Paul Pierce must be in the gambling mood this summer.
After surviving for three days at the World Series of Poker Main Event last week in Las Vegas, finishing around 800th, the 16-year veteran out of Kansas University shocked many NBA observers when news surfaced late Saturday night he had reached a deal with Washington.
One of seven former KU players in the expansive pool of available free agents this summer, Pierce, like nearly every other veteran in search of a contract, had to wait until LeBron James made his Decision: The Sequel. Once The King announced his return to Cleveland on Friday, the rest of the league began making moves. The Wizards couldn't re-sign Trevor Ariza, who chose Houston. That left a void at small forward for D.C., which Pierce will happily fill after signing a two-year contract worth $10.8 million.
Prior to the deal, reports indicated Pierce preferred to re-sign with Brooklyn or find a way — preferably via sign-and-trade, for more money — to get on the Clippers' roster and reunite with his former Boston coach, Doc Rivers.
The Nets reached the Eastern Conference semifinals this past spring, and could have made a similar or better run in 2015 with Pierce, Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson, aging-in-fast-forward Kevin Garnett and Brooklyn's key role players — assuming all were healthy.
Had Pierce landed in L.A., near his boyhood home of Inglewood, California, he could have joined a team that has to be considered one of the handful of favorites to contend for the NBA title next year, with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin leading the way.
Instead, "The Truth" decided to move in a different direction, to the nation's capital.
Why Washington? Well, it's a lot easier to reach the NBA Finals out of the East. In 2013-14, nine Western Conference teams won at least 48 games. In the East, just four organizations — Indiana, Miami, Toronto and Chicago — managed to do so.
Plus, LeBron's relocation makes the East wide open. Miami is no longer a juggernaut. Indiana faltered down the stretch last season. And Toronto is no longer in position to surprise anybody.
Chicago, which added Pau Gasol and (presumably) gets Derrick Rose back from his second knee injury in two years, will be a favorite in the East, along with Cleveland (any team with LeBron James on its roster is a title contender).
Still, neither of those teams is a sure-fire bet. No one knows whether Rose can still play at an MVP level and LeBron will be surrounded by guys with little to no playoff experience — and that includes Kevin Love, if the Cavs can swing a deal for the coveted power forward.
Washington could unseat the Heat atop the Southeast Division and find itself among the conference's top three seeds. The Wizards (44-38 in '13-'14) advanced to the second round as the No. 5 seed in the playoffs a few months back. And D.C. has one of the best young backcourts in the league, with John Wall and Bradley Beal. Add Pierce, in a complimentary role, to those two, Marcin Gortat and Nene Hilario, and you've got a lineup that can play with any of the East's top teams.
Pierce is betting on Wall and Beal instead of Williams and Johnson. If his latest gamble pays off, he could be cashing in on a deep playoff run in 2015.
The weekend also brought new NBA contracts for 'Hawks in the NBA free agents Cole Aldrich (New York), Kirk Hinrich (Chicago) and Mario Chalmers (Miami), all of whom re-signed with their previous teams.
The most surprising of those deals, by far, has to be Chalmers' two-year agreement with Miami. A Heat scapegoat in what turned out to be the franchise's last LeBron hurrah, a 4-1 NBA Finals defeat at the hands of San Antonio, Chalmers was yanked from the starting lineup in Game 5 and presumed on his way out of town once Miami drafted UConn point guard Shabazz Napier.
But James' departure left the Heat scrambling, so Chalmers, after averaging 4.4 points, 2.8 assists and 2.0 turnovers in the Finals, finds himself back in the fold with Miami's new Big Two: Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. (Big Three if you count newly signed Luol Deng.)
Xavier Henry, Drew Gooden and Brandon Rush remain on the market. Gooden is expected to re-sign with Washington, which would give the Wizards a pair of Jayhawks.
Rush will work out for some NBA teams Tuesday in Las Vegas. Bleacher Report's Ethan J. Skolnick says the Heat could be one franchise interested in the 6-foot-6 shooting guard, who only played 38 games for Utah in his sixth season.
Recovering from a torn ligament in his left wrist and an abnormality in his right knee's meniscus, Henry said in June he expects to be at 100 percent before the end of the summer.
Most NBA free agents can't wait for July 1. Shortly after midnight, the league's 30 teams can begin their full-court, offseasson press, courting the players they hope to throw multi-million dollar salaries at.
The start of free agency figures to bring equal parts anticipation and uncertainty to unrestricted free agent Mario Chalmers, coming off his sixth NBA season with Miami.
