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Tough lessons have changed free agent Thomas Robinson’s approach

Cleveland Cavaliers' Timofey Mozgov, left, from Russia, and Brooklyn Nets' Thomas Robinson battle for a rebound in the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 31, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Cleveland Cavaliers' Timofey Mozgov, left, from Russia, and Brooklyn Nets' Thomas Robinson battle for a rebound in the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 31, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Thirty-plus days into free agency, former Kansas star Thomas Robinson remains a man without a team.

The fifth overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Robinson spent all of last season with Brooklyn, a rarity for the backup power forward who already has played for five different franchises.

If demand for his services was high enough, Robinson already would have signed a new contract. Still, a report from BasketballInsiders.com suggests the 25-year-old big man also wants to take his time and find the right fit. After all, neither Sacramento, Houston, Portland, Philadelphia nor Brooklyn worked out for Robinson, who left KU with so much promise.

In Robinson’s rookie season with the Kings, he averaged 4.8 points and 4.7 rebounds in 51 games. Then Sacramento traded him to Houston, where, in 19 games, Robinson averaged 4.5 points and 4.1 rebounds.

Year No. 2 in the NBA for Robinson, while more stable — thanks to Portland adding him in the offseason and keeping him around for the duration of the year — didn’t bring more production: 4.8 points, 4.4 rebounds.

In 2014-15, Robinson was back on the move, but at least got to better show off his skills on an awful Philadelphia team, averaging 8.8 points and 7.7 rebounds in 22 appearances after the trade deadline.

However, after signing as a free agent with Brooklyn last summer, Robinson only got to play 12.9 minutes, putting up 4.3 points and 5.1 boards in his most recent campaign.

All of those stops around the league and tough lessons learned along the way have changed Robinson’s approach, he told Basketball Insiders. Now he understands he can still make an impact in the NBA, and earn the respect of his peers, by becoming a reliable, role-playing big, such as Bismack Biyombo or Tristan Thompson.

“I’ve matured so much,” Robinson said. “I see things completely different now. Coming in young, I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to hear, ‘Be a defender! Be a rebounder! That’s all you need to do!’ I didn’t want to hear those things. I’m okay at doing things other than just rebounding and defending, so I didn’t want to just do that. But after all of the trades and constantly hearing that, it sold me. I think the biggest sign of my maturity is the fact that I’m not striving for the same things that I was when I came into the league.”

The former King, Rocket, Blazer, Sixer and Net no longer has visions of becoming a superstar or, as he put it, trying to play like Kobe Bryant.

“I know that my job is strictly to be a solid rebounder and defender. I want to make it clear to everybody: that’s all I want to do,” Robinson told Basketball Insiders. “I want to be one of the best rebounders in the league and lock down anyone who comes my way.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9GJeROY_F6Q

Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders suggests Robinson just needs minutes in order to produce, citing the athletic forward’s averages in seven starts for the Nets this past season: 14.6 points, 12.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.6 steal to go with 54.4% shooting.

And while Robinson himself admits some people around the NBA might have a misinformed opinion of him — that he’s “standoffish” or a bad person — some of his former co-workers gave him glowing reviews. On BasketballInsiders.com coaches and players used words such as “coachable,” “I loved working with him,” “great competitor,” “fearless rebounder,” and “always a very positive teammate” while describing the free-agent power forward.

Portland guard C.J. McCollum said he connected with “T-Rob” easily, because of the big man’s passion.

“I think he can help every team in this league with his skill set and motor,” McCollum added. “He just needs to get the right opportunity.”

So where will Robinson play in his fifth NBA season? Many teams have used up the bulk of their space under the league’s salary cap. According to sportrac.com, the organizations that still have plenty of wiggle room for larger contracts are Philadelphia, Denver, Brooklyn, Phoenix, Oklahoma City, Utah, Minnesota and Indiana. Now, that doesn’t mean those teams have the roster space or a need for Robinson. They could just afford to pay him more.

Other franchises, though, could still bring Robinson in on a veteran’s minimum deal. One such team reported to have interest in Robinson is the San Antonio Spurs.

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Training camp doesn’t open until September, so there is still plenty of time for Robinson to find a new (or perhaps former) team to join.

