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Posts tagged with Nba Playoffs

Paul Pierce would fit in nicely with Clippers next season

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) reacts in the second half of Game 4 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks, Monday, May 11, 2015, in Washington. The Hawks won 106-101. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) reacts in the second half of Game 4 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks, Monday, May 11, 2015, in Washington. The Hawks won 106-101. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Paul Pierce proved in the 2015 NBA Playoffs he’s still relevant in the league, even with 17 seasons of mileage on his veteran frame.

The 37-year-old small forward from Kansas scored 14.6 points per game and drilled 33 of his 63 3-pointers (52.4%) for Washington in the postseason before Atlanta eliminated the Wizards in the second round, leading Pierce to say his offseason plans would include contemplating retirement.

It turns out those within NBA circles, though, anticipate “The Truth” returning for Year No. 18 — and playing for a different organization.

David Aldridge reported on NBA.com “many around the league” think Pierce will finish his career in Los Angeles, with the Clippers. Though the former Boston star, who also spent one season with Brooklyn, signed a two-year deal with Washington this past summer, he can opt out of the contract and become a free agent again in July if he so chooses.

The Clippers make perfect sense as a potential destination for Pierce. He grew up in nearby Inglewood, California, and won the 2008 NBA championship with current L.A. coach Doc Rivers. Plus, with younger stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin carrying the Clippers, Rivers easily could use Pierce in a reduced role during the regular season — Washington used a similar approach — to save his legs for when they need them the most.

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce (34) hugs coach Doc Rivers after the Celtics defeated the Detroit Pistons, 89-81, to win the Eastern Conference finals. The Celtics advanced to the NBA finals with the victory Friday in Auburn Hills, Mich.

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce (34) hugs coach Doc Rivers after the Celtics defeated the Detroit Pistons, 89-81, to win the Eastern Conference finals. The Celtics advanced to the NBA finals with the victory Friday in Auburn Hills, Mich.

Then again, if Pierce indeed becomes a free agent, who’s to say he wouldn’t join another franchise? Celtics guard Avery Bradley told 98.5 Sports Hub he would love to see his former Boston teammate back in Celtics green.

“To me, Paul is always going to be a Boston Celtic,” Bradley said. “The things that he’s been able to accomplish in his time here, it was just amazing. And I’m pretty sure all the Boston fans would love that, too.”

Boston, coached by Brad Stevens, surprised the league this past season by reaching the playoffs, despite trading away veterans Jeff Green and Rajon Rondo. The Celtics became one of the more competitive teams in the NBA the final three months of the season and won eight of their final 10 games to grab the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Pierce’s former franchise is trending upward, but the current roster wouldn’t contend for a title, even with the addition of No. 34. Boston would need to make a few more moves and bring in an all-star or two before Pierce could return knowing he had a chance to get back to the NBA Finals.

No road to the championship is easy, but for Pierce, returning to Washington or joining the Clippers would provide paths with fewer obstacles.

The Wizards came close to reaching the East finals this season, and his young teammates John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter all showed serious improvement. It’s easy to envision D.C. taking another step forward in 2016. But if Pierce stays in the East, he’ll have to go through his old rival, LeBron James, to reach The Finals.

The Clippers had Houston on the ropes and blew a huge lead in Game 6 of the second round before their season ended on the road, in Game 7, against the Rockets. Even though the West is loaded, L.A. has the star power of Paul and Griffin, who could propel the franchise to an unprecedented Finals appearance in 2016 — especially if the Clippers re-sign DeAndre Jordan and add some more complimentary pieces.

Ultimately, the lack of a supporting cast led to L.A.’s demise. Griffin and Paul had to carry the load so much, the fatigue caught up with them late in the Houston series. Pierce isn’t the same defender he was earlier in his career, so he wouldn’t be the perfect “3-and-D” wing for the Clippers. But he could lessen the offensive burden placed on the shoulders of Griffin and Paul, particularly late in games.

After so many seasons in Boston green, Pierce has become a bit of a hired gun late in his career. Why not make one last run at a championship with your old coach in your home town?

Paul Pierce's 3-point shot chart from the 2015 NBA Playoffs. (Via NBA.com/Stats)

Paul Pierce's 3-point shot chart from the 2015 NBA Playoffs. (Via NBA.com/Stats)

Truthfully, Pierce would look good in a Clippers uniform. With him camping out behind the 3-point line on one side of the court, and J.J. Redick doing the same on the opposite side, imagine the extra room Paul and Griffin (and Jordan?) would have to operate.

