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Jeff Withey building bulk, confidence after rookie season

Kansas University all-time blocks leader Jeff Withey, top, denies Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka during a victory for Withey's Pelicans April 14, 2014, in New Orleans.

Kansas University all-time blocks leader Jeff Withey, top, denies Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka during a victory for Withey's Pelicans April 14, 2014, in New Orleans.

With his rookie year behind him, New Orleans center Jeff Withey wasted little time addressing his shortcomings — all of which he discovered existed the hard way, by getting pushed around inside — from his first tour of the NBA.

Kansas University’s career leader in blocked shots (311), the 7-footer from San Diego only swatted 50 in limited minutes (11.8 per game) for the Pelicans this past season. Speaking to media at the organization’s mini-camp earlier this week, Withey said his offseason plan of attack, which includes playing for New Orleans at the Las Vegas summer league, is designed to get him more confidence in the post and improve his defensive rebounding.

Playing in the paint at the highest level of basketball, the young center realized quickly putting some more bulk on his frame would do him a lot of good in every aspect of the game. In a video interview posted on New Orleans’ website, Withey said he has added 17 pounds since his rookie season ended in April.

New Orleans played its young backup big 18 minutes or more in eight of its final nine games. With that, Withey said, he began to feel as though he belonged.

“I knew I could play at this level. It’s just, once you get here, you’ve got to get the confidence and get the timing down and everything, and luckily I had good vets to help me out with that,” he said. “Now that it’s here, I just want to take full advantage of it.”

Thanks to the makeup of the Pelicans’ summer league roster, Withey will have extensive opportunities to further promote his worth. All-Star power forward Anthony Davis, center Omer Asik (reportedly acquired by New Orleans) and stretch forward Ryan Anderson figure to begin next season ahead of Withey on the depth chart. But the organization’s summer league coach, Bryan Gates, told The Times-Picayune’s Nakia Hogan he expects Withey to lead in Las Vegas.

“Everybody talks about we only have one draft pick (second-round choice Russ Smith, out of Louisville),” Gates said in Hogan’s story. “What’s summer league for? Summer league is for Jeff. Let’s see what Jeff can do.”

In his summer debut Friday night, a New Orleans victory against the D-League Select team, Withey scored eight points, secured seven rebounds and blocked three shots in 25 minutes, a team-high.

In 58 games as a rookie, Withey averaged 3.3 points, 2.6 rebounds and 0.9 blocks. However, as Hogan reported, those numbers went up to 8.1 points, 3.9 boards and 2.3 denials in 21.3 minutes during his final 10 games, when he made 60.8 percent of his shot attempts.

Pelicans head coach Monty Williams told The Times-Picayune that Withey still has a lot to learn, and Williams plans to work with him one-on-one in Vegas to get the most out of him.

“As good as he was last year, he’s still like most young guys,” Williams told Hogan. “He’s got to improve up here (mentally) to take advantage of the rest of his physical abilities.”

The only summer squad player who spent the entire regular season with New Orleans, Withey said the offense might not look too fluid in Vegas. But the man who hopes to help anchor the interior defensively for the Pelicans in the 2014-15 season could prove he deserves that role by protecting the rim the way he used to at Kansas.

“We should have the smarts,” Withey said, “and defense is just about knowing where you’re supposed to be, hustling, and we have that right now.”


— Follow @BentonASmith on Twitter.

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A ringing endorsement for Ben McLemore

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (16) during an NBA basketball game between the Sacramento Kings and Orlando Magic on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Orlando, Fla. The Kings won 105-100. (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (16) during an NBA basketball game between the Sacramento Kings and Orlando Magic on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, in Orlando, Fla. The Kings won 105-100. (AP Photo/Reinhold Matay)

Through the first 31 games of his NBA career, Sacramento’s Ben McLemore has made a name for himself with highlight-reel dunks.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VEc5TrmWZWI

But coming out of Kansas, most of the attention was on McLemore’s smooth jump shot. McLemore wowed with his textbook release and clutch shots, and during his one-and-done year, he shot 42 percent (73 of 174) from beyond the arc.

As the NBA draft approached, scouts and journalists never missed an opportunity to compare McLemore to the league’s all-time leader in three-pointers, Ray Allen. McLemore embraced the narrative, too. From the Orlando Sentinel, days before the draft:

"I definitely can compare myself to Ray Allen, especially with the shooting ability," McLemore said. "I don't know about the athleticism anymore. But I definitely can say I compare myself with him a lot as far as getting myself open, coming off screens and little things like that."

Miami Heat's Ray Allen reacts after making a 3--pointer to put the Heat ahead in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, in Miami. The Heat won 97-94. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Miami Heat's Ray Allen reacts after making a 3--pointer to put the Heat ahead in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers, Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, in Miami. The Heat won 97-94. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

So far, McLemore hasn’t come close to matching the pre-draft expectations and is shooting just 34 percent (41 of 120) from three. But the lofty comparisons to Allen persist, and Kings blog CowbellKingdom.com recently went to the future Hall of Famer for the definitive answer on McLemore:

He’s a jump shooter, first and foremost. He looks like, I haven’t seen him a lot, but every shot he takes, it seems like he duplicates the first one to the next one to the one after that. He stays consistent in how he puts the ball in the air. He has great athleticism, and he uses it on his jump shot and most players now in the NBA don’t do that.

Allen — who probably resisted the urge to simply say “He Got Game” — also told CowbellKingdom that he’s impressed by 20-year-old McLemore’s fundamentals:

We’re creatures of habit. When you play sports a certain way, it’s hard to change who you are. So, he has great athleticism, (but) you can tell whoever taught him young kept him in great form with how he shoots the ball. It really has nothing to do with age because if you’re taught the fundamentals of the game when you’re 15, you’ll shoot the ball the right way – the way you’re supposed to be (shooting). It’s just we’re so surprised (when) we see players come to the NBA, professional players that don’t have the skill-set or the fundamentals that we know we should be seeing.

