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Julian Wright joins the D-League; Paul Pierce, Mario Chalmers and Markieff Morris take part in All-Star Weekend

Toronto Raptors' Julian Wright (14) reacts after dunking the ball against the Houston Rockets during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 31, 2010, in Houston.

Toronto Raptors' Julian Wright (14) reacts after dunking the ball against the Houston Rockets during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 31, 2010, in Houston. by Nick Gerik

Julian Wright became the latest former Jayhawk to attempt a comeback through the NBA Development League, as he signed a contract on Thursday and was picked up by the Austin Toros on Monday.

On his Twitter account, Wright wrote:

God is great! I'm excited for my opportunity with Austin Toros. I'm ready to get back to playing the game I love, at a high intensity!

Unlike KU’s other ex-NBA-player-turned-D-Leaguer, Greg Ostertag, Wright is in shape (a very positive thing for a professional athlete), and he’s not that far removed from his last NBA game. He played 52 games last season for the Toronto Raptors, he's only 24 years old, he seems motivated, oh, and he can do this:

And speaking of the D-League ...

Rookie Josh Selby was recalled from the Reno Bighorns on Monday and took part in Memphis Grizzlies practice. Selby played in four games with the Bighorns and started one. He averaged almost 22 points, six rebounds, three assists and a steal in 31 minutes.

Now that Selby and the Houston Rockets’ Marcus Morris have been called up, the only Jayhawks currently in the D-League (and without NBA teams) are Brady Morningstar (Tulsa 66ers) and Wright.


All-Star Weekend recap

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris (11), of Team Shaq, dunks the ball during the NBA All-Star Rising Stars Challenge basketball game in Orlando, Fla. Friday, Feb. 24, 2012.

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris (11), of Team Shaq, dunks the ball during the NBA All-Star Rising Stars Challenge basketball game in Orlando, Fla. Friday, Feb. 24, 2012. by Nick Gerik

  • Markieff Morris (Phoenix Suns) started off All-Star Weekend with a bang, as he played 15 minutes for Shaquille O'Neal’s Team Shaq in the rookie-sophomore “Rising Stars Challenge” on Friday. Markieff hit a couple of three-pointers and slammed home a few dunks for 12 points. Keef had just two rebounds, but in his defense (poor choice of words, considering), both teams shot near 60-percent efficiency for the game. Markieff hit 5 of 7 shots overall (full stats here). Team Chuck (managed by Charles Barkley) beat Team Shaq, 146-133.

After the game, he jokingly told Suns.com:

“I’m mad that we lost. If they would’ve passed me the ball more, I would’ve hit more threes. But that’s how it happens, so we just had fun.”

Andrew Lynch of ValleyOfTheSuns.com had this to say about Markieff’s performance:

… his prowess at running aimlessly from one free throw line to the other, unencumbered by an offensive system, was unmatched. This wasn’t a game really designed for a player like Morris, whose bread and butter in the NBA has been knocking down 3s after a defensive breakdown, forcing the action in the post and being a nuisance on the defensive glass. Post play, after all, was non-existent; the only time a defensive player entered the paint was to corral a made basket and inbound the ball. And there were few rebounds to grab when both teams hardly missed a shot.

Suns.com’s Stefan Swiat wrote:

Usually mild-mannered on the floor with the Suns, Morris was even engaging the opposing bench in a little trash talk during Friday night’s contest.

“I told them I was going to hit five threes in a row,” Morris said grinning. “I got hit on my thumb and it didn’t look good so I had to come out of the game. (Shaq) wanted me to go off, but there weren’t enough balls to go around for me so it is what it is.”

And Markieff told the Arizona Republic that he got a vote of confidence from the big man-turned-commentator-turned-coach-for-a-night:

"Shaq said he liked my game and thinks I'm capable of doing great things in the league and to keep it up."

Yes, please, Keef... keep this up:

(If you missed the show, and want to watch for yourself, some enterprising soul uploaded the whole thing to YouTube.)

During the weekend’s endless media interviews, Suns.com asked other players (including fellow ‘Hawk Mario Chalmers) for their thoughts on Phoenix’s rookie:

The Arizona Republic also caught up with Markieff’s coach, Alvin Gentry, who said the rookie had a decent first half of the season:

"His feel for the game," Gentry said in identifying Morris' best traits. "Defensively, what he's done. His rebounding is still pretty good. Not so much the numbers but just that he's in there and rambling around and being physical. He's another guy that's hard to judge by his stat line. Just him being out there and the presence that he has helps us. He's gotten better with (defensive) rotations and things like that. We've asked him to guard some of the premier players and he's done a good job."


Mario Chalmers: Three-Point Contest

Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers shoots during the NBA All-Star Three-Point Shootout basketball competition in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012.

Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers shoots during the NBA All-Star Three-Point Shootout basketball competition in Orlando, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012. by Nick Gerik

Mario Chalmers (Miami Heat) got off to a hot start in the Three-Point Shootout on Saturday night, putting up 18 points in the first round...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q3VtKMndbCY

… but it wasn’t enough, as Chalmers ended up tied with Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love at the end of the round. Chalmers fell in a brief tiebreaker with Love, 5-4, and Love went on to win the whole shebang.


Paul Pierce: NBA All-Star Game

Western Conference's Kevin Love (42), of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Eastern Conference All-Star Paul Pierce (34), of the Boston Celtics go after a rebound, during the first half of the NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012 in Orlando, Fla.

Western Conference's Kevin Love (42), of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Eastern Conference All-Star Paul Pierce (34), of the Boston Celtics go after a rebound, during the first half of the NBA All-Star basketball game, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012 in Orlando, Fla. by Nick Gerik

Paul Pierce (Boston Celtics) went 1-for-8 and had just three points in 11 minutes during his 10th All-Star game, but he still tried his best to influence the outcome of the game for the Eastern Conference squad. From the Boston Herald:

The East had shrunk a 20-point deficit to one in eight minutes, and Paul Pierce got up off the bench and yelled for his team to foul Kobe Bryant, saying the Lakers star would miss one of the free throws. Bryant did clang the second with 18.1 seconds left, but the East couldn’t capitalize.

“I was just heckling him, that’s all,” Pierce said with a smile afterward. “Good friendly heckle going on between two rivals.”

The West won, 152-149 (full stats here).


… and waaaay, way back on Thursday ...

New York Knicks' Jeremy Lin pass the ball against Miami Heat Marios Chalmers during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Fla., on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012.

New York Knicks' Jeremy Lin pass the ball against Miami Heat Marios Chalmers during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game at the AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Fla., on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012. by Nick Gerik

  • Mario Chalmers (Miami Heat) helped the Heat contain “Lin-sanity” and the New York Knicks. Chalmers scored just eight points in 24 minutes, but he was one of a few Miami players to hold Knicks sensation Jeremy Lin and his backup, Baron Davis, to 1-for-18 shooting. Chalmers’ defensive aggressiveness got him into trouble at times, though, and he racked up four fouls, which limited his playing time. He finished with two rebounds, three assists and two steals to go with three turnovers (full stats here). The Heat won, 102-88.

ESPN Stats & Information broke down the game further. While Chalmers was matched up on him, Lin shot 0-for-3 and committed four turnovers — one of which turned into a highlight play for Chalmers at the other end:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1L1mXGeZiEo

Atlanta guard Kirk Hinrich (6) drives against Orlando power forward Ryan Anderson (33) in the first half of an NBA basketball game on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012, in Atlanta.

Atlanta guard Kirk Hinrich (6) drives against Orlando power forward Ryan Anderson (33) in the first half of an NBA basketball game on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012, in Atlanta. by Nick Gerik

  • Kirk Hinrich (Atlanta Hawks) started for the Hawks against the Orlando Magic when starting shooting guard Joe Johnson sat out with an injury. Hinrich had six points, four rebounds and four assists in 25 minutes, but the Magic took down the Hawks, 83-78. Hinrich also had a steal, two blocks and two turnovers (full stats here).

Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Blake (5) passes off to a teammate in front of Oklahoma City Thunder center Cole Aldrich, right, in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012.

Los Angeles Lakers guard Steve Blake (5) passes off to a teammate in front of Oklahoma City Thunder center Cole Aldrich, right, in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012. by Nick Gerik

  • Cole Aldrich (Oklahoma City Thunder) picked up 10 minutes of playing time against the heavy-hitting Los Angeles Lakers frontcourt, but he took just one shot for two points and one rebound in that time on the court (full stats here).

  • Nick Collison (Oklahoma City Thunder) sat out (left quad contusion) as the Thunder shot down the Los Angeles Lakers, 100-85 (game stats here). It was Collison’s third straight missed game.


Other notes

  • Marcus Morris (Houston Rockets) got in some trouble with the law after taking in the KU-Mizzou game on Saturday:

Marcus told the Houston Chronicle’s Jonathan Feigen:

“I have to stay professional,” Morris said Monday. “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s still up in the air, so we’re just trying to get past it.

“It’s really still up in the air, so I don’t want to comment on it too much. I just want to move forward and just focus on basketball. It’s definitely a situation I can grow from, for sure.”

  • Drew Gooden (Milwaukee Bucks) might be back in the lineup tonight as the Bucks take on the Washington Wizards. Gooden had missed several games with wrist and knee injuries, but he was a full participant in practice on Monday, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Chris Gardner.

  • During All-Star Weekend media availability, the Miami Herald’s Joseph Goodman typed up a feature on ultra-competitive Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers. Here’s a taste:

Mario Chalmers doesn’t want you to believe in him. He doesn’t want your support.

