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Paul Pierce makes list of top 40 NBA players of past 40 seasons

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

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

Debating where basketball players rank in the annals of history is a time-honored tradition in the NBA — like Marv Albert yelling “Yes” on a broadcast or the Los Angeles Clippers failing to advance past the second round of the playoffs.

So you can imagine the arguments ignited by The Washington Post’s newly published list of The Top 40 players since the ABA/NBA merger, 40 years ago, as constructed by Tim Bontemps. The Michael Jordan-LeBron James disputes, of course, are inevitable. But so, too, are the “Why isn’t Player X on this list?” and “Who put THAT guy on here?” dissensions.

Although others might debate his inclusion, University of Kansas basketball fans will be glad to know the Jayhawks are represented among The Post’s top 40 of the past 40 seasons, with Paul Pierce coming in at No. 36 — even ahead of a pair of hall of famers, Kevin McHale and Reggie Miller.

A recent retiree and future hall of famer himself, Pierce averaged 19.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.3 steals over the course of 19 seasons, after Boston made him the No. 10 pick in the 1998 draft. “The Truth” was a 10-time all-star, four-time member of one of the three tiers of all-NBA teams and the 2008 NBA Finals MVP.

Bontemps explains his place in NBA history:

“Pierce’s quiet end to his career with the Los Angeles Clippers shouldn’t diminish what was a remarkable run, largely with the Boston Celtics, where he partnered with (Kevin) Garnett and (Ray) Allen to usher in a new era in the sport. He also had the most duels with James, and came out on the winning end more times than just about anyone else, too.”

As referenced by Bontemps, Pierce and LeBron put up some classic battles before the former KU star hit the declining years of his career arc. Pierce and the Celtics knocked James and the Cavaliers (the pre-Miami, pre-Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love incarnation) out of the playoffs in both 2008 and 2010. And although LeBron’s Heat teams would later defeat Pierce and company in three other postseasons (once after Boston traded him to Brooklyn), giving “King James” a 3-2 advantage over Pierce in terms of playoff series won (17-13 in postseason games), this generation’s greatest talent, who has since won three titles, learned much from his early battles with “The Truth.”

"Obviously he gets a Cliff note or a couple notes in my book as far as guys that helped me get over the hump or kept me where I was at the time," James said in 2015 of Pierce. "I knew I had to become much better individually. He's one of those guys."

That praise, along with Pierce’s many accomplishments, some may — you know — argue, should be enough to rank Pierce higher than 36th on this compilation of all-time greats.

Check out The Post’s interactive top-40 graphic and decide for yourself.

Among the 40 players highlighted, Pierce ranks 26th in points, 27th in rebounding, 25th in assists, 24th in steals and 25th in blocks.

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‘I gave every ounce I could’: After 19 seasons, Paul Pierce retires

Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul Pierce, right, shoots as Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors defends during the second half in Game 7 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Sunday, April 30, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Jazz won 104-91. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul Pierce, right, shoots as Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors defends during the second half in Game 7 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Sunday, April 30, 2017, in Los Angeles. The Jazz won 104-91. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The career of the best NBA player from Kansas since Wilt Chamberlain officially has come to a close.

After 19 seasons, 1,343 regular-season games, 14 playoff appearances, 10 All-Star games, four All-NBA selections, a championship ring and a Finals MVP trophy, Paul Pierce walked away from the game on Sunday, with the Los Angeles Clippers’ season-ending playoff-loss sending him into retirement.

For the 39-year-old forward, the finale — 6 points, 2-for-4 shooting, 3 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal in 22 minutes versus Utah — was not reflective of what is bound to become a hall of fame career. “The Truth” as the high-scoring Inglewood, Calif., native came to be known in the NBA during his peak years with the Boston Celtics, averaged 19.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.3 steals for his career. He shot 44.5% from the floor and made 2,143 of his 5,816 3-point attempts (36.8%).

Through an incredible 15-year run with the Celtics, who drafted him 10th overall in 1998, Pierce played in 136 playoff games, producing 20.9 points, 6.4 boards and 4.0 assists a game.

His revered veteran presence took him to Brooklyn, Washington and L.A., too, for the twilight years in the league, before it all finally ended in the first round of the 2017 playoffs, with a Game 7 defeat.

