LeBron James isn’t happy with the state of Cleveland’s roster, what with the defending NBA champions going 7-8 in January. Perhaps adding a former Kansas basketball player to the mix will appease The King.
ESPN’s Chris Haynes reports a pair of free-agent Jayhawks, Mario Chalmers and Kirk Hinrich, will work out with the Cavaliers Wednesday.
James last week went public with his concerns about the team’s lack of depth, stating the Cavaliers need another experienced play-maker. Chalmers, who tore his right Achilles while playing with Memphis in March of 2016, long served as a role player on James’ championship teams in Miami. The 30-year-old guard has spent the past several months rehabbing, with the possibility of pouncing on this type of mid-season opportunity in mind.
Unlike Hinrich, who played sparingly for Chicago and Atlanta during the 2015-16 season, Chalmers remained a key contributor when last he appeared in the NBA. Though Miami had moved on from the former KU standout, he thrived in Memphis as a backup guard in a scoring role.
In 55 games with the Grizzlies before suffering a season-ending injury, Chalmers averaged 10.8 points and 3.8 assists in just 22.8 minutes off the bench, while shooting 41.7% from the floor and 32.6% from 3-point range.
How close his Achilles is to 100 percent, only Chalmers knows, but this will give him a chance to prove he can still make plays in the league. And if Cleveland decides to sign Chalmers, it would give him a chance to help the Cavs chase another championship.
ESPN reports Lance Stephenson and other free agents will attend the workout, too, as the organization looks to fill an empty roster spot and give James and company some bench support.
Hinrich, now 36, played a career-low 13.7 minutes last season and didn’t generate much interest in free agency this past summer — when teams had to pass on Chalmers because he was just a few months removed form a major knee injury.
In 11 games with Atlanta last season, Hinrich only played 6.9 minutes a game and made just 2 of his 11 shot attempts while contributing mostly at practices and behind the scenes.
Just 26, Stephenson might have two young legs up on Chalmers and Hinrich. A year ago, he too proved productive in Memphis, averaging 14.2 points and 2.8 assists. Stephenson signed with New Orleans before the current season began, but didn’t stick after playing just six games.
As long as Chalmers is healthy, odds are he’ll find a spot with a playoff team in the weeks ahead, even if Cleveland goes another direction. He has championship experience and is mature enough to fit in with a new group and take on whatever role is handed to him.
Hinrich, of course, would be a fine addition to any team’s culture and structure. The question for him is whether his body will still allow him to make plays against much younger competition.
There never has been a better time to be an NBA free agent.
The league’s salary cap is jumping approximately $24 million dollars this summer, meaning all 30 teams will have room to sign available players to what most expect to be eye-popping and/or head-scratching contracts.
The hysteria officially begins at midnight Thursday for the big names such as Kevin Durant and Al Horford, as well as the league’s role players.
Even though the seven former Kansas players available won’t garner maximum contracts, all of them figure to be on the verge of signing the most lucrative deals of their careers.
Here’s a look at what’s ahead for those Jayhawks — other than constantly listening to Drake and Future’s “Big Rings” while rapping along, “What a time to be alive.”
Age: 27 | Position: Center | Most recent team: L.A. Clippers | Seasons played: Six | 2015-16 key stats: 5.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, 59.6% FGs, 13.3 minutes
After playing fewer than 400 total minutes in each of his first four seasons, Cole Aldrich began to carve out a niche for himself as a serviceable backup big man during the past couple of years.
“It just takes an opportunity, and my opportunity took four or five years in,” Aldrich said a few weeks back, while visiting Lawrence. “You get the right opportunity, and for me it was just continue to do what I do, and that was find a way to get better.”
Aldrich played so well in a reserve role for the Los Angeles Clippers this past season, in fact, that he thinks he’s entering the prime of his career, setting up a rather easy decision to opt out of the second year of his contract.
“You kind of look at the situation, and I had to take some time, and you think about what it is,” Aldrich said of leaving $1.2 million on the table to become a free agent, adding he knew the Clippers might have some cap space available to set up a return to L.A.
He is right about that. The Clippers have a little wiggle room thanks to the salary cap jump. But they don’t have as much room to operate as most teams, because more than $63 million of the franchise’s money is tied up in its big three of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
Should the Clippers keep all of their core in place and successfully bring in a role-playing free agent of note, they might have to part ways with the 6-foot-11 Aldrich if other teams are willing to reward him with a bigger contract. Aldrich played well enough in his one season with Los Angeles to prove he can rebound, defend the paint and finish, setting him up to fit in with any team in need of a second-unit center who eats up space.
L.A. even appears to have a safety net of sorts in place in case it can’t keep Aldrich, by drafting Maryland center Diamond Stone in the second round.
According to L.A. Times reporter Brad Turner the Clippers are interested in bringing Aldrich back, and Orlando and Phoenix have expressed interest, too.
The way Aldrich talked, it sounded like he might prefer to stay with the Clippers. But the NBA is a business, so there is no guarantee it will play out in that fashion.
