Advertisement

Posts tagged with New Orleans Pelicans

Appearances in D-League critical to rookie Cheick Diallo’s progress

Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler, left, defends against New Orleans Pelicans forward Cheick Diallo during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, April 7, 2017, in Denver. The Nuggets won 122-106. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler, left, defends against New Orleans Pelicans forward Cheick Diallo during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, April 7, 2017, in Denver. The Nuggets won 122-106. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Now that the New Orleans Pelicans are out of the playoff race in the NBA’s Western Conference, the organization has been willing to give second-round draft choice Cheick Diallo a longer look before the regular season concludes this week.

Playing more than 10 minutes for just the fourth time all season this past weekend in a Pelicans loss to Golden State, Diallo put up seven points and nine rebounds in 26 minutes. But a great deal of the former Kansas big man’s work and development over the past several months occurred in much smaller D-League arenas with far fewer people paying attention.

As detailed in The Advocate, Diallo, a 20-year-old native of Mali, experienced seven different stints in the D-League during his rookie season with New Orleans, suiting up for three different minor league teams: the Austin Spurs, Long Island Nets and Greensboro Swarm.

With only two games left in the NBA season, Diallo has played just 15 times for the Pelicans, because the team didn’t need a raw, 6-foot-9 project on the floor when it had bigs such as Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins to eat up minutes and man the paint. Rather than letting Diallo accumulate rust as an end-of-the-bench forward, the Pelicans kept their slim, athletic backup active with trips to the D-League, with experience and development in mind. You may recall Diallo only played 202 minutes in 27 games for Kansas, so he needed all the game reps he could get.

“I just know the D-Leagues helped me a lot and it would help anyone a lot,” Diallo told The Advocate, while discussing his many trips back and forth from New Orleans to at times less glamorous locales. “I needed to play games. And some of it was better than other teams, but it was good for me. And everyone here tells me I’m too young to say I’m tired. So I’m not tired.”

It was in his most recent 15-game stretch that Diallo displayed the talent that many hoped he would bring to KU in his one-and-done 2015-16 season. The young power forward said he felt most comfortable playing for Greensboro, and he averaged 17.1 points and 10.5 rebounds.

New Orleans general manager Dell Demps told The Advocate it was important Diallo bought in to the franchise’s plan for him.

“Some guys want to skip steps, and he doesn’t. He wants to play. There were times when we wanted him around the team for practice purposes and he would bring an energy we really liked,” Demps said. “It was a combination of him getting minutes and practicing with our team so he could learn the system and gain familiarity with our team.”

When Diallo wasn’t practicing with the big boys, he was honing his craft with lower-level affiliates. Chris Reichert, who writes about the D-League at FanSided.com, recently detailed how the Pelicans took a low-risk gamble drafting the energetic big early in the second round and now can begin to see it paying off. Playing more than he had since his high school days Diallo, Reichert details, was able to stretch the floor a little with his 2-point jumpers and use his athleticism and eye-popping 7-foot-4.5 wingspan on both ends of the floor, as well as in transition.

Though some young NBA players might have scoffed at spending so much time on a lesser stage, Diallo explained to The Advocate why he enjoyed his assignments.

“I just want to play, you know?” Diallo said. “I go to any place and I don’t even know the coaches or the players on some of these D-League teams. Then I play a few games and then I’m back with our team and practicing with (Davis) and coach (Kevin) Hanson. Sometimes I didn’t even know where I was, whether in North Carolina or Texas or wherever.”

Praised by the general manager for his progress and exceeding expectations, now Diallo’s head coach, Alvin Gentry, can try and determine just how much his rookie’s time in the D-League helped him by playing him late in the season at the highest level.

“I want to see him against some NBA competition to see if he’s grasped what we’re trying to do philosophically from an offensive standpoint and our defensive concepts,” Gentry said. “We want to try to take a look at him, to see exactly where he is.”

The Pelicans (33-47) close the regular season with two road games, before they’ll have another chance to further evaluate Diallo in a few months, at The Summer League.

Eventually, you just might see him making an impact in The Association, and if Diallo is able to do that, he’ll have his patience and work ethic to thank.

