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Posts tagged with Ben Mclemore

Time for Ben McLemore to shine

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, center, drives to the basket between Toronto Raptors Amir Johnson, left, and Jonas Valanciunas, of Lithuania, during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014. The Raptors won 117-109. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, center, drives to the basket between Toronto Raptors Amir Johnson, left, and Jonas Valanciunas, of Lithuania, during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014. The Raptors won 117-109. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Rarely does the NBA spotlight shine toward small-market Sacramento. Right now, it’s pointed to the home of the Kings for all the wrong reasons.

What better time for second-year shooting guard Ben McLemore to help turn a negative into a positive?

Sacramento’s front office has been pummeled with scrutiny the past couple of days, and rightfully so. The Kings (11-13) fired their head coach, Michael Malone, Sunday night, with the team having lost seven of nine games. Keep in mind, Sacramento’s franchise player, center DeMarcus Cousins, missed each one of those with viral meningitis.

It’s a raw deal for Malone, for sure, and multiple reports indicate the move was more about a difference in philosophies between the coach and the front office, which used the skid as an excuse to give the coach the axe.

The Kings will play their first game since the dismissal Tuesday night against Oklahoma City — 9:30 Central tip, on ESPN. So McLemore and his teammates have a chance to shift the focus toward the promise this team has going forward under interim coach Tyrone Corbin, with Cousins reportedly returning later this week.

The franchise’s decision-makers might act a tad wacky from time to time (Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported owner Vivek Ranadive wants to employ a cherry-picking strategy). But the decision-makers at least have shown patience with McLemore, who didn’t assimilate too quickly his rookie season.

The former Kansas standout has made strides as a sophomore, thus far avoiding any serious slump, with the most promising evidence for improvement showing up in his shooting percentages.

BEN McLEMORE —
YEAR 1 VS YEAR 2
minutes
per game
fg
%
3-pt
%
FT
%
rebounds
per game
points
per game
2013-14 (82 games) 26.7 .376 .32 .804 2.9 8.8
2014-15 (through 24 games) 32.7 .468 .412 .821 3.1

Bleacher Report’s Sim Risso detailed McLemore’s development in a feature, and the 21-year-old said much of it has to do with confidence.

"I’ve just continued to believe in my shot and believe in my game. My teammates are doing a good job with that. My coaches have been running early plays for me and getting me going early."

As Risso points out, McLemore’s usage percentage has gone up with Cousins out of the lineup. The athletic second-year guard with the smooth shooting touch (42-of-102 from 3-point range) said Cousins did a good job of finding him for open looks, and Rudy Gay and Darren Collison continue to do the same.

McLemore is averaging 13 points a game in December, and scored 21 against Houston on TNT last week.

The Kings looked like a surprising playoff contender in the treacherous Western Conference before Cousins’ illness. We’ll see if McLemore and his teammates can rally around this shakeup and get back in the mix.

They enter Tuesday’s game tied for 10th place in the West with their opponent, OKC.

On a much lighter note, McLemore had a productive day off Monday. He took a group of Sacramento kids out shopping for holiday presents.

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None by Ben McLemore

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There’s proof: Not everything is negative in Sacramento.


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


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2014-15 season outlook: Ben McLemore

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 at hand.

The first handful of games tip off Tuesday, marking the start of the 82-game grind.

Thankfully for us, all we have to do is sit back, watch and enjoy. To make sure you’re fully prepared for the 2014-15 campaign, we’ll be rolling out a season outlook for each former Kansas University player who currently calls The Association home.

Ben McLemore — Sacramento Kings

6-foot-5 Shooting guard | Second season

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, right, drives to the basket against Toronto Raptors forward Tyler Hansbrough, left, during the fourth quarter of an NBA preseason basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014. The Kings won 113-106. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, right, drives to the basket against Toronto Raptors forward Tyler Hansbrough, left, during the fourth quarter of an NBA preseason basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014. The Kings won 113-106. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

2013-14 numbers: 82 games | 26.7 minutes | 8.8 points | 2.9 rebounds | 37.6 FG% | 32 3-pt% | 80.4 FT%

Coming off a rookie season that had both memorable moments (see: a Western Conference Rookie of the Month Award; dunking over Shaquille O’Neal at All-Star Weekend) and forgettable ones (exhibit A: shooting slumps; exhibit B: temporarily losing his starting spot), Ben McLemore enters Year 2 of his career riding some positive momentum.