While the 6-foot-2 point guard from Kansas University became a starting lineup mainstay with the Heat, right along with superstar LeBron James and all-stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, his days with the Heat might be over after appearing in four straight NBA Finals with the organization that drafted him in the second round in 2008.
With Miami trying to figure out a way to to bring back the most sought after star in the NBA universe, James, as well as Wade and Bosh — all three free agents themselves — and trying to save every penny it can in the process, Chalmers suddenly appears dispensable. Though the former KU hero averaged 9.8 points and 4.9 assists this past regular season for Miami, but those numbers dropped to 6.4 points and 3.6 assists in the playoffs. Making matters worse for the free agent, Chalmers only put up 4.4 points and 2.8 assists, and averaged 2.0 turnovers in 23.1 minutes a game in the Finals, when San Antonio disposed of the back-to-back champs in five games.
Those five lackluster nights — 33 percent field goals in the series, 1-for-7 from 3-point range — in front of a world wide audience ignited the Twitter trolls, who posted pictures of trash alongside Chalmers' name or claimed his next uniform will be the one issued to Home Depot employees.
Of course, the only opinion that really matters is that of Heat president Pat Riley (who also figures to be keenly aware of LeBron's viewpoint). The night of the draft, James tweeted: "My favorite player in the draft! #Napier."
Shortly after, Miami pulled off a trade with Charlotte to attain the draft rights to Connecticut point guard Shabazz Napier.
Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick wrote about Riley's ability to acquire Napier without giving up Miami's other point guard, Norris Cole. Miami's man in charge said the incoming UConn rookie and Cole would compete for playing time, and didn't offer much on where that leaves Chalmers.
"Mario's a free agent, so (we've) got to deal with that," Riley said in the report.
Back on June 17, Skolnick caught up with Chalmers as players packed up for the summer and tweeted that the free agent point guard would prefer to stay with Miami, but was "excited" about free agency.
"Nobody wants to leave South Florida," Chalmers told Skolnick. "We'll see what happens."
He won't be the only Kansas product chasing a new contract. In total, six other Jayhawks are unrestricted free agents: Brooklyn's Paul Pierce, the Los Angeles Lakers' Xavier Henry, Chicago's Kirk Hinrich, Washington's Drew Gooden, Utah's Brandon Rush and New York's Cole Aldrich.
Pierce seemed likely to re-sign with the Nets, but over the past few days, the team's head coach, Jason Kidd, decided he would rather work for Milwaukee. By Monday, the two organizations reached a deal to make Kidd the new coach of the Bucks. A new coach in Brooklyn could mean no more Pierce,
As ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin reported, Henry is recovering from a torn ligament in his left wrist and an abnormality in his right knee's meniscus. He could still be weeks of rehab away from 100 percent.
“All I know is I can play," Henry told McMenamin. "And when I’m 100 percent next season, I’m going to bring the energy and be able to play."
Hinrich stated on more than one occasion during the season that he would prefer to stay with the Bulls. But he might have to do some waiting to figure out if that's possible, as Chicago should be one of the major players in free agency and a possible landing spot for Carmelo Anthony.
Gooden, a late-season addition to Washington's roster might start his 13th NBA season in a striped Wizards uniform. Yahoo's Marc J. Spears tweeted Monday afternoon that the veteran power forward is expected to re-sign with D.C. for the league minimum.
The future, at this point, is far more unpredictable for Aldrich and Rush, though re-signing seems unlikely for either.
The Denver Nuggets' Darrell Arthur could have made it eight Jayhawks in free agency, but exercised the player option on his contract, instead of testing the waters. The six-year pro will make just under $3.5 million this coming season.
— Follow @BentonASmith on Twitter.
Arguably the two most successful 'Hawks in the NBA, Miami's Mario Chalmers and Brooklyn's Paul Pierce will be seeing a lot of each other in the coming days.
Chalmers and the Heat took a step toward the Eastern Conference finals by beating Pierce and the Nets, 107-86, Tuesday night in Miami.
Chalmers hit 5 of his 9 shots for 12 points in Game 1, while Pierce went 3-for-8 and scored 8 points.
The outcome and low point total for Pierce proved the playoffs are a lot different than the regular season — he averaged 21.3 points and the Nets swept Miami in four pre-playoffs meetings.
Of course, the 16-year veteran has been through enough grinding postseason series to know even a 21-point loss doesn't guarantee Miami anything. As Andrew Keh quoted Pierce for The New York Times:
“It was a 3-point game at the half, fellas. I mean, we’re not overreacting. We feel like we still can get a game in this building.”
And that came following a game in which Pierce only scored two points after the first quarter, with LeBron James often defending him in the second half. So don't expect confidence to be an issue in the Brooklyn locker room.