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Tarik Black agrees to new deal to remain with L.A. Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers center Tarik Black (28) slam dunks against New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson, top right, in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. The Lakers won 99-96. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Los Angeles Lakers center Tarik Black (28) slam dunks against New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson, top right, in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. The Lakers won 99-96. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The NBA might be evolving away from traditional big-man focused lineups, but interior toughness remains valued. For proof, look no further than the Los Angeles Lakers’ desire to re-sign third-year big man Tarik Black.

Late Sunday night, the former Kansas center, who went undrafted in 2014 but worked his way into the league the hard way, agreed to a reported two-year, $12.85 million deal with the Lakers.

A 6-foot-9, 250-pound center, Black only played 12.7 minutes a game for L.A. in his second season, during which he averaged 3.4 points and 4.0 rebounds and shot 54.8% from the floor.

But, as referenced in Yahoo’s report of the deal, Black has played with both toughness and enthusiasm when called upon during his 77 appearances in purple and gold over the past season-plus, making him a desirable, inexpensive role player on the open market.

Black, who finished his college career at KU as a graduate transfer following three seasons at Memphis, didn’t get selected in the league’s rookie draft out of college. Hoewever, he forged his way into a career by impressing Houston enough during a summer league stint two years ago to earn a regular-season roster spot. When the Rockets had to waive him during his rookie year to pave the way for another transaction, the Lakers claimed the undersized center.

Known for his humble, blue collar approach to the game, Black announced his new deal late Sunday night by simply tweeting out a picture of a Lakers hat.

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Although Black didn’t receive much playing time during his second season in L.A., speculation has mounted in the hours since he agreed to re-sign that former Lakers coach Byron Scott didn’t utilize the backup center as much as those running the organization desired.

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Black became a fan favorite for the struggling Lakers over the past couple of years and many wondered why he didn’t play more. It appears that will no longer be an issue, as the 24-year-old returns to L.A. to work for a different head coach, Luke Walton. As pointed out in Yahoo’s report, Black actually played for Walton in 2011, when the new Lakers coach was a college assistant at Memphis.

The Lakers just agreed to a four-year, $64 million deal with free-agent center Timofey Mozgov, so Black won’t enter next season as a starting pivot. But all signs point to an increased role for the hard-working big man as the primary second-unit center.

During Black’s rookie year with the Lakers, he averaged 7.2 points and 6.3 rebounds while playing 21.1 minutes. In that season his per 36-minutes projected averages came out to 12.3 points and 10.8 rebounds.

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Cole Aldrich and Darrell Arthur first Jayhawks to cash in on free agency

Los Angeles Clippers' Cole Aldrich, right, grabs a rebound in front of Phoenix Suns' Alex Len (21) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Los Angeles Clippers' Cole Aldrich, right, grabs a rebound in front of Phoenix Suns' Alex Len (21) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

It’s not exactly LeBron James returning to Cleveland, but NBA free agency provided former Kansas star Cole Aldrich with an opportunity to go home and play for a franchise that means a lot to him.

According to various media reports Sunday, the 6-foot-11 Burnsville, Minn., native agreed to a three-year, $22 million contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Drafted 11th overall in 2010 after a standout college career with the Jayhawks, Aldrich struggled to earn playing time in his first few seasons in the NBA, before enjoying some breakout success this past year with the Los Angeles Clippers.

After two seasons with Oklahoma City, Aldrich split the 2012-13 season with Houston and Sacramento, then signed with New York in 2013. A year ago, he signed as a free agent with the Clippers, and averaged 5.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 13.3 minutes a game. But even his one relatively effective season in L.A. got off to a bumpy start. Aldrich didn’t check in off the bench in 22 of the team’s first 27 games.

“It’s not easy,” Aldrich said in June of remaining patient while waiting for a legitimate chance to prove he belonged in the NBA. “It’s not. I just tried to see the big picture. The season is long, and you never know when somebody can twist an ankle or, whatever happens, somebody gets sick and somebody’s out for a few games. You’re gonna have to be ready to go in and produce.”

With Los Angeles, Aldrich saw a significant uptick in his minutes following a December quad injury to then-teammate Blake Griffin. The center parlayed the on-court production that followed into a deal with the Timberwolves.

