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'Hawks in the NBA

Rookie of Year frontrunner Andrew Wiggins has room to grow

Minnesota Timberwolves’ Andrew Wiggins (22) tries to move around Dallas Mavericks’ Devin Harris (20) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Minnesota Timberwolves’ Andrew Wiggins (22) tries to move around Dallas Mavericks’ Devin Harris (20) in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

There are still 30-plus games to go in Andrew Wiggins’ first NBA season, but we all know what’s coming at the end of it for the budding Minnesota star.

The 2014 No. 1 pick out of Kansas is in a one-man race for Rookie of the Year after Milwaukee’s Jabari Parker suffered an anterior cruciate ligament tear. Plus, potential R.O.Y competition, Wiggins’ Kansas teammate Joel Embiid, might not make his debut in Philadelphia until the 2015-16 season.

The 19-year-old Canadian plays for a young team that has struggled mightily — the Timberwovles, as of Monday, own the league’s worst record (7-36). They’ve lost four straight, five of their last six and 20 of their last 22.

But Wiggins has given the fan base hope, at least, scoring in double figures in 17 straight games.

Since he turned that corner, the 6-foot-8 forward is averaging:

  • 19.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.2 steals and hitting 47.3% of his shots and 37.5% of his 3-pointers.

Compare that to his averages in his first 26 games:

  • 12.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.0 steals, 38.5% on FGs, 36.4% on 3-pointers

For the season, Wiggins is averaging:

  • 15.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.1 steals and hitting 42.7% of his shots and 37% of his 3-pointers

His January has been so impressive, Stats.NBA.com has a feature on it.

On a nightly basis, the high-flying rookie helps Minnesota fans get over the fact the franchise traded its former centerpiece, Kevin Love, to Cleveland, so he could chase an NBA title with LeBron James.


Still, as Kirk Goldsberry wrote for Grantland.com, while Wiggins might very well be a superstar in the making, he is far from perfect.

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Goldsberry points out Wiggins strengths — athleticism, scoring, defense. But he also examines his weaknesses: inefficiency on offense, caused by shot selection. As of a few days ago, in fact, Wiggins ranked last in FG% among 41 players who had taken at least 200 mid-range shots, only making 33%.

There is some good news, or at least reason for optimism, on this front, though. Goldsberry points out Kevin Durant also struggled to play efficiently on offense as a rookie.

That leaves Wiggins with plenty to consider as he develops his NBA game in the years to come. But he won’t have to worry about that Rookie of the Year trophy as long as he stays healthy.

The latest Rookie Ladder feature on NBA.com, where Scott Howard-Cooper tracks The Association’s top newcomers, of course, has Wiggins at the top.

His closest competition right now?

  • Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel — 8.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 1.6 steals.

  • Chicago’s Nikola Mirotic — 7.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists.

  • Orlando’s Elfrid Payton — 7.7 points, 5.7 assists, 1.5 steals.

  • Philadelphia’s K.J. McDaniels — 9.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, 1.4 assists.

Good luck to the also-rans.


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


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Reply 1 comment from Freedman Moor

Tarik Black fitting in with Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers forward Tarik Black (28) pulls down a rebound from Utah Jazz forward Trevor Booker, right, in the second quarter during an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 16, 2015, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Los Angeles Lakers forward Tarik Black (28) pulls down a rebound from Utah Jazz forward Trevor Booker, right, in the second quarter during an NBA basketball game Friday, Jan. 16, 2015, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Boy, are the Los Angeles Lakers glad Houston picked up Josh Smith.

This, of course, has nothing to do with the Western Conference standings — the Lakers are 12-30 and basically irrelevant in terms of the eventual postseason. But the Rockets had to waive Tarik Black in order to add Smith to their roster.

That move allowed L.A. to pick up the undrafted rookie out of Kansas, without making a trade. Grantland.com is calling the under-the-radar transaction the waiver wire pickup of the year in a feature introducing fans to the Lakers’ unlikely productive backup.

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The energetic and powerful 23-year-old made his Lakers debut Jan. 7 and has now played in seven games for L.A., averaging 7.7 points and 5.3 rebounds on 66.7% shooting in 18.3 minutes.

Black’s best game in purple and gold came in a Lakers win — the team’s only victory in its last eight games — against Orlando. He came one rebound shy of a double-double, with 14 point and nine boards.