Miami fans, who grew to dislike Pierce when he played for Boston, aren't too fond of him in a Brooklyn uniform, either. Plus, colliding with Chalmers and sending his fellow KU product to the floor with a thud in Game 1 didn't win him any popularity points.
Game 2 of Nets-Heat tips off at 6 p.m. Thursday at Miami (on TNT).
The reemergence of Drew Gooden
Someone forgot to tell Drew Gooden this isn't 2005. The 12th-year power forward isn't supposed to be able to sub in and produce a double-double, no problem. But that's just what Gooden did in Game 1 of Washington's second-round playoff series with Indiana on Monday.
In the Wizards' five first-round games against Chicago, Gooden played five minutes or less in four games, earning a DNP-coach's decision in the series finale. He scored all of two points in 26 minutes of floor time in Game 4.
So Gooden was the last guy in a D.C. uniform anyone expected 12 points and 13 rebounds out of in Game 1 at Indiana. Anyone not named Drew Gooden, that is. The 6-foot-10 Kansas product put up his first double-double since March 21 while playing 18 minutes in Washington's 102-96 victory over the East's top seed, the Pacers. What's more, most of his timely jumpers and tip-ins came in the second half, when Washington needed them.
Playing for his 10th NBA team, Gooden's stat line looked far better than those of Indiana big men Roy Hibbert (zero points, no rebounds), Ian Mahinmi (2 points, zero boards) and Luis Scola (12 points, five rebounds).
The Washington Post's Michael Lee wrote about how Gooden, out of the NBA most of the 2013-14 regular season, kept his hopes up and stayed in shape before Washington picked him up in late February and then embraced his opportunity in D.C.
Wizards starting center Marcin Gortat told Lee Gooden changed Game 1.
“Thanks to him, obviously, we got this win. It was all about Drew Gooden. He was just outstanding. I guess they just underestimated this guy and, you know, he brought it. He’s a veteran. He’s a talented guy and you know, he knows how to put himself in the position to rebound the ball, and his timing today was very good.”
The 32-year-old Gooden, Lee pointed out, became the first player since the inception of the shot clock to have at least 12 points and 13 rebounds in only 18 minutes. After his critical playoff performance, the substitute big man couldn't believe that nugget.
“That’s a wow to me, because I know it’s been a lot of better players, a lot of greats that had that opportunity but to throw Drew Gooden in that mix, I’m flattered.”
We'll find out if Gooden can continue his role as the X-factor in the series when Game 2 tips off Wednesday night at 6 p.m. in Indiana (on TNT).
Noteworthy tweets (or Instagram posts) from and about the 'Hawks in the NBA:
— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.
— Follow @BentonASmith on Twitter.
All the NBA talk around Lawrence the past few days has centered on Kansas University freshmen and their decisions — Andrew Wiggins is officially entering the draft, and everyone is waiting to hear if Joel Embiid will do the same.
This time next year, we might be debating whether Wiggins or Embiid deserve to win the NBA's Rookie of the Year.
But for now, with the 2013-14 NBA season winding down, we'll check in with a couple of veterans and a current rookie.
When your career averages are 6.6 points and 5.7 rebounds, you have to be doing something right to stick around in the NBA for a decade.
For 10th-year power forward Nick Collison — selected 12th overall by the Seattle Supersonics in the loaded 2003 draft —becoming the ultimate role player enticed the franchise that picked him (Seattle relocated to Oklahoma City and changed its name to the Thunder following the 2007-08 season) to keep him around.
As Darnell Mayberry points out in his profile on Collison for The Oklahoman, the veteran out of Kansas is one of those rare NBA players who have spent the past 10 seasons with the same franchise.
FYI, some of those other names are: Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade.
Collison told Mayberry:
“I know it’s really rare for somebody to be able to stick that long. And now, to be successful at the end part of it, too, to build up to being a really good team at the end, that’s how I would want it to go.”
The reliable backup big man averages just 4.2 points and 3.7 rebounds in 17.0 minutes a game for OKC (54-19), but general manager Sam Presti calls him a "founding member" of the Thunder, along with superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
“He represents the type of player that we want to ultimately have our organization embody,” Presti told Mayberry.
Between charges, screens, hustle plays, easy second-chance buckets, and defensive stops, you can see why the Thunder have kept Collison around.
And why he has become a fan favorite. Here's what Collison said to Mayberry on that subject:
“I feel like they really appreciate what I do, and I know that’s rare for a player like me. A role player like me who averages four (points) and four (rebounds) or whatever it is, no one really thinks twice about him. But I know that I have kind of a special place here. So I really appreciate that.”