• (For whatever it’s worth) The young 2-guard helped Sacramento win the Las Vegas Sumer League tournament.

• He shed the No. 16 Kings jersey he wore during his first year for the more familiar No. 23.

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• The Kings picked up their team option on his contract for the 2015-16 season.

• McLemore got to travel to China with his team for bonding and shenanigans.

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• He provided at least one example of his improved shot, nailing 3-of-4 from downtown and scoring a preseason-high 22 points versus Brooklyn on Oct. 15.

• For the love of all things holy, the guy had a street named after him.

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So, yeah, McLemore is happy about all of those things, and earning a spot as Sacramento’s starting shooting guard — even if that means he’ll have to battle rookie Nik Stauskas for those minutes.

Really, the worst thing he has endured lately was a brutal head-to-head collision with Wayne Ellington in a preseason game a few days ago.

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But he has been cleared to lay in Sacramento’s season opener Wednesday against Golden State.

Now the youngster known for his crazy hops and sweet-looking (if not yet totally effective) stroke can make more plays off the dribble, and he has freedom and confidence to shoot at will when he’s open.

“This summer I worked really hard on the different aspects of my game,” McLemore recently told reporters.

If McLemore has indeed made the kind of jump from freshman to sophomore year Sacramento envisions, he should be the team’s best guard — or at least the Kings' top scoring option in the backcourt, where he teams with Darren Collison, Stauskas, Ramon Sessions and Ray McCallum.

With small forward Rudy Gay and big man DeMarcus Cousins in the frontcourt, the Kings have talented pieces. But… They play in the Western Conference. Last season the Kings (28-54) finished with a better record than just the L.A. Lakers and Utah out West.

Even if the team improves on the court, it might be difficult to claw out of that cellar. The West is just loaded. And a Sactown playoffs appearance sounds like fan fiction.

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

Cameos in the nightly highlight reels with explosive dunks and some hot shooting nights. More importantly, McLemore figures to develop and become more well rounded and effective at the pro level.

While Sacramento should again struggle, this season could go a long way toward determining just how well the rest of McLemore’s career goes.


’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


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First comes the clowning, then comes the grind

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid, of Cameroon, poses for a photographer during the NBA basketball team's media day, Monday, Sept. 29, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid, of Cameroon, poses for a photographer during the NBA basketball team's media day, Monday, Sept. 29, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Considering how much of a grind the 82-game regular season has to be for NBA players, you can’t blame the guys for enjoying the preseason goof-off spectacle that is NBA media days.

Players surely take their interview responsibilities seriously enough, but when it comes time to mean-mug or bring some absurdity to photo and video shoots, they happily oblige.

Believe it or not, it’s actually training camp time in The Association, so the past few days have been light-heartedly busy for most of the former Kansas University players lucky enough to call the NBA home.

Some get to enjoy it a little more than others, as you can see in our social media roundup from the festivities.

Cole Aldrich, New York Knicks

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Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat

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Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

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Drew Gooden and Paul Pierce, Washington Wizards

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Kirk Hinrich, Chicago Bulls

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Nick Collison, Oklahoma City Thunder

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Xavier Henry, Los Angeles Lakers

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Marcus and Markieff Morris, Phoenix Suns

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Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings

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Ultimate #KingsMediaDay #KingsSelfie

Ultimate #KingsMediaDay #KingsSelfie by sacramentokings

Thomas Robinson, Portland Trail Blazers

Truck Robinson. #RipCity #MediaDay

Truck Robinson. #RipCity #MediaDay by trailblazers

Brandon Rush, Golden State Warriors

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Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves

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Media day / throw-down night

Minnesota had an open practice for Timberwolves fans to watch following its media day, nicknaming the fun: Dunks After Dark.

Wiggins delivered a few throw-downs to help it live up to its name.


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‘Boogie’ backs Ben McLemore, expects progress

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (16) drives the the basket against Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio (9) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., on Sunday, April 13, 2014. The Kings won 106-103.(AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (16) drives the the basket against Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio (9) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., on Sunday, April 13, 2014. The Kings won 106-103.(AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

No NBA rookie comes into the league and figures everything out in the span of 82 games. But some assimilate faster than others.