As a teenager, Aldrich starred at Bloomington Jefferson High, roughly 20 minutes away from his new home NBA arena, the Target Center, in downtown Minneapolis.

Now 27, Aldrich, embarking on his seventh season, thinks the best years of his career are ahead of him. He told the Star Tribune playing for the organization he grew up watching will be special.

“You always kind of think it’s a possibility,” Aldrich told the Star Tribune. “You never really know. I’m just really excited.”

Although the Timberwolves haven’t reached the playoffs since Aldrich was a high school freshman, many around the league see the team on the verge of something special, with a pair of young stars in the making — Karl-Anthony Towns and former KU wing Andrew Wiggins — and a new head coach, Tom Thibodeau.

At this juncture, Aldrich projects as a backup big for Minnesota. The Star Tribune reported he’ll likely share minutes inside with Towns and Gorgui Dieng.

Last season, according to basketball-reference.com, Aldrich earned $1.1 million with the Clippers before opting out of his contract to test the open market. He’s set to bring in nearly seven times that much this coming season.

Previously, the burly pivot’s biggest paydays came in the third season of his rookie deal, which paid him $2.4 million for the year. The following season, he made $981,084 with the Knicks.

This summer, the NBA’s salary cap jumped up by roughly $24 million, meaning each franchise has more money to spend than ever before. Players such as Aldrich are reaping the benefits.

Darrell Arthur staying put

Denver Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur (00), left, drives for a basket past Philadelphia 76ers forward Jerami Grant (39) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Denver. The Nuggets won 104-103 on Mudiay's three-point shot as time ran out in the half. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Denver Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur (00), left, drives for a basket past Philadelphia 76ers forward Jerami Grant (39) in the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, March 23, 2016, in Denver. The Nuggets won 104-103 on Mudiay's three-point shot as time ran out in the half. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Aldrich was the second former Kansas star to cash in on this summer’s league-wide spending spree. Seventh-year forward Darrell Arthur, who won a national championship at KU with Aldrich in 2008, agreed to terms with Denver — electing to stick with the team that he played for the previous three seasons.

The Denver Post reported Arthur’s contract, which like all free-agent deals can’t become official before July 7, will be worth $23 million over three seasons.

While Washington and other franchises showed interest in Arthur, who averaged 7.5 points and 4.2 rebounds during the 2015-16 season, The Post reported the Nuggets made him a priority in their free agency plans.

Arthur must enjoy his situation with the Nuggets, because even though his salary increased from $2.8 million last year to $7.6 million this coming season, The Post reported Arthur might have been able to pull in closer to $10 million a year with another organization.

The 28-year-old forward who began his career with Memphis, made a personal best $3.4 million with Denver during the 2014-15 season. He’ll more than double that figure next season.

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Valuable role player Darrell Arthur might be on move in free agency

Denver Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur, right, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers center Roy Hibbert defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 25, 2016, in Los Angeles. AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Denver Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur, right, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers center Roy Hibbert defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 25, 2016, in Los Angeles. AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

It’s not often that the name Darrell Arthur comes up in the buzz surrounding the NBA, but with the season over, the draft complete and free agency revving up at the end of the week, rumors regarding Arthur’s future began swirling Monday.

A few days after reports of the former Kansas forward opting out of the second year of his contract with Denver in order to hit the open market, word out of the nation’s capital is Washington could be a destination for the 6-foot-9 veteran who won a national championship with KU in 2008.

According to a report from CSNAtlantic.com, Arthur is on a “short list” of targets for the Wizards, when teams can start negotiating with free agents on July 1.

Arthur averaged 7.5 points and 4.2 rebounds in 21.7 minutes a game — mostly as a reserve — this past season with the Nuggets, during his third year with the franchise. While his numbers don’t blow you away, Arthur is respected around the league for his work ethic and ability to defend pick-and-roll action as a 6-foot-9 frontcourt player.

What’s more, Arthur hit a career-high 38.5% of his 3-pointers during his seventh season in the league, making 45 shots from downtown, easily beating his previous season-best of 26 3-pointers.

Besides his valuable skills, which likely on their own merit could’ve earned him more than the $2.9 million he just left on the table for next season, the NBA salary cap is rising significantly this summer. Any player in his right mind would opt out of his contract now if he could, because pay raises will be readily available.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7kHVUd85emw

If Arthur were to reach a deal with the Wizards, he’d likely serve as a backup at power forward to another Jayhawk, Markieff Morris.

