, May 9, 2010, in Boston. The Celtics won 97-87, tying the series at 2-2. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce, center, dunks as Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, left, and center Anderson Varejao of Brazil, right, watch during the second half of Game 4 in a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Sunday, May 9, 2010, in Boston. The Celtics won 97-87, tying the series at 2-2. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Years from now, when basketball fans who have yet to be born learn of LeBron James or Paul Pierce by watching hologram highlight clips of their Hall-of-Fame careers, one small forward will inevitably be linked with the other.

The rivalry between Pierce and James took off in the 2008 NBA Playoffs. Ever since, their one-on-one battles have been a prominent storyline each time their two teams meet.

When Pierce, a 17-year veteran from Kansas, hinted at retiring upon Washington’s elimination from the playoffs this past week, Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Chris Haynes asked James about his old antagonist and their showdowns through the years.

Still in the hunt for this season’s championship with the Cavaliers, James told Cleveland.com Pierce actually helped shape his career.

"Obviously he gets a Cliff note or a couple notes in my book as far as guys that helped me get over the hump or kept me where I was at the time," James said. "I knew I had to become much better individually. He's one of those guys."

Playing with the Celtics and Nets, Pierce has faced James’ Cavaliers and Heat in five postseason series. “The Truth” prevailed in both 2008 and 2010, before James went to Miami and won titles in 2012 and 2013.

Now a four-time NBA MVP, James went toe-to-toe with Pierce in a second-round series in 2008 that featured a remarkable Game 7. James put up 45 points, but Pierce scored 41 and the Celtics won in Boston, on their way to an eventual championship.

In 2010, James played what many assumed would be his last game in a Cleveland uniform against Pierce’s Celtics. Cleveland lost in the second round to Boston before James headed south to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.

Once the Heat formed its own “Big Three” to counter Boston’s combination of Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, the playoff showdowns started going James’ way. LeBron and company ended Pierce’s season in 2011, 2012 and 2014 (when Pierce and Garnett played in Brooklyn).

The adversaries could have met again in the Eastern Conference Finals beginning this week, but Pierce’s Wizards couldn’t extend their postseason lives past Game 6 vs. Atlanta — a series that ended with an overtime-forcing 3-pointer from Pierce getting waved off upon further review.

"[When] I first saw it and when he got the ball, I knew it was going in," James told Cleveland.com. "I just know how clutch Double-P is. I knew it was going in, but I didn't know if he got it off in time just because he had to make that extra move to get back behind the three-point line after [Kyle] Korver kind of stepped in front of him."

James, who has a 17-20 record vs. his rival in the regular season and a 17-13 record in the playoffs, knows first-hand what Pierce can do with the game on the line. In the 2012 East Finals, Pierce buried a clutch 3 to put Miami in a 3-2 series hole.

No one knows at this point whether the two adversaries will get another playoff showdown in 2016 to cap the old rivalry.

"I've been competing against him my whole career and our battles that we've had, our differences that we've had,” James told Cleveland.com. “But you know one thing about it, when you face him; you're going to always compete. I wish him the best in whatever he decides to do."

Visit basketball-reference.com for a detailed look at each head-to-head meeting between Pierce and James.

REGULAR SEASON


PLAYOFFS


Check out Boston.com’s Top 5 Pierce vs. James moments


— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.


Reply 1 comment from Greg Ledom

Paul Pierce contemplating retirement

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) waves to the crowd as he leaves the court after Game 6 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs Atlanta Hawks, Friday, May 15, 2015, in Washington. The Hawks won 94-91. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) waves to the crowd as he leaves the court after Game 6 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs Atlanta Hawks, Friday, May 15, 2015, in Washington. The Hawks won 94-91. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The NBA’s new Mr. Clutch, Paul Pierce, caught the basketball with time vanishing in the final seconds of Washington’s second-round elimination game Friday night and drained a contested, fade-away 3-pointer from the left corner.

The Verizon Center crowd exploded, and Pierce’s Wizards teammates congratulated him on sending Game 6 against Atlanta to overtime.

However, upon further review, the ball left the veteran’s fingertips a split-second too late. “The Truth” had not saved the day this time, and the Hawks advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wMh7EvoQbg

The stunned 17-year veteran from Kansas left the court afflicted with the feeling he let his team down, and, as he told The Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore, wondering about his future.