Kansas University lottery picks Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid will find that out soon enough. For proof, they could just examine the still young career of another Jayhawk.

Sacramento shooting guard Ben McLemore — coming off a somewhat disappointing debut season (8.8 points, 37.6-percent shooting) — hopes the Las Vegas Summer League will serve as his springboard to Year 2.

A look at McLemore's shot chart from his rookie season reveals there were really only a handful of spots the Kings would want him shooting from — either corner for three-pointers and inside the arc on the left wing.

Ben McLemore's shot performance from his rookie season with Sacramento. Green = FG% above league average; yellow = comparable to league average; red = below league average. (Via NBA.com/stats)

Ben McLemore's shot performance from his rookie season with Sacramento. Green = FG% above league average; yellow = comparable to league average; red = below league average. (Via NBA.com/stats)

Just about every other spot on the floor yielded little returns for the first-year guard out of KU.

After two games in Las Vegas, though, McLemore had converted just six of his 18 shots.

In the Kings' third Vegas game, Monday against the D-League Select team, McLemore finally found his stroke. The athletic young guard went 7-for-10 from the floor, 3-for-4 from the foul line, made one of his two three-pointers and finished with 18 points and six rebounds.

"My first two games, I was just too anxious," McLemore said in a video interview posted by News10, in Sacramento. "You know, not letting the game try to come to me and not playing my game."

His next time out? Even better.

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McLemore led the Kings with 22 points Thursday in a win against Minnesota, knocking down 7 of 11 shots — including 2 of 4 from three-point land — while converting all six of his free throws, dishing four assists and grabbing six boards.

He knows the kinks need to be addressed now if he wants to help keep Sacramento afloat in the highly competitive Western Conference during the regular season.

The Kings' star forward, DeMarcus "Boogie" Cousins, told ESPN's Bill Simmons he has faith in the 21-year-old shooting guard.

On an episode of his podcast, the B.S. Report, Simmons asked Cousins about "what's up" with McLemore after his "typical rookie" season. Cousins quickly spoke up for his teammate.

"He's gonna be an incredible player. He's just gotta keep growing," Cousins said.

Simmons suggested there weren't a lot of shots to go around in Sacramento last season for role players such as McLemore — what with Boogie, Rudy Gay and Isaiah Thomas all averaging 20-plus points on the season — and Cousins agreed. But the Kings let point guard Thomas sign with Phoenix this summer and replaced him by picking up Darren Collison. So McLemore could have more opportunities in his second year — if rookie Nik Stauskas, from Michigan, doesn't beat him out for a spot in the starting lineup.

"That's like my little brother," Cousins said of the incumbent. "One thing about Ben, he works his tail off. With that alone, he's gonna be fine. I believe he'll have a better season this year."

The Sacramento big man predicted the Kings (28-54 in 2013-14) would break through and make the playoffs next season.

Simmons' response?

"You need your little brother, McLemore, to step up."


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Ben McLemore not sweating Kings’ latest draft selection

Ben McLemore brings down the house as he slams home a monstrous dunk over Brady Morningstar during the annual Rock Chalk Roundball Classic, played Thursday evening at Lawrence High.

Ben McLemore brings down the house as he slams home a monstrous dunk over Brady Morningstar during the annual Rock Chalk Roundball Classic, played Thursday evening at Lawrence High. by John Young

Considering his team, the Sacramento Kings, had just selected a shooting guard — the same position at which he started 55 games as a rookie — with the eighth overall pick in the NBA Draft, Kansas University product Ben McLemore played it cool on draft night.

A year removed from his own introduction to the league, when the Kings took him seventh overall, McLemore sent out a welcome tweet to his new teammate (and potential competitor for playing time), Michigan guard Nik Stauskas:

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Outwardly congenial, McLemore revealed to the Sacramento Bee's Jason Jones that the choice initially surprised him.

“I wasn’t expecting that,” McLemore told Jones. “At the same time, they felt he was the best available draft pick, so I’m fine with it. At the end of the day, it’s a business, and I’m just going to do what I have to do to get better as a player.”