The Lakers are glad to have the young guy around, and he couldn’t be a better teammate. The Los Angeles Times’ Mike Bresnahan recently wrote about the way Black carries himself. The rookie constantly thanks people with whom he interacts — a trait that showed up when he was in Lawrence for a season, as well.

Black looks at his young NBA career as an “opportunity,” and he told the L.A. Times why he is so grateful.

"As soon as I walked through the door, coach shook my hand and told me that as long as I work hard, I'll be all right out here. Usually coaches don't even really talk to us like that unless you're their franchise player or their top draft pick," Black said. "Undrafted guys? They don't give you the time of day. Coaches here have shown me love from day one."

Black suffered the first setback of his first year in The Association on Monday night, in Phoenix. He sprained his right ankle after scoring 6 points and grabbing 3 rebounds in 21 minutes.

Los Angeles Lakers forward Tarik Black (28) reacts after getting hurt in the fourth quarter during an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Monday, Jan. 19, 2015, in Phoenix. Black left the game and never returned. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Los Angeles Lakers forward Tarik Black (28) reacts after getting hurt in the fourth quarter during an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Monday, Jan. 19, 2015, in Phoenix. Black left the game and never returned. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

He appeared to be suffering badly when it happened, but Black told Time Warner Cable Sportsnet afterward it wasn’t as bad as it looked.

“I’ve sprained my ankle a couple of times, so I wasn’t really worried, because I didn’t hear anything pop, didn’t come out of place or anything like that.”

Asked after the game if he would miss any games because of the ankle, he remained optimistic.

“We’ll see. We’ll see what happens.”

Reports Tuesday afternoon indicated Black didn’t practice Tuesday and will miss L.A.’s next game, against New Orleans.

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Knowing Black’s attitude and approach, this minor setback doesn’t figure to deter his path toward a successful rookie campaign.

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


Reply 7 comments from Armen Kurdian Doug Longstaff David Kelley-Wood Dale Rogers Len Shaffer Clara Westphal Matt Bowers

Jacque Vaughn focused on coaching Magic, not rumors or speculation

Orlando Magic's head coach Jacque Vaughn coaches against Boston Celtics during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Orlando, Fla, Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.)

Orlando Magic's head coach Jacque Vaughn coaches against Boston Celtics during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Orlando, Fla, Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.)

When Jacque Vaughn accepted the position of head coach of the Orlando Magic before the 2012-13 season, he knew the organization had a long way to go to reach respectability.

The former Kansas point guard, who went on to play 12 seasons in the NBA with Utah, Atlanta, Orlando, New Jersey and San Antonio, joined the organization at the ground floor of a major overhaul. That’s why the Magic didn’t overreact and fire the young coach — who landed the gig after spending two years as a Spurs assistant — when the team struggled in Vaughn’s first two seasons (20-62, then 23-59) down in Mickey Mouse Land.

Now in Year 3, the young Magic have shown promise at times, but Orlando has lost six straight and 11 of 14.

The Magic’s most recent struggles, Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel reported, have led some of the team’s fans to call for Vaughn’s dismissal.

Orlando (13-27) currently is tied with Boston for 11th in the mostly wide-open Eastern Conference and sits in fifth place in the five-team Southeast Division (comprised of Atlanta, Washington, Miami, Charlotte and the Magic).

However, Vaughn told the Sentinel he isn’t worried about what outsiders think of the job he’s doing and he avoids reading about rumors and speculation.

"I'm not on social media,” Vaughn said. “And the great thing is I do my job as hard as I can every single day, and I'll always keep it that way. I keep it that simple. I don't complicate it. What I do know is, since Day One, since I accepted this job, everything I've done has been for this organization and it'll continue to be that way."

Robbins reports that the Magic have expectations for improvement this season, with young players such as Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo and Evan Fournier (Vucevic is 24 and the other three are 22 years old) gaining experience.

While Orlando is 5-4 in games decided by 3 points or less, it is 10-11 against teams that are below .500. That’s where much of the criticism originates.

The Sentinel lists “head-scratching” Magic losses to teams such as Boston, Utah, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Detroit and the L.A. Lakers as signs Orlando has lost its way recently.

Harris, though, doesn’t agree with disgruntled fans pointing their fingers at Vaughn.