And if defenses decide to focus on L.A.’s stars, Pierce will be there licking his lips, waiting to deliver a crunch-time dagger.

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LeBron James credits old rival Paul Pierce with shaping his career

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)

Years from now, when basketball fans who have yet to be born learn of LeBron James or Paul Pierce by watching hologram highlight clips of their Hall-of-Fame careers, one small forward will inevitably be linked with the other.

The rivalry between Pierce and James took off in the 2008 NBA Playoffs. Ever since, their one-on-one battles have been a prominent storyline each time their two teams meet.

When Pierce, a 17-year veteran from Kansas, hinted at retiring upon Washington’s elimination from the playoffs this past week, Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Chris Haynes asked James about his old antagonist and their showdowns through the years.

Still in the hunt for this season’s championship with the Cavaliers, James told Cleveland.com Pierce actually helped shape his career.

"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. "I knew I had to become much better individually. He's one of those guys."

Playing with the Celtics and Nets, Pierce has faced James’ Cavaliers and Heat in five postseason series. “The Truth” prevailed in both 2008 and 2010, before James went to Miami and won titles in 2012 and 2013.

Now a four-time NBA MVP, James went toe-to-toe with Pierce in a second-round series in 2008 that featured a remarkable Game 7. James put up 45 points, but Pierce scored 41 and the Celtics won in Boston, on their way to an eventual championship.

In 2010, James played what many assumed would be his last game in a Cleveland uniform against Pierce’s Celtics. Cleveland lost in the second round to Boston before James headed south to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.

Once the Heat formed its own “Big Three” to counter Boston’s combination of Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, the playoff showdowns started going James’ way. LeBron and company ended Pierce’s season in 2011, 2012 and 2014 (when Pierce and Garnett played in Brooklyn).

The adversaries could have met again in the Eastern Conference Finals beginning this week, but Pierce’s Wizards couldn’t extend their postseason lives past Game 6 vs. Atlanta — a series that ended with an overtime-forcing 3-pointer from Pierce getting waved off upon further review.

"[When] I first saw it and when he got the ball, I knew it was going in," James told Cleveland.com. "I just know how clutch Double-P is. I knew it was going in, but I didn't know if he got it off in time just because he had to make that extra move to get back behind the three-point line after [Kyle] Korver kind of stepped in front of him."

James, who has a 17-20 record vs. his rival in the regular season and a 17-13 record in the playoffs, knows first-hand what Pierce can do with the game on the line. In the 2012 East Finals, Pierce buried a clutch 3 to put Miami in a 3-2 series hole.

No one knows at this point whether the two adversaries will get another playoff showdown in 2016 to cap the old rivalry.

"I've been competing against him my whole career and our battles that we've had, our differences that we've had,” James told Cleveland.com. “But you know one thing about it, when you face him; you're going to always compete. I wish him the best in whatever he decides to do."

Visit basketball-reference.com for a detailed look at each head-to-head meeting between Pierce and James.

REGULAR SEASON


PLAYOFFS


Check out Boston.com’s Top 5 Pierce vs. James moments


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Reply 1 comment from Greg Ledom

Paul Pierce contemplating retirement

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) waves to the crowd as he leaves the court after Game 6 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs Atlanta Hawks, Friday, May 15, 2015, in Washington. The Hawks won 94-91. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) waves to the crowd as he leaves the court after Game 6 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs Atlanta Hawks, Friday, May 15, 2015, in Washington. The Hawks won 94-91. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The NBA’s new Mr. Clutch, Paul Pierce, caught the basketball with time vanishing in the final seconds of Washington’s second-round elimination game Friday night and drained a contested, fade-away 3-pointer from the left corner.

The Verizon Center crowd exploded, and Pierce’s Wizards teammates congratulated him on sending Game 6 against Atlanta to overtime.

However, upon further review, the ball left the veteran’s fingertips a split-second too late. “The Truth” had not saved the day this time, and the Hawks advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The stunned 17-year veteran from Kansas left the court afflicted with the feeling he let his team down, and, as he told The Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore, wondering about his future.

“Truthfully, what was going through my mind is, I don’t have too much of these efforts left, if any,” Pierce said. “These rides throughout the NBA season, throughout the playoffs, are very emotional. They take a lot out of not only your body, but your mind, your spirit.”

None by Dan Worthington

Pierce averaged 14.6 points and drained 52.4% of his 3-pointers in the playoffs, but finished what proved to be the season finale with 4 points on 1-for-7 shooting (0-for-2 from downtown). No competitor of Pierce’s caliber would want to walk away from the game on that note, particularly after having a clutch shot waved off, but it’s an option the 2008 Finals MVP finds himself considering.