While his rookie season included flashes of production and promise, such as when the league named McLemore the Western Conference rookie of the month in November, the first-year guard struggled in stretches, too. He finished the season with an 8.8 points per game scoring average and less than impressive shooting percentages: 37.6 from the floor and 32 from three-point range (he missed 202 of his 297 attempts).

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As McLemore and other members of the Kings' summer league team gathered in Las Vegas for mini-camp on Monday, head coach Michael Malone indicated to the Bee that McLemore's performance didn't inspire the organization to try and draft a replacement in Stauskas, a 6-foot-6 shooting specialist who drained 44.2 percent of his three-pointers this past season at Michigan.

“There’s only a few LeBron James, Kevin Durants, Kobe Bryants out there,” Malone said. “Most rookies come out and struggle. (McLemore) went through the struggling times. The most important thing for me was February was his toughest month, but in March and April he really got himself up off the mat. He showed resilience and finished the season on a high note (career high 31 points in finale).”

Jones reported Sacramento's Monday practice included some experimentation with playing McLemore and Stauskas side by side.

“It was good,” the rookie told the Bee. “For the most part, we were on the floor at the same time. He’s a great player, and hopefully we can feed off each other well.”

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After playing with Stauskas for the first time (they played against each other in the 2013 Sweet 16, when Michigan beat Kansas, 87-85, in overtime), McLemore gave a brief scouting report in a video interview posted on the Kings' website.

"We've kind of got a similar game," McLemore said. "We both can shoot the ball, we can put it down on the floor, you know, (do) different things. I think we'll be a good backcourt."

The Kings play their summer league opener Friday night in Las Vegas, against San Antonio.


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'Hawks in free agency

Paul Pierce is in Las Vegas, too. But not for the NBA's summer league. Apparently unfazed by his status as an uncommitted free agent, "The Truth" is working on one of his favorite hobbies at the World Series of Poker.

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As for what uniform he'll wear in his 17th NBA season? Pierce could re-sign with Brooklyn. But ESPNNewYork.com's Mike Mazzeo reported the 36-year-old small forward wants $9 to $10 million a year, while the Nets would like to pay him between $6 and $8 million.

According to Mazzeo, Nets general manager Billy King said the Los Angeles Clippers inquired about a sign-and-trade deal for Pierce, who teamed with Clippers coach Doc Rivers to win an NBA title in Boston. However, King didn't like what L.A. offered.

Like Pierce, the six other KU products looking to sign as free agents might have to wait for stars LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh to make their decisions, because so many teams are holding back on contract offers until those pieces of the personnel puzzle fall into place.

Also still in limbo are Mario Chalmers, Xavier Henry, Kirk Hinrich, Drew Gooden, Brandon Rush and Cole Aldrich.

Aldrich told the Journal-World on Monday he would like to re-up with New York. Gooden told the Washington Post's Dan Steinberg he is interested in remaining in D.C., with the Wizards. Hinrich has long stated his desire to keep playing for Chicago.


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Pre-game surprise rattles Thomas Robinson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robinson's initial reaction?

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

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

We get in the lockerroom n its a damn snake, yea a snake in the lockerroom. Man we was scared as hell

We get in the lockerroom n its a damn snake, yea a snake in the lockerroom. Man we was scared as hell by mogotti25

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

"Black and white. Spurs."

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


Chalmers a steady component for Miami

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


McLemore planning on busy offseason

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Markieff Morris snubbed in Sixth Man voting?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Morris twins key players in Suns’ turnaround

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris (11) tries to get off a shot over San Antonio Spurs' Matt Bonner (15) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris (11) tries to get off a shot over San Antonio Spurs' Matt Bonner (15) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

In a perfect NBA world, the powers that be would allow the top 16 teams in the league to duke it out in the playoffs to decide the championship.

Unfortunately for the fans, that postseason utopia doesn't exist. If it did, Phoenix, which went 48-34 in the 2013-14 regular season, would have easily made the playoffs. Instead, the Suns, who play in the deeper Western Conference, have to watch the action on TV with the rest of us.

When the season ended prematurely for Phoenix, Matt Petersen of Suns.com began offering a series of season reviews on each of the franchise's players.

A bench star in the Suns' entertaining campaign, Markieff Morris emerged as a legit NBA player in his third year — 13.8 points, 6.0 rebounds, 48.6% FGs, 31.5% 3s in 26.6 minutes.