“Truthfully, what was going through my mind is, I don’t have too much of these efforts left, if any,” Pierce said. “These rides throughout the NBA season, throughout the playoffs, are very emotional. They take a lot out of not only your body, but your mind, your spirit.”

None by Dan Worthington

Pierce averaged 14.6 points and drained 52.4% of his 3-pointers in the playoffs, but finished what proved to be the season finale with 4 points on 1-for-7 shooting (0-for-2 from downtown). No competitor of Pierce’s caliber would want to walk away from the game on that note, particularly after having a clutch shot waved off, but it’s an option the 2008 Finals MVP finds himself considering.

As Kilgore reported, Pierce has a player option for next season on his contract worth $6 million dollars. Will he take it, extend his late-career sting with the Wizards and play an 18th season?

“I don’t even know if I’m going to play basketball anymore,” Pierce told The Washington Post.

The veteran revealed the emotions of the season-ending loss in many of his post-game comments.

“It affects not only you, but the people around you,” Pierce said. “Days like this, you go home and you’re around your family, you don’t feel like talking to them or doing anything because of what the game does. It takes a bit out of you.”

Retirement is on the table for the future Hall of Famer now, and Pierce said calling it quits — whether it comes this offseason or down the road — will probably be the hardest thing he ever has to do.

“I’m never going to have no regrets, whether I hang it up now or later,” Pierce said. “I know that people who have been around me all these years know that Paul Pierce came every day, left it out there every day. I know I left everything out there.”


— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.


Reply 3 comments from Len Shaffer Clara Westphal Jay Scott

Joel Embiid aids Sixers brass at Draft Combine

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid chats up Kansas assistant coach Kurtis Townsend on the way to the locker room following the Jayhawks' 74-64 win over Baylor on Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid chats up Kansas assistant coach Kurtis Townsend on the way to the locker room following the Jayhawks' 74-64 win over Baylor on Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Joel Embiid has yet to play a game in the NBA for Philadelphia, but the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft already has dabbled in coaching, scouting and interviewing prospects.

During the final week of the 76ers’ 18-64 season, coach Brett Brown let the one-and-done center from Kansas draw up a play in a timeout.

Thursday in Chicago, Brown and the Philadelphia brain trust had Embiid in tow at the Draft Combine. The 21-year-old 7-footer watched this year’s crop of incoming rookies run through drills and scrimmages and even sat in on interviews with potential draftees.

None by Jeff Goodman

The Sixers’ head coach told the Philadelphia Daily News he thought bringing a young player with the franchise’s decision-makers was a unique and great idea. On-76ers-Meetings-With-Prospects-At-Combine

"He gets a chance to talk to the guys who may be his future teammates,” Brown said. “He gets to listen to the answers to the questions that we ask, whether it be about their character, work ethic, whatever it may be.”

Philadelphia’s coach went on to call the 7-footer from Cameroon the franchise’s cornerstone.

“We want him being involved in our decisions moving forward,” Brown told the Philadelphia Daily News. “We're all in this together, and Jo knows that he is a very big piece for all of us moving forward. The more we can get him involved in everything is just better for everyone. I think this is the first time anyone has done anything like this."

Embiid didn’t attend last year’s combine, which has become common practice for the elite rookies in each class. CSNPhilly.com’s John Gonzalez reported the young big man asked Brown and Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie if he could tag along this week.

“I think that for him to come here to Chicago and share in the selection and opinions of people that we may draft is an impressive quality that he has shown us,” Brown told CSNPhilly.com.

The agenda also included non-combine activities, such as individual workouts and weight-lifting sessions for Embiid, but the highlight of the trip to Chicago had to be sitting in with his bosses as Philadelphia’s contingent interviewed his potential future teammates.

As you might imagine, the participation of Philly's player/coach/scout caught some prospects off guard. But Arizona’s Stanley Johnson told CSNPhilly.com the addition Embiid’s presence helped him feel at ease.

“It was fun because I got to have some dialogue with him,” Johnson said. “Jo Jo is always playing around. You know that.”

The fun-loving big man, Texas one-and-done Myles Turner shared, brought that same approach to his interview.

None by Philadelphia 76ers

“His first question was: Why didn’t you go to Kansas?” Turner said, laughing.

Brown enjoyed every minute of keeping his young center involved as the Sixers put potential draftees on the hot seat.

“I just think it's healthy,” Brown told CSNPhilly.com, “and I think it's got to be accumulative effort that we're putting out there where these guys have a say in the design and the growth of their own program."


— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.


Reply 6 comments from 99disco Andrew Holmes Shimsham John Gallup Clara Westphal Humpy Helsel

Kelly Oubre Jr. reveals lofty NBA goals at Draft Combine

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) goes hard to the bucket against Texas guard Kendal Yancy (0) and forward Myles Turner during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) goes hard to the bucket against Texas guard Kendal Yancy (0) and forward Myles Turner during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

For Kelly Oubre Jr., leisure time is a thing of the past.

With each passing day, the one-and-done Kansas basketball product inches closer to his NBA dream. The future had to feel tangible this week, as the 19-year-old attended the Draft Combine in Chicago.

Oubre spoke with NBA TV about the pre-draft process and said he has a lot of work to do each day, because he wants to put himself in position to reach his full potential and become an impactful player in the league.

“I’m hoping to show people I’m more than just a basketball player. I’m a student of the game,” Oubre said. “I take pride in showing everybody every aspect of the game.”

The 6-foot-7 wing revealed he studies some of the league’s current greats, such as Houston’s James Harden, Chicago’s Jimmy Butler and San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard. Ideally, he’d like to one day emulate aspects of all of their games and be able to score on offense while also standing out as a “lockdown” defender.

None by NBA Draft

Once a team selects Oubre, who projects as a late lottery pick, he wants to one day be a part of taking that organization to the NBA Finals.

Such sentiments are the types he wants to get across to team executives and coaches in the many interviews he’ll go through, to accompany his workouts, in the weeks leading up to the June 25 draft, in Brooklyn. Oubre knows he will have to demonstrate his maturity and prove he is ready — both physically and mentally.

In Oubre’s one season at KU, his adjustment to a new level of competition didn’t start too smoothly. Bill Self only played him single-digit minutes in five of the Jayhawks’ first seven games. Though ranked No. 6 in the Class of 2014 by Rivals.com coming into college, Oubre didn’t become a permanent starter for Kansas until the 10th game of the season, in late December.

“That whole process was a learning experience for me,” Oubre said. “When I was sitting on the bench at Kansas it was pretty much opening up my eyes (to see) the world doesn’t revolve around myself. I have to abide by a team’s process, and pretty much I did so.”

That rough stretch as a freshman, he added, proved to be a breakthrough event in his evolution as a player.

“I just thank Coach Self and the coaching staff at Kansas for allowing me to learn, because I came in as a highly recruited athlete and he humbled me, pretty much,” Oubre said. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be half of the man I am today.”

Although Oubre, who averaged 9.3 points and 5.0 rebounds in his one season at KU, admitted he could’ve benefited from a second year with the Jayhawks, he thinks the open-court style of the NBA will play to his strengths.

“I just believe I can compete at the highest level,” he said. “My determination and my drive and my work ethic is second to none. I believe that. And I believe I can make a heavy impact at the next level.”

College basketball analyst Clark Kellogg offered an assessment of Oubre’s abilities, upon the conclusion of the NBA TV interview, and said the confident young swingman has a bright future if he honors the process of learning and developing.

“I like his stroke,” Kellogg said. “He shoots it easily from deep, and with confidence.”

Kellogg agreed Oubre should be able to take advantage of his athleticism in the open court:

“He can play, it’s just a matter of refining.”

None by NBA Draft

Oubre understands in order to attain the lofty goals he has set for himself, he’ll have to work maniacally. But he said the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft, Joel Embiid, had some advice for him about how to approach the weeks ahead.

“He just told me to enjoy it,” Oubre shared. “This is the only time in your life you’re gonna be able to do this, because you’re not getting any younger. So just have fun. I’ll always remember that.”

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Reply 2 comments from Randy Maxwell Nathan Scholl Dannyboy4hawks

Ben McLemore shows improvement in Year 2, and stands out in community

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, left, stuffs as Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce, right, looks on during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Sunday, March 22, 2015. The Kings won 109-86. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, left, stuffs as Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce, right, looks on during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Sunday, March 22, 2015. The Kings won 109-86. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

It can’t be easy playing for the Sacramento Kings right now.

An afterthought of an NBA franchise since the early 2000’s and the glory days of Chris Webber and Mike Bibby, the Kings haven’t reached the playoffs since 2006. They went through another lackluster season (29-53) in 2014-15, marred by an organization-inflicted coaching carousel that forced the players to take the floor under three different leaders: Mike Malone (fired), interim Tyrone Corbin and late-season hire George Karl.