As Kilgore reported, Pierce has a player option for next season on his contract worth $6 million dollars. Will he take it, extend his late-career sting with the Wizards and play an 18th season?

“I don’t even know if I’m going to play basketball anymore,” Pierce told The Washington Post.

The veteran revealed the emotions of the season-ending loss in many of his post-game comments.

“It affects not only you, but the people around you,” Pierce said. “Days like this, you go home and you’re around your family, you don’t feel like talking to them or doing anything because of what the game does. It takes a bit out of you.”

Retirement is on the table for the future Hall of Famer now, and Pierce said calling it quits — whether it comes this offseason or down the road — will probably be the hardest thing he ever has to do.

“I’m never going to have no regrets, whether I hang it up now or later,” Pierce said. “I know that people who have been around me all these years know that Paul Pierce came every day, left it out there every day. I know I left everything out there.”


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Reply 3 comments from Len Shaffer Clara Westphal The_muser

Paul Pierce offers insight on crunch-time heroics

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce, in headband, celebrates with his teammates after Game 3 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks, Saturday, May 9, 2015, in Washington. The Wizards won 103-101. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce, in headband, celebrates with his teammates after Game 3 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks, Saturday, May 9, 2015, in Washington. The Wizards won 103-101. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

From the man who brought you, “This is why they brought me here.” …

Paul Pierce presents: “I called game.”

“The Truth” beat the buzzer — and Atlanta — Saturday night by banking in a contested game-winning jumper as time expired.

With the Hawks’ Kent Bazemore and Dennis Schroder defending Pierce, the 17-year veteran from Kansas got off as tough a crunch-time shot as you’ll find, and got the lucky bounce off the glass to give Washington a 2-1 lead in the second round of the NBA Playoffs.

ESPN reporter Chris Broussard asked Pierce afterward if he called bank on the absurdly difficult winner. The cagy forward thought about it a second before answering with his one-liner, “I called game,” and walking away.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gT8PziyuIqc

Pierce, of course, made himself a household name with his playoff performances in Boston (see: his 2008 NBA Finals MVP award), before playing the past two seasons for Brooklyn and the Wizards.

None by ESPN Stats & Info

As much as trash-talking and bravado have become a part of Pierce’s NBA persona, he takes his role as a trusted clutch player seriously. He wrote about “Making the Big Shot” for The Players Tribune, a pro-athlete focused website for which he is a contributing editor.

“Whenever I’ve been put in a situation where the game is on the line and I know that the ball will be in my hands, I’ve always tried to visualize how I want everything to play out,” Pierce wrote. “Having a positive mindset helps me relax during high-pressure situations.

“Visualize. Execute.”

As many big moments as the 10-time all-star has played a part in through the years, Pierce singled out a regular-season game-winner from 2010 against New York as one of his most memorable.

The Celtics and Knicks had a nice little rivalry brewing, and New York’s fans didn’t mind constantly reminding Pierce about how little they thought of him.

“I remember that it was a tie game and we were in a timeout going over the play,” Pierce wrote for The Players Tribune. “All I could think about was breaking the heart of every Knicks fan in that building.”

Pierce said the play called in a last-second situation might ask him to do any number of things before the ball leaves his hands, but he finds ways to adjust when things inevitably break down and force him and his teammates to improvise.

“While I always picture the ball going in prior to the play, I don’t really know what I’m going to do beforehand to make that happen. Sports aren’t scripted,” Pierce pointed out. “The great players thrive on their instincts.”

Pierce continues to do that in Washington this postseason. The Wizards enter Monday’s Game 4 against the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, Atlanta, with a 6-1 playoff record. Washington’s elder statesman is averaging 15.6 points, and 4.0 rebounds, hitting 51.4% of his shot attempts and 52.1% of his 3-pointers now that the lights are brighter and each moment is bigger.

“Whenever I win a game in that fashion,” Pierce shared of clutch heroics, “I feel like I’m going to hyperventilate. My adrenaline is through the roof and my heart is beating out of my chest. It is the ultimate basketball high.”


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Reply 1 comment from Koolkeithfreeze

Paul Pierce loving life as a veteran in NBA Playoffs

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) shoots over Toronto Raptors forward Amir Johnson (15) in the second half of Game 4 in the first round of the NBA basketball playoffs, Sunday, April 26, 2015, in Washington. The Wizards won 125-94 to complete the first sweep of a seven-game series in club history, and advancing them to the second-round. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) shoots over Toronto Raptors forward Amir Johnson (15) in the second half of Game 4 in the first round of the NBA basketball playoffs, Sunday, April 26, 2015, in Washington. The Wizards won 125-94 to complete the first sweep of a seven-game series in club history, and advancing them to the second-round. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

There might not be many miles left on Paul Pierce’s NBA odometer.