Reply 4 comments from Koolkeithfreeze Pius Waldman Dee Shaw Mike Greer

Wayne Selden Jr. about to get first crack in NBA with New Orleans

FILE — Wayne Selden Jr., left, drives as Minnesota Timberwolves' Tyus Jones, center, and Cole Aldrich defend during the second half of an NBA preseason basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016, in Minneapolis. Selden on March 7, 2017, agreed to a 10-day contract with the New Orleans Pelicans. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

FILE — Wayne Selden Jr., left, drives as Minnesota Timberwolves' Tyus Jones, center, and Cole Aldrich defend during the second half of an NBA preseason basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016, in Minneapolis. Selden on March 7, 2017, agreed to a 10-day contract with the New Orleans Pelicans. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

His post-college plans didn’t go exactly how he hoped after Wayne Selden Jr. left Kansas a year early to turn pro, but more than eight moths after going un-drafted, it looks like the athletic guard is about to get his first crack at the NBA.

According to various reports around the league, including one from ESPN’s Marc Stein, New Orleans will sign Selden, who played in the preseason with Memphis and has spent his time since in the D-League, to a 10-day contract.

Passed over by the entire league at the 2016 NBA Draft, Selden had to toil with the Iowa Energy to earn a break. In 35 D-League games, the 6-foot-5 guard put up 18.5 points a night, while shooting 34.9% from 3-point range and contributing 4.8 rebounds and 2.9 assists in 30.6 minutes.

“I feel like I’m close to being an NBA player,” Selden said in a feature interview for the D-League earlier this season. “I feel like I could be at that level.”

“Instead of going overseas,” he added, “I feel like I should stay here and achieve that goal.”

In a D-League highlight package from January, Selden can be seen handling the ball in transition to go get a layup, pulling up for a successful 15-foot jumper, elevating over his man on the perimeter for a smooth 3-pointer, attacking his man to get contact before putting back his own miss, finishing high off the glass in traffic and penetrating to the paint before burying a fade-away jumper.

Those skills, along with Selden’s passing and explosive finishing ability, no doubt inspired New Orleans to give the 22-year-old a shot. In seven games since making the biggest trade of the season, adding DeMarcus Cousins to pair with Anthony Davis in their frontcourt, the Pelicans have lacked a true shooting guard in their starting lineup. Hollis Thompson, more of a small forward, has filled that 2-guard role, with combo guard E’Twaun Moore coming in off the bench.

New Orleans also just added Jordan Crawford, a scoring guard, from the D-League, so clearly the organization is looking for some depth on the perimeter. Coach Alvin Gentry even played Crawford 20 minutes in his Pelicans debut Monday night, proving the coach doesn’t mind throwing a new addition straight into the rotation. Although, Crawford’s 19 points and three 3-pointers in a narrow loss to Utah could give the fifth-year veteran a real head start on Selden for playing time.

Selden said earlier this year he was in the D-League to optimize his chances at achieving a lifelong goal.

“Every time you’re on that court it’s an opportunity to be better,” Selden said. “It’s an opportunity for a new person to see.”

Now the young guard with a 6-10.5 wingspan has an even larger lease on his professional future staring him in the face.

The move to New Orleans also reunites Selden with Kansas teammate Cheick Diallo, who also has spent time in the D-League this year. With the Pelicans, the 20-year-old rookie project has appeared in just 10 games — only one of the last 19 — and has averaged 4.1 points and 3.3 rebounds in 9.6 minutes.

With Cousins and Davis, the Pelicans definitely don’t need Diallo right now. But they just might need Selden, as they hope to claw their way toward the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference. New Orleans (25-39) is 4.5 games back of Denver (29-34) for the final postseason slot, and also would have to leapfrog Sacramento, Minnesota, Dallas and Portland over the course of the final 18 games of the season to reach the playoffs.

Reply 3 comments from Karen Mansfield-Stewart David Robinett Brandon Hull

Cheick Diallo showing promise with increased minutes in December

New Orleans Pelicans forward Cheick Diallo (#13) in actions during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and New Orleans Pelicans Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

New Orleans Pelicans forward Cheick Diallo (#13) in actions during an NBA basketball game between Los Angeles Clippers and New Orleans Pelicans Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

No one expected rookie Cheick Diallo, a second-round draft pick, to turn around the New Orleans Pelicans — or even immediately become a rotation player. And two months into the former Kansas big man’s NBA career, those assumptions surrounding Diallo have proven valid.

Even so, the raw, 6-foot-9 forward from Mali looks like someone who could carve out a niche for himself with more playing time and development.

While Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry has only sent Diallo onto the court in 6 of the team’s 20 games, the 20-year-old project has experienced an upswing in playing time of late. Four of the backup post player’s appearances have come in the past two weeks — a stretch in which Diallo has averaged 9.8 points, 6.3 rebounds and 0.3 blocks in 17.8 minutes, while also receiving three DNP’s.

As highlighted by Kevin O’Connor at The Ringer, on one night against the Los Angeles Clippers (albeit in a blowout loss on Dec. 10), Diallo surpassed or met all of his personal bests from his one season at Kansas in the following categories, with 19 points, 10 rebounds, 2 steals and 1 assist in 31 minutes.

“Diallo failed to meet expectations in college,” O’Connor wrote, “but he could exceed them as the no. 33 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. The Pels are trying to win games, too, but it’s become clear that they’re facing yet another lost season, at (now 10–20)… Hopefully Diallo will receive more minutes as the year wears on.”

The youngster figures to keep bouncing in and out of New Orleans’ rotation for the time being, but he showed some promise in his career performance against the Clippers, by cutting hard when spotting an opening in the middle of the floor, taking an active approach on the offensive glass, knocking down three jumpers and even scoring on the move with his left hand.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ovqUgjVFDQ

The Pelicans avoided Diallo accumulating much rust as a seldom-used rookie by sending him to the D-League for a stretch of November. In nine games for the Austin Spurs, Diallo got the minutes (23.3 a game) his NBA team couldn’t afford to offer him. He averaged 12.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in the D-League, while shooting 51.1% from the floor and 25-for-36 (69.4%) around the rim.

After playing 22 minutes last week against Houston, in another 20-plus-point loss, Diallo explained how one night after watching an entire game form the bench he was able to contribute 10 points and 7 rebounds, on 4-for-5 shooting versus the Rockets.

“Coach always say to be ready, so I was ready. Today was my chance. He gave me a chance, so I just show what I can do,” Diallo said.

Gentry, the young backup power forward shared, likes utilizing Diallo’s quickness on defense when he can. On the occasions when New Orleans faces teams such as Houston, which uses lots of pick-and-rolls and has some post players spotting up on the perimeter, Diallo might see more chances to fill in.

“We switch, one through four sometimes — sometimes one to five,” the rookie said of the Pelicans’ defensive strategy. “So I can guard multiple positions, so that helped me a lot today (versus Houston).”

Diallo only played seven NBA minutes and hadn’t scored a point prior to his recent outburst against the Clippers. His patience and willingness to absorb all the coaching thrown his direction will help him continue on a positive path. While his one season at KU didn’t live up to the hype, his college coach, Bill Self, never once questioned Diallo’s ability to work hard toward improving.

“On the court, I’m all about taking care of business,” Diallo said before his first pro season began. “I do everything exactly how the coach tells me to do it. I’m not going to be laughing or giggling. Off the court, I’m cool and chill. On the court, I’m 100 percent focused.”

As long as the 20-year-old big embraces that approach, he’ll have less trouble eclipsing the forecasts many had for his future in the NBA.

None by _cd13

Reply 4 comments from Barry Weiss Humpy Helsel Dale Rogers Robert  Brock

Cheick Diallo eager to embrace larger role at NBA Summer League

Kansas forward Cheick Diallo (13) gets a hand up in front of a shot by Loyola forward Jarred Jones (21) during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Cheick Diallo (13) gets a hand up in front of a shot by Loyola forward Jarred Jones (21) during the first half, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Those days of watching from the bench as older, more experienced players compete on the court are over for Cheick Diallo. At least for the time being.

As New Orleans gears up for its trip to the Las Vegas Summer League, it’s hard to imagine any Pelican being as excited for the opportunity as Diallo, a second-round draft pick who only played 7.5 minutes a game for Kansas during his one-and-done season in Lawrence.

When New Orleans begins its summer schedule Friday night against the Los Angeles Lakers (all Vegas exhibitions will be available to watch via one ESPN platform or another or NBA TV), Diallo will find himself on the floor, playing as meaningful minutes as are available in a summer league contest.

While speaking with reporters Tuesday, Diallo’s face lit up with a smile upon the mention of increased playing time on the horizon.

“Oh my gosh. I can’t wait,” Diallo said in a video posted to the Pelicans’ website. “I’m so excited right now. I just want to go out there and show everybody what I can do.”