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“You know, it’s tough to come up short in your goals. Each and every year you set a goal to be champions,” Pierce said in a post-game interview with reporters posted at CBSSports.com. “And it’s a tough pill to swallow each and every year. I’ve been in the league 19 years, so I’ve had to swallow 18 tough pills. But at the end of the day, I was happy to be a part of this, compete with these guys and see the work everybody put in every day, and I appreciate the guys around me,” he said, before shaking his head in apparent disbelief. “It’s been a fun ride.”

The season obviously ended sooner than Pierce and his Clippers teammates hoped, but the new retiree was able to put it all in perspective.

“I’m happy at the end of the day with what I’ve been able to accomplish, what I’ve been able to do throughout my career,” Pierce said, “and I gave every ounce I could. Each and every day. I have no regrets. Even to the last day I’m in here a couple hours before the game, you know, giving my blood, sweat and tears to this game.”

Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul Pierce, center, gets a handshake from Alan Anderson, left, and a pat on the back from Wesley Johnson during the closing seconds Game 7 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz, Sunday, April 30, 2017, in Los Angeles. Pierce is scheduled to retire after the season. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul Pierce, center, gets a handshake from Alan Anderson, left, and a pat on the back from Wesley Johnson during the closing seconds Game 7 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz, Sunday, April 30, 2017, in Los Angeles. Pierce is scheduled to retire after the season. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

After Pierce’s final NBA appearance, a number of former teammates and competitors showed their appreciation for his career with messages on social media.

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https://www.instagram.com/p/BThrGYLASAK/

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Likewise, in a video produced by The Players’ Tribune, many of those same stars and contemporaries shared their thoughts on what made Pierce special over the course of his many highlight-filled, shot-making years in The Association. And his college days weren’t overlooked, either, thanks to the help of his coach at Kansas, Roy Williams.

“He was a wonderful player to coach,” Williams said. “He’s a complete player, and I think that competitiveness made him become a compete player.”

His longtime friend and Celtics running mate Kevin Garnett described Pierce both as a “beast” and a “classic” player.

“One of the more clutch, if not calmer, beasts that I’ve met in my life,” Garnett said.

Between the regular season and playoffs since his professional debut in 1999, Pierce logged 47,873 minutes and scored 29,571 points. He retired as the 18th-leading scorer in NBA history (26,397 points).

“This game has meant everything for me,” Pierce said shortly after playing for the last time on Sunday. “And I’m happy from start to finish.”

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce shouts as he holds the MVP trophy as the Boston Celtics celebrate their 131-92 win over the Los Angeles Lakers to win the NBA basketball Championship in Boston, Tuesday, June 17, 2008. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce shouts as he holds the MVP trophy as the Boston Celtics celebrate their 131-92 win over the Los Angeles Lakers to win the NBA basketball Championship in Boston, Tuesday, June 17, 2008. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

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Thomas Robinson finds ‘right opportunity’ with Brooklyn Nets

Philadelphia 76ers' Thomas Robinson, left, dunks past Los Angeles Lakers' Robert Sacre during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, March 30, 2015, in Philadelphia. Los Angeles won 113-111 in overtime. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Philadelphia 76ers' Thomas Robinson, left, dunks past Los Angeles Lakers' Robert Sacre during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, March 30, 2015, in Philadelphia. Los Angeles won 113-111 in overtime. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Thomas Robinson didn’t have to wait long to find his new NBA home for the 2015-16 season.

On the second day of free agency, the former Sacramento King, Houston Rocket, Portland Trail Blazer and Philadelphia 76er (who was waived by the Denver Nuggets without playing a game for them) agreed to a contract with the Brooklyn Nets.

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Rather than waiting to see which teams misfired on their home-run pitches to the big-name free agents, Robinson on Thursday went ahead and decided to stick with the franchise that already had shown interest in him. The Nets planned to sign Robinson once he cleared waivers in February, but Philadelphia claimed him before that became an option.

Considering how the first three seasons of his professional career have gone — never playing more than 15.1 minutes a game over the course of one of them — its easy to see why Robinson would jump at the chance to join an organization who has shown an inkling of belief in him.

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The New York Post’s Tim Bontemps reported the addition of Robinson helps Brooklyn meet one of its offseason goals: to add younger, more athletic players. The Nets will sign the 24-year-old power forward to a two-year contract for the league minimum, and he has a player option to become a free agent again next summer.

There are months to go before the season actually begins, but at this point it appears Robinson will be a regular rotation player — likely even the first big off the bench to replace either Brook Lopez or Thaddeus Young.