Age: 28 | Position: Power forward and small forward | Most recent team: Denver | Seasons played: Seven | 2015-16 key stats: 7.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 45.2% FGs, 38.5% 3’s, 21.7 minutes
A steady veteran forward who does what coaches ask of him and has added some 3-point shooting to his repertoire, Darrell Arthur, like Aldrich, opted out of the second year of his deal.
Moving on from Denver could be a course of action for the 6-foot-9 forward, who has only played for Memphis and the Nuggets since leaving Kansas early as a national champion.
Denver has plenty of cap space to re-sign Arthur if it wants. But if Arthur desires an increased role and a change of scenery, he could leave behind a crowded Nuggets frontcourt that includes Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic.
Arthur’s reputation will keep him employed in the NBA. Where that happens is up to him. As reported earlier this week, Washington is interested in him as a backup to fellow former KU forward Markieff Morris.
Age: 24 | Position: Center | Most recent team: L.A. Lakers | Seasons played: Two | 2015-16 key stats: 3.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 54.8% FGs, 12.7 minutes
Tarik Black serves as a nice reminder to recent KU draft snubs Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden Jr. and Brannen Greene that entering the league as an undrafted free agent can work out in the long run.
The 6-foot-9 post player proved in two years ago in summer league Houston should keep him around. Even when the Rockets waived him during his rookie season in order to go after a veteran, the Los Angeles Lakers quickly claimed him and added Black to their inexperienced core.
However, the fact that L.A. only played Black 12.7 minutes a game during the 2015-16 season makes one wonder how interested the organization is in bringing him back. If the Lakers are married to the idea of keeping him around, they can match any other team’s offer, because Black is a restricted free agent (unlike the rest of the former KU players on this list).
The good news for Black is the Lakers have just two post players under contract for next year: Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr. If the once dominant franchise whiffs in free agency on more established big men, re-signing a hard-working, familiar face might appeal. Conversely, should L.A. spend an absurd amount of money on more alluring names, the team might need to bring back Black on an affordable contract to complete the roster.
The real question is: Do other teams value Black as a potential big man?
Age: 30 | Position: Guard | Most recent team: Memphis | Seasons played: Eight | 2015-16 key stats: 10.3 points, 3.8 assists, 1.4 steals, 2.6 rebounds, 41% FGs, 30.9% 3’s, 22.5 minutes
Had Mario Chalmers made it through his eighth NBA season unscathed, he would be the most attractive KU free agent this summer by far. And even while recovering from a ruptured right Achilles tendon, Chalmers could still draw the most interest.
Teams will want to take their time and have their medical staffs make sure vitality still exists in the 6-foot-2 veteran’s knee before OK-ing a deal for Chalmers, but the way he played in Memphis prior to the injury setback will keep him as an intriguing choice for organizations in need of a backup guard who can shoot and distribute.
In his 55 games for the Grizzlies, following a trade from Miami, Chalmers thrived as a sixth man coming off the bench to put up points. Throw in his defensive ability and championship experience while playing with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, and you quickly realize how coveted Chalmers would be to a playoff team in search of backcourt assistance.
Chalmers recently said in an interview he is two weeks ahead of schedule with his knee rehab, and the hope is he would be back at 100 percent before the regular season begins.
Age: 35 | Position: Guard | Most recent team: Atlanta | Seasons played: 13 | 2015-16 key stats: 3.0 points, 1.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 38% FGs, 38.7% 3’s, 13.7 minutes
As Hinrich began to find out early this past season with Chicago, there simply isn’t much demand for the veteran guard anymore, in terms of minutes. That notion later became reenforced for Hinrich upon arriving via trade in Atlanta.
The longtime Bull only appeared in 11 of a possible 26 games with the Hawks to close the regular season, averaging a paltry 0.5 points, 1.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 6.9 minutes.
Those numbers make one wonder about Hinrich’s future in the league. But there will be roster spots to fill in the months ahead for a number of teams. Though 35 and nearly done as an on-court contributor, some organization might find value in having him around the locker room to guide young players and almost serve as a player/assistant coach.
Former Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau seemed to love Hinrich in Chicago. Could they join up again in Minnesota, with Hinrich helping to bring along youngsters Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins?
Age: 25 | Position: Power forward | Most recent team: Brooklyn | Seasons played: Four | 2015-16 key stats: 4.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 44.7% FGs in 12.9 minutes
The No. 5 overall pick in the 2012 draft, Thomas Robinson still hasn’t made his mark in the NBA. A star at KU, Robinson has turned into a nomad backup power forward. So far, the explosive, 6-foot-10 big has played for Sacramento, Houston, Portland, Philadelphia and Brooklyn.
In all likelihood, Robinson will add a sixth team to that list this summer, after opting out of his contract with the Nets. At 25, one would assume his best years in the league are still ahead of him. And Robinson does bring a valuable skill to the floor, to go with his athleticism and energy. The guy competes on the glass.