Nice of you to say, Ray. But as NBATV’s Trey Kerby pointed out, McLemore still has a ways to go:

Now, to live up to these kind words, all Ben McLemore has to do is play another 16 seasons, raise his three-point accuracy five percentage points while doing so, break all kinds of records, credibly appear in a major motion picture, shave his head right when it becomes time to shave his head, always look like he’s snarling even though he’s generally happy, and win two titles while also making one of the most clutch three-pointers in league history to save a championship season. Simple stuff.

For the full quotes from Allen on McLemore, head over to CowbellKingdom.com.


Happy birthday, Hinrich

Chicago Bulls' Kirk Hinrich during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Chicago Bulls' Kirk Hinrich during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Chicago guard Kirk Hinrich turned 33 years old on Thursday. To mark the occasion, Bulls blog PippenAintEasy.com compiled some of Hinrich’s best moments in red, white and black, including this dunk during his rookie season in 2004:

The ProHoopsHistory Twitter account also looked back at Hinrich’s Bulls career on Thursday:

Kirk Hinrich is 4th in total assists in 3rd in APG in the history of the Chicago Bulls. A legend in his own time


Twin talk

Phoenix broadcaster Tom Chambers recently sat down with Suns forwards Markieff and Marcus Morris. In the two-part interview, the twins talk quite a bit about family and their lifelong dream of playing together:


Highlight reel

Denver’s Darrell Arthur returned reinvigorated from a two-game injury absence, Monday against Miami:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvgzIRw8LT4

Brooklyn’s Paul Pierce wasn’t happy with his team’s effort Tuesday against San Antonio (more on that in a minute), so he took his frustration out on the rim:

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

And Portland’s Thomas Robinson, who hadn’t played in five games, showed no rust on this slo-mo slam before a return in Thursday’s game:


Quotables

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce slides out of bounds as he chases the loose ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce slides out of bounds as he chases the loose ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs on Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

Brooklyn’s Paul Pierce on the Nets’ struggles, via ESPN.com:

It’s embarrassing. I don’t know if I’ve probably been a part of this many blowouts in one season already. But at some point, we’ve gotta have our pride. It has to come from each individual and say we’ve had enough of this. It’s extremely embarrassing.

Miami’s Mario Chalmers, likely flashing back to the 2008 NCAA tournament after getting torched by Golden State’s Stephen Curry on Thursday:

"You can't defend that. Once a player gets hot like that, you can't stop anybody like that."

On Portland's Thomas Robinson during Thursday's game against Charlotte, via Blazers media tweets:

I believe @Trobinson0 is yelling "lunch meat" every time Aldridge touches the ball against Josh McRoberts.

and ...

T Robinson on why he said "lunch meat" when LMA gets the ball. "Whatchu do with lunch meat? Eat it. He gets the ball and he eats all day."

Phoenix’s Marcus Morris on the Suns’ bench, via AZcentral.com:

“Once somebody cracks it open, you’ve got some wild stuff coming behind,” Marcus Morris said. “ … That’s what Coach (Jeff Hornacek) preaches. The more we get up, the more our percentages go higher.”

On the improvement of Marcus and Markieff Morris, from Phoenix head coach Jeff Hornacek, via CBS Sports’ Matt Moore:

"They were horrible defensively," Hornacek says. "Whether that was the system, or what. But we're putting a lot of responsibility on them to help out and to rotate and these guys are following it, and I think that's what's taking them to the next level."

On Sacramento’s Ben McLemore, via the Sacramento Bee:

“One thing I love about Ben is he is a great kid, his heart’s in the right place, he wants to do well,” said Kings coach Michael Malone. “He wants to watch film, learn and get better, he takes it very seriously and I know he’s going to get there and experience is the best teacher. What he went through (Sunday), even though it was a hard lesson for him and us, that’s going to help him (Tuesday) night and hopefully throughout the season.”


Remember to check KUsports.com every night for the latest line scores from the ‘Hawks in the NBA.

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Hawks over the holidays

We took a break for the Christmas holiday, but the NBA didn’t.

Here’s what you may have missed:


The highlights

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vmpM6nd_jmk

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_HQ9E8OZyk

Phoenix’s Markieff Morris put back a buzzer-beating offensive rebound against Philadelphia on Saturday.

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


The standouts

Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat (Dec. 28 / W, 108-107 at POR)

9 points (3-6 FG, 3-3 FT), 9 rebounds, 9 assists, 1 steal, 2 turnovers in 36 minutes

Marcus Morris, Phoenix Suns (Dec. 28 / W, 115-101 vs. PHI)

18 points (7-15 FG, 3-9 3PG, 1-1 FT), 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block, 1 turnover in 25 minutes

Marcus Morris, Phoenix Suns (Dec. 23 / W, 117-90 vs. LAL)

19 points (6-9 FG, 5-6 3PG, 2-2 FT), 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 turnover in 25 minutes

Markieff Morris, Phoenix Suns (Dec. 20 / W, 103-99 at DEN)

25 points (6-14 FG, 2-3 3PG, 11-15 FT), 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, 3 blocks, 1 turnover in 30 minutes

Paul Pierce, Brooklyn Nets (Dec. 20 / L, 121-120 OT at PHI)

24 points (7-9 FG, 4-6 3PG, 6-6 FT), 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, 6 turnovers in 44 minutes

Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings (Dec. 20 / L, 122-103 at MIA)

20 points (8-13 FG, 4-7 3PG), 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 turnovers in 33 minutes

Bonus video:


The injuries

Los Angeles Lakers early-season surprise and part-time starter Xavier Henry injured his right knee on Sunday against Philadelphia.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ep435xvtOQ4

From ESPN Los Angeles:

"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.