Diallo, a 6-foot-9 forward selected 33rd overall in this year’s draft, will get a long look from the Pelicans this month, in the setting of the development-focused summer league, before the reality of a lesser role returns during the regular season.

But that’s months from now. In Vegas, Diallo hopes to display not only his trademark energy in the paint, but also his defensive versatility.

“I can guard multiple positions,” the ever-upbeat 19-year-old said. “I can guard point guard, 2-man, even like a 3-man. Not (just) big men.”

Even though some of the players Diallo will practice with and play against this summer are older than him and more experienced, he doesn’t care about his age or what perceived advantages might be enjoyed by his competition.

Kansas forward Cheick Diallo (13) throws down a dunk against Holy Cross during the second half, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Cheick Diallo (13) throws down a dunk against Holy Cross during the second half, Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Instead, the power forward who will team with fellow rookies Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), Jameel McKay (Iowa State) and Anthony “Cat” Barber (North Carolina State) and others this summer has embraced his growing reputation as a vigorous competitor.

“I just want to give my teammates everything I’ve got,” Diallo said, adding he understands that is a major reason New Orleans drafted him. “I don’t really get tired. I just want to keep doing my thing.”

While practicing with the Pelicans in preparation for the upcoming Vegas league, Diallo left the court feeling great about his first professional training sessions, because he was communicative and vibrant in his approach.

“I just want to keep working hard every day and keep learning from my teammates, my coach, all my staff,” he said.

A native of Kayes, Mali, Diallo recently sat down for an interview with the Pelicans’ website to talk about how far he has come, literally and figuratively, since first playing basketball in Africa in 2010.

“Right now, I’m wearing all these nice clothes and have all kinds of stuff,” Diallo said. “It’s really hard to get even a few things in my country — you are not getting any of this stuff. You have to spend a lot of money to get what you want. Back home, no way you are going to get something like this. No way you’re getting a backpack like this. No way you’re getting an iPhone. It’s not easy to get. So today I thank God and my parents, too. Where I am now, if it wasn’t for my parents and God, I wouldn’t be here.”

Skype provides Diallo with an easy way to keep in touch with his parents, brothers and extended family back in Mali, he said, noting those talks remind him of the responsibility he feels to deliver in the NBA in the years ahead.

“I decided that I have to start taking basketball seriously, so that I can take care of my family one day,” Diallo said of how he became driven to succeed. “So that’s in my mind every day that I wake up. I’m thinking of my family, that I have to take care of them. Everything I’m doing, my family comes first, no matter what.”

Reply 1 comment from Brett McCabe

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.

http://instagram.com/p/1i34A5rOLU/


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


Follow @BentonASmith on Twitter.

Reply 2 comments from Clara Westphal Koolkeithfreeze

Jeff Withey: Not just a shot-blocker anymore

New Orleans Pelicans center Jeff Withey (5) poses at the Pelicans NBA basketball media day in Metairie, La., Monday, Sept. 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

New Orleans Pelicans center Jeff Withey (5) poses at the Pelicans NBA basketball media day in Metairie, La., Monday, Sept. 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Get ready to have your mind blown. This is a blog about a blog.

We have second-year NBA center Jeff Withey, of the New Orleans Pelicans, to thank for this meta experience.

None by Jeff Withey

Last week, Kansas University’s all-time block king (311) started up his own blog — food and fashion.

In Withey’s own words, here is a synopsis of his new venture:

“As a professional athlete I get to travel to great cities and experience some awesome food. Along with my love for food and travel, I also love fashion. The NBA is known to have some of the best dressed men in all of sports. At least that's what we like to think ;-)  Here's a look into what inspires my style and my taste buds!”

So far, Withey has posted some photos from a market in Denver, as well as some insight into his style and go-to online stores.

On the court, Withey’s Pelicans are off to a good start, at 7-5. Even better news for him: the past couple of games have actually brought him playing time.

None by New Orleans Pelicans

The lean 7-footer logged a season-high 16 minutes Friday at Denver (where he responded with nine points and six rebounds), and he played 11 minutes the next night, at Utah (eight points, two blocks).

Considering he already has six DNP-CD’s on the season, that’s a step in the right direction for the young backup big man.

Reply

2014-15 season outlook: Jeff Withey

Hunker down, get hydrated and tell your loved ones you will see them next spring.