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Perhaps the most important development in all of this, though, is the nature of the contract. Brooklyn could have only been interested in a short-term deal, but that’s best for Robinson, too. This way, he can bet on himself.

In his eyes, he hasn’t yet received a legitimate shot to prove he belongs in the NBA. If he finally gains relevancy with the Nets, he can opt out of his deal next July and get more money from Brooklyn or another team.

Robinson took a step in the right direction during his short, 22-game stay with Philadelphia, averaging 8.8 points and 7.7 rebounds (2.8 offensive) in 18.5 minutes.

Some advanced stats from basketball-reference.com tell even more of the story. Robinson had a player efficiency rating of 19.3 with the Sixers, which was more than 4 points higher than he had posted with any other team. For a reference point, Miami’s Dwyane Wade had a PER of 21.4 for the season, which ranked 20th overall in the NBA.

While wearing a 76ers uniform, Robinson also set new personal marks in offensive rebound percentage (15.8%) and defensive rebound percentage (30.2%). Had either of those come over the course of the entire season, Robinson would have ranked third in ORB%, behind Andre Drummond (18.3%) and DeAndre Jordan (16.2%), and third in DRB%, behind Jordan (32.4%) and DeMarcus Cousins (30.6%).

The No. 5 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Robinson knows he has yet to live up to the expectations that come with that status. Next season in Brooklyn could change all of that, as long as he maintains that high-energy approach and keeps crashing the glass like a maniac.

As he tweeted out upon coming to terms with the Nets, Robinson thinks he’s finally on his way to earning respect around the league.

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


Follow @BentonASmith on Twitter.

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Report: Thomas Robinson to sign with Brooklyn Nets

Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler, left, guards Portland Trail Blazers forward Thomas Robinson (41) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014, in Denver. The Trail Blazers won 130-113. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler, left, guards Portland Trail Blazers forward Thomas Robinson (41) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014, in Denver. The Trail Blazers won 130-113. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

About that Thomas Robinson to Denver trade.

Yeah, it happened. But, no, the 23-year-old former Kansas standout won’t be playing for the Nuggets.

In the hours that followed Robinson getting dealt from Portland to Denver on Thursday, rumors of a possible buyout of his contract emerged. By Sunday, the Nuggets had waived Robinson.

So where does the high-energy power forward go from here?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NMshBunoBO8

Well, Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports Robinson is Brooklyn-bound.

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Robinson confirmed as much via Twitter Monday afternoon.

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Now in his third season in the league, Robinson already has called Sacramento, Houston and Portland home. Denver will just be a footnote by the time his career ends, as the Nets become his fourth NBA team.

It has to be better than finishing out the season with the Nuggets (20-35).

According to RealGM.com’s Shams Charania, Robinson spoke with defending NBA champion San Antonio (34-21, seventh in Western Conference), Brooklyn (22-31, eighth in Eastern Conference), Phoenix (29-27, ninth out West), Miami (23-31, seventh in East) and Charlotte (22-32, 0.5 games out of eighth place in East).

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The most intriguing options appeared to be playing with the Spurs or Suns.

San Antonio, of course, is a threat to win the championship every single season, and Robinson could have learned from some all-time greats in Tim Duncan and coach Gregg Popovich. But where would he have fit into the Spurs’ rotation? Duncan plays about 30 minutes a game inside, while Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter, Aron Baynes and Matt Bonner are veteran frontcourt guys who know San Antonio’s system.

The Suns, on the other hand, might not make the playoffs. They’re 2 games behind Oklahoma City for the No. 8 seed, and 5.5 games behind San Antonio. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the Spurs or Thunder falls out, barring an injury to one of their stars. But Phoenix has Robinson’s crew from KU, Marcus and Markieff Morris.

http://instagram.com/p/yJbaYNDYgo/

It seemed Robinson, if Phoenix was interested in him, could have slid into the Suns’ frontcourt rotation, with the Morrii and Alex Len.

Instead, Robinson will play for his first Eastern Conference team, in Brooklyn.

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The Nets are one of six teams vying for the final two available spots in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Miami, Brooklyn, Detroit, Indiana, Charlotte and Boston all are with in 2.5 games of each other in the standings, between seventh and 12th place, with roughly 30 games to go.

Robinson had averaged 3.6 points and 4.2 rebounds in just 12.2 minutes this season in Portland. If he’s willing to go play with Brooklyn, you have to assume they promised him far more time on the court.