So what’s a 17-year league veteran to do? Of late the former Kansas star has taken the route of soaking every ounce of enjoyment out of the playoffs and life in general.

First off, the 37-year-old can still take over for stretches on the court. With Pierce’s help, the Wizards (No. 5 seed in Eastern Conference) rolled through the first round by sweeping the Raptors (No. 4 seed) in four games.

Washington’s veteran leader averaged 15.5 points per game in the series, establishing a tone in Game 1. Pierce found his spots to take over, and shot 19-for-33 (57.6%) from the field in the sweep. He made four three-pointers in Games 1, 3 and 4, and shot 14-for-24 (58.3%) from deep against Toronto.

The most critical trifecta came late in Game 3, with Washington only up three points and the Raptors still feeling like they had a chance to steal a victory on the road. Pierce calmly drained a dagger from the left wing.

“You know my famous saying, ‘That’s why they brought me here,’” Pierce told ESPN after the game, referencing his on-court rant in last season’s playoffs against Toronto, when he played for Brooklyn. “You know, I just wait for opportunities. I really feed off John (Wall) and Bradley (Beal) and these guys that get me going.”

“The Truth” had to feel good about that hot start to the postseason, because after the Wizards moved on to the conference semifinals, he continued to troll the Raptors’ fan base.

None by Paul Pierce

Washington, which wrapped up its opening-round series Sunday, now has the luxury of waiting to see who will advance between No. 1 seed Atlanta and No. 8 Brooklyn. The series currently stands at 2-2.

While the Hawks and Nets continue beating each other up, Pierce and his teammates can let their bodies recover and bond as a team. Monday night, Pierce and a few of the Wizards had choice seats for the Capitals’ Game 7 against the Islanders. So, of course, the outspoken old man of the group got into it.


Afterward, Pierce dubbed himself the Capitals’ “hype man.”

All of this comes less than two weeks after the outspoken vet shared candid thoughts with ESPN.com’s Jackie MacMullan about some of his former teammates, including the Nets’ Deron Williams and former Celtic Ray Allen.

A reporter asked Pierce Tuesday about his approach these days, specifically on social media.

“I just look at it,” the veteran said in an interview posted at monumentalnetwork.com, “as good banter. That’s the word.”

“A lot of this stuff, I don’t pre-think it, man,” he added. You know, it just comes out naturally.”

“The Truth,” who became the Wizards’ hype man of sorts in his first season with the organization, summed up his personality and approach perfectly:

“Paul Pierce is just gonna be who Paul Pierce is gonna be. I’ll be myself. It wasn’t like they said, ‘Come in here and be a hype man or be a leader.’ I’m just being myself. If it helps our team, if it hurts our team, I’m just trying to be myself and see where that goes. I speak up. I tell the guys how I feel. I’m emotional. That’s just me being me, truthfully.”


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Veteran Paul Pierce turns it on for postseason opener

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce plays against the Detroit Pistons in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich., Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce plays against the Detroit Pistons in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich., Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

That Paul Pierce from the 2014-15 regular season — you know, the one that looked every day of 37 years old, with 17 seasons of NBA games continuing to break down his body. That was a hoax. A con man.

At least that’s what the former Kansas star would have us believe after scoring a game-high 20 points Saturday at Toronto, helping Washington take a 1-0 lead in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.

On the court for his post-game interview with ESPN, the sideline reporter pointed out Pierce hadn’t scored that much since an 18-point effort at Utah on March 18 — a month earlier.

Sure enough, Pierce only scored in double figures twice in his final 10 games.

“I was resting, I was resting for this moment right here,” Pierce responded, with a grin.

Now that the playoffs have arrived, maybe the real Paul Pierce will keep making appearances. “The Truth” lives for this stage. He now has 3,027 career postseason points — moving past Lakers great James Worthy to take 22nd place on the all-time NBA Playoffs scoring list.

Pierce, who said he felt good entering the postseason because coach Randy Wittman didn’t push him too hard down the stretch, spent some time as Washington’s stretch-4 to give Toronto issues in what turned out to be a 93-86 overtime road win for the Wizards.

He took over the game and scored half of his points in the second quarter, as Washington battled a raucous crowd that has gown to despise Pierce in particular after he knocked the Raptors out of the playoffs last season, when he played for Brooklyn.