"I think for us as a team we need to turn it around, not just for Coach but for ourselves," Harris told the Sentinel. "At the end of the day, Coach can't come on the floor. He can't box out for you. He can't dive on the floor for you. Nobody on the staff can get on the floor and go out there and out-hustle somebody and play with a passion and a heart for you as a player.”

Harris went on to speak of Vaughn’s passion behind the scenes, as well as the coach putting in long hours to study game video.

Vucevic also defended the 39-year-old man in charge.

"You can't blame it on Jacque," Vucevic told the Sentinel. "We're the guys out there playing. You can't say that it's Jacque's fault. The effort has to come from us. He can't control that. He can give us plays and X's-and-O's and all that, but if we don't come out with any effort ... it's not going to do anything.”

The Magic had two lottery picks in the 2014 Draft and picked up 20-year-old point guard Elfrid Payton (Louisiana-Lafayette) and 19-year-old forward Aaron Gordon (Arizona). Injured early in the season, Gordaon has only played 11 games.

The schedule doesn’t get any easier for Orlando coming up. Its next five opponents are Chicago, Houston, Memphis, Oklahoma City and the suddenly recharged Pistons. Then the Magic get lowly New York (5-35) and mediocre Indiana (15-24).

If Vaughn survives this season it likely will mean his young players show competitiveness and promise down the stretch. And if that happens, things could turn around for Vaughn and Orlando in the next couple of seasons.


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


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Marcus Morris loses cool, yells at Suns head coach

Phoenix Suns forwards Marcus Morris (15) and P.J. Tucker celebrate during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks Friday, Dec. 5, 2014, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Phoenix Suns forwards Marcus Morris (15) and P.J. Tucker celebrate during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks Friday, Dec. 5, 2014, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Well, now we know who the evil Morris twin is.

Because neither Marcus nor Markieff wears a sinister mustache, there used to be no way to tell.

The typically laid back twins who first teamed up at Kansas in college before reuniting in the NBA with Phoenix live together, get matching tattoos and spout the power of #FOE (family over everything). But Marcus lost his cool Wednesday night, during the Suns’ 113-111 win over Minnesota.

First, the 6-foot-9 forward got hit with a technical foul in the third quarter. Next, he took his anger with him to the bench, and was caught by ESPN’s cameras during an animated and intense back-and-forth with Phoenix head coach Jeff Hornacek.

The Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro reported Marcus became agitated on the court when he got hit in the nose and no foul was called. He remained in that state during the ensuing timeout and when Hornacek didn’t side with him, Marcus started yelling at the coach while stating his case.

Eventually, Suns assistant Corey Gaines stepped in before the situation got any worse.

Coro reported Marcus settled things with Hornacek shortly after the game.

"It was heat of the moment," Marcus told the Arizona Republic. "Coach knows I've got a lot of respect for him. As soon as the game was over, I apologized to him and the team, especially the younger guys for them having to see that. I felt like I got hit in the nose and my nose was bleeding and he had took me out so I was really upset about it.

"When I apologized to Jeff, he said, 'You don't have to apologize.' He knows. He's been a player. I hate that it had to be televised like just because it seemed worse than what it was."

Marcus also took to Twitter to apologize publicly.

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The backup Morris finished the game with 8 points in 14 minutes. Starting brother Markieff scored 14.

Meanwhile, Timberwolve rookie Andrew Wiggins went for 25 points, 4 rebounds and 3 steals, to go with 6 turnovers. The No. 1 overall pick hit 1 of his 4 3-point tries and just missed one that would’ve won the game.


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


Reply 25 comments from Erich Hartmann Plasticjhawk Rockn_chalkn_ku Chad Lee Stupidmichael Allison Steen Shimsham Raymond Wright Thomas Smith Dale Rogers

Sixers coach sees some Tim Duncan in Joel Embiid

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid of Cameroon shoots the ball prior to the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014, in Philadelphia. The Nets won 99-91. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid of Cameroon shoots the ball prior to the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014, in Philadelphia. The Nets won 99-91. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

One of these days, Philadelphia 7-footer Joel Embiid will bring more to the 76ers than pre-game and video-board entertainment.

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After suffering a fracture in his right foot prior to the NBA Draft, the rookie out of Kansas has been on a slow and steady path to rehabilitation.