From the Chicago Tribune:

"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."


The dunk

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.

Miami vet (and noted charge-taker) Shane Battier had the best reaction, though. Via ESPN.com’s Tom Haberstroh:

"At some point, you just cut your losses and do the fake trip and say, ‘Oh well, I tried.’"


The fouls

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YsCS8ttgULs

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.


Notables

Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers, left, drives against Portland Trail Blazers center Robin Lopez during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers, left, drives against Portland Trail Blazers center Robin Lopez during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

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.

From the South Florida Sun Sentinel:

"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:


New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7), right laughs with teammate Cole Aldrich (45) during pre game practice before the NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7), right laughs with teammate Cole Aldrich (45) during pre game practice before the NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics on Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

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.


Quotables

Los Angeles Lakers forward Xavier Henry, top, goes up for a dunk as New Orleans Pelicans center Jeff Withey defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Lakers forward Xavier Henry, top, goes up for a dunk as New Orleans Pelicans center Jeff Withey defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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!


Required reading

Grantland.com’s Jonathan Abrams on Xavier Henry

Suns.com’s Matt Petersen on Markieff and Marcus Morris


Remember to check KUsports.com every night for the latest line scores from the ‘Hawks in the NBA.

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Cold snap strikes the league’s Jayhawks

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.

The NBA's Jays shot 8-for-25 ( 32 percent) on Saturday, and 12-for-33 (36.4 percent) on Sunday.

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

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) drives to the basket between Detroit Pistons guard Kyle Singler (25) and center Greg Monroe (10) during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) drives to the basket between Detroit Pistons guard Kyle Singler (25) and center Greg Monroe (10) during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

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

Sacramento Kings' Ben McLemore (16) looks to pass over Phoenix Suns' Eric Bledsoe (2) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Sacramento Kings' Ben McLemore (16) looks to pass over Phoenix Suns' Eric Bledsoe (2) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

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

Utah Jazz guard/forward Brandon Rush

Utah Jazz guard/forward Brandon Rush

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.

Stay tuned.


Keep up with the statistical outputs from the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.

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Quarter-season All-Stars

Miami Heat's LeBron James (6) and Mario Chalmers (15) stand on the court during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Miami Heat's LeBron James (6) and Mario Chalmers (15) stand on the court during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Nothing says December like an avalanche of “Best of” lists. And the NBA wants in on the fun.

Nevermind that the All-Star game is two months away or that just a fourth of the season is in the bag, first returns from this annual popularity contest are in.

Two Jayhawks made the 50-deep after the earliest round of fan voting:

— Miami Heat point guard Mario Chalmers was the No. 10 vote-getter among Eastern Conference backcourt players with 32,996 votes.

— Brooklyn Nets small forward Paul Pierce sits at 13th among East frontcourt players with 45,145 votes.

Of course, with just two backcourt slots and three frontcourt slots per conference, things don’t look good for Chalmers or Pierce. Leaders in the East received over 390,000 and 600,000 votes, respectively.

Fan voting for the 10 All-Star starters ends on Jan. 20, so if there’s any time to Rock Chalk the vote, it’s now.


Morris twins march on

Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris shoots during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris shoots during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris landed on the initial 120-player All-Star fan ballot, but didn’t collect a noteworthy number of votes in the first round of results.

Not surprising for a bench player who’s just now showing up on the radar of many NBA fans.

Besides, Co-Sixth Men of the Year sounds like a much more fitting award for Markieff and brother Marcus.

The twins, through the first 22 games of the season:

Markieff Morris
12.8 points (50.2 FG%), 6.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.9 steals in 26.0 minutes a game

Marcus Morris
10.9 points (47.0 FG%, 1.4 threes at 42.9%), 4.7 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.0 steals in 22.8 minutes a game

Among all bench players without a single start this season, here’s how the Morrii rank:

Scoring: 3rd. Markieff; 6th. Marcus

Rebounding: T1st. Markieff; 3rd. Marcus

Free-throw attempts: 5th. Markieff; 11th. Marcus

Steals: T4th. Marcus; T9th. Markieff

Increased efficiency has played a big part in the twins’ success.

Markieff has bumped his shooting up from 39.9 and 40.7 percent in his first two seasons to 50.2 percent this year. That’s the ninth-biggest improvement from 2012-13 to 2013-14 as calculated by NBA.com’s John Schuhmann.

Earlier this month, Keef explained his new offensive mindset:

"I've just got a great feel for the game right now," he said. "I'm not trying to shoot as many 3s as I have in the past. I've just been working on driving to the basket and trying to get to the line."

The stats back it up. Markieff is shooting just 0.8 threes this season compared to 1.6 last year. And in just a few more minutes a game, he’s taking 3.7 free throws, up from 1.5.

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris, shot distribution comparison from 2012-13 to 2013-14 seasons.

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris, shot distribution comparison from 2012-13 to 2013-14 seasons.

Meanwhile, Marcus’ shooting is up from 29.6 and 42.2 percent to 47.0 percent.

Defensive improvements have been just as important.

Orlando Magic's Glen Davis, right, attempts a shot over Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013.(AP Photo/John Raoux)

Orlando Magic's Glen Davis, right, attempts a shot over Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013.(AP Photo/John Raoux)

From Paul Coro of AZCentral.com:

(Markieff) Morris draws 4.3 fouls per 48 minutes of play this season. That is down from 5.5 fouls per 48 minutes last season and 7.0 two seasons ago.

“He’s focusing on his defense earlier,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. “In the past, to me it looked like he didn’t want to play defense. He just wanted to be out there and kind of get by. Then all of a sudden, you get yourself in bad situations and you have to foul somebody. But he’s doing his defensive work early. Consequently, he’s in better position, and you don’t have to foul.”