Brooklyn bigs Brook Lopez and Mason Plumlee aren’t going anywhere, so backup power forward Mirza Teletovic appears to be Robinson’s primary competition in terms of minutes. Also, the Nets could use newly acquired Thaddeus Young as a stretch-4.

We’ll see how Robinson’s latest situation works out for him.

Wojnarowski reports his deal with the Nets is a 10-day contract that will be extended through the end of the season.

Remember, it looks like Robinson still will become a free agent this summer, so if Brooklyn isn’t a fit either, he could pursue other options soon. But Wojnarowski reports the Nets could be interested in him long-term.


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


Follow @BentonASmith on Twitter.

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Pierce’s Nets on brink of elimination vs. Chalmers’ Heat

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) defends Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) in the second half of Game 4 of their second-round NBA playoff basketball game at the Barclays Center, Monday, May 12, 2014, in New York. James tied a career playoff scoring record with 49 points as the Heat defeated the Nets 102-96 going up 3-1 in the best of seven series. (AP Photo)

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) defends Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) in the second half of Game 4 of their second-round NBA playoff basketball game at the Barclays Center, Monday, May 12, 2014, in New York. James tied a career playoff scoring record with 49 points as the Heat defeated the Nets 102-96 going up 3-1 in the best of seven series. (AP Photo)

Well, that didn't exactly go as planned.

After much was made of Brooklyn veteran Paul Pierce requesting Miami überstar LeBron James as his defensive assignment, the four-time NBA MVP torched the nets and the Nets in Game 4 Monday night for 49 points on 16-for-24 shooting.

As you would imagine, Pierce became a popular Twitter target in the aftermath of Miami's 102-96 win, which put Brooklyn in a 3-1 hole in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

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Pierce, who scored 16 points in the loss, wasn't the only Net who couldn't as much as slow down the unstoppable James. NBA.com/stats showed LeBron scored 11 while being guarded one-on-one by the Kansas University product. James made 3 of 5 shots, 1 of 2 3-pointers, drew four fouls and drove to the paint twice versus The Truth.

Still, Pierce, a longtime rival of James at this point, had to be disappointed that he couldn't lead the charge in containing the force that is LeBron.

Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated noted a few reasons why Pierce never would buddy up with The King:

James's constant complaining irks Pierce, as does his belief, league sources say, that James once tried to recruit Doc Rivers to Cleveland when Rivers was coaching the Celtics.

Publicly at least, James claimed all the hoopla over Pierce wanting to guard him didn't inspire the huge night.

“I really don’t care what Paul has to say. We don’t really get involved in that."

Game 4 was a difficult, potentially back-breaking loss for Brooklyn.

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But Pierce, as quoted by Andrew Keh of The New York Times, hasn't lost all hope.

“We’ve just got to get one game. That’s the mind-set. The series is far from over. We’ve got to go down there, try to get one game and force the series back home.”

The Nets are on the brink of elimination, in part, due to a timely pass from KU product Mario Chalmers, who dished one of his seven assists in the final minute to Chris Bosh for a 3-pointer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jp8pYP4LhRQ

Chalmers, who had made 2 of 3 bombs of his own and scored 8 points, passed up a shot for an even better look.

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The Heat will try to close out the series in Game 5 Wednesday night at Miami (6 p.m., TNT).

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

— Follow @BentonASmith on Twitter.

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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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKoKBO60LlA

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0HyCU5TTZw

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.

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

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.

— Follow @BentonASmith on Twitter.

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Former Celtic Paul Pierce receives hero’s welcome in return to Boston

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce, center, formerly of the Boston Celtics, waves to the crowd during a tribute to him in an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce, center, formerly of the Boston Celtics, waves to the crowd during a tribute to him in an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

After a 15-season run with the storied Boston Celtics that included a 2008 NBA championship and an NBA Finals MVP award, Paul Pierce returned to Boston and ran out onto the famed parquet floor as a visitor for the very first time Sunday night at TD Garden.

At this stage of his career, the future hall of famer can't light it up or take over a game quite like he used to, so no one really expected a vintage performance of 25 or 30 points, like he so often delivered when the jersey he wore read "Celtics" across the chest, instead of "Brooklyn."

Pierce, the No. 2 scorer in Celtics history — with 24,021, behind only John Havlicek's 26,395 — went scoreless in the first half and only put up six points on 2-for-10 shooting against his former team in an 85-79 Nets victory.