The Thunder currently hold the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference and are one of the favorites to win the 2014 NBA title.
It would be a stretch to say Ben McLemore's rookie season in Sacramento has been a complete success.
Even though the Kings have shown their commitment to the young guard, he hasn't separated himself as one of the league's very best first-year players.
Still, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee wrote that the youngster out of Kansas is settling in to his position as the Kings' starting shooting guard.
Sacramento spent the opening months of the season bringing the rookie along slowly, but McLemore told Jones his confidence began to grow after the franchise dealt starter Marcus Thornton, opening a spot in the starting rotation for the former Jayhawk.
“It’s an opportunity for me. Why not take it? That’s what I did, and I just want to keep doing that. I’m not finished. I just want to keep working and finish this season out strong and in the offseason work on my weaknesses.”
The best news for McLemore and Sacramento? He is starting to take his game to another level in the closing weeks of the season.
In his previous 10 games, the rook with huge upside averaged 11.8 points, while hitting 40.9% of his shots and 33.3% of his 3-pointers. Those numbers get even better in his past five outings: 14.6 points, 41.3% field goals and 42.9% 3-pointers. Compare those numbers to his season averages of 8.2 points, 37.3% shooting and 32% from 3-point range.
Monday night at New Orleans, McLemore scored 14 points and grabbed five rebounds (he has only averaged 2.8 boards on the year).
In Jones' feature on the developing shooting guard, Kings coach Michael Malone said McLemore knows these late-season games with Sacramento (26-48) are his chance to shine.
“He’s just kind of relaxing, stopped putting so much pressure on himself where he feels he has to make every shot, and he’s just going out there and playing,. And he’s taking the shot and shooting it with great confidence.”
Hungry for minutes?
When you're an NBA veteran at the end of a team's bench, often picking up the dreaded DNP in the box score, it has to get under your skin.
Utah shooting guard Brandon Rush is living out that reality. He has played in 38 games, and averaged a minuscule 2.1 points and 1.2 rebounds in 11.0 minutes a game — far below his career averages of 8.3 points and 3.3 rebounds in 24.9 minutes.
So Rush will have to forgive Desert News reporter Jody Genessy if he truly misinterpreted this tweet from the sixth-year pro following another DNP against Memphis last week.
Genessy asked Rush about the meaning of his four-word declaration a few days later. Rush told the reporter he was communicating with a cousin in that particular message.
But Rush admitted to Genessy that this season with Utah (23-52) has been "a little frustrating."
“It’s been up and down. It’s not what I expected. But I just fight through it and continue to try to get better, try to get this knee right for summertime. It happens.”
As noted by Genessy, Rush missed basically all of 2012-13 due to an ACL injury.
He'll be a free agent at the end of this season. And you don't have to read into Rush's tweets to figure out he won't be in Utah's training camp next fall.
'Hawks in the NBA standings
Only a couple of weeks remain in the regular season, so here's a look at where all of the NBA's Jayhawks stand in the hunt for the playoffs.
We'll rank the Kansas products according to their franchise's record.
No. 1 — Nick Collison/Oklahoma City (54-19)
Currently No. 2 seed in West
Clinched playoff berth
No. 2 — Mario Chalmers/Miami (51-22)
Currently No. 1 seed in East
Clinched Southeast Division title/playoff berth
No. 3 — Thomas Robinson/Portland (48-27)
- Currently No. 5 seed in West
No. 4 — Markieff Morris & Marcus Morris/Phoenix (44-30)
- Currently 9th in West, with the same record as No. 8 Memphis
No. 5 — Kirk Hinrich/Chicago (42-32)
Currently No. 4 seed in East
Clinched playoff berth
No. 6 — Paul Pierce/Brooklyn (39-33)
- Currently No. 5 seed in East
No. 7 — Drew Gooden/Washington (38-36)
- Currently No. 6 seed in East
No. 8 — Darrell Arthur/Denver (32-42)
- Eliminated from playoff contention in West
No. 9 — Jeff Withey/New Orleans (32-42)
- Eliminated from playoff contention in West
No. 10 — Cole Aldrich/New York (32-43)
- Currently 9th in East, 1 game back of No. 8 Atlanta
No. 11 — Ben McLemore/Sacramento (26-48)
- Eliminated from playoff contention in West
No. 12 — Xavier Henry/L.A. Lakers (25-48)
- Eliminated from playoff contention in West
No. 13 — Brandon Rush/Utah (23-52)
- Eliminated from playoff contention in West
— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.
— Follow @BentonASmith on Twitter.