“He’s not long enough to think he’s going to go block all the shots. He’s got to work on his positioning and he’s done a great job of that. The quicker reactions have helped him.”

And that whole twin thing? It’s working out for the Suns.

Phoenix Suns' Marcus Morris, front and his twin, Markieff Morris, warm up prior to an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz, Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Phoenix Suns' Marcus Morris, front and his twin, Markieff Morris, warm up prior to an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz, Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Again, from AZCentral.com:

When Hornacek first saw his team practice, he felt like the other three players on the court were non-existent when Markieff and Marcus Morris were playing together. Hornacek joked that when they want to make sure a pass is made in a called play, they have the twins on both ends of it.

“I think Markieff is one of the best passers on our team and he’s probably one of the best big-man passers in the league,” Hornacek said. “He can really see things happen. We try to put him in positions where he can make passes.”

Sounds like a recipe for success as the season enters its second quarter.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAjp6xVoS_Y


Can Xavier Henry still dunk?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLn4sl8EoC0

Yes.


Tyshawn to Toronto?

Brooklyn Nets guard Tyshawn Taylor (10) dribbles as he looks to pass in the first half of their NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks at the Barclays Center, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Brooklyn Nets guard Tyshawn Taylor (10) dribbles as he looks to pass in the first half of their NBA basketball game against the New York Knicks at the Barclays Center, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Brooklyn Nets guard Tyshawn Taylor has been mentioned as a trade chip in a proposed deal with the Toronto Raptors, according to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Talks are ongoing, but considering Taylor’s lukewarm play and the return of starting point guard Deron Williams, the Nets may choose move the second-year pro.

Make sure that passport is up-to-date, Tyshawn.


Blooper reel

New York Knicks forward Kenyon Martin (3) dives for the ball as Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich (12) dribbles in the first half of their NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

New York Knicks forward Kenyon Martin (3) dives for the ball as Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich (12) dribbles in the first half of their NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Turnovers aren’t, um, an ideal basketball play. But their entertainment value can be off the charts.

Two former KU stars ended up with brilliant bloopers recently.

Seldom-used New York Knicks center Cole Aldrich showed off his dance moves in a game against Orlando.

And Chicago's Kirk Hinrich had the best/saddest reaction to a missed pass in the history of basketball:

Poor Kirk went full Charlie Brown after the turnover, so the folks at SBNation.com paired the video with the most appropriate music ever.

Good grief, indeed.


Collison makes his case

Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Nick Collison (4) scores in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, in Atlanta. Oklahoma City won 101-92. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Nick Collison (4) scores in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, in Atlanta. Oklahoma City won 101-92. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

How does a player with career averages of 6.7 points and 5.8 rebounds earn the distinction of “No-Stats All-Star”?

Oklahoma City forward Nick Collison explained earlier this week on NBATV:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LM3F6K3ttuo

Remember, kids, setting screens and taking charges can be cool, too:


Quotables

On telling Markieff and Marcus Morris apart, from Phoenix Suns GM Ryan McDonough:

"That's one of the toughest parts of my job."

On watching the Morris twins before a game, from ESPN’s Danny Chau:

I watched the Morris brothers play Dueling Lefty Jumpers. Marcus won. I think.

Paul Pierce on his move from Boston to Brooklyn, via Andy Vasquez:

"I'm a guy that when it's time to move on you move on. You can ask any girlfriend I've ever had."

Darrell Arthur, on a hidden talent, via DenverStiffs.com Q&A:

I like to bowl, I learned to bowl in college. I'm really fascinated with spinning [the ball]. When I get out there I just have fun with it, I'm not that good, but I like to get out there and bowl.

On Thomas Robinson during Portland’s game against Utah on Monday, from BlazersEdge.com:

If Energy Solutions Arena was a Jazz bar tonight Thomas Robinson did the equivalent of busting down the front door and swinging a gunny sack full of bowling balls through the entire combo.


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McLemore taking over in Sacramento

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, right, stuffs over Los Angeles Lakers Pau Gasol, left, of Spain, during the third18quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, Dec. 6, 2013. The Lakers won 106-100.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, right, stuffs over Los Angeles Lakers Pau Gasol, left, of Spain, during the third18quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, Dec. 6, 2013. The Lakers won 106-100.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Former NBA All-Star point guard Kevin Johnson might be the mayor of Sacramento, but at the rate Ben McLemore is going, the Kings rookie guard could run for election in California's capital city and knock KJ out of office.

The reigning Western Conference Rookie of the Month kept adding to his resume this weekend. On Saturday, McLemore scored in double figures for the fifth time in six games, with 15 at Utah. Three of those, Sacramento's announcers tell us, came on "the biggest shot of his young NBA career."

That three-pointer, his 28th of the season (McLemore is shooting 35 percent on 81 tries), sent the game to overtime and the Kings (5-13) went on to snap a six-game losing streak.

The night before, in a 106-100 home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, McLemore set a new career high with 20 points, via one of his typically ferocious fast-break jams and 4-for-7 shooting from downtown.

Look out, KJ. Mayor McLemore might take Sactown over sooner than you think.


This Sun is on fire

Toronto Raptors' Amir Johnson, left, and Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris (11) battle for rebound position under the basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, in Phoenix. The Suns defeated the Raptors 106-97. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

Toronto Raptors' Amir Johnson, left, and Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris (11) battle for rebound position under the basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 6, 2013, in Phoenix. The Suns defeated the Raptors 106-97. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)

Back in KJ's old stomping grounds of Phoenix, Markieff Morris couldn't miss to open the Suns' victory over Toronto. Kieff knocked down his first 11 shots on the way to 25 points and 11 rebounds — both close to season-highs of 28 and 12.

