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'Hawks in the NBA

Playoffs roundup: Aaron Rodgers leading Drew Gooden fan club

Washington Wizards John Wall, left, celebrates with Al Harrington and Drew Gooden (90) after an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics Wednesday, April 2, 2014 in Washington. The Wizards won 118-92, and clinched a playoff berth. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Wizards John Wall, left, celebrates with Al Harrington and Drew Gooden (90) after an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics Wednesday, April 2, 2014 in Washington. The Wizards won 118-92, and clinched a playoff berth. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

As if Chicago sports fans needed another reason to despise Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

What does an NFL star have to do with the 'Hawks in the NBA? Well, it turns out Rodgers is not only a friend of KU product Drew Gooden, who used to play in the same state as the QB, with Milwaukee, but the Super Bowl MVP is openly rooting for Gooden and Washington in the first-round series between the Wizards and Bulls.

As Rodgers informed the Twitterverse, he would typically cheer for the Bucks or Sacramento (Rodgers is originally from California), but neither made the NBA Playoffs.

So, for now at least, he's all in on the Wizards — and has an autographed Gooden jersey to prove it.

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Clearly, Gooden and Rodgers are bros. Brandon Parker provided some of the details on the Washington Post's Wizards Insider blog. Rodgers routinely attends Milwaukee home games, and Gooden said the two of them hit it off when he was a member of the Bucks.

“He’s been one of my biggest supporters once I got to Milwaukee and he’s come to a lot of our games. I became, I guess, his favorite player on the Bucks. He always came to support us courtside and talk to me after the games and text me after the game ‘Good job.’ It kind of escalated from there.”

Rodgers even went all fan boy after the Wizards won Game 1 on Sunday, jokingly calling out Washington coach Randy Wittman for not playing his buddy enough minutes.

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Imagine Rodgers' outrage when Gooden only played two minutes of the Wizards' 101-99 OT win in Game 2 on Tuesday. Whatever he thought of it, he maintained social media silence on the matter.

Rodgers might soon be forming some more 'Hawks in the NBA connections. The next time he goes to a Bucks game, Milwaukee might be home to a 2014-15 rookie by the name of Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid. The Bucks (15-67) owned the worst record in the league, and thus have the best odds to win the Draft Lottery and the No. 1 overall pick.

At least Rodgers got some advanced scouting in on Wiggins and Embiid and will know what to expect.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers receives a Kansas football jersey from head coach Charlie Weis prior to Saturday's basketball game against Oklahoma State at Allen Fieldhouse.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers receives a Kansas football jersey from head coach Charlie Weis prior to Saturday's basketball game against Oklahoma State at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug


Noah loves 'old man' Hinrich

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) and guard Kirk Hinrich (12) celebrate at the end of the team's 100-91 comeback win over the Dallas Mavericks in an NBA basketball game on Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, in Dallas. (AP Photo/John F. Rhodes)

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) and guard Kirk Hinrich (12) celebrate at the end of the team's 100-91 comeback win over the Dallas Mavericks in an NBA basketball game on Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, in Dallas. (AP Photo/John F. Rhodes)

Voted the NBA's best defensive player this season, Chicago center Joakim Noah began shouting out other members of the Bulls at a Monday press conference announcing the award.

His first nod went toward Chicago veteran guard Kirk Hinrich, now in his 11th season out of Kansas. Here's what Noah said in Joe Cowley's story for the Chicago Sun-Times:

“This award is a team award. This wouldn’t be possible without my boy Kirk Hinrich, an old man, picking up [the opposition] full-court. My whole team. Of course, [coach Tom Thibodeau], we’ve definitely had our hard times, our ups and downs, but without your system, this wouldn’t be possible.’’

After losing Game 1 against Washington on Sunday, the Bulls fell behind, 2-0, in the first-round series on Tuesday, dropping a second straight home game.

Hinrich scored 12 points, pulled down seven rebounds and distributed four assists. His exuberant pal Noah again showed support for the vet early in the game when the "old man" tangled with one of the game's up-and-coming players, Bradley Beal.

Hinrich and Beal earned technicals for the shoving match. The play got Chicago's fans back into it and, eventually, the Bulls forced overtime.

Down 101-99 with 2.4 seconds left, Hinrich could have extended the game to double OT. He drove in and drew a foul on a layup attempt, earning two free throws. But Hinrich misfired the first attempt and missed the second one on purpose, aiming to give the Bulls an offensive rebound, which they couldn't secure.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune provided the following quote from Hinrich, who knew an and-one would've given the Bulls the lead:

"I was upset. I felt I should have made the layup, to be honest. Just wasn't able to do it. I thought I shot a little quick. But you have to move on and stay confident."

What do you know? Noah defended Hinrich:

"I love him to death. I got his back 150 percent."


Pierce reveals crunch time secret

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) drives to the basket against Toronto Raptors forward Amir Johnson (15) during the second half of Game 2 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, April 22, 2014, in Toronto. Toronto won 100-95. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) drives to the basket against Toronto Raptors forward Amir Johnson (15) during the second half of Game 2 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, April 22, 2014, in Toronto. Toronto won 100-95. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)

We now know how Paul Pierce turned it on late to lead Brooklyn to a Game 1 win at Toronto on Saturday.

A veteran of the postseason, Pierce told reporters Tuesday morning he can't help it.

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Hours later, it seemed Pierce might have spoken too soon. The stage was set for him to again emerge as a late-game hero. Pierce subbed in with less than six minutes to go, without a field goal to his name in Game 2, and Brooklyn down three points.

He would miss his first shot of the fourth around the four-minute mark, but quickly redeemed himself with a a mid-range jumper and drew a foul for a three-point play, which tied the game at 83.

After missing a jumper with 2:32 left, Pierce later showed some of that clutch DNA, driving to create another and-one situation for Brooklyn, which trailed by five with a minute to go.

Pierce hit the free throw to cut the Raptors' lead to two, but he missed two three-pointers in the final 30 seconds as Brooklyn lost, 100-95, and Toronto evened the series, 1-1.

After picking up two quick first-quarter fouls that contributed to an unproductive offensive night — Pierce scored seven points on 2-for-11 shooting, with six rebounds, three assists and three steals in 25 minutes — he didn't hold any punches. This is what Pierce had to say in Andrew Keh's game story for The New York Times:

“We were a soft team tonight."


Chalmers questionable for Game 2

Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers (15) passes the ball as Charlotte Bobcats' Kemba Walker (15) defends during the second half in Game 1 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series, Sunday, April 20, 2014, in Miami. The Heat defeated the Bobcats 99-88. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers (15) passes the ball as Charlotte Bobcats' Kemba Walker (15) defends during the second half in Game 1 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series, Sunday, April 20, 2014, in Miami. The Heat defeated the Bobcats 99-88. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Mario Chalmers could miss Game 2 of the Miami-Charlotte series.

The Miami Herald's Joseph Goodman reported Tuesday that the Heat's starting point guard is questionable for a Wednesday home game against the Bobcats.

Chalmers bruised the knee/shin area on his right leg in Game 1, a 99-88 Heat win in which he shot 3-for-7 and scored seven points in 25 minutes.

The sixth-year guard out of Kansas didn't practice Tuesday and will be re-evaluated before Game 2's shootaround.

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Miami coach Erik Spoelstra commented Tuesday on the injury.

“He still has that bruise on his knee and we’ll see how he feels [Wednesday]. He did make progress from [Monday].”

Goodman reported the injury occurred in the first quarter of Game 1, but Chalmers continued playing after the fact.

In 80 career playoff games with Miami — 67 of which came in the past three postseasons, as the back-to-back NBA champions played in three straight Finals — Chalmers averages 9.4 points, 3.1 assists and 1.3 steals.


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

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Paul Pierce clutch in playoffs opener

Brooklyn Nets' Paul Pierce, center, drives to the net against Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson, left, during the first half of Game 1 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series, in Toronto on Saturday, April 19, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese)

Brooklyn Nets' Paul Pierce, center, drives to the net against Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson, left, during the first half of Game 1 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series, in Toronto on Saturday, April 19, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese)

For the first 30-plus minutes he spent on the court Saturday at Toronto, it didn't look like veteran Brooklyn small forward Paul Pierce would play a key role in the outcome of the Eastern Conference first-round playoffs series between the Raptors and Nets.