But this game wasn't about Brooklyn winning for the 10th time in 11 tries, nor how Pierce, who averages 12.9 points, 3.1 assists and 4.8 rebounds this season, played in his return. It was about a rabid fan base honoring one of its all-time favorites.

Sometimes teams, players and/or media try to give a game or moment in sports more meaning or weight than it deserves. Pierce's return to Boston lacked any whiff of being contrived. The mutual love and respect between "The Truth" and Boston's fans gave what was an otherwise mostly uneventful game for the first three quarters a hint of something special.

A Beantown legend, Pierce couldn't resist bringing up his special trip on Twitter — @paulpierce34 — before and after the game:

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To give you a more complete sense of what Pierce experienced in his anticipated Boston debut as a Net (the Celtics lost at Brooklyn in December), here is a timeline of what went on at TD Garden:

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Once game time finally arrived, the Boston faithful got up on their feet for pre-game introductions.

To cheer for the Nets.

Watch and listen as the crowd welcomes back Kevin Garnett and Pierce — both traded this past offseason as the Celtics blew up their roster in order to build for the future.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8wDPpJxWI4

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As difficult as the whole experience must have been for Pierce, imagine watching an emotional tribute video that documents 15 years worth of highlights in the midst of all the hoopla and, you know, trying to win an NBA game.

That's exactly what happened during the break between the first and second quarters.

Check out the video — complete with a perfectly placed clip from "A Few Good Men" — accompanied with Pierce's reaction.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeF7whNamlU

Pretty awesome stuff, and truly a homecoming worthy of a franchise hero. Standing ovation. Prolonged cheers. People welcoming you back instead of booing and hoisting signs that read things such as "traitor" because you stopped wearing the uniform of their favorite team.

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Pierce missed all three of his shots in the first half, but finally got one to fall in the third quarter, on one of the moves that made him a feared scorer for so long with the Celtics.

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After the game, Pierce spoke about the draining night, how unique it was and what challenges it provided.

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Here is a clip from the post-game press conference with Pierce and fellow former Celtic Garnett:

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

The full Q&A session is available at the Celtics' website.

And you'll want to take the time to read Adrian Wojnarowski's piece for Yahoo Sports about the relationship Pierce and Garnett had with the city, the Celtics and the franchise's employees. The following is just a taste from Wojnarowski:

Within the organization, Pierce's generosity was legendary. He fought for the lowest of assistants and basketball staff to get playoff bonuses, and he used to give the team's traveling party $1,000 each to spend on the annual trip to the Nike employee store outside of Portland. Inside and outside the organization, Pierce was generous with commitments of time and resources, relentlessly championing children's causes and charities.

To wrap up Pierce's memorable return, here are a few of the better photos that popped up on Twitter:

None by NBA

None by NBA

None by Brooklyn Nets

None by NBA


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

Reply 4 comments from Plasticjhawk Koolkeithfreeze Texashawk10_2

Hinrich’s days in Chicago could be numbered

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich, center, looks to pass as Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap, left, and guard Jeff Teague guard during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich, center, looks to pass as Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap, left, and guard Jeff Teague guard during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Currently in his second go-round as a Chicago Bull, and a former member of the Washington Wizards and Atlanta Hawks, 10-year NBA veteran Kirk Hinrich could soon be playing in the Western Conference for the first time in his career.

According to USA Today’s Sam Amick, the Bulls could move Hinrich as they continue to deal with the absence of franchise point guard Derrick Rose and, simultaneously, make cost-saving decisions with their roster.

Speculation surrounding a Hinrich trade grew once Chicago dealt Luol Deng, one of its core members. As Amick reported, the Golden State Warriors could be Hinrich’s new home:

“... it appears point guard Kirk Hinrich will be drawing the most immediate interest when it comes to the Bulls' possible next move. According to a person with knowledge of the situation, the Golden State Warriors are among teams that had been showing serious interest in Hinrich long before the Deng trade.”

Considering the state of affairs in Chicago (15-18) – no Rose, no Deng, no way the Bulls will be able to contend in the East – joining the Warriors (24-13) could be an ideal situation for the Kansas legend.

Hinrich, of course, wouldn’t start for Golden State. But the Warriors essentially have no backup point guard, with Toney Douglas playing just 11.7 minutes a game. If Golden State is able to acquire Hinrich, coach Mark Jackson would surely have him in the backcourt with either of the Warriors’ budding stars, Steph Curry or Klay Thompson (aka The Splash Brothers, who have combined to make 219 three-pointers so far), for long stretches.