Amid all that, somehow, second-year shooting guard Ben McLemore found ways to improve.

The Kansas product mostly struggled through his rookie campaign, but looked more comfortable in Year 2. McLemore again played in all 82 games for the Kings, but unlike the previous season, when his role changed a few times, the 22-year-old high-flyer started every game.

Accordingly, the 6-foot-5 guard showed improvements in his shooting percentages and scoring.

Ben McLemore
statistical comparison
G GS Mins. Pts FG% 3% FT% Rebs. Asts. Stls. TOs
Rookie (2013-14) 82 55 26.7 8.8 37.6% 32% 80.4% 2.9 1.0 0.5 1.2
Sophomore (2014-15) 82 82 32.6 12.1 43.7% 35.8% 81.3% 2.9 1.7 0.9 1.7

Perhaps the best news for McLemore? He finished the season in impressive fashion.

His April included 20-point performances against Utah, Oklahoma City and Denver, and he put up 24 points in Sacramento’s season finale, vs. the Los Angeles Lakers.

In his final nine games of the season — under the team’s presumably longterm coach, Karl — McLemore trended upward, averaging 16.2 points, 3.6 boards, 3.1 assists, 2.2 turnovers and 1.8 steals in 33.5 minutes. In April, he made 49.1% of his field goal attempts and 35.4% of his 3-pointers.

Karl has gone on record as saying no one on the team is untradeable, but if McLemore keeps showing new wrinkles, progress and improves defensively, he could be the kind of piece the Kings want to keep around for the long haul.

Just as impressive as his improvement on the court, though, have been his contributions to the people of Sacramento. The Kings named him the winner of their Oscar Robertson Triple-Double Award, given to the player who “exemplifies excellence on the court and in the community.”

Since joining the ranks of the best basketball players on the planet, McLemore has helped out not only in his NBA city, but also in his hometown of Wellston, Missouri.

“When I was growing up, my family didn’t have much, so it’s always been extremely important for me to give back and help wherever and whenever I can,” McLemore told the Kings’ website. “I cherish the opportunity to be a role model for young kids and to give back to Sacramento and the community in which I grew up in Missouri. I’m honored to receive this recognition named for an NBA legend and great humanitarian.”

McLemore also became one of the finalists for the league-wide Community Assist Award.

His nonprofit organization, All 4 Kids, provides meals for underserved and low-income youth and families in Wellston and surrounding communities.

Things weren’t easy for McLemore growing up, and it’s obvious he hasn’t forgotten that.

“Now it’s our time to provide for those who dream bold, too,” the young guard said.


— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.


Reply 2 comments from Janet Olin Steve Tramba

Paul Pierce offers insight on crunch-time heroics

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce, in headband, celebrates with his teammates after Game 3 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks, Saturday, May 9, 2015, in Washington. The Wizards won 103-101. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce, in headband, celebrates with his teammates after Game 3 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks, Saturday, May 9, 2015, in Washington. The Wizards won 103-101. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

From the man who brought you, “This is why they brought me here.” …

Paul Pierce presents: “I called game.”

“The Truth” beat the buzzer — and Atlanta — Saturday night by banking in a contested game-winning jumper as time expired.

With the Hawks’ Kent Bazemore and Dennis Schroder defending Pierce, the 17-year veteran from Kansas got off as tough a crunch-time shot as you’ll find, and got the lucky bounce off the glass to give Washington a 2-1 lead in the second round of the NBA Playoffs.

ESPN reporter Chris Broussard asked Pierce afterward if he called bank on the absurdly difficult winner. The cagy forward thought about it a second before answering with his one-liner, “I called game,” and walking away.

Pierce, of course, made himself a household name with his playoff performances in Boston (see: his 2008 NBA Finals MVP award), before playing the past two seasons for Brooklyn and the Wizards.

None by ESPN Stats & Info

As much as trash-talking and bravado have become a part of Pierce’s NBA persona, he takes his role as a trusted clutch player seriously. He wrote about “Making the Big Shot” for The Players Tribune, a pro-athlete focused website for which he is a contributing editor.

“Whenever I’ve been put in a situation where the game is on the line and I know that the ball will be in my hands, I’ve always tried to visualize how I want everything to play out,” Pierce wrote. “Having a positive mindset helps me relax during high-pressure situations.

“Visualize. Execute.”