Plus, Washington would probably become a new favorite NBA team for Kansas fans, with four former KU players on the roster: Arthur, Morris, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Drew Gooden.

Of course, it might not work out that way. Most teams looking for a backup power forward, likely would have interest in a 4 who can stretch the floor and move his feet well while defending — inside and out — in the half court.

Arthur’s name certainly won’t be the biggest one on the market this summer, but he is an important role player to watch amid the free agency frenzy.


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


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Cole Aldrich leaves woeful Knicks for contending Clippers

New York Knicks center Cole Aldrich (45) pulls down a rebound as Milwaukee Bucks center Zaza Pachulia (27) defends with New York Knicks forward Quincy Acy (4) getting in on the action in the first half of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York, Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

New York Knicks center Cole Aldrich (45) pulls down a rebound as Milwaukee Bucks center Zaza Pachulia (27) defends with New York Knicks forward Quincy Acy (4) getting in on the action in the first half of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York, Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Just a few weeks ago, before NBA free agency began, former Kansas standout Cole Aldrich really had no idea which team he might play for in the 2015-16 season.

At the time, re-signing with New York, which finished with the worst record in the Eastern Conference (17-65), seemed like a legitimate possibility.

The open market, however, led the 6-foot-11 Aldrich to a much better situation. On Monday, the five-year veteran officially joined his fifth NBA team and signed with the Los Angeles Clippers. The new contract moves Aldrich from one of the worst teams in the league to a franchise that earned the No. 3 seed in the loaded Western Conference.

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The Los Angeles Times’ Ben Bolch reported Aldrich’s two-year contract has a player option for the second year, meaning he can opt out and test free agency next summer if he so desires. The center signed for the veteran’s minimum, and will earn $1.1 million this coming season.

After achieving new career-highs of 5.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 16.6 minutes last season with the woeful Knicks, Aldrich figures to become the Clippers’ backup center, playing behind DeAndre Jordan. L.A. just re-signed Jordan to a max contract after nearly losing him to Dallas in free agency, and the SportsCenter Top-10 regular is one of the faces of the franchise, along with point guard Chris Paul and power forward Blake Griffin.

Even as a substitute, though, Aldrich will get playing time the Clippers. Coach Doc Rivers often is forced to sub out his star center, because Jordan is an atrocious free-throw shooter (41.7% for his career, 39.7% last season). Aldrich made 78.1% of his free throws in 2014-15, which is right at his career mark of 78%. So Rivers won’t have to worry about Aldrich costing the team easy points at the foul line.

Between regular reserve minutes in the rotation and helping L.A. avoid Hack-a-DeAndre situations, Aldrich will get a chance to contribute to one of the West’s top teams, as the Clippers try to contend for an NBA title, along with Golden State, San Antonio, Houston, Memphis and Oklahoma City.

Aldrich became the second Jayhawk to sign with the Clippers this offseason, joining 17-year veteran Paul Pierce.

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The move westward also teams the former KU center with a fellow member of the 2008-09 All-Big 12 Team, Griffin — Oklahoma’s conference player of the year that season.

All-Big 12 first-teamer Cole Aldrich, right, walks off the court with Big 12 Player of the Year Blake Griffin of Oklahoma.

All-Big 12 first-teamer Cole Aldrich, right, walks off the court with Big 12 Player of the Year Blake Griffin of Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

Aldrich’s time at KU made him a lottery pick in 2011. He failed to catch on as a valued contributor with Oklahoma City, Houston or Sacramento in his first three seasons in the league. His past two years with the Knicks — last season in particular — set him up for what will be the most interesting stretch of his career to date.

The 26-year-old Bloomington, Minnesota native took to Twitter to thank the Knicks organization and its supporters for his time there.

“Always have love for you guys,” he wrote.

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Even so, chasing a championship with the Clippers should increase his on-the-court enjoyment by an incalculable amount.