Robinson didn’t log enough minutes with Brooklyn to qualify as a league leader in such categories, but his defensive and offensive rebound percentages are up there with the best bigs on the planet. He grabbed 27.8% of available defensive boards this past season, which would have ranked him 10th in the NBA had he played more. Even better, Robinson secured 16.4% of possible offensive boards. Oklahoma City’s Enes Kanter led the league in that category, at 16.7%.
It seems any team in need of a high-energy rebounder would have to consider Robinson.
Age: 30 | Position: Shooting guard and small forward | Most recent team: Golden State | Seasons played: Eight | 2015-16 key stats: 4.2 points, 2.5 rebounds, 42.7% FGs, 41.4% 3’s, 14.7 minutes
Back-to-back NBA Finals appearances, a championship ring and a role on the record-breaking 73-win Warriors. Life has been pretty good for Brandon Rush the past couple of years.
Now Rush’s contract is up, and the free agency hullabaloo in the days ahead could determine his place going forward with the defending Western Conference champs. Golden State values defensive versatility and Rush definitely gives the team that as a backup. But if the Warriors return all of their core perimeter players — Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Shawn Livingston and Harrison Barnes — would they really need Rush?
Rush proved this season, while starting 25 games, he can fill in and mesh well. In December, Rush averaged a season-high 20.3 minutes and put up 5.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists while knocking down 40.5% of his 3-point attempts.
By no means is he a game-changer, but he isn’t going to shoot your team in the foot, either. Whether it’s with the Warriors or another franchise, Rush figures to find a spot as a veteran role player.
— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com
Of all the names swirling in the social media-driven rumor winds leading up to Thursday’s NBA trade deadline, Kirk Hinrich wasn’t one generating any buzz.
Now in his 13th season out of Kansas, Hinrich isn’t exactly a hot commodity. But even the least recognizable names in the league show up during the height of trade season. And the basketball Twitterverse kept pounding out supposed deals and ideas for swaps without Hinrich’s name appearing anywhere prominent.
Yet when the deadline arrived without much hoopla, due to no star movement, a minor and unexpected exchange emerged, coming in right under the wire. Chicago traded Hinrich, in the middle of his 11th season of service with the Bulls, to Atlanta.
Hinrich, who also played for two other franchises — including the Hawks — between stints with Chicago, has contributed much to the Bulls. Obviously, he’s not exactly Michael Jordan or Scottie Pippen, but Hinrich will probably go down as one of the better long-term role players in the franchise’s history, because, well, in some categories only Jordan and Pippen rank ahead of him.
With 1,049 career 3-pointers, Hinrich is the Bulls’ all-time leader. But he’s also:
- third in games played (748), behind Jordan and Pippen
- third in assists (3,811), behind Jordan and Pippen
- third in steals (857), behind Jordan and Pippen
- fourth in minutes (23,545), behind Jordan, Pippen and Jerry Sloan
- eighth in field goals (3,101)
- eighth in points (8,536)
At the Bulls’ website, Sam Smith wrote of Hinrich’s impact on the franchise, praising the 6-foot-4 guard’s toughness and relentlessness, among other attributes.
As you might expect, Hinrich in turn had nothing but good will for the Bulls on his way out of town.
“I was surprised,” Hinrich told reporters after being traded. “But after it sinking in after a few hours, I realize it’s a chance to move forward and an opportunity to be with a really good team. I feel fortunate to have come to Chicago and have played a long time here. It will always be a part of me.”
When Hinrich’s basketball career ends, he’ll likely be remembered first as a standout at Kansas and secondly as a valuable player for the Bulls.
“I’ve tried to base everything on winning,” Hinrich said of his time with Chicago. “Obviously haven’t had a championship. But that’s part of it. I’ve had good mentors. I grew up a big Bulls fan. To be drafted here and play most of my career here is such a blessing.”
Hinrich played a career-low 15.9 minutes a game for Chicago this season, but that didn’t mean coach Fred Hoiberg didn’t value him.
“Great teammate, a guy who has done a lot of wonderful things for this franchise,” Hoiberg said of Hinrich. “He’ll be missed. He did a lot of things for us, but at the same time we understand it is a business. Kirk always brought a level of toughness. He’s a very good on ball defender, always was in the right spot.”
It’s safe to assume Hinrich will take on a similar veteran role with Atlanta. As mentioned earlier, this won’t be the first time Hinrich laced up his basketball shoes and slipped on his goggles in a Hawks uniform.
Hinrich played for Atlanta in both the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, with a trade to Washington in between.
The Hawks, essentially traded away one end-of-the-bench point guard in Shelvin Mack for another more experienced one in Hinrich. (They traded Mack to Utah and also moved Justin Holiday to Chicago in the three-team deal.)
With starting point guard Jeff Teague and backup Dennis Schroder firmly established in the backcourt, Hinrich won’t play ahead of either of them.
But it’s feasible that coach Mike Budenholzer could turn to Hinrich at times off the bench when he wants a veteran on the floor instead of backup guard Tim Hardaway Jr., to pair with Teague or Schroder.
Regardless of what his role turns out to be, Atlanta (31-24, fourth in the Eastern Conference) knows what it is getting: a trustworthy veteran and a professional.
— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com
As the NBA showcases five Christmas Day games, Kansas basketball fans looking to mix in some Jayhawks with their holiday festivities will have a chance to catch a glimpse of as many as seven former KU players.
Here’s a rundown of ’Hawks in the NBA taking the court while most of the country takes the day off.
Chicago at Oklahoma City — featuring Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison
If you love veteran role players and stars from Roy Williams’ last years at KU, well, you better send the NBA a thank-you note for this present. Both Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison will get some national air-time Christmas afternoon (1:30, ABC) when Hinrich’s Bulls play at Collison’s Thunder (though most promos for the game probably feature Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook).
Now 34 years old, Hinrich plays a backup role for Chicago (15-11) and averages just 16.2 minutes a game. But this is his 11th season playing for the Bulls, the team that drafted him seventh overall in 2003. As pointed out recently by SI.com, the veteran 6-foot-4 guard now leads the franchise in career 3-pointers (1,040) and ranks third all-time in games played (730). The only Bulls who have played more games for Chicago are Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
Hinrich also sits third all-time in steals (853) and assists (3,779) for Chicago — again, behind Jordan and Pippen — and eighth in points (8,486).
“The young guys, they’re joking all the time, ‘Did you play with Bill Cartwright?’” Hinrich told SI.com.
More of a facilitator and defender these days, Hinrich’s best game of the season so far came in November, when Rose was injured and he played 34 minutes. Hinrich scored 17 points and helped limit reigning MVP Steph Curry to 3-for-11 shooting.
“He’s a guy that goes out and does the little things,” first-year Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He organizes everything on both ends of the floor.”
Hinrich’s old running mate at KU, Collison also plays a limited role (13.6 minutes) as a 35-year-old substitute big man for one of the NBA’s premier teams. And like Hinrich, the 6-10 forward ranks pretty high on some of Oklahoma City’s all-time lists.
Drafted by Seattle before the franchise relocated to OKC, Collison is third in games played (841), behind Fred Brown and Gary Payton. He ranks third in offensive rebounds (1,709) and total rebounds (4,566), behind Jack Sikma and Shawn Kemp. Collison also is third in field-goal percentage (.534), sixth in blocks (459) and ninth in minutes played (18,042).
As much of a mentor as a statistical contributor, Collison helps the Thunder (20-9) on and off the floor. He leads by example by defending, rebounding and taking charges.
And he’s helped 22-year-old protégé Steven Adams develop the Thunder’s pick-and-roll into a legitimate weapon.
“The teams that are really hard to guard in this league are the ones where you have a big threat rolling down the middle and you’re really put in a bind,” Collison told Oklahoma City’s website. “We’re trying to get in those situations on the offensive end as much as possible.”
Cleveland at Golden State — featuring Sasha Kaun and Brandon Rush
An NBA Finals rematch? How about the first ever professional meeting between Cleveland’s Sasha Kaun and Golden State’s Brandon Rush (4 p.m., ABC) — teammates on KU’s 2008 national championship team.
A member of the nearly unbeatable defending champion Warriors (27-1), Rush has played more this year (14.9 minutes, 5.2 points) than he has since the 2011-12 season. Golden State made the 30-year-old forward a starter when Harrison Barnes injured his ankle and became unavailable.
“I’ve been waiting for this opportunity to show that I can still shoot the ball and can still play at a high level,” Rush told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I feel so much better than I did last year — with my shot and just being able to move around the court.”
Rush’s best game to date came against Sacramento, when he nailed 4 of 5 from 3-point range and scored 16 points. In December, he is averaging 6.8 points and hitting 50 percent of his 3-pointers (14 of 28).
A major knee injury in 2012 derailed Rush’s career a bit, but now he finally appears to be back on track.
“It’s been up and down, especially these past two or three years,” Rush told the San Francisco Chronicle. “But now, everything is looking up. Things can’t get any better. I’m shooting the ball well, we’re the best team in the league, and we’re on the verge of trying to get another championship. I’m definitely in a great place right now.”
Kaun landed in a pretty good situation to start his NBA career. Cleveland, home of superstar LeBron James, is 19-7 and the prohibitive favorite in the Eastern Conference to return to the NBA Finals.
The Cavs don’t exactly need Kaun, a 30-year-old, 6-11 center that much, though. After spending most of his professional career overseas, Kaun has played in just seven games in his rookie season, with eight total points in those cameos (4.4 minutes).
"But, you know, his game is very simplistic,” Cavs coach David Blatt told Northeast Ohio Media Group before the season began, “so it's not like he has to do a lot of things that would require him to adjust. He just has to get used to the size and the length of the guys and the speed of the game."
L.A. Clippers at L.A. Lakers — featuring Paul Pierce, Cole Aldrich and Tarik Black
This NBA nightcap in Los Angeles (9:30 p.m., ESPN) seems like it would provide the most bang for a KU fan’s buck, with three Jayhawks in the mix.