We took a break for the Christmas holiday, but the NBA didn’t.
Here’s what you may have missed:
Miami’s Mario Chalmers got fancy with a pass to LeBron James on Friday.
The Lakers’ Xavier Henry drew an and-one against Miami on Christmas Day.
Oklahoma City’s Nick Collison set up his teammates against the Knicks on Christmas Day
Brooklyn’s Paul Pierce showed some life in those 36-year-old legs on Saturday against Indiana.
Phoenix’s Markieff Morris put back a buzzer-beating offensive rebound against Philadelphia on Saturday.
Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat (Dec. 28 / W, 108-107 at POR)
Marcus Morris, Phoenix Suns (Dec. 28 / W, 115-101 vs. PHI)
Marcus Morris, Phoenix Suns (Dec. 23 / W, 117-90 vs. LAL)
Markieff Morris, Phoenix Suns (Dec. 20 / W, 103-99 at DEN)
Paul Pierce, Brooklyn Nets (Dec. 20 / L, 121-120 OT at PHI)
Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings (Dec. 20 / L, 122-103 at MIA)
Los Angeles Lakers early-season surprise and part-time starter Xavier Henry injured his right knee on Sunday against Philadelphia.
"I just landed awkwardly on my leg when I was about to plant," Henry said. He added that his knee "feels weird" and "a little loose," saying that it "kind of buckled" but was only experiencing minimal swelling.
On Monday afternoon, Henry was diagnosed with a bone bruise and some cartilage damage but "nothing too severe," a source told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. The Lakers will reevaluate Henry in a week to 10 days.
Meanwhile, Denver’s Darrell Arthur missed two games with a “right quad contusion” before returning on Monday. Arthur celebrated with a near-season-high 13 points and his first made three of the season.
Chicago’s Kirk Hinrich was sidelined for about five games with a back injury that he attributed to “wear and tear.” Hinrich returned to action on Christmas Day and played alongside fill-in starter and fellow Big 12 alum D.J. Augustin.
"He's a great decision-maker, a knockdown shooter," Hinrich said of Augustin. "Me personally, just get my minutes down a little bit so I can just stay healthier. I feel like I'm more effective that way too."
First Xavier Henry over Jeff Withey. Now LeBron James over Ben McLemore:
Rookie Jayhawks in the NBA are now 0-for-2 when trying to draw charges on devastating dunkers. Let that be a lesson to next year’s KU draft class: not everyone can be Nick Collison.
Luckily, McLemore’s spirit wasn’t broken by the play, and a few others, including James, shared some kind words after the game. From the Sacramento Bee:
“Just knowing LeBron, I knew they weren’t going to call that call (a charge on James),” McLemore said. “I was just playing my defensive principles. Going in, being the low man and taking the charge.”
Said Kings coach Michael Malone: “Ben is a fearless kid. I love his heart ... Some guys would duck and get of the way because they do not want be on the ESPN highlight tape. Ben is a competitor. He hates to lose.”
Said James: “As a defender it is a split second (decision) and if you make the wrong decision then that is what can happen. I have been fortunate enough to to be on the other end of a lot of those plays. It sucks that it was him too because I like him. I have been talking to him since he was in high school so that sucks.
"At some point, you just cut your losses and do the fake trip and say, ‘Oh well, I tried.’"
The holidays also saw a pair of flagrant fouls by the league’s Jayhawks.
Brooklyn’s Paul Pierce clotheslined Indiana’s George Hill on Dec. 23. Pierce was ejected and, a day later, fined $15,000 by the league.
Several nights later, on Dec. 27, Miami’s Mario Chalmers was tagged with a flagrant for contact with Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins.
After the game, Chalmers accused Cousins of flopping on the play. From the South Florida Sun Sentinel:
"I asked them, 'Why was that a flagrant foul,' " he said. "They said, 'Unnecessary roughness.' I said, 'How? He shot the ball and I was going for a box out.' I said, 'If I could move 285 that easily then what does that tell you?' "
Chalmers is now one of this season’s leaders in flagrant fouls, a potentially costly distinction. Again, from the Sun Sentinel:
Once a player reaches seven flagrant points (one for a Flagrant 1, two for a Flagrant 2), all suspensions are for two games, all without pay. At Chalmers' $4 million salary, each game suspended is $36,000 in lost pay.
Chalmers already has sat out one game for his Flagrant 2 foul against Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki in November. Following that incident, coach Erik Spoelstra advised him of the stakes going forward.
"I've been trying to stay out of all altercations, keep my elbows down, and if I still get something like that, that's unpredictable," Chalmers said.