While Embiid had traveled with ever-struggling Philadelphia (4-28) on what had to be a bummer of a recent road trip, the team sent him home early to focus on his rehab and training.

Prior to that, Sixers coach Brett Brown conversed with TruehoopTV’s Henry Abbott about the injured center. The coach, obviously, wishes he had his No. 3 lottery pick on the court.

For what it’s worth, Philadelphia at least has some experience in dealing with this type of situation. The 76ers’ 2013 lottery pick, Nerlens Noel, rehabbed throughout what would have been his rookie season without playing a single game in a Philly uniform. Brown said that prepared the staff for the challenges of keeping an injured young talent completely engaged in the process of getting game-ready.

“We’re trying to go overboard,” Brown said, “and teach (Embiid) what leadership is, and how to grow a program.”

With the end goal of having Embiid healthy and contributing on a permanent basis, his coach said the 20-year-old’s daily routine focuses on his health, diet and an on-going education about the game of basketball and making it in the NBA. Embiid watches video of some of the league’s best post players, and Brown — a former San Antonio assistant — even arranged for Tim Duncan to speak with the young prodigy when the Sixers played the Spurs.

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In fact, Brown, who scouted Embiid as a Jayhawk, went as far as to compare him to Duncan when asked to come up with some similar players.

“You feel reckless throwing out the names I would throw out,” Brown admitted.

But then the coach went ahead and mentioned he saw a little of all-time Houston great Hakeem Olajuwon, some flashes of Duncan and the post skills of Charlotte big man Al Jefferson in Embiid’s game.

“Those names that I just said are quite flattering and I have to use them responsibly, but there are hints of that. I think the difference with Joel, say from Timmy, when we coached Timmy, is Timmy had four years at Wake Forest and then burst into the NBA and from the get-go was arguably the best 4-man and maybe the best power forward ever.

“So Joel’s one year of experience — and almost three-quarters of a year — is far shy of that four-year period Timmy enjoyed to better prepare him for the NBA.”

As Embiid rehabs (which at one point included him just sitting in a chair with one foot up, shooting one-handed), Brown said the big man from Cameroon by way of KU is giving himself the best chance to return as soon as possible.

Whenever he finally gets clearance to play, Philadelphia could find itself with a good problem: having two talented, young, similar interior players in Embiid and 6-foot-11 Noel (7.7 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.4 blocks through 29 games).

As Scott Howard-Cooper wrote for NBA.com, Brown now sees Noel, projected as a power forward, as more of a center. The coach said that would be “a challenge” for Philadelphia when Embiid joins the rotation.

Brown said Noel is a work in progress defensively, but for now he is more of a presence at the rim than when guarding stretch-forwards on the perimeter. Could that mean Embiid would play power forward?

Howard-Cooper reported Philly has plenty of time to figure this out, because Embiid very well might not make his debut until the Summer League.

Maybe Philadelphia just has two centers. The Sixers could play them both, just as San Antonio did when it had David Robinson and drafted Duncan. Had a team without a perennial all-star at center drafted Duncan, he would’ve been called a center, instead of a power forward. And we’d all talk about Duncan as one of the all-time great centers.

Whether Embiid gets labeled as a center of power forward, he still has a long way to go just to get on the court, let alone prove he should be mentioned in the same breath as Duncan or Olajuwon.

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


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Cole Aldrich suddenly a factor for Knicks

New York Knicks center Cole Aldrich (45) defends Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) in the second half of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2014. The Wizards defeated the Knicks 102-91. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

New York Knicks center Cole Aldrich (45) defends Washington Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. (22) in the second half of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2014. The Wizards defeated the Knicks 102-91. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Hey, who’s that big guy for the Knicks scoring and rebounding? He kind of looks like Cole Aldrich.

Oh, wait. That is Cole Aldrich.

A backup post player with no previous sustained history of success in the NBA, Aldrich entered this season with little fanfare and quite possibly the least expectations of any former Kansas player in the league.

The “all-elbows-and-kneecaps” center, as Billy Witz described him in a feature for the New York Times, never had played more than 46 games in a season nor averaged more than 2.2 points.

However, with a recent new role, Aldrich suddenly looks like a serviceable interior presence, and not just a really tall guy who can wave a towel and congratulate teammates at the end of New York’s bench.