Some people thrive off of positive reinforcement. You know these people. You might be one of them. It’s a natural human condition. Chalmers is the opposite of that.

Your doubts fuel his soul.

We look at wingspan. He's 7-3 or so but only 6-9 plus. You don't block shots with your head or shoulders so wingspan is what we go by. Self prepared him very well. Very well. It's hurting him to not get the practices he would have in a regular scheduled season. But he's doing what I'd hoped.

  • Aaron Colen of the Chickasha News brainstormed some moves that the Oklahoma City Thunder might make before the NBA’s March 15 trade deadline. Colen, admitting it was a long shot, threw out the idea of a reunion between KU teammates Kirk Hinrich (Atlanta Hawks) and Nick Collison in OKC. I only post this here because, well, it’s kinda fun to think about. But I really, really, really, reaaaaalllly doubt it’ll ever come close to happening. Hinrich’s $8 million contract is a big reason why, as is the Thunder’s penchant for developing younger players (see: rookie point guard Reggie Jackson). AND the Thunder are sitting pretty with an NBA-best 27-7 record at the halfway mark of the season. What’s the saying? “If it ain’t broke …”

Jayhawks in upcoming NBA games

Tuesday, Feb. 28

  • 6 p.m., Paul Pierce and the Boston Celtics vs. the Cleveland Cavaliers

  • 6 p.m., Brandon Rush and the Golden State Warriors vs. the Indiana Pacers

  • 7 p.m., NBA TV, Xavier Henry and the New Orleans Hornets vs. the Chicago Bulls

  • 7 p.m., Drew Gooden and the Milwaukee Bucks vs. the Washington Wizards

  • 7 p.m., Marcus Morris and the Houston Rockets vs. the Toronto Raptors

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Comments

TwinCitiesJHawk 2 years, 5 months ago

Your write ups keep getting better and better. This one has tons of great info. Thank you for the vids and quotes!!

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Kampinqueen 2 years, 5 months ago

I agree very informative, worth while read.

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jaybate 2 years, 5 months ago

Yeah, you're getting a rhythm now!

I recognize your voice.

Reps make you better.

The essence of this is the drama of these guys trying to go to the next level.

Stay with the drama and the challenge. Everyone that has ever left college identifies deeply with these guys trying to make it in the real world; that is the central hook of what you are doing.

Humanize, humanize, humanize.

Also creating a context around each player is very important. Feedback from management, from local media covering the player, photos, feeds, and your POV yield the context that makes this much more interesting than just sports news. This is reporting about individual expeditions into the unknown with great anticipation on the part of readers. How will it turn out for each player?

This is not a criticism at all, but what you are doing is kind of a real soap opera, rather than sports news. What is important is the near daily unfolding of the installments of each player's professional basketball life.

"These Are the Days of Our Basketball Lives"

Up. Down. Out. In. Conflicts. Accomplishments. Failings. Struggle, struggle, struggle. With life lessons woven in.

Nick Collison's take on how he creates value for his team, so that he can stay around the game and on the payroll, is something you need to think about as you develop this.

What you can do that other sports writers are not in a position to do is: ask the guys how they are doing what they do and what it is they are trying to do? Not all will know. But that is important, too.

Think of each player you cover as a character in the soap opera "These Are the Days of Our Basketball Lives." Remember motivation is everything in characters. Motivation is what makes us understand them, so that our like of them, and our identification with them, can flower into a virtual relationship in their journey.

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trite 2 years, 5 months ago

How do you keep from recycling clichés ?

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jaybate 2 years, 5 months ago

Say everything differently? :-)

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Brak 2 years, 5 months ago

After the game, he jokingly told Suns.com:

“I’m mad that we lost. If they would’ve passed me the ball more, I would’ve hit more threes."

Kief is not joking which is sad and I get that its a fake game but it just was uncomfortable to watch him on the floor standing at the wing and begging Rubio for a pass so he could jack up a 3, and everytime Rubio would motion for him to head for the basket he would just stand there. The reason he was drafted ahead of his brother was because he had a defined role and now that he has a shot at the bigtime he just wants to sit back and jack up 3s like his bro.

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HawkKlaw 2 years, 5 months ago

Nice travel 'Kieff...er, dunk! I mean dunk!

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Michael Pannacciulli 2 years, 5 months ago

Kieff the bigger star...over Marcus.

Wright staying positive but not NBA talent.

Cole not NBA caliber?

Selby jury is still out.

Brady not NBA caliber.

Ostertag was never a good athlete even in his early years...very sad seeing him make a go at it pushing 40.

Pierce - still a warrior. The man in other words.

Xavier and Brandon - role players, serviceable.

Drew - the journeyman...When healthy he lives up to his salary.

Collison - as long as they keep paying ya..hey ride it out. This maybe the Thunders year.

Kirk - admirable career - much respect.

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