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


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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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Free agent Thomas Robinson searching for right fit, respect in NBA

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) against Philadelphia 76ers forward Thomas Robinson (41) during an NBA basketball game Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) against Philadelphia 76ers forward Thomas Robinson (41) during an NBA basketball game Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)

There are far bigger, landscape-changing names on the NBA’s open market this summer than Thomas Robinson. But it’s hard to come up with many free agents as desperate to find the right fit. Robinson needs to find a franchise where he belongs.

After leading Kansas to the 2012 national title game, Robinson entered the league as the No. 5 overall pick. Three years later, the 6-foot-10 forward has been traded three times and waived. Now, for the first time since picking KU, he gets to choose his next team.

An energetic big man who is only 24, Robinson performed rather well in limited minutes once Philadelphia claimed him off waivers late this past season: 8.8 points, 7.7 rebounds (2.8 offensive) in 18.5 minutes over 22 games.

Beginning with Sacramento, which drafted him, and continuing in Houston and Portland, Robinson either hasn’t impressed teams enough or got caught playing behind more effective veterans.

As he tries to find a franchise that both wants him and will use him effectively, Robinson told Grantland’s Jonathan Abrams he’s letting all the doubt about his potential fuel him.

“I can’t stand the politics of it,” Robinson said in the Grantland feature. “I lost all respect for why I thought I wanted to come to the NBA. I’m not here for the same things I had in mind when I got drafted or when I was a kid. My mind-set has completely changed.

“Outside a few handful of players in this league, other than that, you’re up for grabs. Anybody. So right now, I’m not playing for money no more. I’m not playing for love. I’m playing because I want my respect back. That’s pretty much my mind-set until I’m done.”

The Grantland piece provides much more insight from Robinson on the business side of the NBA and his ongoing struggle to establish himself as an important player, and goes into his relationship with his former KU teammates, Marcus and Markieff Morris, their mother’s role in Robinson’s life and much more.

With free agency just under way, Philadelphia has plenty of available money, but its three projected best players, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid, all play inside. So the 76ers seem unlikely to re-sign Robinson. The prevalent rumor is that Brooklyn wants to add him to its frontcourt.

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However, the Nets reportedly agreed to big deals with their own free agent bigs, Brook Lopez and Thad Young. So if they want to pick up Robinson, too, they don’t have much money to offer him without making some other moves.

If that’s OK with Robinson, and Brooklyn promises him playing time, he could decide to sign on for a one-year deal, showcase his abilities and become a free agent again next summer.

Then again, if Robinson wants the added security of a longer deal and more money, there could be plenty of other intriguing opportunities out there.

CBSSports.com’s Zach Harper compiled a definitive list of salary cap situations and team needs for the entire NBA this summer. Using that as a jumping off point, here are some other organizations that could use Robinson and afford to throw some bigger pay days his direction.

Boston has plenty of cap space and had only three noteworthy post players — Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller and Kelly Olynyk — under contract before reportedly reaching an agreement with Amir Johnson. Still, Danny Ainge always seems to be chasing down trades, so there is no guarantee Sullinger, Zeller or Olynyk will remain on the roster.

Detroit also has ample room to stay under the salary cap. The Pistons are expected to let Greg Monroe sign elsewhere, leaving them with Andre Drummond in the pivot and Ersan Ilyasova and Anthony Tolliver as their power forwards.

New York needs starting big men and backup big men. At this moment, No. 4 overall pick Kristaps Porzingis is the only post player set to be under contract next season. The Knicks are rumored to have interest in Monroe, David West and LaMarcus Aldridge. But if they strike out on a couple (or all three) of those guys, why not fill a need and inject some energy with Robinson?

Dallas has money to burn with Mark Cuban calling the shots, and the Mavericks desperately need some interior players, too. Cuban will chase all the marquee names available in free agency or via trade. Even if Dallas lands another post player, aging Dirk Nowitzki could use all the help he can get inside defensively and on the glass.

The Los Angeles Lakers hope they can lure Aldridge or make a deal for DeMarcus Cousins. If those ventures fail, they’ll need depth inside to go with Julius Randle and Tarik Black (Robert Sacre has a non-guaranteed deal).

Phoenix might be the most alluring destination for Robinson if the Suns are interested in him. No doubt, he would love reuniting with his #FOE brothers, the Morrii. But Phoenix reportedly reached a deal with Tyson Chandler and also has dreams of adding Aldridge. With Markieff, Alex Len and Chandler all in line for plenty of minutes, Robinson likely would need assurances of playing time to head to the desert.