“I don’t mind playing the role of underdog, villain or whatever you want to call it. I was just trying to help my team win, try to give us a mental edge,” Pierce said in Michael Lee’s writeup for The Washington Post. “If that’s the role I’m going to play, I just got to embrace it. It’s not that I’m a bad guy. Everybody knows I’m a good guy. I mean, off the court.”

He evidently didn’t mind a Toronto tabloid poking fun at his age, either, because he posted a photo of the back page graphic on his Instagram account.

View this post on Instagram

Lol

A post shared by The Truth (@paulpierce) on

Lol by paulpierce

Pierce, who opened OT by draining a 3-pointer that have D.C. the lead for good, said afterward the Raptors are down and the Wizards have to take advantage.

“We’re going to try to get greedy,” Pierce said in Jorge Catillo’s Washington Post story. “We didn’t come up here to try to get one game. We came up to take it one game at a time. We got Game 1, and now we’re trying to get Game 2.”

While Pierce hit 7 of 10 shots, 4 of 7 from deep and secured four rebounds, his teammate Drew Gooden, another former KU star, hauled in 10 rebounds, scored 6 points off the bench and helped protect the rim.

None by NBA

It never hurts to have savvy veterans this time of year — especially ones who saved their legs for the playoffs.

“As a unit, we’ve been here before,” the 33-year-old Gooden told The Washington Post. “It’s nothing new to us. We know it can be done. We got that first one from them and now we got to taste a little bit of blood.”

Game 2 in Toronto is Tuesday night (7 p.m., NBA TV).


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Reply 2 comments from Joseph Bullock Don Burgundy

Five Jayhawks chasing glory in playoffs

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

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) shoots against Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala (9) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Oakland, Calif., Monday, March 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) shoots against Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala (9) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Oakland, Calif., Monday, March 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

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.

None by SLAM Magazine

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

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich directs his team against the Charlotte Hornets in an NBA basketball game Friday, March 13, 2015 in Charlotte, N.C. Charlotte won 101-91.(AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich directs his team against the Charlotte Hornets in an NBA basketball game Friday, March 13, 2015 in Charlotte, N.C. Charlotte won 101-91.(AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

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

Golden State Warriors' Brandon Rush, right, drives the ball against Charlotte Hornets' Kemba Walker during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, in Oakland, Calif. The Warriors won 112-87. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Golden State Warriors' Brandon Rush, right, drives the ball against Charlotte Hornets' Kemba Walker during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, in Oakland, Calif. The Warriors won 112-87. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

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.


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Reply 2 comments from Clara Westphal Koolkeithfreeze

In few minutes, Nick Collison does little things Thunder need to advance

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) and Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) tangle in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, March 3, 2013. The Thunder won 108-104. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) and Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) tangle in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, March 3, 2013. The Thunder won 108-104. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Oklahoma City veteran power forward Nick Collison hadn't checked into Game 6 for even a few seconds Thursday night at Los Angeles.

And even though Thunder coach Scott Brooks had only played the former Kansas University star 7.4 minutes a game in the previous five contests against the Clippers, that didn't mean the coach lacked confidence in Collison. Far from it.

When Serge Ibaka suffered a calf injury, Collison entered the game for the first time with 7:24 left in the third quarter, and subtly helped OKC clinch the series with a 104-98 road win that moved the Thunder on to the Western Conference finals.

Like most nights, Collison's numbers didn't jump out of the box score and slap you across the face: 17 minutes, 1-for-1 from the floor, 1-for-2 at the foul line, 4 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block.

But his impact came almost immediately when he subbed in with OKC down five points to the Clippers. Within a minute, Collison grabbed a defensive rebound and blocked a J.J. Redick layup.

In the final minutes of the third, he dished a pass to Russell Westbrook for a layup and closed the quarter with a game-tying 3-pointer from the corner.

None by KEVIN DING

The clutch shot was Collison's eighth 3-pointer. Of his career — regular season and playoffs combined.

Brooks credited the 10th-year veteran for stepping up.

“Nick has taken 1000 shots from the corner, from the three-point line, and hasn’t had many opportunities this season. That was a big bucket. I love the fact that we trusted him. We see him work every day and it’s nice our guys rewarded him with a nice, clean pass and the belief he was going to make that shot.”

Collison kept chipping in during the fourth quarter, with Ibaka unavailable:

• Rebounding to finish a defensive stop

• Drawing a foul on Blake Griffin, who would foul out a couple minutes later

• Securing an errant Chris Paul pass for a steal

• Dishing to Steven Adams for a jam that put OKC up nine with 4:28 to go

After playing 17 straight minutes, during which the Thunder outscored the Clippers by 16, Collison left the floor with his team up 10 points and just 2:27 left on the game clock.