Hopefully that’s not your mindset, but people should be warned: The at times seemingly never-ending NBA regular season is in full effect.

Thankfully for us, all we have to do is sit back, watch and enjoy. To make sure you’re fully prepared for the long haul, we have rolled out a season outlook for each former Kansas University player who currently calls The Association home.

Jeff Withey — New Orleans Pelicans

7-foot Center | Second season

New Orleans Pelicans' Jeff Withey (5) dunks over the defense of Miami Heat's Shawn Jones during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball preseason game in Louisville, Ky., Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014. New Orleans defeated Miami 98-86. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

New Orleans Pelicans' Jeff Withey (5) dunks over the defense of Miami Heat's Shawn Jones during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball preseason game in Louisville, Ky., Saturday, Oct. 4, 2014. New Orleans defeated Miami 98-86. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

2013-14 numbers: 58 games | 11.8 minutes | 3.3 points | 2.6 rebounds | 0.9 blocks | 53.3 FG% | 71.2 FT%

If you haven’t heard much about Jeff Withey recently, there is a reason for that.

The second-year big man out of KU plays for a New Orleans team with bigger/stronger/more talented options in the paint.

The Pelicans aren’t your typical NBA team. They start two guys at power forward and center who give them a twin-towers look on defense. NBA superstar-in-the-making Anthony Davis is their 6-foot-10, shot-swatting 4, and Omer Asik gives them a 7-foot defensive presence at the 5.

If New Orleans wants a little more offensive pop, it can bring Ryan Anderson in as a stretch-4 and slide Davis over to center. And the Pelicans’ backup 5 is 7-foot-2 Alexis Ajinca.

All of those guys push Withey down to the bottom of the depth chart.

New Orleans coach Monty Williams has only opted to play Withey in three of the team’s eight games. Withey played just two minutes apiece in Pelicans wins over Orlando and the Lakers, and played five minutes in an absolute rout of Minnesota.

Basically, if Withey is on the floor, the game is already over.

None by Scott Kushner

As Nakia Hogan wrote for NOLA.com, Withey finished his rookie season strong and he hoped to play a more prominent role for the up-and-coming franchise this season.

However, Withey struggled to establish himself in the preseason, making it easy for New Orleans to keep him at the end of the bench.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6rCg3wz-jQ

Williams told NOLA.com that he thinks the 7-footer will work through the issues that slowed his growth.

"Obviously, Jeff is a guy who hasn't played as well as he would have liked to," Williams said. "But he constantly works on his game, so it'll come."

So what do we expect out of Withey for the 2014-15 season?

Unless some drastic change comes from Withey’s play in practices or injuries plague New Orleans’ frontcourt, it doesn’t look like he will be part of the team’s plans.

The 82-game NBA season is such a grind, though, Withey is sure to get some minutes one way or another along the way. Will he make the most of those opportunities, and prove he belongs in the Pelicans’ rotation? That part is up to him.

If he does, his second season in the league could be a fun one, with New Orleans trying to surge out of the lottery, and into the playoffs.


’Hawks in the NBA 2014-15 season outlooks:

• Cole Aldrich — Knicks

Darrell Arthur — Nuggets

Tarik Black — Rockets

Mario Chalmers — Heat

Nick Collison — Thunder

Joel Embiid — 76ers

Drew Gooden — Wizards

Xavier Henry — Lakers

Kirk Hinrich — Bulls

Ben McLemore — Kings

Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris — Suns

Paul Pierce — Wizards

Thomas Robinson — Blazers

Brandon Rush — Warriors

Andrew Wiggins — Timberwolves


Follow @BentonASmith on Twitter

Reply 1 comment from Jhawkr2222

Jeff Withey finishing rookie season strong

New Orleans Pelicans center Jeff Withey (5) tries to get around Phoenix Suns forward Channing Frye (8) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

New Orleans Pelicans center Jeff Withey (5) tries to get around Phoenix Suns forward Channing Frye (8) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Wednesday, April 9, 2014. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)

Let's face it. Jeff Withey's transition to the NBA has had its down moments in his rookie season.

But as his first-year campaign reaches its final week, it appears the lean 7-foot center out of Kansas might be finding his way in New Orleans. While Withey's season averages of 3.0 points and 2.4 rebounds in 10.9 minutes a game are about as exciting as a Utah vs. Milwaukee game, he has proven of late he can produce when given the opportunity.