Whether all — or any — of those teams want to add Robinson remains to be seen. Plus, new deals are popping up by the minute this time of year, so situations with every franchise remain in flux.

In the young power forward’s mind, he still expects to live up to his top-five-pick status and become an All-Star. One might say he considers himself a diamond in the rough.

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“If it happens the wrong way, I know it’s my fault,” Robinson told Grantland. “I’m betting on myself right now.”


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Paul Pierce, Thomas Robinson, other Jayhawks hit free agent market

When the clock strikes midnight and June turns to July, NBA free agent season officially begins.

With the 2015 draft out of the way, teams can begin attempting to plug the last — or many — holes on their rosters by offering millions of dollars to the players whose previous contracts just expired.

While national attention turns to the rumors and meetings surrounding LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Loves and other marquee names, the coming days and weeks will determine the professional futures of some former Kansas stars, too.

Here is a look at seven Jayhawks in play as free agency begins.

Paul Pierce | Washington | F | age: 37

Washington Wizards' Paul Pierce, walks away after a confrontation with Atlanta Hawks' DeMarre Carroll, not pictured, in the third quarter of Game 5 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs Wednesday, May 13, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Washington Wizards' Paul Pierce, walks away after a confrontation with Atlanta Hawks' DeMarre Carroll, not pictured, in the third quarter of Game 5 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs Wednesday, May 13, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Pierce might be on his fourth team in four seasons by the time the summer signing frenzy finishes. Now a 17-year league veteran, the former Boston Celtic and one-year Brooklyn Net surprised many last summer by signing on with Washington.

Though the Wizards, who made it to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs as Pierce averaged 14.6 points and 4.2 rebounds this past spring, didn’t expect him to opt out of his deal this summer, the veteran forward decided to give himself some options as he nears retirement.

While D.C. remains a legit candidate to re-sign him, the Los Angeles Clippers and Boston both are reportedly interested in adding the 2008 NBA Finals MVP, who won a title with the Celtics, while playing for now-Clippers coach Doc Rivers.

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In a piece from The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg, Wizards coach Randy Wittman remained positive about keeping Pierce in the fold.

“End-of-the-year meetings, talking to him here after the season, I think he was really pleased with the situation that he walked into here, what he was able to help with this team, the future of this team and where we’re headed,” the coach said. “I think those are all great positives. I feel very positive that we’re going to be able to have him back in the fold next year.”

Yahoo’s Kelly Dwyer, however, thinks Pierce will chase another title with Rivers, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the Clippers.

Thomas Robinson | Philadelphia | PF | age: 24

Philadelphia 76ers' Thomas Robinson in action during an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Monday, March 30, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Philadelphia 76ers' Thomas Robinson in action during an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Monday, March 30, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Three years removed from Sacramento taking him with the fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Robinson likely will join his fifth NBA franchise this summer. The athletic, raw 24-year-old post player experienced a crazy couple days in February, when Portland traded him to Denver, the Nuggets promptly waived him, Brooklyn planned to sign him and Philadelphia snagged him off waivers before he could become an in-season free agent.

The New York Post’s Tim Bontemps reported Brooklyn, who planned to sign Robinson if he cleared waivers, will target him in free agency.

“He could provide energy and rebounding as a low-cost reserve big, an area where the Nets could use help,” Bontemps wrote.

The decision is all Robinson’s, though. Other suitors could emerge, and he’ll likely take the deal that is best for his financial future.

Upon landing with the 76ers, Robinson averaged 8.8 points and 7.7 rebounds in 18.5 minutes a game.

Cole Aldrich | New York | C | age: 26

New York Knicks center Cole Aldrich (45) dunks the ball in front of Orlando Magic's Elfrid Payton (4) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Orlando, Fla. New York won 80-79. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

New York Knicks center Cole Aldrich (45) dunks the ball in front of Orlando Magic's Elfrid Payton (4) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Orlando, Fla. New York won 80-79. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

While the Knicks figure to actively recruit some bigger available names, Newsday reports Aldrich is one of the Knicks’ own free agents who is likely to return.

Aldrich told the Journal-World a couple weeks ago he didn’t yet know what kind of deals would come his way.