"What an outstanding performance by a true pro," ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy said as Collison checked out of the game.

None by Ric Bucher

None by Lang Whitaker

Berry Tramel, who covers the Thunder for NewsOK.com, further detailed what Collison brought to the win — defense.

Collison stayed in the game until Blake Griffin fouled out with 2:27 left. In those 17 minutes, Griffin made just three of eight shots and went to the line just once, making one of two. That’s seven points in 17 minutes against Collison. Of those eight Griffin shots, only five came from inside, where Griffin’s muscle can be too much for anyone, including Collison.

Collison, one of the league's ultimate role players, didn't mind getting his hands dirty for stops down the stretch.

None by OKC THUNDER

The victory advanced Oklahoma City to the West finals, where the Thunder will meet San Antonio. Game 1 is Monday night (8 p.m., TNT).


Down to two

'Hawks in the NBA Paul Pierce (Brooklyn), Drew Gooden (Washington) and Thomas Robinson (Portland) all got knocked out of the playoffs in the second round.

Only Collison and Miami's Mario Chalmers remain alive in the hunt for the NBA championship.

The Heat play at Indiana on Sunday afternoon (2:30 p.m., ABC).


— 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 wants to guard LeBron

Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) looks to drive against Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) in the third period during Game 3 of an Eastern Conference semifinal NBA playoff basketball game, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The Nets won 104-90. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) looks to drive against Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) in the third period during Game 3 of an Eastern Conference semifinal NBA playoff basketball game, Saturday, May 10, 2014, in New York. The Nets won 104-90. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Paul Pierce and LeBron James have been battling in the NBA Playoffs for years.

The rivalry between the forwards began when Pierce played for Boston and James played for Cleveland, but it's continuing this postseason with Brooklyn and Miami in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

Given the history between the two, it shouldn't surprise anyone that Pierce approached his coach, Jason Kidd, about guarding his old nemesis — as detailed in a story by Ohm Youngmisuk for ESPNNewYork.com.

In Game 3, Brooklyn had to win to keep the best-of-seven series manageable, and Pierce helped limit the ever-explosive James to 12 points over the last three quarters of a 104-90 Nets win on Saturday, which cut Miami's lead to 2-1.

"I went to J-Kidd [for] Game 2 and said I want that assignment. ... I think I've guarded him more than anybody in this gym. I know his tendencies a little bit more and I just try to step up in that role and try to lead that way."

That conversation came after James hit 10 of 15 shots in Game 1. The four-time league MVP shot 9-for-18 in a Game 2 win, and then went 8-for-15 in Game 3.

Pierce's defense against LeBron certainly hasn't been flawless.

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

But matchup data from NBA.com/stats shows that The Truth is making an impact on the defensive end. James and Dwyane Wade combined to score 48 of Miami's 90 points in the Miami's first loss of the playoffs. Pierce spent more time guarding one of those two in the half court than any other Brooklyn defender.

In 8:31 of game time, James and Wade got 29 half-court touches versus Pierce. They combined to score seven points — 3-for-7 field goals, 1-for-4 on 3-pointers and no trips to the foul line.

If it's up to the 36-year-old Pierce, one of the few people out there who believes Brooklyn can beat Miami and advance to the conference finals, he'll guard the 29-year-old LeBron the rest of the series. Averaging just 11.7 points a game in the series, Pierce told reporters he has to impact the game on defense.

"I don't have the offensive load that I had in the past where I set on having to carry us all the way offensively and then take the best defensive assignment. Now I can reserve a lot of energy toward trying to defend him. When the time comes for me to score, then I'll do that also."

Game 4 is at Brooklyn on Monday night (7 p.m., TNT).


Collison and Durant go way back

When Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant earned his first MVP award last week, he thanked each one of his Thunder teammates during an emotional acceptance speech.

The league's MVP made it clear through his words how important the honor was to him, but he also showed humility and appreciation for the players who helped him reach greatness.

Durant didn't come into the league playing at this level, and few know that better than Kansas alum Nick Collison. He has spent more time with Durant than any other player in an OKC uniform — the two began as teammates with the Seattle SuperSonics before the franchise moved to Oklahoma City.

Due to his unique perspective (Collison has been teammates with Durant since KD entered the league), Sports Illustrated asked him to write about playing alongside Durant for seven seasons.

Collison shared how limited the future superstar was as a rookie, and how he developed into the unguardable monster he is today. Now in his 10th season out of KU, the backup power forward appreciates what the MVP has meant for his livelihood.