But when crunch time came around, Pierce instinctively took over, and led Brooklyn to a 94-87 win.

With the Nets holding a slim, one-point lead with less than four minutes to play, Pierce fed Kevin Garnett for his only bucket of the game, then proceeded to tap the fountain of youth and score nine straight Brooklyn points, helping his team amass an eight-point lead with a minute and a half left.

If you squint your eyes enough, it's like watching a young Paul Pierce in Boston green, instead of Brooklyn black.

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Pierce had just six points to his name late in the fourth quarter before taking over in front of a once enthused crowd at Air Canada Centre. NBA.com's John Schuhmann wrote about how Pierce's years of playoff experience helped Brooklyn close out a road win to open the best-of-seven series. Here's what Pierce had to say on the matter:

“You’ve been in those situations a number of times. I don’t get rattled in the fourth quarters, down the stretch of playoff settings. I just try to stay calm, bring my calmness to the game, and just try to influence the rest of the guys.”

"The Truth" isn't The Guy anymore, now that he's in his 16th season out of Kansas. But when the Raptors' defense focused on stopping his Nets teammates, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams, Pierce feasted with a clutch, game-changing run.

“I thought it was part of great execution. They took away our first and second option and I was able to fill in as a third option and make some plays.”

Pierce and Brooklyn resume their series with Toronto Tuesday night.


Weekend recap: Hinrich only former Jayhawk to lose

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich, left, shoots against Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat during the second half in Game 1 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series in Chicago, Sunday, April 20, 2014. The Wizards won 102-93. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich, left, shoots against Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat during the second half in Game 1 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series in Chicago, Sunday, April 20, 2014. The Wizards won 102-93. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

All but one of the 'Hawks in the NBA began their postseason with a win this past weekend, when Pierce (15 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) and Chicago's Kirk Hinrich (16 points, 2 assists) stood out with the best individual performances.

Despite a productive night for the Bulls veteran guard (7-for-16, shot chart below), Hinrich was the odd man out among KU products, as Chicago fell, 102-93, to the Wizards Sunday night.

Chicago's Kirk Hinrich hit 7 of his 16 shots in Game 1 against Washington — a 102-93 Wizards victory.

Chicago's Kirk Hinrich hit 7 of his 16 shots in Game 1 against Washington — a 102-93 Wizards victory.

Drew Gooden only played three minutes for Washington and didn't take a shot, but his team prevailed at Chicago. Mario Chalmers had seven points in Miami's win against Charlotte, Thomas Robinson scored three in an overtime Portland victory at Houston and Nick Collison had three points and five rebounds in Oklahoma City's Saturday win against Memphis.


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Gettin these legs ready for tomorrow. The journey begins for number 3. One step at a time tho

Gettin these legs ready for tomorrow. The journey begins for number 3. One step at a time tho by mchalmers15


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Jayhawks in the Playoffs guide

Congratulations. You survived the 82-game NBA regular season.

Well, even if you didn't, personally, six former Kansas University basketball players did. (Actually, if you want to get technical about it, one of those KU products was a free agent until February. But, hey, now he's in the playoffs.)

It's all right if you weren't checking the box scores every day or watching game highlights every morning on YouTube. Even if you paid absolutely no attention to the NBA from the last week of October to right now, it shouldn't be too difficult to get caught up with the playoff-bound former Jayhawks in our guide to the postseason.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

No. 2 Miami vs. No. 7 Charlotte

Mario Chalmers

Season stats: 9.8 points | 2.9 rebounds | 4.9 assists | 45.4% FGs | 38.5% 3-pointers

Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers (15) drives on Charlotte Bobcats guard Kemba Walker during the first quarter of a preseason NBA basketball game Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, in Kansas City, Mo.

Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers (15) drives on Charlotte Bobcats guard Kemba Walker during the first quarter of a preseason NBA basketball game Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, in Kansas City, Mo.

You might want to sit down for this. As hard as it is to believe, the following statement is true. The two-time defending champion Miami Heat — you know, the team that has LeBron James — swept the Charlotte Bobcats in the regular season. Shocking, I know.

Interestingly enough, though, Miami only beat Charlotte by a point back on Dec. 1. Mario Chalmers scored 12 points and dished six assists in that one, and he averaged 8.3 points, 6.0 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.0 block against the Bobcats in the three games he played against them this season.

Chalmers only made 37.5% of his shots — almost a full eight points below his season field goal percentage of 45.5% — against Charlotte. But he found other ways to disrupt the Bobcats' defense.

As the good folks at stats.nba.com broke it down for us, Chalmers asserted himself on offense, looking to drive almost any time Charlotte's Kemba Walker tried to guard him: 13 drives in nearly 16 minutes of matching up with Walker. The former KU star drove past Ramon Sessions a few times, too — four drives in 5:16.

Of course, Chalmers is known more for his defense, and Walker (three drives in 12:06) and Sessions (one drive in 5:07) didn't have nearly as much success attacking him off the bounce.

This series, which figures to be a short one, begins Sunday at Miami.

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No. 3 Toronto vs. No. 6 Brooklyn

Paul Pierce

Season stats: 13.5 points | 4.6 rebounds | 2.4 assists | 45.1% FGs | 37.3% 3-pointers

Toronto Raptors forward Amir Johnson (15) defends Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) in the first half of their NBA basketball game at the Barclays Center, Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Toronto Raptors forward Amir Johnson (15) defends Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) in the first half of their NBA basketball game at the Barclays Center, Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The NBA Playoffs are nothing new for Paul Pierce, who has played in 136 games in 10 postseason appearances.

Pierce, who averages 20.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists in his postseason career, helped Boston qualify for the playoffs each of the previous six seasons — including a 26-game run to an NBA championship in 2008, when he was named NBA Finals MVP.

This spring, in his 16th NBA season, he'll try to bring that experience to a Brooklyn team that underperformed in November and December, but went 34-17 from January on.

Pierce played well against the Raptors this season, as the Nets split the season series, 2-2. The veteran small forward averaged 19.8 points a game against Toronto — more than he did against any team in the league except Miami (21.3 ppg). Toronto didn't have an answer for "The Truth," who made 56.1% of his shots in four meetings, while adding 4.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.0 steals.

He scored his season-high, 33 points, against the Raptors in a one-point Nets home loss on Jan. 27.

Defensively, don't be surprised if Nets coach Jason Kidd opts to use Pierce's size to defend Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry occasionally. In limited time defending Lowry, Pierce held him to 2-of-7 shooting, while Deron Williams and Shaun Livingston had issues bottling up Lowry, Toronto's second-leading scorer (17.9 points a game).

This first-round series, which could go the full seven games, begins early Saturday afternoon.

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No. 4 Chicago vs. No. 5 Washington

Kirk Hinrich

Season stats: 9.1 points | 2.6 rebounds | 3.9 assists | 39.13% FGs | 35.1% 3-pointers

VS.

Drew Gooden

Season stats: 8.3 points | 5.2 rebounds | 53.1% FGs | 41.2% 3-pointers [22 games]

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich (12) eyes Washington Wizards point guard John Wall during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Washington, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. The Wizards won 96-93. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich (12) eyes Washington Wizards point guard John Wall during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Washington, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. The Wizards won 96-93. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Of the eight first-round playoffs series, this is the only one in which two former Jayhawks will go head-to-head.

Hinrich and Gooden helped lead Kansas to a Final Four in 2002, and now they'll try to knock each other out of the postseason as role players.

The Bulls and Wizards only faced each other three times this season, and Washington won twice. However, the Wizards' second victory, a three-point win on Jan. 17, came right around the time Chicago began turning into one of the better teams in The Association. The Bulls are 25-12 since February, and beat Washington, 96-78, in D.C. just two weeks ago.