The 6-foot-10 power forward out of Kansas, as well as his teammates and coach, had plenty to say about his big night, which helped Phoenix (currently ninth out West) improve to 11-9.

"I've just got a great feel for the game right now," Kieff said in the AP's story on the game. "I'm not trying to shoot as many 3s as I have in the past. I've just been working on driving to the basket and trying to get to the line."

Though Markieff was feeling it (more than twin brother Marcus, who had 10 points on 3-for-10 shooting vs. the Raptors), he still managed to pick up his third technical foul of the season. As Paul Coro of azcentral.com writes in his game notes, Kieff might be the most fiery Sun:

On Friday night, Morris picked up his third technical foul in 20 games as a reserve. He and Jonas Valanciunas did some shoving for a double-technical. The part that could have got Morris in trouble was following Valanciunas to midcourt to continue barking at him but Valanciunas never responded.


Kobe who?

Los Angeles Lakers' Xavier Henry dribbles the ball during the NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors in Los Angeles, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013. The Raptors won 106-94. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

Los Angeles Lakers' Xavier Henry dribbles the ball during the NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors in Los Angeles, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013. The Raptors won 106-94. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

Most of the buzz in the NBA this weekend surrounded the return of the Lakers' Kobe Bryant, who played for the first time in almost eight months against Toronto on Sunday.

The L.A. legend, back from a torn Achilles tendon injury, scored nine points in 28 minutes, while former one-and-done Jayhawk Xavier Henry made the most of his 14 minutes off the bench, adding 17 points in a 106-94 loss to the Raptors.

Turns out the lefty Henry impressed Kobe (kind of … well, not really) with one of his moves. This from Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding:


Also, as you may have noticed if you saw the highlights from Kobe's return, he came out in pre-game intros to some familiar music — familiar to everybody except Xavier Henry, apparently.


Henry has never seen Star Wars? Nerd alert.


Shouldn't he be in green?

Brooklyn Nets small forward Paul Pierce (34) reacts to a score in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Barclays Center, Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, in New York. The Lakers defeated the Nets 99-94. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Brooklyn Nets small forward Paul Pierce (34) reacts to a score in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Barclays Center, Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, in New York. The Lakers defeated the Nets 99-94. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The once unthinkable could happen as soon as tomorrow.

Paul Pierce, who spent 15 seasons leading the Boston Celtics, might play against them Tuesday night as a Brooklyn Net.


Check out all of Gary Washburn's twitter feed for much more on The Truth, and his thoughts on the Celtics.

Washburn, of the Boston Globe, also provides an in-depth feature regarding the struggles of former Celtics Pierce and Kevin Garnett, now that they're in Brooklyn (6-14).

Washburn writes:

“Those close to the Nets intimate that Pierce has lost his passion, still stunned from his departure from Boston and the only team he ever knew …”

“Pierce is shooting a career-worst 36.8 percent from the field in 15 games and has converted just 26.8 percent of his 3-pointers. Observers say Pierce is engaged at times and doesn’t seem interested at others.”


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Kirk Hinrich gets Heated

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich passes the ball against the Miami Heat during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. The Bulls defeated the Heat 107-87.(AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich passes the ball against the Miami Heat during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. The Bulls defeated the Heat 107-87.(AP Photo/Kamil Krzaczynski)

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.

(via http://twitter.com/cjzero)

(via http://twitter.com/cjzero)

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:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXkL9cr7SH4


King Arthur’s Court

Denver Nuggets' Darrell Arthur (00) shoots against the Cleveland Cavaliers during an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Denver Nuggets' Darrell Arthur (00) shoots against the Cleveland Cavaliers during an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

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)

2013-14 shot distribution of Denver Nuggets' Darrell Arthur, as of Dec. 5, 2013.

2013-14 shot distribution of Denver Nuggets' Darrell Arthur, as of Dec. 5, 2013.

13-14: 76% (78/103)
12-13: 54% (194/359)
11-12: injured
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).

2013-14 shot chart of Denver Nuggets' Darrell Arthur, as of Dec. 5, 2013.

2013-14 shot chart of Denver Nuggets' Darrell Arthur, as of Dec. 5, 2013.

13-14: 51% (40/78)
12-13: 45.4% (88/194)
11-12: injured
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?

and

  • 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

Utah Jazz guard/forward Brandon Rush

Utah Jazz guard/forward Brandon Rush

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

Brooklyn Nets guard Tyshawn Taylor (10) drives past New York Knicks guard Raymond Felton (2) in the first half of their NBA basketball game at the Barclays Center, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Brooklyn Nets guard Tyshawn Taylor (10) drives past New York Knicks guard Raymond Felton (2) in the first half of their NBA basketball game at the Barclays Center, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

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 …


At least he’s trying.



Speaking of point guards ...

Los Angeles Lakers forward Xavier Henry dribble the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Lakers forward Xavier Henry dribble the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Sacramento Kings, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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.


Quotables

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore flashes three fingers after scoring a three-point shot during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, Nov. 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore flashes three fingers after scoring a three-point shot during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, Nov. 29, 2013. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

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.”


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Tyshawn Taylor, a hit in Brooklyn

Eight seconds left, down by two points, no timeouts and Brooklyn Nets coach Jason Kidd needed someone to execute a clutch play.

Enter former KU guard Tyshawn Taylor.