Look at my career. I'm viewed as a guy who does the little things that help a team win. I have a niche, even a little bit of a cult following. But if I were on a losing team, no one would talk about that. And the reason for that is Kevin, and Russell Westbrook. Their success raises all of us.

Collison closes the piece by saying what an honor it has been for him to play with Durant.

And the feeling is mutual.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKiYquVGU7Y

The Thunder are tied with the Los Angeles Clippers, 2-2, in a West semifinal. Game 5 is Tuesday night at Oklahoma City (8:30 p.m., TNT).


Social media buzz — Mother's Day edition

Noteworthy tweets and Instagram posts from and about the 'Hawks in the NBA:

None by Drew Gooden

None by Ben McLemore


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Pre-game surprise rattles Thomas Robinson

Portland Trail Blazers' Thomas Robinson (41) reacts after he was called for a foul against San Antonio Spurs' Tiago Splitter, right, of Brazil, during the second half of Game 2 of a Western Conference semifinal NBA basketball playoff series, Thursday, May 8, 2014, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 114-97. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Portland Trail Blazers' Thomas Robinson (41) reacts after he was called for a foul against San Antonio Spurs' Tiago Splitter, right, of Brazil, during the second half of Game 2 of a Western Conference semifinal NBA basketball playoff series, Thursday, May 8, 2014, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 114-97. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

You think Thomas Robinson looks upset in the above photo from Portland's 114-97 Game 2 loss at San Antonio Thursday night?

If only cameras had been in the locker room before the game.

That's when Robinson ran into something far scarier than Tim Duncan. He saw a snake in his locker-room stall.

Joel Odom of The Oregonian got the details from Robinson himself.

"It took a couple minutes for everybody to believe me. 'There’s a snake in my locker.' But everybody thought I was playing, until they came over and looked for ourselves. And then he told us to get away from it, it was a rattlesnake. "

Robinson's initial reaction?

"I screamed, jumped, yelled, all that."

His teammate, Mo Williams, seemed braver than the other Blazers in the locker room at the time. He posted a photo of the rattler to Instagram.

http://instagram.com/p/nwOSxRnfSA/

Reporters asked Robinson after the fact what the snake looked like, and he had the perfect description:

"Black and white. Spurs."

Robinson went on to score two points and grab two rebounds in 14 minutes after the pre-game scare. Portland, down 2-0 in the series, plays host to San Antonio on Saturday (9:30 p.m., ESPN).


Chalmers a steady component for Miami

Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers (15) shoots over Brooklyn Nets' Deron Williams (8), Joe Johnson (7), Paul Pierce (34) and Kevin Garnett (2) in the first half of Game 1 in an Eastern Conference semifinal basketball game, Tuesday, May 6, 2014, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers (15) shoots over Brooklyn Nets' Deron Williams (8), Joe Johnson (7), Paul Pierce (34) and Kevin Garnett (2) in the first half of Game 1 in an Eastern Conference semifinal basketball game, Tuesday, May 6, 2014, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

In the Jayhawk vs. Jayhawk Eastern Conference semifinals — also known as Brooklyn vs. Miami — Mario Chalmers' Heat put Paul Pierce's Nets in a 2-0 hole Thursday with a 94-82 victory.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uh-C5UtzLCg

Though Chalmers (11 points, 5 assists) was outscored by Pierce (13 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists), Miami's sixth-year guard has to be feeling better about his team's chances of moving on to the conference finals — especially with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on his side.

Chalmers doesn't have the name power of the Heat's Big Three, but he has been in the starting lineup in every game he's played during the previous three regular seasons for the back-to-back NBA champions.

Shandel Richardson of the Sun Sentinel wrote about Chalmers' consistency following Game 2 of the series. His biggest accomplishment in this one might have been his role in holding Nets guard Deron Williams scoreless (0-for-9 in 37 minutes).

"I just provide all I can for my teammates. My main focus this year was just being a consistent player. I think I've done a pretty good job with that. My teammates trusted me. The coaching staff trusted in me."

Bosh said the Heat need Chalmers in that role, and appreciate what he brings.

"When Rio is playing well, we're tough to beat. He's just that fourth or fifth guy who you can't leave. When he's controlling his tempo, doing his job, making open shots, it's really all uphill for us."

Game 3 is Saturday at Brooklyn (7 p.m., ABC).