Hinrich, seen above flashing some wizardry of his own, averaged 12.3 points, 6.0 assists and 3.3 rebounds against Washington this season.

He'll spend a lot of this series matched up with one of the most entertaining and athletic young guards in the league, John Wall.

The 11th-year KU product held his own against Wall this season. Hinrich made 54% of his shots when guarded by Wall, while the budding D.C. superstar only converted 35% of his attempts against Hinrich.

Washington Wizards' Drew Gooden (90) dunks as Charlotte Bobcats' Kemba Walker (15) and Al Jefferson (25) watch during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, March 31, 2014. The Bobcats won 100-94. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Washington Wizards' Drew Gooden (90) dunks as Charlotte Bobcats' Kemba Walker (15) and Al Jefferson (25) watch during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, March 31, 2014. The Bobcats won 100-94. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Gooden could be the ultimate X-factor in this series. Because Washington picked him up as a free agent late in the season, the bearded power forward only played against Chicago once.

Earlier this month, the backup big man scored four points on 2-for-5 shooting and grabbed four rebounds in 22 minutes in Washington's home loss to the Bulls.

However, that's the only time in eight April games in which Gooden played more than 20 minutes. In fact, Washington coach Randy Wittman didn't play Gooden at all in two of the past four games.

By no coincidence, that drop-off in playing time coincided with the return of power forward Nene to D.C.'s lineup. But if Wittman wants to throw Chicago a curve ball, Gooden would gladly oblige and provide points and boards off the bench.

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WESTERN CONFERENCE

No. 2 Oklahoma City vs. No. 7 Memphis

Nick Collison

Season stats: 4.2 points | 3.6 rebounds | 1.3 assists | 55.6% FGs | 16.7 minutes

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) goes to the basket against Memphis Grizzlies forward Ed Davis (32) and center Marc Gasol (33), of Spain, in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Lance Murphey)

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) goes to the basket against Memphis Grizzlies forward Ed Davis (32) and center Marc Gasol (33), of Spain, in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Lance Murphey)

The Thunder won the season series with Memphis, 3-1, but backup power forward Nick Collison didn't have a lot to do with OKC's success.

Limited to 15.3 minutes a game versus the Grizzlies, Collison hit 43% of his shots and only scored 2.5 points a game, but chipped in with 4.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.0 block.

Still, expect Collison to contribute off the bench. In-depth statistics show he is one member of the Thunder's front court who is able to limit hefty Zach Randolph's productivity on the offensive glass.

The series begins Saturday night at Oklahoma City.

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No. 4 Houston vs. No. 7 Portland

Thomas Robinson

Season stats: 4.8 points | 4.4 rebounds | 48.1% FGs | 12.5 minutes

Portland Trail Blazers forward Thomas Robinson (41) drives to the basket past Houston Rockets' Dwight Howard (12) and Jeremy Lin (7) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, in Houston. (AP Photo/Bob Levey)

Portland Trail Blazers forward Thomas Robinson (41) drives to the basket past Houston Rockets' Dwight Howard (12) and Jeremy Lin (7) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, in Houston. (AP Photo/Bob Levey)

Houston beat Portland three out of four times in the regular season, but you couldn't blame Thomas Robinson for the Trail Blazers' struggles.

The second-year power forward barely got on the floor against his former team this season. A Portland reserve, Robinson averaged single-digit minutes against six teams this season, and Houston was one of them. The athletic 6-10 backup logged just 9.5 minutes versus the Rockets, scoring 2.3 points on 2-for-8 total shooting, while averaging 2.5 rebounds in limited action.

The two teams haven't met since March 9, and Robinson's minutes have been right at 14.3 a game in March and April, so he very well could play a bigger role in the playoffs after going scoreless in 11 minutes in a 118-113 Portland loss at Houston more than five weeks ago.

But that will be up to Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts, and will be based upon how he thinks Robinson matches up with Rockets big men Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones and Omer Asik.

Even if Stotts tightens his rotation for the postseason, Robinson should be a part of the game plan off the bench.

A highly anticipated series, this one begins Sunday night in Houston.

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Last game as a rook. Special thanks to all the fans in Sactown. Appreciate how good y'all been to me. #youngking #finishstrong #comebackstonger #sactown

Last game as a rook. Special thanks to all the fans in Sactown. Appreciate how good y'all been to me. #youngking #finishstrong #comebackstonger #sactown by youngsav23


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No playoffs for Morris twins

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris sits in the locker room after an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Monday, April 14, 2014, in Phoenix. The Grizzlies won 97-91 eliminating the Suns from the playoffs. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris sits in the locker room after an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Monday, April 14, 2014, in Phoenix. The Grizzlies won 97-91 eliminating the Suns from the playoffs. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Phoenix needed to beat Memphis Monday night in step No. 1 of its last chance at the NBA Playoffs.

The next couple steps never came into play for the Suns, who bring twins Markieff and Marcus Morris off their bench, because the Grizzlies won in Phoenix, 97-91, to snag the eighth and final available playoff berth in the Western Conference.

Difficult as it may have been for Markieff to deal with the reality of the Suns' fate, the 6-foot-10 power forward gave his up-and-coming team a legitimate chance, leading Phoenix with 21 points off the bench.

As Paul Coro wrote for AZcentral.com, Markieff hit seven of eight shots in one eight-minute stretch of the second half. He finished 10-for-16 from the floor with three blocks and two rebounds in 28 minutes.

Markieff hit a couple of long jumpers in the fourth quarter, and threw down a dunk, but missed a three-pointer with 20 seconds left that would have cut a 95-91 Memphis lead to one.

Coro discusses what comes next for Markieff and Marcus in a video for AZcentral.com. The twins both are eligible for contract extensions this summer. They could easily play out the 2014-15 season without re-signing, though, and enter free agency in 2015.


Markieff makes his case for sixth man award

Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris dunks during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday, April 11, 2014, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris dunks during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday, April 11, 2014, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

Markieff's value to Phoenix can't be underestimated. He's averaging 13.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and hitting 48.6% from the floor with one game left in the regular season.

He recently was asked by AZcentral.com to explain what makes him a top candidate for Sixth Man of the Year.

"Coming off the bench with energy, scoring, rebounding, making my teammates better and winning games, especially when we were supposed to win 17… You knew the Clippers (Jamal Crawford reference) were going to be good. You knew the Bulls (Taj Gibson reference) were going to be good, with or without D (Derrick) Rose. Y'all thought we were going after a Number 1 pick. I think I deserve Sixth Man Award for the team success."

Markieff went on to say the award would have meant more had Phoenix been a playoff team.

For what it's worth Grantland's Zach Lowe voted Markieff third for Sixth Man of the Year, behind Gibson and San Antonio's Manu Ginobili. Lowe also pegged Markieff as the third-best candidate for Most Improved Player, behind his Phoenix teammate Goran Dragic and Sacramento big man DeMarcus Cousins.

As Lowe points out, Morris has become an efficient offensive threat in his third season in the league:

He’s up to 50 percent on 2s this season, with a refined post-up game. Morris can shoot over guys with a soft touch, but if he thinks he can do better, he’ll face up, put the ball on the floor, and attack the rim.

We know who would receive Marcus' vote for the sixth man award.

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Collison ejected

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison, left, and New Orleans Pelicans guard Austin Rivers, third right, get into a scuffle in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Monday, April 14, 2014. Both were ejected from the game. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison, left, and New Orleans Pelicans guard Austin Rivers, third right, get into a scuffle in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Monday, April 14, 2014. Both were ejected from the game. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Maybe the end of the regular season has some players feeling testy. Maybe college blue bloods don't like each other.

For the second time in less than a week, a former KU player and a former Duke player got into a scuffle on the NBA hardwood. Over the weekend, it was Ben McLemore and J.J. Redick.

Monday night, it was Nick Collison and Austin Rivers.

The veteran power forward from KU and the fiery young guard out of Duke bumped into each other a few times before it turned into a skirmish and both were ejected in the second quarter of what turned out to be a New Orleans victory.

Collison went scoreless in eight minutes of action, and NewsOK.com's Darnell Mayberry reported the 10th-year veteran picked up the first ejection of his career.