In the rookie's last five games, he has played 20.5 minutes and averaged 9.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.6 blocks while hitting 78% of his shots. Seventy-eight!

Earlier this week, Darrell Williams wrote about how Withey's growth has pleased the Pelicans. The team's coach, Monty Williams, told the New Orleans Advocate Withey has helped offset some of the Pelicans' injury problems of late.

“Jeff has come a long way this season. He looks nothing like the guy we saw in training camp. He has worked hard. His body looks different, and he has made progress on the court working with (assistant coach) Kevin (Hanson).”

After developing into a hard-nosed defender of the rim at KU, Withey had to acclimate himself to playing in the paint in the NBA, where things can get rough.

“You don’t have to be big to be physical. Some of it definitely is that the game has slowed down for me now. I understand things a lot better.”

With New Orleans star Anthony Davis sitting out Wednesday due to back spasms, Withey tried to carry the team himself in a 94-88 Pelicans loss to Phoenix. Withey scored 17 points — a career high — and added a couple of rebounds, three assists and a block.

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

The backup center and his bench mates helped get New Orleans back in the game, John Reid wrote for The Times-Picayune. The rookie big man out of Kansas had this to say:

"We try to bring a spark to our team when its needed. We definitely played pretty well tonight.''

(Watch Withey's locker room interview at NOLA.com.)

New Orleans lost its sixth game in a row, but it was definitely Withey's night. If the numbers and highlights don't prove that, this GIF should.


Paul Pierce on verge of 25K points

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce is shown during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, Tuesday, April 8, 2014 in Miami. The Nets defeated the Heat 88-87. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce is shown during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, Tuesday, April 8, 2014 in Miami. The Nets defeated the Heat 88-87. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

After scoring 14 points to help Brooklyn complete a four-game season sweep of two-time defending champion Miami earlier this week, the man known as "The Truth" appeared in no hurry to reach a significant milestone.

Pierce sat out the Nets' loss at Orlando Wednesday due to a right hip pointer injury, even though he currently needs just five points to reach 25,000 for his career.

As Rod Boone of Newsday reported, the only active players who have put up that many points are Pierce's Brooklyn teammate Kevin Garnett, the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant and Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki.

As Pierce closes in on the elite mark — only 17 players in the history of the NBA have scored 25,000 career points — it's probably safe to assume the former KU All-American is on his way to the Hall of Fame.

Players such as Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Allen Iverson, Adrian Dantley and Larry Bird never reached 25K — as pointed out in a SportsNetwork.com column.

Pierce could reach the landmark number as soon as Friday night against Atlanta. If not then, the Nets have three more regular-season dates in the coming week.

Brooklyn, which began the season looking woeful but now has a playoff spot in the East locked up, could be the final stop in Pierce's illustrious career. Speculation already has begun that he will re-sign with the Nets.


Thomas Robinson, teammates try to keep straight faces

Second-year power forward Thomas Robinson has made his share of incredible plays this season for Portland.

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

But there might be a new champion in the category of most remarkable YouTube clip starring the man known in Lawrence as T-Rob.

The 6-foot-10, powerful sub and a few of his teammates appeared on an episode of the IFC series Portlandia.

The show's stars, Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, play a pair of feminist dance team coaches who try to give the Trail Blazers a pep talk after a loss.

In other words: This is amazing.

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

Robinson got to roll his eyes, shake his head and deliver a few of straight-faced lines. Not bad for an acting debut. (For a professional athlete.)


'Hawks in the NBA standings

Only six days remain in the 82-game marathon that is the regular season, so here's a look at where all of the NBA's Jayhawks stand in the hunt for the playoffs.

We'll rank the Kansas products according to their franchise's record.

No. 1 — Nick Collison/Oklahoma City (57-21)

  • Currently No. 2 seed in West

  • Clinched Northwest Division title/playoff berth

No. 2 — Mario Chalmers/Miami (53-25)

  • Currently No. 2 seed in East

  • Clinched Southeast Division title/playoff berth

No. 3 — Thomas Robinson/Portland (51-28)

  • Currently No. 5 seed in West

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 4 — Markieff Morris & Marcus Morris/Phoenix (47-31)

  • Currently No. 7 seed in West

No. 5 — Kirk Hinrich/Chicago (46-32)

  • Currently No. 4 seed in East

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 6 — Paul Pierce/Brooklyn (43-35)

  • Currently No. 5 seed in East

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 7 — Drew Gooden/Washington (40-38)

  • Currently No. 7 seed in East

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 8 — Darrell Arthur/Denver (35-44)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 9 — Cole Aldrich/New York (33-45)

  • Currently No. 9 in East, two games behind Atlanta

No. 10 — Jeff Withey/New Orleans (32-46)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 11 — Ben McLemore/Sacramento (27-52)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 12 — Xavier Henry/L.A. Lakers (25-53)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 13 — Brandon Rush/Utah (24-54)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

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

— Follow @BentonASmith on Twitter.