McLemore planning on busy offseason

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (16) slam dunks in front of New Orleans Pelicans guard Anthony Morrow (3) and forward Darius Miller (2) in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Monday, March 31, 2014. The Kings won 102-97. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (16) slam dunks in front of New Orleans Pelicans guard Anthony Morrow (3) and forward Darius Miller (2) in the second half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Monday, March 31, 2014. The Kings won 102-97. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The 2014 NBA Playoffs are in full effect as eight of the league's 30 teams still have dreams of hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy come June.

For most of the league, though, it's already summertime.

Trying to reach the playoffs himself one day, Sacramento shooting guard Ben McLemore hasn't stopped working on his game while returning to Lawrence, where he played one season for Kansas.

None by Ben McLemore

But he's also in town to get in some off-court work, toward completing his degree.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-rDGbVdv9w

McLemore, drafted seventh by the Kings last summer, didn't receive any votes for the NBA's Rookie of the Year award, won by Philadelphia's Michael Carter-Williams, the 11th overall pick in 2013.

Sacramento general manager Pete D'Alessandro addressed the 21-year-old shooting guard's first season — 82 games, 55 starts, 8.8 points, 2.9 rebounds, 37.6% shooting, 32% from 3-point range — in a recent Q & A.

“I think Ben had a very common rookie year. His performance is something we see a lot from guys like him. I think we saw it early on and he stepped up quickly and played well, hit somewhat of a wall and now you see later on he’s getting there. If you took the beginning and end of this season and put them together, you’d look at him and go, ‘Hey, those are pretty decent looking numbers.’ I think it’s common when you have a young guy who’s played a year of college and steps into that starting position. It’s a lot to ask. We have three high-scoring pieces on a team. How do you step up and be that fourth guy? It’s tough."

To D'Alessandro's point, McLemore's numbers fluctuated throughout his first year:

• November: 9.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 39.3% FGs, 36.4% 3s in 23.2 minutes

• December: 8.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 37.6% FGs, 35.1% 3s in 28.2 minutes

• January: 5.9 points, 2.3 rebounds, 35.1% FGs, 29.3% 3s in 19.7 minutes

• February: 6.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 30.1% FGs, 23.5% 3s in 25.1 minutes

• March: 10.6 points, 2.9 rebounds, 42.7% FGs, 32.8% 3s in 31.4 minutes

• April: 13.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, 39.1% FGs, 31.6% 3s in 37.3 minutes

The rookie's confidence began growing late in the season, after Sacramento traded away Marcus Thornton, and re-inserted McLemore into the starting lineup.

D'Alessandro, it seems from the Q & A, remains impressed with McLemore — even if he didn't have the kind of rookie year Carter-Williams or Orlando's Victor Oladipo (the No. 2 overall pick) did.

“I’ve said this from the beginning of the year, the guy works like no other young guy works. He and Ray (McCallum, another 2013-14 rookie) together, I really give them a lot of credit for their work ethic. If you have talent, athleticism, and that work ethic – which he does – I think it’s a recipe for success. I really look forward to what has yet to come for him. I’ve been very happy with Ben. I’ve said it all year long, and I stand by it.”

Clearly that work ethic is already being put to use. In a quote from CowbellKingdom.com, the young guard described how the 82-game grind of his first NBA season shaped his plan of attack going forward.

“Just coming in the league, I’ve seen so much playing against these different type of caliber guys every night, just seeing what I need to work on. It definitely helped me (realize), ‘Ok, I need to work on this, this summer.’”


Markieff Morris snubbed in Sixth Man voting?

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris (11) drives as Memphis Grizzlies' Zach Randolph (50) and Tayshaun Prince (21) defend during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, April 14, 2014, in Phoenix. The Grizzlies won 97-91. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris (11) drives as Memphis Grizzlies' Zach Randolph (50) and Tayshaun Prince (21) defend during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, April 14, 2014, in Phoenix. The Grizzlies won 97-91. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Once the NBA announced Los Angeles Clippers gaurd Jamal Crawford as the 2013-14 Sixth Man of the Year, it didn't take long for someone to pose the question: Why not Markieff Morris?

That someone was Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic, who covers the Phoenix Suns and used his ballot to vote Morris as the league's top reserve.

Coro's case against Crawford stems from the fact he started 24 games for the Clippers in the regular season, and the Suns beat writer said Morris or Chicago's Taj Gibson were more deserving.

Morris had plenty going for him, and Coro provides the evidence. Among bench players (the 6-foot-10 power forward served as a backup in all 81 games he played), Morris scored the most points (1,115) had the most double-doubles (11), was fourth in rebounds per game (6.0), fifth in points per game (13.8), sixth in field-goal percentage (48.6), and even seventh in steals per game (0.85).


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