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'Hawks in the NBA standings

It's finally the last day of the 82-game marathon that is the regular season, so here's a look at where all of the NBA's Jayhawks stand, with the playoffs starting up this weekend.

We'll rank the Kansas products according to their franchise's record.

PLAYOFF TEAMS

Nick Collison/Oklahoma City (58-23)

  • Currently No. 2 seed in West

  • Northwest Division champs

Mario Chalmers/Miami (54-27)

  • Currently No. 2 seed in East

  • Southeast Division champs

Thomas Robinson/Portland (53-28)

  • Currently No. 5 seed in West

Kirk Hinrich/Chicago (48-33)

  • Currently No. 4 seed in East

Paul Pierce/Brooklyn (44-37)

  • Currently No. 5 seed in East

Drew Gooden/Washington (43-38)

  • Currently No. 6 seed in East

ELIMINATED FROM PLAYOFFS

Markieff Morris & Marcus Morris/Phoenix (47-34)

Darrell Arthur/Denver (36-45)

Cole Aldrich/New York (36-45)

Jeff Withey/New Orleans (33-48)

Ben McLemore/Sacramento (28-53)

Xavier Henry/L.A. Lakers (26-55)

Brandon Rush/Utah (24-57)


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

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Paul Pierce joins elite company, with 25,000 career points

Brooklyn Nets' Paul Pierce (34) reacts during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks Friday, April 11, 2014, in New York. Atlanta won 93-88. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Brooklyn Nets' Paul Pierce (34) reacts during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks Friday, April 11, 2014, in New York. Atlanta won 93-88. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Ever since Paul Pierce left Kansas University a year early for the NBA in 1998, he has made a living putting up points.

On Friday, the 16-year veteran who earned his reputation with Boston reached an all-time milestone in his first season with Brooklyn.

Only one of Pierce's seven three-pointers connected in a home loss to Atlanta, but the one he hit in the second quarter carried far more significance than a typical regular-season, first-half trey.

This particular long-range bomb pushed Pierce to 25,000 career points.

The NBA compiled all of "The Truth's" landmark points — from 5,000 to 25,000 — in a video that kicks off with a young, headband-less Pierce putting in his first NBA bucket against Toronto in 1999.

Justin Tasch of the New York Daily News reported Pierce's 5-for-14 night and 2-for-6 showing at the free throw line had a lot to do with him thinking too much about the milestone, as his family and friends kept bringing it up beforehand.

“I was the same way when I reached the 20,000-point mark. I remember I couldn’t hit a shot in the first quarter because I was pressing just to get it. I’m just glad it’s over with and now I can focus on the rest of the season.”

The NBA Twitterverse tipped its collective cap to Pierce following the accomplishment.

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Pierce became just the 18th NBA player in history to eclipse 25,000 points. The names ahead of him on the list are pretty incredible, and include such former superstars as Jerry West (17th), John Havlicek (13th), Oscar Robertson (11th), Shaquille O'Neal (6th), Wilt Chamberlain (5th), Michael Jordan (3rd), Karl Malone (2nd) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1st, 38,387).

Pierce left Brooklyn's next game, Sunday against Orlando, clutching his right shoulder, but Nets coach Jason Kidd said he could've returned to play if needed.


No more Mr. Nice McLemore?

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore is ejected after being called for a technical foul on Los Angeles Clippers guard J.J. Redick, as Clippers' Jamal Crawford, rear left, looks on during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Saturday, April 12, 2014. The Clippers won 117-101. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore is ejected after being called for a technical foul on Los Angeles Clippers guard J.J. Redick, as Clippers' Jamal Crawford, rear left, looks on during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Saturday, April 12, 2014. The Clippers won 117-101. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

If you heard a former Jayhawk earned an ejection after shoving an opponent who was defending him, who would you bet on as the culprit?

One of the Morris twins? Thomas Robinson? Mario Chalmers? Pierce?

Well, it happened on Saturday, and the answer was none of the above.

The typically smiling face of Sacramento rookie Ben McLemore showed a scowl in Los Angeles when he didn't like the way the Clippers' J.J. Redick defended him coming off a screen.

McLemore earned a technical foul for losing his temper, and it was actually his second of the game, so he was tossed after scoring 14 points in 32 minutes.

Prior to Saturday, McLemore hadn't even been whistled for a "T," let alone been ejected from a game.

It turns out Sacramento wasn't too pleased with the technicals. And the organization's frustrations weren't directed at its rookie shooting guard. McLemore's superiors thought both technicals were undeserved. Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee reported the Kings are appealing the "T's" with the league office.

In fact, coach Michael Malone said the Kings couldn't believe one of their quietest players earned an ejection.

“That’s not who Ben is, and that wasn’t his intent.”


'Hawks in the NBA standings

Dallas Mavericks guard Monta Ellis (11) drives to the basket between Phoenix Suns forwards Markieff Morris (11) and Channing Frye (8) during the second half of an NBA basketball game on Saturday, April 12, 2014, in Dallas. The Mavericks won 101-98. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Dallas Mavericks guard Monta Ellis (11) drives to the basket between Phoenix Suns forwards Markieff Morris (11) and Channing Frye (8) during the second half of an NBA basketball game on Saturday, April 12, 2014, in Dallas. The Mavericks won 101-98. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Phoenix — home of former Kansas standouts Markieff and Marcus Morris — entered Friday in the No. 7 slot in the Western Conference playoff race, as one of four teams jockeying for the final three available postseason spots.

But back-to-back losses at San Antonio and Dallas (the Mavericks were one of the four teams vying for the last available playoff spots) has Phoenix in a bit of a predicament with just two games left in the regular season.

Golden State and Dallas now have secured their tickets to the postseason, leaving the Suns (47-33) and Memphis (48-32) as the last two fighting for the final spot.

Phoenix hosts the Grizzlies Monday night, but a head-to-head victory alone won't assure the Suns of anything — as detailed by Paul Coro for azcentral.com.

Phoenix must beat Memphis and win at Sacramento in the regular-season finale Wednesday. Plus, the Grizzlies must lose at Dallas on Wednesday. That's the only scenario in which the Suns, whom no one expected to be in this position before the season, will advance to the playoffs.

Said Markieff:

"The season isn't over yet. We don't have any choice but to keep hope."

This is subject to change, with three days worth of games to be played, but here's what the matchups would look like if the playoffs began today, instead of this weekend.

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Only three days remain in the 82-game marathon that is the regular season, so here's a look at where all of the NBA's Jayhawks stand in the hunt for the playoffs.

We'll rank the Kansas products according to their franchise's record.

No. 1 — Nick Collison/Oklahoma City (58-22)

  • Currently No. 2 seed in West

  • Clinched Northwest Division title/playoff berth

No. 2 — Mario Chalmers/Miami (54-26)

  • Currently No. 2 seed in East

  • Clinched Southeast Division title/playoff berth

No. 3 — Thomas Robinson/Portland (53-28)

  • Currently No. 5 seed in West

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 4 — Kirk Hinrich/Chicago (47-33)

  • Currently No. 4 seed in East

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 5 — Markieff Morris & Marcus Morris/Phoenix (47-33)

  • Currently No. 9 in West, one game back of Memphis

No. 6 — Paul Pierce/Brooklyn (44-36)

  • Currently No. 5 seed in East

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 7 — Drew Gooden/Washington (42-38)

  • Currently No. 6 seed in East

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 8 — Darrell Arthur/Denver (36-44)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 9 — Cole Aldrich/New York (35-45)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in East

No. 10 — Jeff Withey/New Orleans (32-48)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 11 — Ben McLemore/Sacramento (28-53)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 12 — Xavier Henry/L.A. Lakers (25-55)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 13 — Brandon Rush/Utah (24-56)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

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

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Jeff Withey finishing rookie season strong

New Orleans Pelicans center Jeff Withey (5) tries to get around Phoenix Suns forward Channing Frye (8) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

New Orleans Pelicans center Jeff Withey (5) tries to get around Phoenix Suns forward Channing Frye (8) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

Let's face it. Jeff Withey's transition to the NBA has had its down moments in his rookie season.