As many big moments as the 10-time all-star has played a part in through the years, Pierce singled out a regular-season game-winner from 2010 against New York as one of his most memorable.

The Celtics and Knicks had a nice little rivalry brewing, and New York’s fans didn’t mind constantly reminding Pierce about how little they thought of him.

“I remember that it was a tie game and we were in a timeout going over the play,” Pierce wrote for The Players Tribune. “All I could think about was breaking the heart of every Knicks fan in that building.”

Pierce said the play called in a last-second situation might ask him to do any number of things before the ball leaves his hands, but he finds ways to adjust when things inevitably break down and force him and his teammates to improvise.

“While I always picture the ball going in prior to the play, I don’t really know what I’m going to do beforehand to make that happen. Sports aren’t scripted,” Pierce pointed out. “The great players thrive on their instincts.”

Pierce continues to do that in Washington this postseason. The Wizards enter Monday’s Game 4 against the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, Atlanta, with a 6-1 playoff record. Washington’s elder statesman is averaging 15.6 points, and 4.0 rebounds, hitting 51.4% of his shot attempts and 52.1% of his 3-pointers now that the lights are brighter and each moment is bigger.

“Whenever I win a game in that fashion,” Pierce shared of clutch heroics, “I feel like I’m going to hyperventilate. My adrenaline is through the roof and my heart is beating out of my chest. It is the ultimate basketball high.”


— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.


Reply 1 comment from Koolkeithfreeze

Stock watch: Early draft projections vary on Kelly Oubre Jr. and Cliff Alexander

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

For the second year in a row, two Kansas basketball freshmen have left the program as one-and-done college players to chase their professional dreams and enter the NBA Draft.

Unlike in 2014, when Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid both proved to be top-three picks, it isn’t easy to project where Kelly Oubre Jr. and Cliff Alexander will go in the two-round, 60-pick extravaganza on June 25, in New York.

Between now and then, the two Jayhawks have almost two months worth of workouts, interviews and pondering in front of them, as they try to improve their draft stock and anticipate the day that will set them off on their NBA journeys.

The NBA Draft lottery, which determines the order of the top 14 picks, isn’t until May 19. Only Oubre has a shot to land in that range, it appears, and there is no guarantee he will get picked that soon.

Here are the 14 teams that missed out on the playoffs, and their odds for obtaining a top-three draft pick in the lottery, courtesy of Tankathon.com. Remember, the better a team’s odds, the less likely said franchise will be a landing spot for Oubre.

Minnesota, 64.3%

New York, 55.8%

Philadelphia, 46.9%

L.A. Lakers, 37.8%

Orlando, 29.1%

Sacramento, 21.5%

Denver, 15.0%

Detroit, 9.9%

Charlotte, 6.1%

Miami, 4.0%

Indiana, 2.9%

Utah, 2.5%

Phoenix, 2.2%

Oklahoma City, 1.8%

Some mock drafts out there have Oubre, a wing, as a late lottery pick. None of the prognosticators think Alexander, a post player, will sniff that range. Check out some various projections:

MOCK
DRAFTS
Kelly Oubre Jr.
projections
Cliff Alexander
projections
NBADraft.net 11th 35th
MyNBADraft.com 10th 30th
DraftExpress.com 12th 27th
HoopsHype.com
(1st round only)
11th N/A
DraftSite.com 21st 54th
Chad Ford, ESPN.com
(1st round only)
9th N/A
SheridanHoops.com 11th 27th
NetScoutsBasketball.com 24th 29th
BleacherReport.com 13th 25th
Sam Vecenie, CBSSports.com 10th 32nd
Gary Parrish, CBSSports.com 11th 30th
Zach Harper, CBSSports.com 8th 26th

Kelly Oubre Jr.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) heads to the bucket against Iowa State guard Bryce Dejean-Jones (13) during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015 at Hilton Coliseum.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) heads to the bucket against Iowa State guard Bryce Dejean-Jones (13) during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015 at Hilton Coliseum. by Nick Krug

— SF, 6-foot-7, 204 pounds, 19 years old, from Richmond, Texas —

Average mock draft position: 13th

Current high: 8th (Zach Harper, CBSSports.com)

Current low: 24th

Stock assessment: Oubre’s 9.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 44.4% shooting in his one season at Kansas don’t scream lottery pick, but it looks like he has a serious chance of landing in the top 14.