Chalmers previously was assessed a Flagrant 2 foul for a Nov. 7 elbow to the neck of Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin.
Chalmers’ almost-triple-double: Miami faced Portland on Saturday without the NBA’s active leader in triple-doubles, LeBron James, and Mario Chalmers did his best to fill in with nine points, nine rebounds and nine assists.
"I wouldn't say he loves it when guys are out," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He's not rooting for guys to be out. But he certainly relishes the chance to shoulder more responsibility."
As for the one point, one rebound and one assist that kept him from his first triple-double? To hear Chalmers tell it (via BleacherReport’s Ethan J. Skolnick), he had at least two assists that weren’t counted.
Pierce a starter again: Brooklyn’s Paul Pierce, who spent most of December coming off the bench after returning from injury, regained his starting job in the last two games. Frontcourt injuries and absences forced the move for the 10-20 Nets. Unfortunately for them, Pierce’s stats as a starter and reserve are nearly identical this season, with career-low 40 percent shooting and scoring in the low double-digits.
#LegendOfTheMorrii: Phoenix’s Marcus and Markieff Morris were the focus of a recent episode of NBATV’s “Inside Stuff.”
T-Rob benched: Portland’s Thomas Robinson hasn’t gotten off the bench in the last four games for the Trail Blazers. He appeared in the Blazers’ first 27 games, but coach Terry Stotts recently swapped Robinson for fellow second-year pro Meyers Leonard. BlazersEdge.com’s Ben Golliver looked at the motives behind the move, and Dane Carbaugh broke down some film on the players:
Cole "Basically Furniture" Aldrich. Poor Cole Aldrich has averaged just 3.3 minutes in 13 games this season for the New York Knicks. You know, those Knicks. New York’s unwillingness to use Aldrich despite a glaring frontcourt issues has led to great quips from Knicks fans on Twitter, including the aforementioned nickname and this tweet from Yahoo Sports’ Dan Devine:
"Hey, Cole!" "Yes, Coach?" "Go check to see if we have any more of that spiral ham in the locker room." "… OK, Coach."
Even when Aldrich does see time on the court, it’s not too encouraging. His five-minute garbage-time stint on Christmas Day earned him the moniker “Cole Somedrich.” At the very least, more Knicknames should be in store with Monday’s news that New York chose to cut reserve Chris Smith rather than Aldrich.
No baskets for Brandon: Utah’s Brandon Rush hasn’t scored a basket in six games (eight if you count DNPs Saturday and Monday). Rush has taken just eight shots over that span, bringing his season total to a measly 25 attempts in 13 games (11.9 mpg).
Taylor time: Brooklyn’s Tyshawn Taylor was assigned to the NBA D-League’s Springfield Armor for two games … and then recalled in time to play four total minutes in two games with the Nets. Since starting guard Deron Williams returned to the lineup, Taylor has played just 14 total minutes in five of 10 games.
Good news, Ben McLemore! The Kings may be 9-20, but early figures reveal that Sacramento has seen the biggest increase in attendance since last year. A stay of execution from the NBA — not to mention a new owner/GM/coach combo and a few trades — will do that to a franchise. For more on the attendance figures, head over to SBNation.com.
Lakers’ Xavier Henry on texting KU teammate Jeff Withey post-dunk-heard-around-the-world, via Grantland.com:
"He said he was doing all right," said Henry, the Lakers' 6-foot-6 swingman. "It was just one of his 'welcome to the league' moments. He said he learned not to take no charges no more."
On Sacramento’s Ben McLemore, from SBNation.com’s Tom Ziller:
The rookie was not good on Sunday. He had a rough time on offense, and he got torched quite a bit on defense. But he played 31 minutes, including all of crunch time. And I am totally fine with that, and legitimately prefer it to any other option. You don't learn how to play at the NBA level wearing warmups. You learn on the court. And Manu taught McLemore a few lessons on Sunday.
Brooklyn’s Tyshawn Taylor on Twitter … on Twitter:
I think it's funny when people say "you in the league why you respond to that" ain't that what twitter is for --to interact
I don't take this serious ... Like at all lol
On a former Jay in the NBA, as tweeted by retired NBA great and part owner of the Sacramento Kings Shaquille O’Neal:
Kings Fans, who is your favorite King of all time? Mine was Scot Pollard!
Remember to check KUsports.com every night for the latest line scores from the ‘Hawks in the NBA.
Welcome to the Debbie Downer edition of 'Hawks in the NBA.
The past three December nights in The Association have been pretty dismal for KU products. On Friday, former Jayhawks combined to make 23 of their 57 shots (40.4 percent), and it only got worse from there.