Brooklyn Nets point guard Tyshawn Taylor (10) shoots against Los Angeles Lakers center Robert Sacre (50) as point guard Jordan Farmar (1) looks on in the first half of an NBA basketball game at the Barclays Center, Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, in New York. The Lakers defeated the Nets 99-94. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Brooklyn Nets point guard Tyshawn Taylor (10) shoots against Los Angeles Lakers center Robert Sacre (50) as point guard Jordan Farmar (1) looks on in the first half of an NBA basketball game at the Barclays Center, Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, in New York. The Lakers defeated the Nets 99-94. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The Nets have had to rely on Taylor in recent weeks with starting point guard Deron Williams sidelined by an ankle injury. Taylor’s response has been equal parts highlight and lowlight with nearly a turnover for every assist.

But he sure came through in crunch time on Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Look at that form! The split-second decision-making! Taylor has a reputation for forcing turnovers — his and others’ — and he lived up to that billing when his coach called his number.

The extra timeout didn’t go quite as well. For starters, fellow Jayhawk Xavier Henry was one of two Lakers to infiltrate the Nets’ huddle. (“we needed to know what play they was gon run lol,” Henry tweeted afterward)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TVuHC1lJZos

And then another KU alum, Brooklyn’s Paul Pierce, missed the shot that would have forced overtime.

But back to Taylor. After the game, Tyshawn continued his All-Star performance, this time at the mic:

Taylor also denied that the spill was intentional. "Naw, I wasn't paying attention," Taylor said after the game. "I didn't even know he was holding nothing. Like, coach is drinking soda on the sidelines! I'm like 'What? What you doing?'"

Taylor acknowledged the benefit of the "accidental" spill. "It might ice a free throw shooter and be a time-out when you don't have one, but that wasn't the thought process. I was just coming out and he was in my way."

He then laughed. "'Coach, get out my way, bro.'"

The NBA will fine Kidd $50,000 for the soda stunt, according to Yahoo Sports. We say give the money to Taylor for a job well done.


Better ‘safe’ than ...

Denver Nuggets' Darrell Arthur (00) knocks the ball away from Houston Rockets' Terrence Jones in the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, in Houston. The Rockets won 122-111. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

Denver Nuggets' Darrell Arthur (00) knocks the ball away from Houston Rockets' Terrence Jones in the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Nov. 16, 2013, in Houston. The Rockets won 122-111. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

Darrell Arthur hasn’t been spectacular in his first season with the Denver Nuggets, but since Denver starting center JaVale McGee went down with an injury, he’s been solid. “Safe,” even.

Nuggets coach Brian Shaw, via the Denver Post:

"He's a safety net for us," Shaw said. "With him, he might be kind of, without a better way of saying it, he was the sacrificial lamb early on. But I know what I'm going to get out of him.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20r5fcLmKKs

In the last 10 games, Arthur’s averaged 6.3 points, 2.3 rebounds in 19 minutes. Again, not spectacular, but during those 19 minutes when Arthur’s on the floor, the Nuggets have outscored their opponents by an average of 7.2 points.

A couple of factors in that, from Denver Post writer Christopher Dempsey:

He's shown himself to be arguably the Nuggets' best big man in the pick-and-roll defense. And he's a reliable shooter.

For more on Arthur’s contributions for the Nuggets, read “The Hidden Impact of Darrell Arthur,” by RoundballMiningCompany.com.


Twintuition

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris, left, shakes hands with his twin brother Marcus, as they walk off the court after the Suns 107-104 loss to the Sacramento King in a NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris, left, shakes hands with his twin brother Marcus, as they walk off the court after the Suns 107-104 loss to the Sacramento King in a NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Those Morris twins have shared some success this season as key reserves for the Phoenix Suns. They’ve also shared more than a few baskets:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSK6U5FfYJE

Paul Coro of AZcentral.com described a couple more Morris-to-Morris connections from Wednesday’s game against Portland:

In the third quarter, Markieff grabbed his own rebound and Marcus was the first to instinctively come back to the play. Markieff wrapped a pass around a defender to Marcus for a layup. In the second quarter, Markieff split two Trail Blazers to get to an offensive rebound that he could only tap out but he knew where Marcus was on the court and slapped it to him for a leaner.

A quick perusal of Suns’ box scores tell the story best, though.

Markieff has tallied 25 assists this season. Of those, 10 have gone to Marcus.

Meanwhile, Marcus has only 15 assists, but eight of those are on baskets by Markieff.

Do you think they like playing together?


Fun with stats

Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers (15) drives around Orlando Magic's Jameer Nelson, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Orlando, Fla., Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013.(AP Photo/John Raoux)

Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers (15) drives around Orlando Magic's Jameer Nelson, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Orlando, Fla., Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013.(AP Photo/John Raoux)

Miami’s Mario Chalmers, the guy who made a name for himself at the top of the arc, is the NBA’s best shooter on corner threes this season. He’s hit 10 of 13 attempts (77 percent), including perfect 6-for-6 marksmanship from the left corner. (hat tip to Comcast SportsNet’s A. Sherrod Blakely)


Quoteables

On Brandon Rush, from Utah Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin, via the Deseret News:

“(He’s) just trying to get his confidence back and feeling comfortable with the guys, reassure himself that his leg’s ready to go,” Corbin said. “I hope this is the top of the hill so we can get him on the floor. He’s been looking very (good) in practice. We’re looking for him to be ready to go.”

Tyshawn Taylor on playing fourth-quarter minutes, from the New York Daily News:

“Getting out there and kind of getting your feet wet, kind of getting used to the system and playing with the guys in game-like settings is great for the confidence. It’s huge for me.”

Markieff Morris, earning a technical foul after a call by NBA ref/fellow Philadelphia native Joey Crawford, via OrlandoMagic.com’s John Denton:

"You can't come back to Philly after that."

On the Morrii, from South Florida SunSentinel’s Ira Winderman:

Markieff Morris dunks, brother Marcus, awaiting at scorers' table, goes, "Woo!"


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Cornucopia of ‘Hawks throw-downs

It really wouldn't be the 'Hawks in the NBA without some ridiculous highlights, would it?