But even longtime NBA star Paul Pierce isn’t expected to participate all that much. The 38-year-old forward sat out the Clippers’ previous game to rest his sore back, and coach Doc Rivers said his veteran forward will be limited in the battle of Los Angeles.
Pierce has played less for his new team of late, averaging only 10.8 minutes and 3.0 points in December (16.3 minutes, 4.1 points on the season).
On the other hand, another Jayhawk this week suddenly found himself in a more active role.
Reserve center Cole Aldrich, after not registering a single minute in 11 straight games, has played in each of the Clippers’ last two games and even played in the fourth quarter of a one-point loss to Oklahoma City earlier this week. Aldrich finished with five points, four rebounds and two blocks in 14 minutes.
"I think that was a prime example of being a star in your role and not trying to reach outside of that," Blake Griffin told the Los Angeles Times. “(Aldrich) just did what we need him to do and that's huge."
Rivers told the L.A. Times he turned to Aldrich to give the Clippers (16-13) an energetic boost. That’s what the 27-year-old did, playing in just his seventh game of the season (1.7 points, 2.1 rebounds in 5.3 minutes).
"If we play this way the rest of the year, we're going to win a lot of games," Aldrich told the L.A. Times. "We played with a lot of heart and a lot of enthusiasm and it was fun out there."
Meanwhile, the struggling Lakers (5-24) could use a similar spark from second-year big man Tarik Black. The 6-foot-9 center hasn’t played for the purple and gold since Nov. 24, but just got called back up from the team’s D-League affiliate on Wednesday.
Black put up 25 points and 14 rebounds in his final appearance with the D-Fenders. The 24-year-old big averaged 18.5 points and 11.8 rebounds in a four-game D-League stint, coming off an ankle injury.
Lakers coach Bryron Scott didn’t play Black Wednesday, while utilizing three other big men off the bench in a 35-point loss to the Thunder. So there is no guarantee Black will see the floor versus the Clippers.
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The NBA is a young man’s world. Kirk Hinrich just happens to still live and operate in it.
As the former standout guard at Kansas begins Year No. 13 in the league, Hinrich’s minutes and production are almost certain to slip in the months ahead, as he plays a reserve role for what could be one of the NBA’s top teams, the Chicago Bulls.
Hinrich’s new head coach, former Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, will need far more out of his star backcourt of Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler than he will out of Hinrich.
The 34-year-old veteran understands that, though, and looks forward to contributing to the Bulls’ success however and whenever he can. Hinrich shared his thoughts on this season, as well as what’s left of his playing career, with the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc.
“It seems like yesterday I was a young player and now all these players call me ‘The Old Guy.’ I’m going to cherish it and not take anything for granted. I realize I’m at the tail end of my career (but) I feel like I can play longer.”
Hinrich’s legs should stay as fresh as legs in their mid-30s (with more than 800 regular-season games of mileage on them) can throughout the year if Butler and Rose stay healthy. Plus, backups Aaron Brooks and E’Twaun Moore appear to be ahead of Hinrich in the rotation for Chicago, considered the only legitimate threat to finish ahead of Cleveland in the Eastern Conference.
Even though Hinrich never had to take off his warmups in the Bulls’ season-opening victory over LeBron James’ Cavaliers and only played 5 minutes the next night at Brooklyn, Hoiberg appreciates the kind of contributions he can get out of his oldest guard.
“Kirk is just so rock-solid. He’s always in the right spot. Defensively, he’s very smart. He can get us into an offense. He does a lot of things that don’t show up in a box score. That’s a tough role to have, but Kirk has played it well his entire career.”
Even in a reduced role (Hinrich has never played fewer than the 24.4 minutes he averaged last season), Hinrich told the Tribune his love for the game keeps him wanting more.
“But when you get back to it you realize how much you really love it and want to do it as long as you can. I love the competition of it. I love the camaraderie with my teammates, the sense of coming together as a team and trying to accomplish something.”
Under contract just through the end of this season with Chicago, Hinrich indicated he doesn’t see retirement in his near future.
“I hope that I will know when it’s time go to. Mentally and physically it can be challenging at times, but I’m up for it.”
And he hopes this season Chicago can accomplish something great.
2015-16 ’Hawks in the NBA Season Previews
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During the past few days, players for the NBA’s 30 franchises posed for photos, answered questions and took in media day festivities with varying degrees of seriousness.
That means it’s time to get the old ’Hawks in the NBA blog up and firing again. At this moment 19 former Kansas players draw paychecks in The Association, and they all — well, almost all of them — had their moments in the spotlight at media days.
From rookies just getting started, to veterans joining new teams to role players fitting in, here are some of the KU-related social media highlights from around the league.
COLE ALDRICH, L.A. CLIPPERS
CLIFF ALEXANDER, PORTLAND
DARRELL ARTHUR, DENVER
TARIK BLACK, L.A. LAKERS
MARIO CHALMERS, MIAMI
In case you were wondering, “Spo” is Miami coach Erik Spoelstra, and Chalmers’ “new role” will be him coming off the bench.