“It’s just nice to get out there again,” he said. “It’s another summer to get better, and that’s all that matters.”

As a young, inexpensive big man coming off a career year (5.5 points and 5.5 rebounds), Aldrich shouldn’t have any trouble finding steady work.

Darrell Arthur | Denver | PF | age: 27

Denver Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur, left, is stopped as he tries to drive to the basket for a shot by Toronto Raptors guards Greivis Vasquez, center, of Venezuela, and Terrence Ross in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Denver Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur, left, is stopped as he tries to drive to the basket for a shot by Toronto Raptors guards Greivis Vasquez, center, of Venezuela, and Terrence Ross in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

A 6-foot-9 backup big man, Arthur won’t create a lot of buzz, but The Washington Post’s Neil Greenberg put the former KU standout on his list of “sleeper” free agents. Some advanced stats, cited by The Post, reveal Arthur’s worth:

“The Denver Nuggets were 9.6 points per 100 possessions better defensively this season with Arthur in the lineup,” Greenberg wrote, “ and he held opponents to 0.9 points per play when he was called on to defend in the post.”

CBSSports.com’s Matt Moore ranked Arthur as the 37th-best available free agent, ahead of Pierce (40th).

Drew Gooden | Washington | PF | age: 33

Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden (90) reacts after a play in the first half of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal NBA basketball playoff series against the Toronto Raptors, Sunday, April 26, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden (90) reacts after a play in the first half of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal NBA basketball playoff series against the Toronto Raptors, Sunday, April 26, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Gooden has stuck around the league for 13 seasons, so he must be doing something right. The veteran big man reinvented his game to remain relevant and served Washington this past season as a stretch power forward.

Gooden averaged 6.8 points and 5.5 rebounds in the Wizards’ playoff run. According to The Washington Post’s Jorge Castillo, Gooden had a “we’ll see what happens” approach to his free agency.

“I feel like I was a component to help get to where we at right now,” Gooden said. “… Whether I am here or somewhere else, I will continue to get better and fill this role I have taken with the Wizards. I would love for it to be here but if it is not, this is a business and I can swallow that pill, too.”

Jeff Withey | New Orleans | C | age: 25

Miami Heat forward James Ennis (32) goes to the basket as New Orleans Pelicans center Jeff Withey (5) defends in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Miami, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015. The Pelicans won 105-91. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Miami Heat forward James Ennis (32) goes to the basket as New Orleans Pelicans center Jeff Withey (5) defends in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Miami, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015. The Pelicans won 105-91. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

The Pelicans haven’t used Withey much (9.9 career minutes per game) in his two seasons of service, but that doesn’t mean they want to dump him in the offseason.

The Advocate reported New Orleans would extend a one-year, qualifying offer to Withey, a restricted free agent. If Withey doesn’t find an offer from another franchise for more money, the Pelicans will keep him for next season and he’ll become a true free agent — unrestricted — in 2016. They can retain him for $1.1 million next season in that scenario, or match any offer another team comes up with for the seldom used backup center (2.6 points and 1.7 rebounds in 7.0 minutes this past season).

Xavier Henry | L.A. Lakers | G/F | age: 24

Los Angeles Lakers forward Xavier Henry, center, puts up a shot as Golden State Warriors center Ognjen Kuzmic, left, of Bosnia, and center Festus Ezeli, of Nigeria, defend during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, in Los Angeles. The Warriors won 136-115. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Lakers forward Xavier Henry, center, puts up a shot as Golden State Warriors center Ognjen Kuzmic, left, of Bosnia, and center Festus Ezeli, of Nigeria, defend during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, in Los Angeles. The Warriors won 136-115. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Actually, Henry has been a free agent since last December. After a breakout fourth season in 2013-14 (10 points per game), the young swingman ruptured left achilles this past November, cutting his fifth season short. The Lakers then cut Henry in order to sign another former KU player, Tarik Black.

Henry’s history of injury problems might scare away some organizations, and no one will sign him until he’s back healthy and cleared by a team’s medical personnel. If he can get back healthy, though, and recapture the kind of play he displayed almost two years ago, Henry could emerge as a wild card addition that no one is mentioning at this juncture. Considering all the variables, the offseason uncertainty figures to stretch on for months for Henry.


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