The Knicks (5-29) are terrible. Only one team in The Association can claim a worse winning percentage as the calendar turns to 2015, and that’s the “Seriously, we’re not tanking” Philadelphia 76ers (4-26).

Everybody has a bad day at the office now and then. The Knicks have been spilling coffee down their shirts while blowing the big presentation on a loop for two months now. So it helps to have someone around who can keep everybody from wanting to rip their hair out. For New York, Aldrich is that guy.

As the Lawrence Journal-World's Gary Bedore wrote about back when Aldrich was a junior at KU, the big man lost his front left tooth while battling in the paint as a Jayhawk. To this day, the 6-foot-11 center plays without his replacement tooth in his mouth, and he told the N.Y. Times that doesn’t stop him from flashing a smile with a prominent gap.

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“As weird as it sounds, I think it brings a little lightness to the air,” Aldrich said. “Somebody says something funny and I get a big old grin on my face, and somebody starts laughing.”

While little moments such as that surely are rewarding in their own right, the fifth-year pro — playing for his fourth team — finally has earned some legitimate playing time in The Big Apple. And that’s all every player really wants.

Aldrich averages just 8.6 minutes a contest in his 157-game career, but first-year Knicks coach Derek Fisher (a former teammate of Aldrich in Oklahoma City) has leaned on the 26-year-old center of late.

Prior to this past month, the 2010 lottery pick had started twice in the NBA. A handful of N.Y. roster issues, though, pushed Aldrich into the Knicks’ starting lineup for six of the team’s last seven games.

That’s on the opposite end of the spectrum from his 12 DNP’s this season. However, Aldrich has averaged 10.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 2.1 assists, while hitting 59.6-percent of his shots in New York’s previous seven games — all losses.

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“There have been a few stretches over my career where I’ve had the opportunity to play here or there,” Aldrich told the N.Y. Times. “I take the same approach every time that it happens, which is go out there and play hard, rebound, play defense and score when given the opportunity.”

Last week, the suddenly important post player scored a career-high 18 points at Sacramento, then pulled down 19 rebounds, another personal best, at Portland the next day.

While the fun-loving big man took some Internet flack for not getting involved in teammate Quincy Acy’s Christmas Day brawl, his coach and former teammate, Fisher, appreciates Aldrich’s work ethic and positivity.

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“He’s a great guy to have on a team,” Fisher told the N.Y Times. “He’s not a guy that tries to always lead in a vocal way, but he’s definitely become somewhat of a leader just in his approach and being an example of how you work at what you do.”

No matter what comes next for the at times goofy New York big man, he’ll keep embracing life to the fullest and make others laugh when he can, which isn’t a bad scouting report to have.

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


Reply 2 comments from Jim Stauffer Asad Zoberi

Paul Pierce could return to Celtics — once he retires

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) takes a shot against Boston Celtics forward Jared Sullinger (7) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) takes a shot against Boston Celtics forward Jared Sullinger (7) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Boston loves Paul Pierce. And for the former Celtic, the feeling is mutual.

Even though Pierce agreed to be traded to Brooklyn in the summer of 2013, and has since moved on to play for Washington, he spent 15 years in Celtics green. Beantown and its beloved basketball team mean so much to him, in early December Pierce made a video about his most recent return before facing Boston as a member of the Wizards in TD Garden.

So it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise Pierce told the Boston Herald he could return to the organization once he calls it quits (the 37-year-old has a player-option on his contract at the end of this season, and could opt out to earn more money in 2015-16).

According to the former Kansas standout, sometime in the coming offseason, he plans to visit Boston and will seek out Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge and co-owner Wyc Grousbeck to talk about opportunities that might be available for him when he retires.

The Herald’s Steve Bulpett reported though the 2008 NBA Finals MVP long had thought about front-office positions for his post-playing days, Pierce might even be interested in a spot on the bench.

“I’m not sure, man. I like to keep my options open,” Pierce said. “Coaching could be in my future. I think I still have a lot left to give this game. I always find myself talking to the guys. When we’re going through scouting, I’m giving out pointers. A lot of the assistants say, ‘Man, you’ve got a lot to give this game after you’re done.’ So whether it’s coaching or being a general manager, it’s something I think about. I think it’s something that Kevin (Garnett, his former C’s and Nets teammate) has even thought about. Me and him talked about it. I think he would enjoy coaching. You know, Kevin likes to teach.”