NICK COLLISON, OKLAHOMA CITY
JOEL EMBIID, PHILADELPHIA
If you were curious about how Joel Embiid is handling his ongoing injury and rehab process, you’re not alone.
Appropriately enough, the injured-for-another-entire-season Embiid wasn’t a part of the 76ers’ media day, according to The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey.
Presumably, he’ll attend a media day and play in the NBA one of these years.
Embiid’s last known whereabouts? Going to see the Pope.
DREW GOODEN, WASHINGTON
Before looking for Drew Gooden content, I thought, What’s that maniac up to?
Well, he’s up to this:
That dude has to be a blast to cover. Rarely not entertaining.
KIRK HINRICH, CHICAGO
BEN MCLEMORE, SACRAMENTO
MARCUS MORRIS, DETROIT
The Pistons’ Twitter account did a tweet Q&A with a number of Detroit players Monday, but apparently Marcus bounced before they could get one rolling with him.
As a side note, ESPN’s NBA folks ranked Marcus Morris as the 191st-best player in the league. So there’s that.
MARKIEFF MORRIS, PHOENIX
By far the biggest ’Hawks in the NBA news to come out of media days was presumably disgruntled forward Markieff Morris putting on a happy face and stating he wants to be in Phoenix.
That’s not what he was saying back in August, when he told The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey: “One thing for sure, I am not going to be there.”
At the time at least, Markieff was hot and bothered about Phoenix shipping his twin brother and roommate Marcus off to the Pistons. He still might be a little sour with Suns general manager Ryan McDonough about that transaction.
SASHA KAUN, CLEVELAND
Sasha Kaun is Russian. Timofey Mozgov is Russion. Hijinks ensued.
KELLY OUBRE JR., WASHINGTON
Looks like Kelly Oubre Jr. loosened up and got comfortable at the Wizards’ media day.
PAUL PIERCE, L.A. CLIPPERS
THOMAS ROBINSON, BROOKLYN
BRANDON RUSH, GOLDEN STATE
Yes, Brandon Rush won an NBA championship with the Warriors. But, no, there isn’t a lot of media interest in him out in Oakland.
Upon posting this blog, Rush hadn't appeared in any Golden State tweets — or, really, anywhere else in the Twitterverse.
ANDREW WIGGINS, MINNESOTA
Unlike Marcus Morris, the 2014-15 Rookie of the Year was able to answer a few questions on Twitter.
JEFF WITHEY, UTAH
The 2014-15 regular season concluded this week in the NBA, marking the end of the road for the majority of former Kansas players in the league.
Cole Aldrich, Darell Arthur, Tarik Black, Ben McLemore, Marcus and Markieff Morris, Thomas Robinson and Andrew Wiggins? All of them already find themselves in offseason mode.
Even playoff regulars Mario Chalmers of Miami and Nick Collison of Oklahoma City are on the outside, looking in, after monumental injuries derailed their team’s seasons.
So when you start watching the 2015 NBA Playoffs, you’ll only find five Jayhawks playing on the 16 teams chasing a championship.
TORONTO VS. WASHINGTON
As you might have figured, Paul Pierce is the most prominent KU product in the hunt. Even at 37, “The Truth” still finds ways to make an impact on the floor. Now in his 17th season, Pierce averaged 11.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 0.6 steals in 26.2 minutes, and made 44.7% of his shots, 38.9% of his 3-pointers and 78.1% of his free throws.
Pierce proved last season as a member of the Brooklyn Nets he can still come through with game-winning plays during crunch time in the playoffs.
And he also became quite a villain in Toronto in the process.
A pseudo first-round rematch — Pierce vs. the Raptors — should provide plenty of entertainment. Especially when you consider how competitive Pierce is and that he is getting closer to retirement.
The 2008 NBA Finals MVP spoke about the urgency of the postseason with The Washington Post’s Jorge Castillo. As a veteran leader on a team that features an explosive young backcourt in John Wall and Bradley Beal, Pierce’s responsibilities these days aren’t limited to play-making.
“I just try to get the guys to focus in on the task at hand. These are special moments,” Pierce told The Washington Post. “You got to take advantage of these moments. There’s nothing like playoff basketball. The intensity, the smell of the popcorn, the national televised games every night. This is where good players become great players, and you try to relish these moments and that’s what I’m trying to [instill] into these guys, that every moment counts.”
The Wizards, of course, have another veteran from Kansas: Drew Gooden. In his 13th season, the journeyman power forward comes off the bench for Washington and has provided two double-digit rebound games, as well as a pair of double-digit scoring efforts in April.
In D.C.’s last 10 games, Gooden has seen his minutes and production go up: 7.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists in 25.7 minutes.
Compare that with his season numbers: 5.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 16.9 minutes.
If Pierce and Gooden can find some of their youthful bounce inside those high-mileage legs, Washington might have a chance to advance to the next round.
MILWAUKEE VS. CHICAGO
Another old man by NBA standards, 12th-year guard Kirk Hinrich has a chance to play a complimentary role for one of the Eastern Conference favorites, Chicago. That is assuming he is healthy enough to do so.