Xavier Henry's 15-point, four-rebound night on Friday, when his Lakers got smoked by Oklahmoa City, 122-97, was the best offensive outing this past weekend among the league's 'Hawks.
Ready for more? Cue up the sound effects.
Pierce still in bench role
Here is the best news we can offer: Paul Pierce is actually playing. It just so happens he is doing so off the bench.
Three games into his return from an injured hand, Pierce remains a reserve for the Brooklyn Nets. That will continue to be his role "for now," Nets coach Jason Kidd said — as documented in an ESPN New York blog entry.
Pierce's production and minutes have increased in each of the three games, so if that trend continues, it's hard to imagine he will remain in the role long term. The Nets are 2-1 since getting the 16-year veteran back on the floor, and he delivered 12 points, four rebounds and four assists in his most recent outing, a loss at Detroit.
Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams, who returned from an injury of his own at the same time as Pierce, said in the ESPN NY blog that he appreciated what The Truth is doing for the team right now:
“[Paul]’s selfless. That shows what kind of person he is. He can be a guy that says, ‘I’m Paul Pierce, I’m a starter in this league,’ you know? Like some guys have done. He’s just worried about winning right now, and he’s trying to get back healthy and get back into a rhythm and I think he’s doing whatever the team needs right now.”
Slumping in Sacramento
So much can change in a week. Sacramento Kings rookie Ben McLemore, who recently won the NBA's Western Conference Rookie of the Month award, and seemed to be turning into a reliable double-digit scorer, hasn't lived up to the standard he set for himself of late.
Suddenly, McLemore can't get more than one shot to drop a night. In his last four games, the rookie went 1-for-7, 1-for-8, 1-for-6 and 1-for-4.
As the folks over at the Cowbell Kingdom blog note, Sactown has some issues at shooting guard:
"Ben McLemore is struggling. As is Marcus Thornton. The Kings are searching for answers at shooting guard and after tonight, I’m not sure where (coach Michael) Malone will turn next. Against some teams, we will probably see (newly acquired Rudy) Gay pick up a few minutes and even (Travis) Outlaw again, but these aren’t really long-term solutions. Sacramento needs McLemore and Thornton to get better and to do it quickly."
Can McLemore bust out of his slump? Has he hit a rookie wall? Will he remain a fixture of the re-tooled Kings' rotation. We'll keep you posted.
Rush wants more playing time
Don't let that media day smile deceive you. Brandon Rush is not happy in Utah.
Aaron Falk, of the Salt Lake Tribune, notes the difficulty the sixth-year pro has had adjusting to not only his return from a torn ACL, but also his limited role with the Jazz this season.
"It’s been really frustrating because I’ve worked hard," Rush said in Falk's story. "I wanted to be able to get some minutes and help the team out."
Falk reported that Rush met with Utah coach Tyrone Corbin this past Wednesday to discuss his lack of minutes, and thought it went well. It seemed to work in Rush's favor, too, because in Utah's next game after the talk, he played 20 minutes and scored nine points — far better than the DNP's he registered in the previous two Jazz games.
"He looked good," Corbin said in the Tribune. "He just played, man. That’s what we were looking for because he can help us. He can make shots. He can defend; he’s long. But we can’t have him be apprehensive about it, when to go or not go, because it throws the rhythm of all the other guys off."
Maybe Corbin forgot about that in Utah's next two games, because Rush only played 10 minutes and 4 minutes, following what seemed to be a positive transitional moment in his season.
Keep up with the statistical outputs from the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.
Kirk Hinrich’s been called many things during his 11-year NBA career.
Point guard. Shooting guard. Rookie. Veteran. Bull. Hawk. Wizard. Bull, again. Defender. Marksman. Glue Guy. Floor General. Troublemaker.
Oh, don’t give us that look, Kirk.
Hinrich may not be a brawler, but lest we forget, the Chicago Bulls’ goggles-wearing guard can be an irritant. And that mean streak tends to come out against the Miami Heat.
Take it away, 2007 Pat Riley:
"Just like the Chicago Bulls whine about Dwyane (Wade) always getting too many free throws, a great defender like Kirk Hinrich gets away with everything," he said. "And that's why he's a great defender. He's that way all the time. He's into you. He never stops. He's relentless.
"You develop a reputation as a technique defender, a physical defender. He has earned the right to probably get away with a lot of things.
Whatever the reason, Captain Kirk happens to find himself in quite a few “dust-ups,” like Thursday’s tiff with Miami’s Norris Cole.
The refs gave Kirk a technical for the exchange, and Kirk gave the world a GIFable reaction.