As far as the 24-year-old power forward's highlight of the year, according to the Suns' site, that came in November, against the back-to-back NBA champion Miami Heat. Morris turned Chris "Birdman" Andersen into a YouTube victim after making on-ball defender Rashard Lewis look even worse.

First-year Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said Morris comes off the bench and makes the offense flow smoothly.

“We need Markieff’s energy, scoring in the post on guys. It keeps us from shooting nothing but jump shots. The other guys can post up some, but consistently, we can go to him five, six, seven times and then they have to start figuring out what to do with him. He kicks it out and we get good stuff. He allows us to play that inside-out game that not a lot of our other guys give us.”

According to the Bright Side of the Sun blog, Morris, who led the league with 11 double-doubles off the bench, earned an A on his season report card.


Marcus an important Suns backup, too

Phoenix Suns' Marcus Morris (15) dunks as teammate Ish Smith (3) pumps his fist as the Indiana Pacers defense of Paul George (24), Roy Hibbert (55), David West (21) and Lance Stephenson look around during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, in Phoenix. The Suns defeated the Pacers 124-100. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Phoenix Suns' Marcus Morris (15) dunks as teammate Ish Smith (3) pumps his fist as the Indiana Pacers defense of Paul George (24), Roy Hibbert (55), David West (21) and Lance Stephenson look around during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, in Phoenix. The Suns defeated the Pacers 124-100. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Markieff wasn't the only Morris twin helping Phoenix reverse its fortunes this season. Marcus played nearly just as big a role, also off the Suns' bench.

In his first full season playing alongside Markieff in the NBA (Marcus began his career in Houston), he averaged 9.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 22.0 minutes. Marcus shot 44.2% from the floor and 38.1% from 3-point land.

Suns.com's Petersen deemed the following dunk — on San Antonio's Aron Baynes — the play of the year for Marcus.

But Marcus proved just as deadly spotting up behind the 3-point line. He hit 99 from deep (a career high for the third-year forward) on 260 tries. Hornacek said Marcus needed that weapon in his repertoire.

“He had that [midrange ability] in college. He’s developed the outside game, the deep three, since he’s been in the pros. That’s kind of his strength.”


Aldrich spent most of season at end of bench

New York Knicks' Cole Aldrich plays in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Wednesday, March 5, 2014, in Minneapolis. The Knicks won 118-106. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

New York Knicks' Cole Aldrich plays in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Wednesday, March 5, 2014, in Minneapolis. The Knicks won 118-106. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Drafted in 2010, Cole Aldrich has yet to produce a career-changing season to put him on the NBA map.

Since his arrival in the league, the 6-11 center never has averaged more than 11.7 minutes with a team in a season (and that came in 15 games for Sacramento after a mid-season trade), nor more than 3.3 points (also in 15-game Sactown stint).

In 2013-14, with New York, Aldrich averaged 7.2 minutes, 2.0 points and 2.8 rebounds in 46 games.

Charlie Widdoes took a different kind of look at Aldrich's fourth year for the Knicks' website. Projected over 36 minutes, Aldrich would have averaged a double-double, with 10 points and 14.1 rebounds.

And, as Widdoes points out, Aldrich set a career high with 16 rebounds and scored 13 points in the Knicks' season finale, when he played 40 minutes.

Said Aldrich:

"The biggest thing is staying ready. You never know when your name's going to be called."

He'll be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Aldrich's former coach in NYC, Mike Woodson, who was fired after the season, praised the still young big man for his work.

"He's earned the right to be on somebody's ball club."


Tweetworthy

• Tuesday was a historic day in the NBA, with commissioner Adam Silver issuing a lifetime ban to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling after he made racist comments in a taped conversation.

Miami guard Mario Chalmers, like a number of players around the league, complimented the new commish's handling of the situation via Twitter.

None by Mario Chalmers

• Elsewhere, it looks like Ben McLemore is fully embracing the joys of the offseason.

None by Ben McLemore


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

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No playoffs for Morris twins

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris sits in the locker room after an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Monday, April 14, 2014, in Phoenix. The Grizzlies won 97-91 eliminating the Suns from the playoffs. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris sits in the locker room after an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Monday, April 14, 2014, in Phoenix. The Grizzlies won 97-91 eliminating the Suns from the playoffs. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Phoenix needed to beat Memphis Monday night in step No. 1 of its last chance at the NBA Playoffs.