According to an ESPN.com report, Hinrich didn’t practice Friday and he was listed as uncertain for Saturday’s series opener, while recovering from a hyperextended right knee.
Hinrich, who plays alongside ultra-talented Bulls Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol, Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah, sat out the final two games of the regular season. He hasn’t played more than 20 minutes in a game since March 28.
If/when Hinrich plays, he’ll mainly be asked to facilitate and defend. He averaged just 5.7 points this season in 24.4 minutes a game, shot 37.3% from the field and made 34.5% of his 3-pointers. He hasn’t knocked down more than one 3-pointer in a game since Jan. 23.
GOLDEN STATE VS. NEW ORLEANS
Don’t hold your breath waiting to see former KU stars in this series.
Brandon Rush is lucky enough to play for the league’s best team, but Golden State — No. 1 in the Western Conference — doesn’t need to use him much when the Warriors have guys like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala.
Rush, who only played in 33 games this season, last played significant minutes (23) against Denver in mid-March and went scoreless. He didn’t play in five straight games before making brief appearances in three of the last four, highlighted by 5 points, 2 rebounds and 1 steal in 14 minutes in the finale.
The Warriors might advance far enough for Rush to be the last Jayhawk standing in the playoffs, but when you see him it will usually be on the bench cheering on one of the most entertaining teams in recent memory.
The Pelicans’ Jeff Withey finds himself in the same situation (except that his season figures to end much sooner, playing for No. 8 New Orleans).
The former Kansas pivot only played 7.0 minutes a game in the regular season, which ranked him next-to-last on the team. With big men Anthony Davis (an emerging superstar), Ryan Anderson, Dante Cunningham, Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca eating up all the minutes inside, Withey isn’t a part of the Pelicans’ game plan.
The lean 7-footer averaged 2.6 points, 1.7 rebounds and 0.5 blocks this season while shooting 50% from the field.
In theory, he could get some run if New Orleans finds itself on the wrong end of a blowout. Withey last made a field goal on March 20, at Golden State. The Warriors won, 112-96, and he played 29 minutes, going for 14 points (5-for-9 shooting) and 8 rebounds.
Mostly, he should be ready to pose for any celebratory post-game photos quickly, having not expended much energy beforehand.
— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.
Hunker down, get hydrated and tell your loved ones you will see them next spring.
Hopefully that’s not your mindset, but people should be warned: The at times seemingly never-ending NBA regular season is at hand.
The first handful of games tip off Tuesday, marking the start of the 82-game grind.
Thankfully for us, all we have to do is sit back, watch and enjoy. To make sure you’re fully prepared for the 2014-15 campaign, we’ll be rolling out a season outlook for each former Kansas University player who currently calls The Association home.
Kirk Hinrich — Chicago Bulls
6-foot-4 Guard | 12th season
2013-14 numbers: 73 games | 29.0 minutes | 9.1 points | 3.9 assists | 39.3 FG% | 35.1 3-pt% | 76 FT%
Kirk Hinrich might have one of the cushiest jobs in the NBA right now.
Chicago brought him back on a two-year contract with a player option for 2015-16 and all the league vet has to do is come in off the bench and keep the Bulls’ machine rolling along.
Even when Derrick Rose missed the bulk of the previous two seasons, Chicago made the playoffs and earned a reputation as one of the stingiest teams in the league. Now Rose is back, the Bulls’ roster is stacked and the words “Eastern Conference champs” are starting to swirl in The Windy City.
Hinrich, trusted by coach Tom Thibodeau and beloved by the organization for which he has played nine of his previous 11 seasons, will mix and match in the backcourt with Rose, Jimmy Butler and Aaron Brooks — all of whose jobs figure to be made way easier by the frontcourt power/skill of Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and rookie Nikola Mirotic. Not to mention lottery pick Doug McDermott.
The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson wrote this week about what Hinrich brings to one of the NBA’s projected top teams: stability.
He could start the Bulls’ season opener if Butler (thumb injury) can’t play at New York Wednesday night. And, obviously, Hinrich is excited about the damage Chicago is capable of this season.
"Cleveland is going to be really good," Hinrich told the Tribune. "I think we can be real good too. We have a lot of good new pieces. The core that we have back has proven to be solid. And Derrick looks great.
"The window may be closing for me and I want to keep it open as long as I can. I want to give all I've got but at the same time enjoy it."
Hinrich at least proved he can occasionally bust that window wide open during the preseason. He nailed 11 of 14 shots and scored 26 points Oct. 19 versus Charlotte.
You can imagine what kind of “what-the?” responses showed up on Twitter after that “Captain Kirk” performance.
So what do we expect out of Hinrich for the 2014-15 season?
Occasional blasts of offense, mixed with constant professionalism and the kind of non-highlight plays that have kept him around in Chicago: steals, defense, floor burns, annoying the guys he guards, etc.