Goggled and gritty, Hinrich (7.8 points, 4.7 assists this season) might not have the flash of his potential backcourt mates, but he could certainly facilitate and give the Warriors another ball handler.

Stay tuned, and let us know in the comments section if you would like to see Hinrich join one of the most entertaining teams in the league.


McLemore back on the bench

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (16) shotts against the Charlotte Bobcats during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014. The Bobcats beat the Kings 113-103.(AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (16) shotts against the Charlotte Bobcats during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014. The Bobcats beat the Kings 113-103.(AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

In our last edition of ‘Hawks in the NBA, we told you about the often cited comparison of Sacramento rookie Ben McLemore to renowned sniper Ray Allen, currently of the Miami Heat.

Well, the 17-year veteran Allen has spent most of his renowned career as a starter, until becoming a backup when he joined the Heat.

McLemore, who had started 26 games for Sacramento (11-22), returned to a bench role Tuesday for the Kings’ 123-119 home win over one of the West’s top teams, Portland (26-9).

After the victory, Jason Jones, of the Sacramento Bee, reported that Marcus Thornton will start instead of McLemore for the “foreseeable future," according to Kings coach Michael Malone:

“This is a not a demotion for Ben McLemore,” Malone said. “This is not us losing confidence or faith in him. Ben’s been struggling and I wanted to put him in a position where maybe he could have more success coming off the bench.”

Malone said with the Kings having three volume shooters in the starting lineup, he’ll need Thornton and Jason Thompson to serve as facilitators and “ball movers” with the starting five.

Kings part-owner Shaquille O’Neal has other ideas about what’s next for McLemore:

Good call, Shaq.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ZO0Kk0WM3k


Pierce climbing NBA career scoring ladder

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) shoots in front of Oklahoma City Thunder guard Jeremy Lamb (11) during an NBA basketball game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) shoots in front of Oklahoma City Thunder guard Jeremy Lamb (11) during an NBA basketball game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

The Truth has surpassed The Answer. That is, Paul Pierce moved past Allen Iverson on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Pierce took over 19th place, pushing Iverson to 20th, with 17 points in a Brooklyn win over Cleveland on Saturday.

With 24,392 points to his name, and a 21.6 points per game career average, Pierce is in elite company, and the next three players in front of him on the list are all within 900 points. Already ahead of NBA legends such as Tim Duncan (21st, 24,249 points) and Charles Barkley (22nd, 23,357), next up on the ladder are Patrick Ewing (18th, 24,815), Jerry West (17th, 25,192) and Reggie Miller (16th, 25,279).


Former Jayhawks to rock nickname jerseys

Speaking of The Truth, Pierce will soon don a Brooklyn jersey with his nickname on the back of it, instead of his last name.

Both the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets will wear the gimmicky nickname jerseys when the teams square off Friday night at Brooklyn.

Check out a sneak peek of Pierce’s "Truth" jersey and Mario Chalmers’ “Rio” uni over at Sports Illustrated’s Point Forward blog.

However, it remains to be seen if Chalmers will be able to wear his specialty jersey on Friday. He missed Tuesday’s Heat victory over New Orleans with Achilles tendinitis.


Keep up with all of the ’Hawks in the NBA daily with KUsports.com’s stat recaps.

Reply 3 comments from Plasticjhawk Len Shaffer

Cold snap strikes the league’s Jayhawks

Welcome to the Debbie Downer edition of 'Hawks in the NBA.

The past three December nights in The Association have been pretty dismal for KU products. On Friday, former Jayhawks combined to make 23 of their 57 shots (40.4 percent), and it only got worse from there.

The NBA's Jays shot 8-for-25 ( 32 percent) on Saturday, and 12-for-33 (36.4 percent) on Sunday.

Xavier Henry's 15-point, four-rebound night on Friday, when his Lakers got smoked by Oklahmoa City, 122-97, was the best offensive outing this past weekend among the league's 'Hawks.

Ready for more? Cue up the sound effects.


Pierce still in bench role

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) drives to the basket between Detroit Pistons guard Kyle Singler (25) and center Greg Monroe (10) during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) drives to the basket between Detroit Pistons guard Kyle Singler (25) and center Greg Monroe (10) during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Here is the best news we can offer: Paul Pierce is actually playing. It just so happens he is doing so off the bench.