But as his first-year campaign reaches its final week, it appears the lean 7-foot center out of Kansas might be finding his way in New Orleans. While Withey's season averages of 3.0 points and 2.4 rebounds in 10.9 minutes a game are about as exciting as a Utah vs. Milwaukee game, he has proven of late he can produce when given the opportunity.

In the rookie's last five games, he has played 20.5 minutes and averaged 9.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks while hitting 78% of his shots. Seventy-eight!

Earlier this week, Darrell Williams wrote about how Withey's growth has pleased the Pelicans. The team's coach, Monty Williams, told the New Orleans Advocate Withey has helped offset some of the Pelicans' injury problems of late.

“Jeff has come a long way this season. He looks nothing like the guy we saw in training camp. He has worked hard. His body looks different, and he has made progress on the court working with (assistant coach) Kevin (Hanson).”

After developing into a hard-nosed defender of the rim at KU, Withey had to acclimate himself to playing in the paint in the NBA, where things can get rough.

“You don’t have to be big to be physical. Some of it definitely is that the game has slowed down for me now. I understand things a lot better.”

With New Orleans star Anthony Davis sitting out Wednesday due to back spasms, Withey tried to carry the team himself in a 94-88 Pelicans loss to Phoenix. Withey scored 17 points — a career high — and added a couple of rebounds, three assists and a block.

The backup center and his bench mates helped get New Orleans back in the game, John Reid wrote for The Times-Picayune. The rookie big man out of Kansas had this to say:

"We try to bring a spark to our team when its needed. We definitely played pretty well tonight.''

(Watch Withey's locker room interview at NOLA.com.)

New Orleans lost its sixth game in a row, but it was definitely Withey's night. If the numbers and highlights don't prove that, this GIF should.


Paul Pierce on verge of 25K points

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce is shown during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, Tuesday, April 8, 2014 in Miami. The Nets defeated the Heat 88-87. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce is shown during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, Tuesday, April 8, 2014 in Miami. The Nets defeated the Heat 88-87. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

After scoring 14 points to help Brooklyn complete a four-game season sweep of two-time defending champion Miami earlier this week, the man known as "The Truth" appeared in no hurry to reach a significant milestone.

Pierce sat out the Nets' loss at Orlando Wednesday due to a right hip pointer injury, even though he currently needs just five points to reach 25,000 for his career.

As Rod Boone of Newsday reported, the only active players who have put up that many points are Pierce's Brooklyn teammate Kevin Garnett, the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant and Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki.

As Pierce closes in on the elite mark — only 17 players in the history of the NBA have scored 25,000 career points — it's probably safe to assume the former KU All-American is on his way to the Hall of Fame.

Players such as Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Allen Iverson, Adrian Dantley and Larry Bird never reached 25K — as pointed out in a SportsNetwork.com column.

Pierce could reach the landmark number as soon as Friday night against Atlanta. If not then, the Nets have three more regular-season dates in the coming week.

Brooklyn, which began the season looking woeful but now has a playoff spot in the East locked up, could be the final stop in Pierce's illustrious career. Speculation already has begun that he will re-sign with the Nets.


Thomas Robinson, teammates try to keep straight faces

Second-year power forward Thomas Robinson has made his share of incredible plays this season for Portland.

But there might be a new champion in the category of most remarkable YouTube clip starring the man known in Lawrence as T-Rob.

The 6-foot-10, powerful sub and a few of his teammates appeared on an episode of the IFC series Portlandia.

The show's stars, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, play a pair of feminist dance team coaches who try to give the Trail Blazers a pep talk after a loss.

In other words: This is amazing.

Robinson got to roll his eyes, shake his head and deliver a few of straight-faced lines. Not bad for an acting debut. (For a professional athlete.)


'Hawks in the NBA standings

Only six days remain in the 82-game marathon that is the regular season, so here's a look at where all of the NBA's Jayhawks stand in the hunt for the playoffs.

We'll rank the Kansas products according to their franchise's record.

No. 1 — Nick Collison/Oklahoma City (57-21)

  • Currently No. 2 seed in West

  • Clinched Northwest Division title/playoff berth

No. 2 — Mario Chalmers/Miami (53-25)

  • Currently No. 2 seed in East

  • Clinched Southeast Division title/playoff berth

No. 3 — Thomas Robinson/Portland (51-28)

  • Currently No. 5 seed in West

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 4 — Markieff Morris & Marcus Morris/Phoenix (47-31)

  • Currently No. 7 seed in West

No. 5 — Kirk Hinrich/Chicago (46-32)

  • Currently No. 4 seed in East

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 6 — Paul Pierce/Brooklyn (43-35)

  • Currently No. 5 seed in East

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 7 — Drew Gooden/Washington (40-38)

  • Currently No. 7 seed in East

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 8 — Darrell Arthur/Denver (35-44)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 9 — Cole Aldrich/New York (33-45)

  • Currently No. 9 in East, two games behind Atlanta

No. 10 — Jeff Withey/New Orleans (32-46)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 11 — Ben McLemore/Sacramento (27-52)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 12 — Xavier Henry/L.A. Lakers (25-53)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 13 — Brandon Rush/Utah (24-54)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

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

Reply 6 comments from Allen Shepard Carnahan Plasticjhawk Jock Navels Jayhawkmarshall Kingfisher

Markieff Morris a leading candidate for sixth man award

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris (11) reacts to a three pointer against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, March 6, 2014, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris (11) reacts to a three pointer against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Thursday, March 6, 2014, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Don't be surprised in a few weeks if you see the following phrase scroll across the bottom of your television screen or pop up on your social media feeds: Phoenix's Markieff Morris named NBA Sixth Man of the Year.

All season long, the Suns — expected by some to be one of the worst teams in the league — have surprised the rest of the Association. But it didn't take long for it to become abundantly clear their early-season success wasn't a fluke. Now Phoenix (46-31), fresh off a 122-115 home win over Oklahoma City on Sunday night, has a legit shot at claiming one of the final three playoff spots in the highly competitive Western Conference.

And Phoenix, the West's worst team last season, couldn't have made such a turnaround without Morris — averaging 13.7 points and 6.0 rebounds in 26.4 minutes a game off the bench.

Morris hasn't started a single game for the Suns all season. That's because first-year coach Jeff Hornacek can trust him to produce as a sub.

Ben York of Suns.com recently wrote a case could be made for Morris (Markieff, not twin brother Marcus, who also comes off the bench for Phoenix and averages 9.8 points and 3.9 rebounds in 22.0 minutes) as the NBA's most valuable reserve.

In his third season, Markieff is having a career year. His best game, York points out, came in January against Cleveland:

Morris tallied 27 points and a season-high 15 rebounds off the bench to become the first player in the NBA since Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets on Nov. 21, 2002 to record at least 27 points and 15 rebounds in a game while coming off the bench.

His line was the first 27/15 by a Suns player since Amar’e Stoudemire on March 28, 2010, and he joins Stoudemire and Shawn Marion as the only Suns since 1998-99 to do so.

Those around the Phoenix organization aren't the only ones thinking Markieff could bring home some hardware, either.

At SheridanHoops.com, holds the at No. 1 spot in the sixth man rankings, followed by Chicago's Taj Gibson, Oklahoma Citys' Reggie Jackson, San Antonio's Manu Ginobili and Dallas' Vince Carter.


Henry's breakout season officially over

Los Angeles Lakers forward Xavier Henry, right, puts up a shot as San Antonio Spurs center Tiago Splitter, left, of Brazil, and guard Patty Mills, of Australia, defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Lakers forward Xavier Henry, right, puts up a shot as San Antonio Spurs center Tiago Splitter, left, of Brazil, and guard Patty Mills, of Australia, defend during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 19, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The Los Angeles Lakers (25-52) are so awful, there really isn't any reason for them to send hurt or worn down players out on the court.

They are lottery-bound, so the more losses, the better. In a move that should help facilitate as high a draft pick as possible, the Lakers announced Friday they're shutting Xavier Henry down for the remainder of the season.