There was a Thanksgiving feast of dunks from Kansas products damaging rims around the Association this past weekend.

Before we dig in to the main course, the always reliable Morris twins provide some appetizing fix'ins in Orlando.

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris dunks the ball against the Orlando Magic during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013.(AP Photo/John Raoux)

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris dunks the ball against the Orlando Magic during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Orlando, Fla., Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013.(AP Photo/John Raoux)

Pretty cool little improvisation here. Marcus Morris comes off a screen set by brother Markieff, and just when you think Marcus is rising up for the jumper, he notices Keef rolling to the paint and just lofts an easy lob for a Morris-oop.

Both twins produced in the win against another former Kansas star, Orlando Magic coach Jacque Vaughn.

So maybe the Morris Bros. Mystery is solved. Here is what Markieff had to say about the matter, as Paul Coro of AZcentral.com shares in his piece:

"I had a talk with Coach and he said I have to get my swag back. When I got sick, I felt like I lost it a little bit. Tonight, I was out there for a while and I thank coach for just letting me play so I can find it."

The Highlight King

All right, on to what everybody has been waiting for on Thanksgiving week. Phoenix's Morrii brought the rolls, green beans and essential sides, but Sacramento rookie Ben McLemore delivers the turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie.

Sacramento Kings' Ben McLemore (16) shakes hands with teammate Jason Thompson during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, in Phoenix. The Kings won 113-106. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Sacramento Kings' Ben McLemore (16) shakes hands with teammate Jason Thompson during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, in Phoenix. The Kings won 113-106. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

You'd be in the holiday spirit, too, if you had this kind of weekend in L.A.

McLemore's one-on-none fast-break flight against the Los Angeles Clippers is just the latest in what is becoming a nightly expectation for the ridiculously athletic shooting guard.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GndUK14kX0g

Notice where he takes off on that? And how high he explodes for his sky-walking trip? That highlight alone would be enough to keep some players satisfied with their baller status for the rest of the season. Yet, here's another McLemore jam the very next night — back in Staples Center, but this time against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Sure, there is zero deterrence put forth by the Clippers or Lakers in these McLemore take-off scenarios, but that doesn't make them any less impressive. I mean, look at this photo of the first dunk from a tweet by @Jim_ICE:


Ludicrous.


'X' finds 'O'

Los Angeles Lakers forward Xavier Henry, right, puts up a shot as Sacramento Kings forward John Salmons defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Lakers forward Xavier Henry, right, puts up a shot as Sacramento Kings forward John Salmons defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Xavier Henry continued his fight to remain relevant in the NBA, against Sacramento. It seemed like Henry might have been out of the league by now after his first three seasons with New Orleans. But he's the kind of athlete/gunner that can thrive in Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni's system — especially considering the Lakers need all the help they can get while Kobe Bryant is out.

Mike Bresnahan writes in the Los Angeles Times that Henry improved his free-throw shooting in the Lakers win, and scored 12 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter.

The Lakers (7-7) might not be a contender anymore — even when they get Kobe back. But Henry seems to be enjoying the ride.


Bad news, Bulls

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich shoots during an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers in Los Angeles, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013. The Clippers won 121-82. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich shoots during an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers in Los Angeles, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013. The Clippers won 121-82. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

If you're a fan of the NBA, you've already heard the horrible news about Chicago point guard Derrick Rose. The 2010-11 NBA MVP missed the entire 2012-13 season while recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee. Then he tore the meniscus in his right knee Friday at Portland.

There is no reason to celebrate this, and if you do, you're just a sicko. But this means former KU star Kirk Hinrich will see a lot more minutes for Chicago. We'll probably see a lot more Hinrich production, and possibly more amazing screen grabs, like this one from Deadspin, which shows Hinrich tying up Denver's Nate Robinson and giddily smiling.


The truth hurts

Detroit Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva (31) defends as Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) goes up for a layup in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, in New York. The Pistons won 109-97. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Detroit Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva (31) defends as Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) goes up for a layup in the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013, in New York. The Pistons won 109-97. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Paul Pierce isn't injured, but he's probably sick of the struggles he and the high-paid Brooklyn Nets (3-10) have endured so far this season.

For his career, Pierce is a 44.7-percent shooter, making 36.9-percent of his threes and averaging 21.7 points. Maybe it's his new digs, away from Boston, where his jersey will one day be retired in the rafters, or maybe it's his 36-year-old legs finally wearing down, but Pierce hasn't produced the way many around the league expected him to.

Pierce is averaging just 13 points, hitting 37.9-percent of his shots and 27.9 from downtown.

Here is Stefan Bondy's story on the matter, in the NY Daily News: Paul Pierce ineffective again

The Truth's numbers improved slightly on Sunday, against Detroit: Pierce had 19 points, went 5-for-13 and hit two of his four three-pointers.


— Don't forget, keep up with all the 'Hawks in the NBA and their statistical output every day at KUSports.com.

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Family Over Everything (except dunks)

Forget “'Hawks in the NBA,” we’re renaming the blog “Dunks by 'Hawks over 'Hawks in the NBA.”

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

First, it was Xavier Henry welcoming Jeff Withey to the NBA. Now, it’s “little brother” Thomas Robinson taking it to big bros Marcus and Markieff Morris. I think we’ve found an exception to “Family Over Everything.”

Let’s face it, we’re living in an era of unprecedented Jayhawk-on-Jayhawk crime, and KU coach Bill Self isn’t doing anything to stop it. Might as well just turn on the tube, sit back and enjoy the show.