The next couple steps never came into play for the Suns, who bring twins Markieff and Marcus Morris off their bench, because the Grizzlies won in Phoenix, 97-91, to snag the eighth and final available playoff berth in the Western Conference.

Difficult as it may have been for Markieff to deal with the reality of the Suns' fate, the 6-foot-10 power forward gave his up-and-coming team a legitimate chance, leading Phoenix with 21 points off the bench.

As Paul Coro wrote for AZcentral.com, Markieff hit seven of eight shots in one eight-minute stretch of the second half. He finished 10-for-16 from the floor with three blocks and two rebounds in 28 minutes.

Markieff hit a couple of long jumpers in the fourth quarter, and threw down a dunk, but missed a three-pointer with 20 seconds left that would have cut a 95-91 Memphis lead to one.

Coro discusses what comes next for Markieff and Marcus in a video for AZcentral.com. The twins both are eligible for contract extensions this summer. They could easily play out the 2014-15 season without re-signing, though, and enter free agency in 2015.


Markieff makes his case for sixth man award

Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris dunks during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday, April 11, 2014, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris dunks during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday, April 11, 2014, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

Markieff's value to Phoenix can't be underestimated. He's averaging 13.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and hitting 48.6% from the floor with one game left in the regular season.

He recently was asked by AZcentral.com to explain what makes him a top candidate for Sixth Man of the Year.

"Coming off the bench with energy, scoring, rebounding, making my teammates better and winning games, especially when we were supposed to win 17… You knew the Clippers (Jamal Crawford reference) were going to be good. You knew the Bulls (Taj Gibson reference) were going to be good, with or without D (Derrick) Rose. Y'all thought we were going after a Number 1 pick. I think I deserve Sixth Man Award for the team success."

Markieff went on to say the award would have meant more had Phoenix been a playoff team.

For what it's worth Grantland's Zach Lowe voted Markieff third for Sixth Man of the Year, behind Gibson and San Antonio's Manu Ginobili. Lowe also pegged Markieff as the third-best candidate for Most Improved Player, behind his Phoenix teammate Goran Dragic and Sacramento big man DeMarcus Cousins.

As Lowe points out, Morris has become an efficient offensive threat in his third season in the league:

He’s up to 50 percent on 2s this season, with a refined post-up game. Morris can shoot over guys with a soft touch, but if he thinks he can do better, he’ll face up, put the ball on the floor, and attack the rim.

We know who would receive Marcus' vote for the sixth man award.

None by Marcus Morris


Collison ejected

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison, left, and New Orleans Pelicans guard Austin Rivers, third right, get into a scuffle in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Monday, April 14, 2014. Both were ejected from the game. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison, left, and New Orleans Pelicans guard Austin Rivers, third right, get into a scuffle in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Monday, April 14, 2014. Both were ejected from the game. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Maybe the end of the regular season has some players feeling testy. Maybe college blue bloods don't like each other.

For the second time in less than a week, a former KU player and a former Duke player got into a scuffle on the NBA hardwood. Over the weekend, it was Ben McLemore and J.J. Redick.

Monday night, it was Nick Collison and Austin Rivers.

The veteran power forward from KU and the fiery young guard out of Duke bumped into each other a few times before it turned into a skirmish and both were ejected in the second quarter of what turned out to be a New Orleans victory.

Collison went scoreless in eight minutes of action, and NewsOK.com's Darnell Mayberry reported the 10th-year veteran picked up the first ejection of his career.


Tweetworthy

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

None by Chicago Bulls

None by Ira Winderman

None by Ben McLemore

None by thomas robinson

None by Ballislife.com


'Hawks in the NBA standings

It's finally the last day of the 82-game marathon that is the regular season, so here's a look at where all of the NBA's Jayhawks stand, with the playoffs starting up this weekend.

