Matt Tait blogs about former Jayhawks currently in the NBA.
Nine former Kansas University basketball players have made the rosters of NBA teams for the 2009-10 season, which opens Tuesday night.
They are: Paul Pierce, Boston Celtics; Drew Gooden, Dallas Mavericks; Kirk Hinrich, Chicago Bulls; Nick Collison, Oklahoma City Thunder; Julian Wright, New Orleans Hornets; Brandon Rush, Indiana Pacers; Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat; Darrell Arthur, Memphis Grizzlies; and Darnell Jackson, Cleveland Cavaliers.
Of the group, Pierce, Gooden, Wright, Rush and Chalmers are projected starters. Hinrich and Collison will be integral parts of the playing rotation. Jackson figures to see limited duty, while Arthur is out because of injury.
Here’s a quick look at the nine players:
Paul Pierce: Still one of the NBA’s top players, Pierce, 32, is third-leading scorer in Celtics history behind John Havlicek and Larry Bird. A second NBA title likely would assure him a spot in the Hall of Fame. He may be there already.
Drew Gooden: Gooden, 28, is with his seventh NBA team. He’s expected to start at power forward on opening night, but some are calling him a “co-starter” with veteran Erick Dampier.
“Rebounding, being physical and active, running the floor ... speed and athletic ability,” Gooden told Dallasbasketball.com, when asked what he brings to the Mavs.
Kirk Hinrich: Hinrich, 28, has been relegated to a backup role since the arrival of Derrick Rose. The gritty Hinrich averaged 30 minutes a game in the 2009 NBA playoffs.
Nick Collison: Collison, who turns 29 today, started 40 of 71 games a year ago. He had 11 double-doubles last year. He’s expected to play forward exclusively — with no time at center — this season.
“I've said it a lot, and it’s not just a cliché, I just want to get on the floor as much as possible,” Collison told the Daily Oklahoman. “Whether that's at 4 or 5, it doesn’t really matter. I feel like I’m still trying to do the same things.”
Julian Wright: Wright, 22, has been awarded a starting spot in this, his third year in New Orleans. It’s up to him whether he keeps it. He’s still a bit erratic with the ball and not consistent enough for coach Byron Scott, known for not being patient with young players.
Brandon Rush: Rush, 24, will start after coming off the bench as a rookie. Rush’s play in the final 13 games (16.9 ppg) has the Pacers thinking he’s a future star. He had 29 points in consecutive games last March.
“He was nothing short of great in that last month,” Pacers coach Jim O'Brien told the Indianapolis Star. “We need him to play like a veteran even though he's only in his second year.”
Mario Chalmers: Chalmers, 23, will start for the second straight season. If he slips, recent acquisition Carlos Arroyo is expected to steal his minutes.
“He just has to work on his consistency,” coach Erik Spoelstra told the South Florida Sun Sentinel, “being reliable every single night.”
Following the acquisition of Arroyo, the Sun-Sentinel wrote, “Mario Chalmers’ scholarship expired Sunday.”
Darrell Arthur: Arthur, 21, is out four months because of a partially torn pectoral muscle. According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Arthur suffered a pectoral strain a week before training camp began. He aggravated the injury Oct. 12 during a preseason game versus Orlando.
Former Missouri standout DeMarre Carroll, who won the Grizzlies’ “Pride of Training Camp” award, is expected to fill in for Arthur.
Arthur was expected to come off the bench this year following the addition of Zach Randolph.
Darnell Jackson: Jackson, 23, isn’t expected to garner much playing time, at least to start the season. The Cleveland Plain Dealer believes Jackson could wind up on the inactive list for some games. Teams are allowed to designate 12 active players for each game. The paper says two players in the group of Jackson, Daniel Green, Jawad Williams and Coby Carl likely will join the injured Leon Powe on the inactive list.
Two Jayhawks who played in the NBA last year remain unsigned free agents. They are: Raef LaFrentz, who missed all of last season with the Portland TrailBlazers because of injury, and Jacque Vaughn, who played for San Antonio the last two years but was not offered a Spurs’ contract for 2009-10.