Three games into his return from an injured hand, Pierce remains a reserve for the Brooklyn Nets. That will continue to be his role "for now," Nets coach Jason Kidd said — as documented in an ESPN New York blog entry.

Pierce's production and minutes have increased in each of the three games, so if that trend continues, it's hard to imagine he will remain in the role long term. The Nets are 2-1 since getting the 16-year veteran back on the floor, and he delivered 12 points, four rebounds and four assists in his most recent outing, a loss at Detroit.

Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams, who returned from an injury of his own at the same time as Pierce, said in the ESPN NY blog that he appreciated what The Truth is doing for the team right now:

“[Paul]’s selfless. That shows what kind of person he is. He can be a guy that says, ‘I’m Paul Pierce, I’m a starter in this league,’ you know? Like some guys have done. He’s just worried about winning right now, and he’s trying to get back healthy and get back into a rhythm and I think he’s doing whatever the team needs right now.”



Slumping in Sacramento

Sacramento Kings' Ben McLemore (16) looks to pass over Phoenix Suns' Eric Bledsoe (2) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Sacramento Kings' Ben McLemore (16) looks to pass over Phoenix Suns' Eric Bledsoe (2) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

So much can change in a week. Sacramento Kings rookie Ben McLemore, who recently won the NBA's Western Conference Rookie of the Month award, and seemed to be turning into a reliable double-digit scorer, hasn't lived up to the standard he set for himself of late.

Suddenly, McLemore can't get more than one shot to drop a night. In his last four games, the rookie went 1-for-7, 1-for-8, 1-for-6 and 1-for-4.

As the folks over at the Cowbell Kingdom blog note, Sactown has some issues at shooting guard:

"Ben McLemore is struggling. As is Marcus Thornton. The Kings are searching for answers at shooting guard and after tonight, I’m not sure where (coach Michael) Malone will turn next. Against some teams, we will probably see (newly acquired Rudy) Gay pick up a few minutes and even (Travis) Outlaw again, but these aren’t really long-term solutions. Sacramento needs McLemore and Thornton to get better and to do it quickly."


Can McLemore bust out of his slump? Has he hit a rookie wall? Will he remain a fixture of the re-tooled Kings' rotation. We'll keep you posted.


Rush wants more playing time

Utah Jazz guard/forward Brandon Rush

Utah Jazz guard/forward Brandon Rush

Don't let that media day smile deceive you. Brandon Rush is not happy in Utah.

Aaron Falk, of the Salt Lake Tribune, notes the difficulty the sixth-year pro has had adjusting to not only his return from a torn ACL, but also his limited role with the Jazz this season.

"It’s been really frustrating because I’ve worked hard," Rush said in Falk's story. "I wanted to be able to get some minutes and help the team out."

Falk reported that Rush met with Utah coach Tyrone Corbin this past Wednesday to discuss his lack of minutes, and thought it went well. It seemed to work in Rush's favor, too, because in Utah's next game after the talk, he played 20 minutes and scored nine points — far better than the DNP's he registered in the previous two Jazz games.

"He looked good," Corbin said in the Tribune. "He just played, man. That’s what we were looking for because he can help us. He can make shots. He can defend; he’s long. But we can’t have him be apprehensive about it, when to go or not go, because it throws the rhythm of all the other guys off."

Maybe Corbin forgot about that in Utah's next two games, because Rush only played 10 minutes and 4 minutes, following what seemed to be a positive transitional moment in his season.

Stay tuned.


Keep up with the statistical outputs from the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.

Reply 3 comments from Ndf Moore Mouseclicker

Pierce returns off bench, beats former team

Boston Celtics guard Jeff Green (8) and Celtics forward Kris Humphries (43) defend Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) in the second half of their their NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, in New York. The Nets defeated the Celtics 104-96. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Boston Celtics guard Jeff Green (8) and Celtics forward Kris Humphries (43) defend Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) in the second half of their their NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, in New York. The Nets defeated the Celtics 104-96. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

It finally happened. Not that Paul Pierce ever intended for things to go down this way, exactly, but the 16-year veteran, in his 1,118th NBA game, played against the Boston Celtics for the very first time Tuesday night in Brooklyn.

Now a member of the Nets, Pierce had missed the previous four games with a broken bone in his right hand, so he came off the bench in his not-so-storybook showdown with his former team, which traded him away to build for the future.