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

PLAYOFF TEAMS

Nick Collison/Oklahoma City (58-23)

  • Currently No. 2 seed in West

  • Northwest Division champs

Mario Chalmers/Miami (54-27)

  • Currently No. 2 seed in East

  • Southeast Division champs

Thomas Robinson/Portland (53-28)

  • Currently No. 5 seed in West

Kirk Hinrich/Chicago (48-33)

  • Currently No. 4 seed in East

Paul Pierce/Brooklyn (44-37)

  • Currently No. 5 seed in East

Drew Gooden/Washington (43-38)

  • Currently No. 6 seed in East

ELIMINATED FROM PLAYOFFS

Markieff Morris & Marcus Morris/Phoenix (47-34)

Darrell Arthur/Denver (36-45)

Cole Aldrich/New York (36-45)

Jeff Withey/New Orleans (33-48)

Ben McLemore/Sacramento (28-53)

Xavier Henry/L.A. Lakers (26-55)

Brandon Rush/Utah (24-57)


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

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Paul Pierce joins elite company, with 25,000 career points

Brooklyn Nets' Paul Pierce (34) reacts during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks Friday, April 11, 2014, in New York. Atlanta won 93-88. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Brooklyn Nets' Paul Pierce (34) reacts during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks Friday, April 11, 2014, in New York. Atlanta won 93-88. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Ever since Paul Pierce left Kansas University a year early for the NBA in 1998, he has made a living putting up points.

On Friday, the 16-year veteran who earned his reputation with Boston reached an all-time milestone in his first season with Brooklyn.

Only one of Pierce's seven three-pointers connected in a home loss to Atlanta, but the one he hit in the second quarter carried far more significance than a typical regular-season, first-half trey.

This particular long-range bomb pushed Pierce to 25,000 career points.

The NBA compiled all of "The Truth's" landmark points — from 5,000 to 25,000 — in a video that kicks off with a young, headband-less Pierce putting in his first NBA bucket against Toronto in 1999.

Justin Tasch of the New York Daily News reported Pierce's 5-for-14 night and 2-for-6 showing at the free throw line had a lot to do with him thinking too much about the milestone, as his family and friends kept bringing it up beforehand.

“I was the same way when I reached the 20,000-point mark. I remember I couldn’t hit a shot in the first quarter because I was pressing just to get it. I’m just glad it’s over with and now I can focus on the rest of the season.”

The NBA Twitterverse tipped its collective cap to Pierce following the accomplishment.

None by Brooklyn Nets

None by NBA Guru

None by SportsCenter

None by ESPN Stats & Info

None by Rod Boone

Pierce became just the 18th NBA player in history to eclipse 25,000 points. The names ahead of him on the list are pretty incredible, and include such former superstars as Jerry West (17th), John Havlicek (13th), Oscar Robertson (11th), Shaquille O'Neal (6th), Wilt Chamberlain (5th), Michael Jordan (3rd), Karl Malone (2nd) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1st, 38,387).

Pierce left Brooklyn's next game, Sunday against Orlando, clutching his right shoulder, but Nets coach Jason Kidd said he could've returned to play if needed.


No more Mr. Nice McLemore?

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore is ejected after being called for a technical foul on Los Angeles Clippers guard J.J. Redick, as Clippers' Jamal Crawford, rear left, looks on during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Saturday, April 12, 2014. The Clippers won 117-101. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore is ejected after being called for a technical foul on Los Angeles Clippers guard J.J. Redick, as Clippers' Jamal Crawford, rear left, looks on during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Saturday, April 12, 2014. The Clippers won 117-101. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

If you heard a former Jayhawk earned an ejection after shoving an opponent who was defending him, who would you bet on as the culprit?

One of the Morris twins? Thomas Robinson? Mario Chalmers? Pierce?

Well, it happened on Saturday, and the answer was none of the above.

The typically smiling face of Sacramento rookie Ben McLemore showed a scowl in Los Angeles when he didn't like the way the Clippers' J.J. Redick defended him coming off a screen.

McLemore earned a technical foul for losing his temper, and it was actually his second of the game, so he was tossed after scoring 14 points in 32 minutes.

Prior to Saturday, McLemore hadn't even been whistled for a "T," let alone been ejected from a game.

It turns out Sacramento wasn't too pleased with the technicals. And the organization's frustrations weren't directed at its rookie shooting guard. McLemore's superiors thought both technicals were undeserved. Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee reported the Kings are appealing the "T's" with the league office.

In fact, coach Michael Malone said the Kings couldn't believe one of their quietest players earned an ejection.