He struggled to adjust to the college game initially at KU and didn’t become a regular starter until late December. The learning curve will be even more difficult to navigate in the NBA, but that doesn’t mean general managers and scouts are going to pass on him.

Oubre’s 7-foot-1 wingspan makes him an intriguing prospect, especially on the defensive end of the floor. Even if it takes a year or two for the young wing to feel comfortable attacking on offense in The Association, he is athletic enough and has the right instincts to come off the bench and defend on the wing.

Here is a snippet of what DraftExpress.com has to say about the 19-year-old small forward’s offense:

“Offensively, Oubre's most NBA-ready attribute is likely his jump shot, as he has soft touch, natural scoring instincts, a nice follow-through and smooth mechanics when in rhythm. He was a little bit streaky at times (36% 3P%) as a freshman, partially due to shot-selection issues, but he has a nice foundation in place to make this part of his game a dangerous weapon with repetition.”

Cliff Alexander

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) fights for position between Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine and forward Colby Wollenman (41) during the first half on Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) fights for position between Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine and forward Colby Wollenman (41) during the first half on Sunday, Nov. 30, 2014 at the HP Field House in Kissimmee, Florida. by Nick Krug

— PF/C, 6-foot-9, 254 pounds, 19 years old, from Chicago —

Average mock draft position: 31st

Current high: 25th (BleacherReport.com)

Current low: 54th

Stock assessment: In the best-case scenario for Alexander, some team at the end of the first round will take a chance on him and give him a guaranteed contract. If he slips into the second round, any team that drafts him neither has to commit to him longterm nor pay him anywhere close to first-round money (the last pick of the first round, No. 30 overall, receives more than $900,000 a year).

The 19-year-old big man, of course, finds himself in this predicament because he never really caught on in Bill Self’s rotation at KU, and then couldn’t even showcase his talents in the final eight games due to an NCAA investigation.

Before the off-court issues popped up, it seemed Alexander had figured some things out for himself when he put up back-to-back double-digit scoring efforts vs. Oklahoma and at Texas. But the freshman fell by the wayside again soon afterward.

If any good came of the 6-foot-9 post player’s tumultuous freshman season at Kansas, it’s that it should motivate him. Self often said after Alexander began sitting out that he worked harder than ever at practices in the final weeks of the season. If Alexander can carry that over to workouts in front of NBA executives and coaches, and impress the right people, he could get a chance in the league to show his full potential. Something he never achieved with the Jayhawks.


— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.

Reply 6 comments from Philip  Bowman Humpy Helsel Kingfisher Ashwin Rao William Weissbeck Ryan Mullen

Dunkapalooza: Watch every slam Andrew Wiggins threw down this season

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins, left, dunks as Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, April 10, 2015, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 106-98. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins, left, dunks as Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, April 10, 2015, in Los Angeles. The Lakers won 106-98. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

If you paid any attention at all to the 2014-15 NBA season — even as someone who accidentally stumbled upon highlights a few times a week — you likely noticed one-and-done Kansas product Andrew Wiggins wowing crowds as he soared through the air on his way to the rim.

The Minnesota rookie became a SportsCenter regular with his array of gravity-defying jams, making the spectacular look routine.

Now, thanks to the miracle of YouTube, if you have 15 minutes and a love for levitation, you can watch each and every dunk from Wiggins’ Rookie-of-the-Year-winning season.

According to stats.nba.com, the Canadian phenom completed 79 of his 88 dunk attempts as a rookie and threw down 8 of his 10 alley-oops.

You can watch all 87 of Wiggins’ throw-downs (plus his gems from the Rising Stars Challenge at the NBA’s All-Star Weekend) on a two-part highlight reel compiled by the FreeDawkins channel.

It’s quite the compilation, serving up reminder after reminder of the ridiculous lift Wiggins gets every time he leaves the floor.

As those who saw Wiggins play for the Jayhawks can attest, watching him in person can leave one awestruck. Broadcasters included. Here are a few of the lines you’ll hear in the clips:

“Strong take by the Rock Chalk rookie!”

“How bout this 20-year-old?!”

“You know it’s a big one when you’re on the road and the opposing fans go, ‘Ooooh.’”

“Don’t try this at home. This is not safe.”

Which rim-rattler stands out as the best? Few of the slams match Wiggins’ attack on Utah shot-blocker Rudy Gobert. The rookie GIF’d “The Stifel Tower.”

As the play-by-play man says: “That is not human right there.”


— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.


Reply 1 comment from Nathan Scholl

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