Wrist and knee injuries suffered this season, Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times reported, will keep Henry sidelined for the final few games of what had been a breakout season (10.0 points in 43 games).

Offseason procedures to help his right knee and left wrist are possible, Henry told Bresnahan.

"My body is going to continually hurt as long as I keep pounding it and pounding it. It's tough to play with."

The L.A. Times reporter also asked Henry about his future with the Lakers, because he will become a free agent in the offseason.

"I hope to be here. I hope they want me, but you never know."

As Shams Charania wrote for RealGM.com, Henry took on the challenge of playing while hurt late in the weeks leading up to L.A.'s move. Henry's decision to do gut it out for a while came in part because of what this season has meant to him.

“I just didn’t get the same opportunity and the same playing time in the past. I hurt myself early in my career … but I didn’t get the same kind of opportunities that I have now and I’m trying to make the most of every one that I get.”

Henry shot 41.7% from the field and 34.6% on 3-pointers this season with Los Angeles.


Mario Chalmers: 'I always wanted to be a Tar Heel'

Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers (15) goes up for a shot against New York Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemire (1) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, April 6, 2014, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers (15) goes up for a shot against New York Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemire (1) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, April 6, 2014, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

With a little help from Kansas basketball hero Mario Chalmers, Miami seems on its way to the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

In his last eight games, the sixth-year pro has outperformed his season averages, hitting 52% of his shots and producing 14.3 points and 4.0 rebounds, plus 4.0 assists (which is below his season average of 5.0).

Recently, Chalmers sat down for a Q & A with SLAM Magazine's Abe Schwadron. He talked about his upbringing in Alaska and also shared an interesting tidbit regarding his college recruitment:

"I wanted to go to North Carolina. I grew up a fan, my family is from North Carolina and I always wanted to be a Tar Heel. When the time came to make my decision, North Carolina didn’t offer me. So Kansas, I thought, was the best place for me to go out there and shine. I had a couple friends that I got close with during the recruiting visits. They made me feel at home, made me feel like a brother."

Of course, Chalmers capped his third year at Kansas by helping the Jayhawks win the 2008 national championship. He was asked to rank that accomplishment, compared to contributing to back-to-back NBA titles with the Heat.

"It’s up there. I’d say it’s a tie, really. In college, it’s one game, in the NBA, it was five games and then it was seven games. It’s different, but it still ranks the same in my book. Just the process of being there three years, and having to go from one year losing in the first round to losing in the Sweet 16 and then finally to win it. I just remember how much hard work we put in."

You can tell Chalmers doesn't regret his decision to play at KU. Look no further than what he posted on Instagram Monday: "6 years ago on this day we had a major accomplishment. Not only for ourselves and KU but for the entire city of Lawrence , Kansas. This is and will always be apart of me. ROCK CHALK JAYHAWKS"

6 years ago on this day we had a major accomplishment. Not only for ourselves and KU but for the entire city of Lawrence , Kansas. This is and will always be apart of me. ROCK CHALK JAYHAWKS

6 years ago on this day we had a major accomplishment. Not only for ourselves and KU but for the entire city of Lawrence , Kansas. This is and will always be apart of me. ROCK CHALK JAYHAWKS by mchalmers15


'Hawks in the NBA standings

We're now just nine days away from the last day of the 82-game regular season, so here's a look at where all of the NBA's Jayhawks stand in the hunt for the playoffs.

We'll rank the Kansas products according to their franchise's record.

No. 1 — Nick Collison/Oklahoma City (55-21)

  • Currently No. 2 seed in West

  • Clinched Northwest Division title/playoff berth

No. 2 — Mario Chalmers/Miami (53-23)

  • Currently No. 1 seed in East

  • Clinched Southeast Division title/playoff berth

No. 3 — Thomas Robinson/Portland (50-28)

  • Currently No. 5 seed in West

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 4 — Markieff Morris & Marcus Morris/Phoenix (46-31)

  • Currently No. 8 seed in West, with one-game lead on Memphis

No. 5 — Kirk Hinrich/Chicago (45-32)

  • Currently No. 4 seed in East

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 6 — Paul Pierce/Brooklyn (42-34)

  • Currently No. 5 seed in East

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 7 — Drew Gooden/Washington (40-37)

  • Currently No. 6 seed in East

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 8 — Darrell Arthur/Denver (33-44)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 9 — Cole Aldrich/New York (33-45)

  • Currently No. 9 in East, two games behind Atlanta

No. 10 — Jeff Withey/New Orleans (32-45)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 11 — Ben McLemore/Sacramento (27-50)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 12 — Xavier Henry/L.A. Lakers (25-52)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 13 — Brandon Rush/Utah (24-53)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

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

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Thomas Robinson making his mark in Portland

Portland Trail Blazers' Thomas Robinson (41) scores against Minnesota Timberwolves' Gorgui Dieng (5) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014. The Trail Blazers won 108-97. (AP Photo/Greg Wahl-Stephens)

Portland Trail Blazers' Thomas Robinson (41) scores against Minnesota Timberwolves' Gorgui Dieng (5) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014. The Trail Blazers won 108-97. (AP Photo/Greg Wahl-Stephens)

Drafted by Sacramento, then traded to Houston during his rookie year, second-year power forward Thomas Robinson finally feels at home in the NBA with his third team, the Portland Trail Blazers.

As Robinson told John Wilmes of bleacherreport.com, he has embraced his role as a key reserve, even when his minutes aren't substantial — he's averaging 4.9 points and 4.3 rebounds in 12.4 minutes for Portland (49-27), currently the fifth-best team in a stacked Western Conference.

The former Kansas star enjoys providing a spark off the Blazers' bench.

“Last year, I was trying to make my role, going out of my way to prove something. You want to show everyone you can do something, that you can do can do everything at first.”

“I’m a high-energy player, a defender, and an offensive rebounder. Not a scorer. I love who I am to this team, I wouldn’t change anything.”


Nick Collison, the next WWE superstar

During Oklahoma City's Thursday victory over San Antonio, which ended the Spurs' 19-game winning streak, Thunder power forward Nick Collison, known for his dirty work, added to his reputation as one of the NBA's tough guys.

The Spurs' Jeff Ayers accidentally elbowed Collison in the head late in the third quarter, creating a gash atop Collison's noggin. It looked more like Collison had been walloped with a steel chair in a WWE match.

When the blood began to pour down his face, the NBA twitterverse took a break from the entertaining showdown between two Western Conference powers to marvel at the bloodbath.

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None by Red Cross Oklahoma

As you can see in the video, the contact didn't look nearly as bad as the result.

The gritty backup big man played 13 minutes in the OKC victory, scoring four points, and didn't return to the game after suffering the cut.

The best part of the whole ordeal, Collison told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman, was that even though he needed staples in his head to stop the bleeding, it didn't feel all that bad.

“Really, I’m surprised it was bleeding. It hurt a little bit. It stung. But I saw blood coming down my nose so I knew I had to come out.”

"It was one of those ones that’s awesome because you get a ton of credibility from blood coming down your face. But it really wasn’t that big of a deal.”

After the game, Collison couldn't resist joking about the injury, via Instagram, saying: "I really shouldn't have popped that pimple in the game tonight. Sorry guys."


Kirk Hinrich likes the Windy City

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich (12) drives against Atlanta Hawks forward DeMarre Carroll (5) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 2, 2014, in Atlanta. The Bulls won 105-92. (AP Photo/Jason Getz)

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich (12) drives against Atlanta Hawks forward DeMarre Carroll (5) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 2, 2014, in Atlanta. The Bulls won 105-92. (AP Photo/Jason Getz)

Kirk Hinrich's two-year deal with Chicago runs out at the end of the season, but it sounds like he would prefer to remain with the Bulls going forward.

Before putting up 17 points and six assists in a Chicago win at Atlanta Wednesday, the 11th-year guard who has spent nine seasons with the Bulls told the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson there was a reason he signed with the franchise two summers ago, instead of taking more money to play in Milwaukee.