Pierce, who has career averages of 21.1 points, 5.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.4 steals has seen his production decline over the past two seasons, as the wear and tear of hundreds of NBA games — 1207 and counting — catches up with him.

This season with Washington (22-9, No. 3 in the Eastern Conference), he is shooting 44.6% from the floor, right at his career mark of 44.7%, and has made 36.3% of his 3-pointers, not too far off from the 37% he has made in his 16-plus seasons. Like last year with the Nets, he is playing below 30 minutes a game (27.0), but is contributing 13.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 0.8 steals in a Wizards uniform.

Even though he is a productive member of a successful team, the veteran knows retirement comes closer every day.

“I’m just going to listen to my body,” Pierce told the Herald. “Some days are better than others, definitely. But it’s going to be a personal and family decision — even going into this summer.”

In the meantime, he’ll keep doing what he did all those years in Boston — just maybe on a reduced scale. Gotta save those legs for coaching.


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


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Lakers claim Tarik Black off waivers, cut Xavier Henry

Houston Rockets forward Tarik Black, right, goes up for a basket against Milwaukee Bucks guard Giannis Antetokounmpo, left, during the first half of an NBA game Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Darren Hauck)

Houston Rockets forward Tarik Black, right, goes up for a basket against Milwaukee Bucks guard Giannis Antetokounmpo, left, during the first half of an NBA game Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Darren Hauck)

So long, Houston. Hello, Los Angeles.

Two days after learning the Rockets had waived him in order to sign Josh Smith, rookie center Tarik Black has a new NBA home. The undrafted big man out of Kansas couldn’t pass through the league’s waiver system without the Lakers scooping him up.

Black, who had averaged 4.2 points and 5.1 rebounds for Houston, didn’t leave his short-term employer without feeling grateful. Sunday afternoon, he tweeted about his gratitude for the franchise that gave him a shot to make it in the league:

“I would like to thank the (Rockets) for blessing me to be (a part) of such an outstanding organization.”

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While the news meant the 6-foot-11 rookie would remain in the league, acquiring Black pushed another former Kansas player out. Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Lakers waived inured small forward Xavier Henry in order to have a roster spot for Black.

Henry, coming off a promising 2013-14 with the Lakers, ruptured his left Achilles in November, ending his fifth season prematurely.

The Lakers only signed Henry to a one-year deal this past offseason, so parting ways with him in order to sign someone who could impact the team now made sense. Appropriately, Henry isn’t taking it personally.

“Nothing has changed,” the 23-year-old tweeted to Lakers fans Sunday afternoon. “I’m working to get healthy everyday. I understand the situation and thank (you) for your wishes (and) good vibes.”

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While going from the playoff-bound Rockets (21-7 before facing San Antonio Sunday evening) to the lottery-bound Lakers (9-21 entering Sunday’s game against Phoenix) might not seem like an ideal situation, the 23-year-old Black wasn’t complaining.

“Well, what basketball player doesn’t grow up wising to play for a historic organization like the (Lakers),” Black posted on Twitter. “Thank you for the opportunity, L.A.!!!”

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Black didn’t stop there, adding in another tweet:

“To the fans of the Lakers, I am honored and can’t wait to get to work. Hopefully I can help this team and you guys will enjoy the process.”

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Black’s signing will give the Lakers another low-post option to go with Jordan Hill, Carlos Boozer and Ed Davis.


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


Reply 8 comments from Len Shaffer Jayhawk86 Stupidmichael Texashawk10_2 Vernon Riggs

Report: Rockets waive Tarik Black

Houston Rockets forward Tarik Black, center, drives to the basket against the defense of Milwaukee Bucks guard Giannis Antetokounmpo, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Darren Hauck)

Houston Rockets forward Tarik Black, center, drives to the basket against the defense of Milwaukee Bucks guard Giannis Antetokounmpo, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Darren Hauck)

Basketball isn’t just a game in the NBA, it’s also a monumental business — even around the holidays.

Rookie Tarik Black learned that the hard way when Houston waived the center from Kansas the day after Christmas.

Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the Rockets had to clear a roster spot in order to sign free agent Josh Smith, himself waived days ago by Detroit. Black ended up being the casualty when Houston (20-7) made a title-chasing move.

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Undrafted after one year at KU, Black earned himself a Rockets uniform and playing time through hard work. Coach Kevin McHale, in a story from CBS Houston’s Howard Chen, earlier this month pointed to Black’s core values and attitude when talking about how the (allegedly) 6-foot-11 center got a shot in the NBA after all those teams passed on him in the draft.

“That’s what got my attention right away,” McHale said. “I was just very impressed with the kid as far as his willingness to come to work every day. (He) had just a great can-do attitude. Whatever you asked him to do, he did. That went a long way.”

Black started 12 of the 25 games he played for the Rockets, contributing major minutes when they needed him fill in due to injuries and the like. He was averaging 4.2 points and 5.1 rebounds in 15.7 minutes, and shooting .542 from the floor.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RLWw98YP2LM

The 23-year-old big man’s best performance came Dec. 3 against his hometown Memphis Grizzlies — the team he would’ve faced Friday night with the Rockets.

None by Gary Parrish

Black put up a double-double in Houston against the Grizzlies, going for 10 points and 11 rebounds in 23 minutes. What’s more, he put in serious work on the offensive glass, with nine boards on that end of the floor, while playing against the likes of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.

Following that performance, Black told Chen he has learned much about the NBA through his on-the-court experience.

“There’s a lot of talent, so you have to be on your p’s and q’s night in and night out,” Black said. “You have to listen to what the coach wants. You have to listen to the game plan. And you have to go out there and execute it in order to get wins.”

That quote is an example of what McHale spoke of, and other NBA teams have not only seen evidence Black can contribute, they also have heard good things about him. So even though the rookie had played single-digit minutes in four of Houston’s last five games, he could wind up with another franchise. And soon.

Wojnarowski reported more than one NBA team told him they have interest in claiming Black off waivers.


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


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LeBron James’ review of Andrew Wiggins: ‘He’s a great talent’

Minnesota Timberwolves' Andrew Wiggins (22) is fouled by Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014, in Cleveland. Wiggins led the Timberwolves with 27 points, but the Cavaliers won 125-104. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

Minnesota Timberwolves' Andrew Wiggins (22) is fouled by Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014, in Cleveland. Wiggins led the Timberwolves with 27 points, but the Cavaliers won 125-104. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

When he wants to, Andrew Wiggins can play with an edge.

In a three-game slump (6.3 points per game, 7-for-27 shooting) heading into the rookie’s very first meeting with the team that drafted him, Cleveland, and superstar LeBron James, the Kansas product indeed looked motivated to show the Cavaliers they should have kept him around — or at the very least remind them of what they’re missing.

Wiggins outscored LeBron, 27-24, (but not Kyrie Irving, who added 29 for Cleveland) and the leading candidate for rookie of the year made another highlight reel to add to his résumé by hitting 9 of 16 from the floor.

Though his Timberwolve (5-22) still had no chance at Cleveland (17-10), Wiggins Vined the Cavs’ defense on one possession with a jam that must have had Cavs fans wondering — maybe just momentarily — how the 19-year-old Canadian would look in wine and gold.

None by gifdsports

Showing more professionalism that bitterness or envy, Wiggins said in a column by The News Herald’s Jim Ingraham he isn’t holding any grudges toward Cleveland — a place he said earlier this week he called home for “like three days.”

“I’m being put in a bigger position, a bigger role (with Minnesota) than I would’ve been on that team,” Wiggins said. “That’s helping me grow more mentally and physically.”

Like Kobe Bryant earlier this month, the Star Tribune’s Jerry Zgoda reported, James had a glowing review of Wiggins, a potential future star in The Association.

“He’s a great talent,” James said. “We all knew that for sure. He’s very poised and very efficient. They got a good piece.”

After the 125-104 loss, the Timberwolves’ sixth in a row, Wiggins reiterated the matchup with Cleveland, who picked him No. 1 overall in June, then moved him in a trade to land Kevin Love, provided added inspiration.

“I’m a competitor so it’s fun for me,” he told the Star Tribune. “I’m sure it’s fun for him (James) and fun for fans to see. He’s one of the best players in the league, so I think I learned a lot. He can score in a lot of different ways and impact the game a lot of different ways.”


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


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