We give you a walk down memory lane:
King Arthur’s Court
Denver’s Darrell Arthur has been living in the mid-range area (10 to 24 feet) this season.
Sure, Arthur’s had a reputation for the mid-range shot since his days at Kansas. And since he’s been in the league, with Memphis, the majority of his shots have come from that distance.
So what makes this season different, other than trading his Grizzlies gear for a Nuggets jersey? It’s not his minutes played (17.7 per game; 18.2 career average) and it’s not his number of shot attempts (5.7 per game; 6.3 career average).
The big difference is that, in the 18 games of 2013-14, Arthur’s taken more than three-fourths of his total shots from mid-range. That’s a HUGE leap.
Take a look: (mid-range shot attempts/total shots attempted)
13-14: 76% (78/103)
12-13: 54% (194/359)
10-11: 50% (313/624)
09-10: 36% (52/146)
08-09: 42% (184/436)
None of those numbers would mean much if he weren’t making the shots. But he is.
Let's bring in a new set of stats. This time, field goal percentage for mid-range shots (makes/attempts in parentheses).
13-14: 51% (40/78)
12-13: 45.4% (88/194)
10-11: 41.2% (129/313)
09-10: 38.5% (20/52)
08-09: 38.0% (70/184)
Put those numbers together, and Arthur’s scored 73.4 percent of his points from mid-range, way up from 48.6% last season, 35.4% before that, and 28.0% before that (He had 33.2 percent of his points from mid-range his rookie year).
Now that we’ve established Arthur’s mid-range mastery, the only questions are:
- Can he keep it up?
- Should he?
DenverStiffs.com asked the second question, and if you’re at all interested in the nitty-gritty mid-range vs. three-pointer debate, check out their thread.
(Big thanks to NBA.com/stats and Chrome’s address bar/calculator for the numbers)
Not rushing back
On Wednesday, Utah’s Brandon Rush scored his first NBA basket in 399 days.
It was his only shot of the game and brings his total to four points in three games this season. Nevertheless, an important milestone for Rush as he works his way back from his second ACL tear in five years.
Rush recently spoke to the Deseret News about where he’s at, mentally and physically:
“What I want to get done first,” Rush said, “is being able to wake up and not think about the game situation, not being nervous and stuff like that.”
“The first time I did it when I was in college, it took me 5 1/2 months to get back. I wasn’t out of the game that long,” Rush explained. “This time, I had that route where I couldn’t have surgery for two months. It took a toll on the muscles in my quad.
“This has just been complicated,” he added. “I have been out a whole complete year. That takes anybody’s confidence away.”
Starting to look bad
Tyshawn Taylor tallied a career-high 16 points and 12 assists off the bench for the Brooklyn Nets on Nov. 29. In the week since, Taylor started all three games (filling in for Deron Williams and his injured ankle) but averaged just 7.3 points, 31 percent shooting, 1.3 assists and 2.3 turnovers in 27 minutes a game.
It hasn’t been pretty.
In Taylor’s defense, it’s not an enviable spot to be in — big media market, big payroll, big expectations but a lowly 5-14 record. Add to the mix a second-year player with limited in-game experience, and …
As Tyshawn Taylor barks out defensive instructions, Nate Robinson goes backdoor on him for an alley-oop layup. God this season.— devin kharpertian (@uuords) December 4, 2013
At least he’s trying.
Nets have given up. It's 55-34 in 2nd quarter Tyshawn Taylor is the only player talking in the huddle. Everyone else looking at cheerleaders— Stefan Bondy (@NYDNInterNets) November 30, 2013
Speaking of point guards ...
The Los Angeles Lakers have turned to Xavier Henry for help at point guard, according to practice reports from this week. With Steve Nash and Jordan Farmar injured and Steve Blake starting, Henry will be pressed into service as the backup point guard (or backup-backup-backup?). Henry briefly played the position Sunday during his 27-point explosion against Portland.
On Ben McLemore, via the Sacramento Bee:
“When you have talent like he has, and a work ethic like he does, you are going to succeed,” said Kings adviser and Hall of Famer Chris Mullin. “I love the way he runs the floor. He’s fluid. He’s got beautiful form (on his jumper). He’s got to become more consistent, but if we start finding him out on the break more, he’ll get layups and free throws, and not have to rely on the 3-point shot. The quality of the shots will get better.”
Nick Collison, on trying to win more jump balls, via DailyThunder.com:
“It’s not a huge deal,” Collison said, “but you know what it is, it’s good to be at a place as a team where you’re worried about that stuff.”
Don’t forget to keep tabs on all your favorite ‘Hawks in the NBA with KUsports.com’s daily stat recaps.