The rest of the T-Rob Show

Portland Trail Blazers power forward Thomas Robinson (41) drives to the basket during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, in Portland, Ore. The Blazers won the game 90-89. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)

Portland Trail Blazers power forward Thomas Robinson (41) drives to the basket during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, in Portland, Ore. The Blazers won the game 90-89. (AP Photo/Steve Dykes)

Robinson’s Wednesday night was punctuated by the putback, but he did quite a bit more to help the Trail Blazers beat the Suns.

Robinson scored nine points and collected six rebounds with a block and a steal in 10 fourth-quarter minutes, and Portland outscored Phoenix 24-19 when T-Rob was on the floor. Not too shabby in a one-point victory.

Maybe more importantly, the first-year Blazer provided some of his trademark energy. From blazersedge.com:

"I don't know if there was one play (for Robinson)," Blazers coach Terry Stotts said. "It was just the whole energy at both ends of the floor, getting rebounds, getting out, obviously the dunk was a big play. The general feel for that stretch, I thought there was a stretch of (positive) momentum, the dunk was certainly part of it."


A couple other fun notes, with another hat-tip to Blazersedge:

  • Robinson hoisted a desperation, end-of-the-shot-clock, fadeaway three during the first quarter … and was fouled by Marcus Morris. A beautiful moment.
  • T-Rob missed two of those three free throws, though (and six of nine on the night, bringing his career average down to 52.3 percent through 120+ tries).
  • After Robinson missed five of his first seven foul shots, Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek went “Hack-a-T-Rob” in the fourth quarter and had the Suns intentionally put Robinson back on the line, where he made one and missed one.
  • And about that dunk...

Not just a dunk prop

Phoenix Suns power forward Markieff Morris (11), right, scores over the top of Denver Nuggets power forward Darrell Arthur (00) in the third quarter during an NBA basketball game on Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, in Phoenix. The Suns defeated the Nuggets 114-93. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Phoenix Suns power forward Markieff Morris (11), right, scores over the top of Denver Nuggets power forward Darrell Arthur (00) in the third quarter during an NBA basketball game on Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, in Phoenix. The Suns defeated the Nuggets 114-93. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Markieff Morris earned Western Conference Player of the Week honors with a fantastic four-game stretch good for 22.8 points (69.8 percent shooting), 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals. And even after playing under the weather and dropping an eight-point dud against the Blazers, Keef is fourth in the NBA in field-goal percentage (60.0 percent) and ninth in basketball’s all-encompassing P.E.R. stat (26.1).


Twin it to win it

San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard, center, is boxed in by Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris, left, and Marcus Morris, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

San Antonio Spurs' Kawhi Leonard, center, is boxed in by Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris, left, and Marcus Morris, right, during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Markieff and Marcus Morris have been a big part of the Phoenix Suns’ surprising 5-3 start. The twins have come off the bench together in all but one game this season (Markieff was suspended for the opener). In those seven games, Markieff’s played 199 total minutes and Marcus 155. They’ve shared the majority of that time (125 minutes or about 18 minutes a game). And over the last five games, the Suns’ bench has been the No. 2 scoring bench in the entire league and the best per minute.

Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek on Marcus and Markieff, from azcentral.com:

“They have been great together and great with the guys on the court,” Hornacek said. “It hasn’t been what we call ‘brother ball,’ where they just pass to each other. They just happen to be out there together now, playing the game.”


The twins are loving their success as reserves, too. From azcentral.com, again:

“This definitely works,” Marcus said. “We still play together. We’re both successful at what we’re doing. If I get a couple more buckets to fall, I’ll be right there where ‘Kieff’ is at. I don’t want to switch it up. We’re going so well. Why change something that’s going good? Just keep riding with it and hopefully ‘Kieff’ can fight for Sixth Man of the Year. I don’t see him going down from here because his confidence is real high.”

Cole Aldrich, cheerleader

Despite a desperate need for big bodies, the New York Knicks have played backup center Cole Aldrich just 10 total minutes and only three of their eight games this season. Cole’s not letting it affect his, um, enthusiasm for the game.

(And let’s never forget “Kung Fu Cole” from his time in OKC)


Quoteables

On Nick Collison, from DailyThunder.com’s Tyler Parker:

“I’d also mention he’s the Thunder’s best on ball defender in the post and his hedges are so pristine they should be featured in Southern Living.”


Markieff Morris, via the Arizona Republic:

“I heard the other day that I’m the skinniest power forward in the league,” Markieff said, referring to strength and conditioning coach Mike Elliott’s ribbing. “I might be the skinniest, but I’m damn sure not the weakest.”


On Ben McLemore, who started his first game Wednesday, via the Sacramento Bee:

“Sometimes you have to let a guy – kind of throw him out there a little bit – and let him learn from those mistakes and get those experiences under their belt,” (Kings coach Mike) Malone said. “The bottom line is experience is the best teacher, and for him being out there against All-Star-type players, that’s the only way he’s going to learn and get better.”


On Kirk Hinrich, via the Chicago Tribune:

As for the bragging rights after Kansas knocked off Duke, (Taj) Gibson said former Jayhawk Kirk Hinrich took it easy on former Blue Devils Carlos Boozer, Mike Dunleavy and Luol Deng.

"He didn't really go too hard on them," Gibson said. "He's just so cocky when it comes to his school. He's in the corner all nonchalant like, 'Yeah.' He always thinks he doesn't have to say much because he just knows Kansas is always going to win."

Recent stats

Can’t get enough of your favorite Jayhawks in the NBA? Be on the lookout for our nightly “How former Jayhawks fared…” stat recaps. Look for them on the KUsports.com homepage or this nifty, bookmarkable landing page.

In case you’ve missed any, here are the past few days:

Thursday, Nov. 14

Wednesday, Nov. 13

Tuesday, Nov. 12

Monday, Nov. 11

And be sure to come back to the blog as we turn stodgy stats — Ben McLemore’s 1-for-8 Wednesday, for example — into something a little more exciting:

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