The (hurt) Truth at least got the win after playing 22 minutes, going 0-for-3 from the field and finishing with four points, seven rebounds and three assists. But it was the return of another once ailing Net, point guard Deron Williams, that led Brooklyn to a 104-96 home win.

Pierce served as a sub for just the fourth time in his illustrious career and didn't appear to be 100 percent (he wore a protective glove of sorts on his hand), but he proved he could still make plays, with this dish to Nets big man Andray Blatche.

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

One might assume Pierce only came back at this point so he could do damage against his former team. However, the veteran called the timing a "coincidence" in a story from Newsday's Roderick Boone:

"My whole focus was about getting back healthy, coming out trying to help my team, establishing something at home. It just happens to be a coincidence that the day I come back is against the Celtics. It will probably be a little bit more emotional when I go back to Boston. We already had a preseason game against them. I already had a chance to holler at them in the preseason."


It's hard to imagine a guy with 24,211 career regular-season points to his name could become a backup, but his first-year coach, Jason Kidd, hinted the struggling Nets (7-14) could use Pierce in that role, according to a story from Stefan Bondy in the New York Daily News:

“I liked him being a leader with that second group,” Kidd said. “Will it stay that way? I don’t know. We will look at the video tomorrow as a team and coaches. I will talk to Paul and see what his comfort level is, but I would like to get him back, give him more minutes and get him used to that glove.”


We'll have to wait and see how long that takes, and if the highly touted Nets can start living up to their hype with the help of the former Jayhawks star.


Super Morris Bros.

Phoenix Suns' Marcus Morris (15) shoots over Memphis Grizzlies' Mike Miller (13) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Memphis, Tenn., Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

Phoenix Suns' Marcus Morris (15) shoots over Memphis Grizzlies' Mike Miller (13) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Memphis, Tenn., Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

In the ongoing battle to see who is the superior Morris twin off of the Phoenix Suns' bench, Marcus took another step forward Tuesday night.

His twin brother, Markieff (13.0 points, 6.2 rebounds), has stood out most of the season thus far for the surprising Suns (12-9), but Marcus (11.0 points, 4.9 rebounds) had another breakout game in Phoenix's 114-108 win at the Los Angeles Lakers. Mook (is that short for Marcus? I don't know, but his Twitter handle is @MookMorris2) made 10 of his 13 shots in the Phoenix win and scored a season-high 22 points.

Paul Coro, of azcentral.com, called it Marcus's best game of the season, noting the 6-foot-9 Wonder Twin exploits bigger power forwards when the Suns go small ball. In those situations, Marcus said, his larger defenders tend to back off on the perimeter, in order to better defend potential drives.

“Little do they know, that’s what I want,” Morris said. “I work on (jumpers) every day with Mark (West, Suns assistant coach).”


The Morrii, Coro pointed out, scored 11 straight points for the Suns late. And Markieff didn't have a bad game, either, with 15 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

Good thing Marcus was looking out for him.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAjp6xVoS_Y


Chalmers a surefire hall-of-famer (in Alaska)

Indiana Pacers guard George Hill, right, defends Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. The Pacers defeated the Heat 90-84. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Indiana Pacers guard George Hill, right, defends Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. The Pacers defeated the Heat 90-84. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

NBA fans got to see the season's first marquee matchup of the Eastern Conference Tuesday night, when the Miami Heat played at the Indiana Pacers.

In the first of what figures to be numerous battles (regular-season and playoffs) between the clear-cut favorites of the East, Mario Chalmers had kind of a rough night in a 90-84 loss.

The sixth-year guard out of Kansas shot 3-for-7, had nine points, two steals, two assists and two turnovers for the two-time defending champion Heat (16-6) against the league's current top team, Indiana (19-3).

These in-game tweets from the media reveal a little more about what Chalmers endured.



Chalmers at least served up a highlight dish in the final minutes — not that it will win him any notoriety.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2wW5_C0zOU

The Anchorage, Alaska, native's past performances earned him some distinction, though. He received some good news before the game: Chalmers will be inducted into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.

And, hey, even after a disappointing loss, things could be worse: Chalmers could spend his winters in Minnesota, instead of Miami.



Before we wrap things up, just for good measure, here's Ben McLemore in a Sacramento Kings Santa hat doing good.


— Don't forget to check out our daily 'Hawks in the NBA stat recaps here at KUsports.com.

Reply 1 comment from Koolkeithfreeze Hawknhutch