Also, don’t be surprised when Hinrich and the Bulls (OK, Rose, Noah, Gasol and the Bulls, who also have Hinrich on their team) make a deep playoff run. Does Chicago have enough to get past LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers in the East? We’ve got plenty of basketball ahead of us to figure that part out.
’Hawks in the NBA 2014-15 season outlooks:
Considering how much of a grind the 82-game regular season has to be for NBA players, you can’t blame the guys for enjoying the preseason goof-off spectacle that is NBA media days.
Players surely take their interview responsibilities seriously enough, but when it comes time to mean-mug or bring some absurdity to photo and video shoots, they happily oblige.
Believe it or not, it’s actually training camp time in The Association, so the past few days have been light-heartedly busy for most of the former Kansas University players lucky enough to call the NBA home.
Some get to enjoy it a little more than others, as you can see in our social media roundup from the festivities.
Cole Aldrich, New York Knicks
Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Drew Gooden and Paul Pierce, Washington Wizards
Kirk Hinrich, Chicago Bulls
Nick Collison, Oklahoma City Thunder
Xavier Henry, Los Angeles Lakers
Marcus and Markieff Morris, Phoenix Suns
Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings
Thomas Robinson, Portland Trail Blazers
Brandon Rush, Golden State Warriors
Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves
Media day / throw-down night
Minnesota had an open practice for Timberwolves fans to watch following its media day, nicknaming the fun: Dunks After Dark.
Wiggins delivered a few throw-downs to help it live up to its name.
Considering his team, the Sacramento Kings, had just selected a shooting guard — the same position at which he started 55 games as a rookie — with the eighth overall pick in the NBA Draft, Kansas University product Ben McLemore played it cool on draft night.
A year removed from his own introduction to the league, when the Kings took him seventh overall, McLemore sent out a welcome tweet to his new teammate (and potential competitor for playing time), Michigan guard Nik Stauskas:
Outwardly congenial, McLemore revealed to the Sacramento Bee's Jason Jones that the choice initially surprised him.
“I wasn’t expecting that,” McLemore told Jones. “At the same time, they felt he was the best available draft pick, so I’m fine with it. At the end of the day, it’s a business, and I’m just going to do what I have to do to get better as a player.”
While his rookie season included flashes of production and promise, such as when the league named McLemore the Western Conference rookie of the month in November, the first-year guard struggled in stretches, too. He finished the season with an 8.8 points per game scoring average and less than impressive shooting percentages: 37.6 from the floor and 32 from three-point range (he missed 202 of his 297 attempts).
As McLemore and other members of the Kings' summer league team gathered in Las Vegas for mini-camp on Monday, head coach Michael Malone indicated to the Bee that McLemore's performance didn't inspire the organization to try and draft a replacement in Stauskas, a 6-foot-6 shooting specialist who drained 44.2 percent of his three-pointers this past season at Michigan.
“There’s only a few LeBron James, Kevin Durants, Kobe Bryants out there,” Malone said. “Most rookies come out and struggle. (McLemore) went through the struggling times. The most important thing for me was February was his toughest month, but in March and April he really got himself up off the mat. He showed resilience and finished the season on a high note (career high 31 points in finale).”
Jones reported Sacramento's Monday practice included some experimentation with playing McLemore and Stauskas side by side.
“It was good,” the rookie told the Bee. “For the most part, we were on the floor at the same time. He’s a great player, and hopefully we can feed off each other well.”
After playing with Stauskas for the first time (they played against each other in the 2013 Sweet 16, when Michigan beat Kansas, 87-85, in overtime), McLemore gave a brief scouting report in a video interview posted on the Kings' website.
"We've kind of got a similar game," McLemore said. "We both can shoot the ball, we can put it down on the floor, you know, (do) different things. I think we'll be a good backcourt."
The Kings play their summer league opener Friday night in Las Vegas, against San Antonio.
'Hawks in free agency
Paul Pierce is in Las Vegas, too. But not for the NBA's summer league. Apparently unfazed by his status as an uncommitted free agent, "The Truth" is working on one of his favorite hobbies at the World Series of Poker.
As for what uniform he'll wear in his 17th NBA season? Pierce could re-sign with Brooklyn. But ESPNNewYork.com's Mike Mazzeo reported the 36-year-old small forward wants $9 to $10 million a year, while the Nets would like to pay him between $6 and $8 million.
According to Mazzeo, Nets general manager Billy King said the Los Angeles Clippers inquired about a sign-and-trade deal for Pierce, who teamed with Clippers coach Doc Rivers to win an NBA title in Boston. However, King didn't like what L.A. offered.
Like Pierce, the six other KU products looking to sign as free agents might have to wait for stars LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh to make their decisions, because so many teams are holding back on contract offers until those pieces of the personnel puzzle fall into place.
Also still in limbo are Mario Chalmers, Xavier Henry, Kirk Hinrich, Drew Gooden, Brandon Rush and Cole Aldrich.
Aldrich told the Journal-World on Monday he would like to re-up with New York. Gooden told the Washington Post's Dan Steinberg he is interested in remaining in D.C., with the Wizards. Hinrich has long stated his desire to keep playing for Chicago.