Reply 6 comments from Allen Shepard Carnahan Plasticjhawk Jock Navels Jayhawkmarshall Kingfisher

In need of a big man, Pelicans don’t turn to Withey

New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, left, who is injured, sits on bench with rookie center Jeff Withey as the Pelicans face the Denver Nuggets in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Denver on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, left, who is injured, sits on bench with rookie center Jeff Withey as the Pelicans face the Denver Nuggets in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Denver on Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Poor Jeff Withey. Not only is the above photo of him next to budding star Anthony Davis the best recent one available of the New Orleans Pelicans rookie, but his team is actively looking for big men it can add to the fold while Withey sits on the bench and learns what it takes to play in the NBA.

John Reid, of The Times-Picayune reported the Pelicans’ front office could be in search of another center, with Davis out due to a fracture in his left hand. This can’t be great news for Withey, a center already on the roster waiting for a chance to prove himself.

The 7-footer out of Kansas hasn’t played more than nine minutes in a single game since Nov.12 (weeks before Davis got knocked out of the lineup), and has not gotten off the bench in seven of New Orleans’ 15 games in that span, including two DNPs after Davis injured his hand on Dec. 1.

In real need of a big man, and not yet ready to turn to Withey full-time, New Orleans seems set to sign a 7-foot-2 French center by the name of Alexis Ajinca.

Well, there’s always the Summer League.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdpVP760BJg

And those pay checks.


McLemore trade rumor

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, right, passes off as Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford, left, looks on during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, Nov. 29, 2013. The Clippers won in overtime 104-98. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, right, passes off as Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford, left, looks on during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, Nov. 29, 2013. The Clippers won in overtime 104-98. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Ever wonder what Ben McLemore would look like in Boston Celtics green, instead of Sacramento Kings black and purple?

Supposedly, according to at least one report, the Kings could be interested in packaging their high-flying rookie with some other pieces in order to land Boston point guard Rajon Rondo.

That rumor, however, got squashed pretty quickly. Comcast Sportsnet’s A. Sherrod Blakely discussed why there isn’t anything happening on that front.

USA Today NBA Insider Sam Amick didn’t think much of the rumor, either:


Sactown Royalty outlines the questionable report of a Kings-Celtics deal and why a McLemore trade to Boston doesn’t make much sense -- at least in this version of a deal -- given McLemore's upside


Chalmers in giving spirit

Miami Heat's Mario Chalmbers (15) tries to block Cleveland Cavaliers' Kyrie Irving (2) during the first half of a NBA basketball game in Miami, Saturday, Dec.14, 2013. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

Miami Heat's Mario Chalmbers (15) tries to block Cleveland Cavaliers' Kyrie Irving (2) during the first half of a NBA basketball game in Miami, Saturday, Dec.14, 2013. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)

Shoutout to the good folks over at Yahoo Sports’ Ball Don’t Lie blog for providing us with this holiday gem.

As the Palm Beach Post’s Jason Lieser blogged about, the Miami Heat recently had a little secret Santa gathering.

There were definitely some interesting gifts, some of them on display in a photo from LeBron James’ instagram account.

And it sounds like Mario Chalmers knows his teammate, Shane Battier, pretty well, because the veteran left the party happy after opening his gift from Chalmers:.

“Mario actually came very, very strong. I was very impressed. He knows my love for the red stuff. He got me some very, very nice bottles of wine. Opus One and a Joseph Phelps Insignia. He came very, very strong.”

Chalmers, who dished eight assists Monday in the Heat’s rout of Utah, must be embracing the giving spirit for the holidays.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pb7wgHhna2c


Keep up with all the ‘Hawks in the NBA daily, with KUsports.com stat recaps.

Reply 2 comments from Rich Hetherington Asad Zoberi