“I like it here. Obviously, returning home was a big factor in why I came back. I would like to stay here. But I don’t know what’s in their future plans. Right now, I’m just trying to enjoy it while I’m in it and take what comes later.”

"At this point of your career, you want to be on a team that is a good fit and has a chance to be a winner."

Despite the absence of Derrick Rose most of the season, the Bulls (43-32) currently sit in the No. 4 slot in the Eastern Conference, and could have home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.


'Hawks in the NBA standings

We're now less than two weeks away from the end of the regular season, so here's a look at where all of the NBA's Jayhawks stand in the hunt for the playoffs.

We'll rank the Kansas products according to their franchise's record.

No. 1 — Nick Collison/Oklahoma City (55-19)

  • Currently No. 2 seed in West

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 2 — Mario Chalmers/Miami (52-22)

  • Currently No. 1 seed in East

  • Clinched Southeast Division title/playoff berth

No. 3 — Thomas Robinson/Portland (49-27)

  • Currently No. 5 seed in West

No. 4 — Markieff Morris & Marcus Morris/Phoenix (44-31)

  • Currently 9th in West, with the same record as No. 8 Memphis

No. 5 — Kirk Hinrich/Chicago (43-32)

  • Currently No. 4 seed in East

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 6 — Paul Pierce/Brooklyn (40-34)

  • Currently No. 5 seed in East

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 7 — Drew Gooden/Washington (39-36)

  • Currently No. 6 seed in East

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 8 — Darrell Arthur/Denver (33-42)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 9 — Jeff Withey/New Orleans (32-43)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 10 — Cole Aldrich/New York (33-43)

  • Currently No. 8 seed in East, 0.02 percentage points ahead of Atlanta

No. 11 — Ben McLemore/Sacramento (27-48)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 12 — Xavier Henry/L.A. Lakers (25-50)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 13 — Brandon Rush/Utah (23-52)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

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

Reply 5 comments from Armen Kurdian Erich Hartmann Joe Ross Damian Glaze

Collison’s decade of dirty work makes him indispensable in OKC

All the NBA talk around Lawrence the past few days has centered on Kansas University freshmen and their decisions — Andrew Wiggins is officially entering the draft, and everyone is waiting to hear if Joel Embiid will do the same.

This time next year, we might be debating whether Wiggins or Embiid deserve to win the NBA's Rookie of the Year.

But for now, with the 2013-14 NBA season winding down, we'll check in with a couple of veterans and a current rookie.


Mr. Reliable

Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol fights for a loose ball against Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Nick Collison during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, March 9, 2014. The Lakers won 114-110. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol fights for a loose ball against Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Nick Collison during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, March 9, 2014. The Lakers won 114-110. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

When your career averages are 6.6 points and 5.7 rebounds, you have to be doing something right to stick around in the NBA for a decade.

For 10th-year power forward Nick Collison — selected 12th overall by the Seattle Supersonics in the loaded 2003 draft —becoming the ultimate role player enticed the franchise that picked him (Seattle relocated to Oklahoma City and changed its name to the Thunder following the 2007-08 season) to keep him around.

As Darnell Mayberry points out in his profile on Collison for The Oklahoman, the veteran out of Kansas is one of those rare NBA players who have spent the past 10 seasons with the same franchise.

FYI, some of those other names are: Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade.

Collison told Mayberry:

“I know it’s really rare for somebody to be able to stick that long. And now, to be successful at the end part of it, too, to build up to being a really good team at the end, that’s how I would want it to go.”

The reliable backup big man averages just 4.2 points and 3.7 rebounds in 17.0 minutes a game for OKC (54-19), but general manager Sam Presti calls him a "founding member" of the Thunder, along with superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

“He represents the type of player that we want to ultimately have our organization embody,” Presti told Mayberry.

Between charges, screens, hustle plays, easy second-chance buckets, and defensive stops, you can see why the Thunder have kept Collison around.

And why he has become a fan favorite. Here's what Collison said to Mayberry on that subject:

“I feel like they really appreciate what I do, and I know that’s rare for a player like me. A role player like me who averages four (points) and four (rebounds) or whatever it is, no one really thinks twice about him. But I know that I have kind of a special place here. So I really appreciate that.”

The Thunder currently hold the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference and are one of the favorites to win the 2014 NBA title.


Finishing strong

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (16) shoots between Oklahoma City Thunder guard Derek Fisher (6) and guard Jeremy Lamb (11) during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Friday, March 28, 2014. Oklahoma City won 94-81. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (16) shoots between Oklahoma City Thunder guard Derek Fisher (6) and guard Jeremy Lamb (11) during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Friday, March 28, 2014. Oklahoma City won 94-81. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

It would be a stretch to say Ben McLemore's rookie season in Sacramento has been a complete success.

Even though the Kings have shown their commitment to the young guard, he hasn't separated himself as one of the league's very best first-year players.

Still, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee wrote that the youngster out of Kansas is settling in to his position as the Kings' starting shooting guard.

Sacramento spent the opening months of the season bringing the rookie along slowly, but McLemore told Jones his confidence began to grow after the franchise dealt starter Marcus Thornton, opening a spot in the starting rotation for the former Jayhawk.

“It’s an opportunity for me. Why not take it? That’s what I did, and I just want to keep doing that. I’m not finished. I just want to keep working and finish this season out strong and in the offseason work on my weaknesses.”

The best news for McLemore and Sacramento? He is starting to take his game to another level in the closing weeks of the season.

In his previous 10 games, the rook with huge upside averaged 11.8 points, while hitting 40.9% of his shots and 33.3% of his 3-pointers. Those numbers get even better in his past five outings: 14.6 points, 41.3% field goals and 42.9% 3-pointers. Compare those numbers to his season averages of 8.2 points, 37.3% shooting and 32% from 3-point range.

Monday night at New Orleans, McLemore scored 14 points and grabbed five rebounds (he has only averaged 2.8 boards on the year).

In Jones' feature on the developing shooting guard, Kings coach Michael Malone said McLemore knows these late-season games with Sacramento (26-48) are his chance to shine.

“He’s just kind of relaxing, stopped putting so much pressure on himself where he feels he has to make every shot, and he’s just going out there and playing,. And he’s taking the shot and shooting it with great confidence.”


Hungry for minutes?

Utah Jazz guard Brandon Rush (25) shoots against San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 109-105. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

Utah Jazz guard Brandon Rush (25) shoots against San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 109-105. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

When you're an NBA veteran at the end of a team's bench, often picking up the dreaded DNP in the box score, it has to get under your skin.

Utah shooting guard Brandon Rush is living out that reality. He has played in 38 games, and averaged a minuscule 2.1 points and 1.2 rebounds in 11.0 minutes a game — far below his career averages of 8.3 points and 3.3 rebounds in 24.9 minutes.

So Rush will have to forgive Desert News reporter Jody Genessy if he truly misinterpreted this tweet from the sixth-year pro following another DNP against Memphis last week.

None by Brandon Rush

Genessy asked Rush about the meaning of his four-word declaration a few days later. Rush told the reporter he was communicating with a cousin in that particular message.

But Rush admitted to Genessy that this season with Utah (23-52) has been "a little frustrating."

“It’s been up and down. It’s not what I expected. But I just fight through it and continue to try to get better, try to get this knee right for summertime. It happens.”

As noted by Genessy, Rush missed basically all of 2012-13 due to an ACL injury.

He'll be a free agent at the end of this season. And you don't have to read into Rush's tweets to figure out he won't be in Utah's training camp next fall.


'Hawks in the NBA standings

Only a couple of weeks remain in the regular season, so here's a look at where all of the NBA's Jayhawks stand in the hunt for the playoffs.

We'll rank the Kansas products according to their franchise's record.

No. 1 — Nick Collison/Oklahoma City (54-19)

  • Currently No. 2 seed in West

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 2 — Mario Chalmers/Miami (51-22)

  • Currently No. 1 seed in East

  • Clinched Southeast Division title/playoff berth

No. 3 — Thomas Robinson/Portland (48-27)

  • Currently No. 5 seed in West

No. 4 — Markieff Morris & Marcus Morris/Phoenix (44-30)

  • Currently 9th in West, with the same record as No. 8 Memphis

No. 5 — Kirk Hinrich/Chicago (42-32)

  • Currently No. 4 seed in East

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 6 — Paul Pierce/Brooklyn (39-33)

  • Currently No. 5 seed in East

No. 7 — Drew Gooden/Washington (38-36)

  • Currently No. 6 seed in East

No. 8 — Darrell Arthur/Denver (32-42)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 9 — Jeff Withey/New Orleans (32-42)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 10 — Cole Aldrich/New York (32-43)

  • Currently 9th in East, 1 game back of No. 8 Atlanta

No. 11 — Ben McLemore/Sacramento (26-48)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 12 — Xavier Henry/L.A. Lakers (25-48)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 13 — Brandon Rush/Utah (23-52)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

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

Reply 8 comments from Ryan_32 Benton Smith Jay Beakum Joel Teply Keithii Kyle Rohde Plasticjhawk

They’re not booing in D.C., they’re saying ‘Drew’

Now that March Madness — and Stanford — brought a premature end to Kansas University's basketball season, all Jayhawks fans can do is sit around watching their Twitter feeds to see whether Joel Embiid will announce his intentions for next season, as in: Will he play at KU or in the NBA?

The good news? You can fill some of your KU hoops void with 'Hawks in the NBA.


Guess who's back

Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden puts up a shot as Los Angeles Lakers forward Jordan Hill defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, March 21, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden puts up a shot as Los Angeles Lakers forward Jordan Hill defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, March 21, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

It's been about a month since our last 'Hawks entry here at KUsports.com, and probably the biggest news in that span was the return of Drew Gooden to the Association.

The bearded, No. 90-wearing veteran — out of the league since getting cut by Milwaukee last summer — joined the Washington Wizards. Initially, the Wiz signed Gooden to a 10-day contract, but he quickly proved his worth, and is under contract for the remainder of the season.

Washington no longer operates as one of the league's laughing stocks. So you'll get a chance to see Gooden in the playoffs. Entering Friday's games, the Wizards (36-35) held the No. 6 spot in the Eastern Conference, and it would take a significant collapse for them to fall out of the top eight.

Gooden came along slowly, with two scoreless games in very limited minutes to begin his stint in D.C. But when he gets minutes, he puts up points. Now in his 12th — though abbreviated — season, the 6-foot-10 veteran came through with a 21-point, nine-rebound outing in a key conference win over Brooklyn two weeks ago.

He has played in just 13 games, went scoreless in three of them (playing single-digit minutes on each occasion) and still averages 10.2 points and 5.7 rebounds in 17.5 minutes a game.

Gooden did get fined $15,000 for a flagrant foul, but mostly his return has worked out for him and Washington.

In a Sam Amick story for USA Today, the former Jayhawk said getting overlooked by the league when he could've signed with any team before the 2013-14 campaign has fueled his late-season addition in D.C.

"I've got a vendetta right now against all the other teams that overlooked me. I wanted to show them once I got an opportunity that I've got a passion and I love this game, and I wasn't going to go and leave my career like it was left last season in Milwaukee."

In his career, Gooden has played for 10 of the league's 30 franchises: Orlando, Memphis, Cleveland, Chicago, Sacramento, San Antonio, Dallas, the Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee and Washington.


McLemore reflects on highs and lows of rookie year

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, right, drives to the basket against New York Knicks defender Tim Hardaway Jr. left, during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., on Wednesday, March 26, 2014.The Knicks won 107-99.(AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, right, drives to the basket against New York Knicks defender Tim Hardaway Jr. left, during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., on Wednesday, March 26, 2014.The Knicks won 107-99.(AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

Since arriving in Sacramento as the Kings' No. 7 overall pick in the 2013 draft, Ben McLemore hasn't exactly set the NBA on fire. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard out of Kansas has averaged 8.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, made 37.2% of his shots and 31.7% of his 3-pointers.

McLemore sat down with James Ham at the Cowbell Kingdom blog for a Q & A this week. Here are a few of the more interesting comments from the rookie, who is constantly learning and adapting in the league.

The reporter asked McLemore what it was like to see Andrew Wiggins and Embiid playing for KU, knowing he could've played with them as a sophomore if he didn't leave for the NBA:

"You’re right, I could have been out there playing with those guys and just having fun playing Kansas basketball with those guys. But at the same time, I made a great decision to come to the NBA. I definitely don’t regret that. I have a great opportunity right now in a great situation."

McLemore also discussed his life-changing NBA contract, which took him from having very little money to a whole lot.

"I think it’s been great. I really haven’t had a problem. My family – as long as my mom, my sisters and brothers are fine, that’s the people I’m looking out for. I’ve got a lot of family and they know my situation and they understand that I did this and I’ve worked hard to get in this position."

McLemore said he will be back in Kansas this summer, taking classes.

"It’s very important because I want to get my degree. I was the first one out of my family to go to a university and I would be the first to have a degree. To look back and tell my kids that their dad got his degree in college, to tell them that this is important, that school is important. And my mom would be proud. She’d be even more proud if I got my degree."

Read the entire interview at CowbellKingdom.com.

Sacramento (25-46) is out of the playoff hunt in the Western Conference.


Hinrich, Bulls keep plugging away

Chicago Bulls shooting guard Kirk Hinrich (12) shoots past San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker (9) during the second half of an NBA basketball game on Tuesday, March 11, 2014, in Chicago. The San Antonio Spurs defeated The Chicago Bulls 104-96. (AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles)

Chicago Bulls shooting guard Kirk Hinrich (12) shoots past San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker (9) during the second half of an NBA basketball game on Tuesday, March 11, 2014, in Chicago. The San Antonio Spurs defeated The Chicago Bulls 104-96. (AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles)

Even though Chicago lost former league MVP Derrick Rose for the season due to a torn right meniscus, the Bulls have remained one of the top teams in the East.

Eleventh-year NBA veteran Kirk Hinrich has played a key role in Chicago's remarkably steady season, starting 50 of the Bulls' 62 games, and averaging 9.0 points and 3.9 assists.

After Hinrich's 18-point night helped Chicago beat the East's top team, Indiana, earlier this week, Sam Smith of bulls.com wrote that the former Kansas guard reflects the hard work of the Bulls, even though he might get overlooked.

As the article touches on, Hinrich hasn't had a stellar shooting season (39% field goals, 35% 3-pointers). He told Smith:

“The hard thing is when it’s not going in and you are not making it to stay confident and looking for your shot. But I feel I’ve done a better job (the last few months). I feel I’ve turned a corner in that regard.”

Chicago (40-31) currently holds the No. 4 seed in the East.


X, man

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo can not stop Los Angeles Lakers' Xavier Henry from dunking the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 27, 2014, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo can not stop Los Angeles Lakers' Xavier Henry from dunking the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 27, 2014, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)

Xavier Henry had to hit the pause button on the best season of his career when he was diagnosed with an abnormality of the lateral meniscus in his right knee.

After missing all of January and February, Henry (10.3 points per game, 42.2% shooting) returned to the Los Angeles Lakers' lineup in March, and has played in 11 of L.A.'s 12 games since then.

He dropped 24 points on San Antonio on March 19 in a loss, and later scored 22 on 8-of-11 shooting in a win against the Knicks earlier this week.

As you can see, the knee is doing just fine.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qq9NIzopEEY

Still, as Mark Medina wrote for the Los Angeles Daily News, teammates both admire and worry about the explosive Henry.

Fearless attacks on the rim have proven to be the norm for Henry, who hurt his left wrist doing so after returning from his knee injury. So the Lakers try to convince him to take it easy.

Here's what Henry told Medina of his teammates' conversations:

“All the time they tell me I’m crazy. They say, ‘What are you doing this for? You have nothing to prove.’ I have something to prove to myself. I’m not quitting. I’m not going to take a step back.”


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

Reply 3 comments from Kansasalumn Benton Smith Fabolous_bg

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