“That’s not who Ben is, and that wasn’t his intent.”


'Hawks in the NBA standings

Dallas Mavericks guard Monta Ellis (11) drives to the basket between Phoenix Suns forwards Markieff Morris (11) and Channing Frye (8) during the second half of an NBA basketball game on Saturday, April 12, 2014, in Dallas. The Mavericks won 101-98. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Dallas Mavericks guard Monta Ellis (11) drives to the basket between Phoenix Suns forwards Markieff Morris (11) and Channing Frye (8) during the second half of an NBA basketball game on Saturday, April 12, 2014, in Dallas. The Mavericks won 101-98. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Phoenix — home of former Kansas standouts Markieff and Marcus Morris — entered Friday in the No. 7 slot in the Western Conference playoff race, as one of four teams jockeying for the final three available postseason spots.

But back-to-back losses at San Antonio and Dallas (the Mavericks were one of the four teams vying for the last available playoff spots) has Phoenix in a bit of a predicament with just two games left in the regular season.

Golden State and Dallas now have secured their tickets to the postseason, leaving the Suns (47-33) and Memphis (48-32) as the last two fighting for the final spot.

Phoenix hosts the Grizzlies Monday night, but a head-to-head victory alone won't assure the Suns of anything — as detailed by Paul Coro for azcentral.com.

Phoenix must beat Memphis and win at Sacramento in the regular-season finale Wednesday. Plus, the Grizzlies must lose at Dallas on Wednesday. That's the only scenario in which the Suns, whom no one expected to be in this position before the season, will advance to the playoffs.

Said Markieff:

"The season isn't over yet. We don't have any choice but to keep hope."

This is subject to change, with three days worth of games to be played, but here's what the matchups would look like if the playoffs began today, instead of this weekend.

None by NBA.com

Only three 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 (58-22)

  • Currently No. 2 seed in West

  • Clinched Northwest Division title/playoff berth

No. 2 — Mario Chalmers/Miami (54-26)

  • Currently No. 2 seed in East

  • Clinched Southeast Division title/playoff berth

No. 3 — Thomas Robinson/Portland (53-28)

  • Currently No. 5 seed in West

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 4 — Kirk Hinrich/Chicago (47-33)

  • Currently No. 4 seed in East

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 5 — Markieff Morris & Marcus Morris/Phoenix (47-33)

  • Currently No. 9 in West, one game back of Memphis

No. 6 — Paul Pierce/Brooklyn (44-36)

  • Currently No. 5 seed in East

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 7 — Drew Gooden/Washington (42-38)

  • Currently No. 6 seed in East

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 8 — Darrell Arthur/Denver (36-44)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 9 — Cole Aldrich/New York (35-45)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in East

No. 10 — Jeff Withey/New Orleans (32-48)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 11 — Ben McLemore/Sacramento (28-53)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 12 — Xavier Henry/L.A. Lakers (25-55)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 13 — Brandon Rush/Utah (24-56)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

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

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Collison’s decade of dirty work makes him indispensable in OKC

All the NBA talk around Lawrence the past few days has centered on Kansas University freshmen and their decisions — Andrew Wiggins is officially entering the draft, and everyone is waiting to hear if Joel Embiid will do the same.

This time next year, we might be debating whether Wiggins or Embiid deserve to win the NBA's Rookie of the Year.

But for now, with the 2013-14 NBA season winding down, we'll check in with a couple of veterans and a current rookie.


Mr. Reliable

Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol fights for a loose ball against Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Nick Collison during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, March 9, 2014. The Lakers won 114-110. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol fights for a loose ball against Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Nick Collison during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, March 9, 2014. The Lakers won 114-110. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

When your career averages are 6.6 points and 5.7 rebounds, you have to be doing something right to stick around in the NBA for a decade.

For 10th-year power forward Nick Collison — selected 12th overall by the Seattle Supersonics in the loaded 2003 draft —becoming the ultimate role player enticed the franchise that picked him (Seattle relocated to Oklahoma City and changed its name to the Thunder following the 2007-08 season) to keep him around.

As Darnell Mayberry points out in his profile on Collison for The Oklahoman, the veteran out of Kansas is one of those rare NBA players who have spent the past 10 seasons with the same franchise.

FYI, some of those other names are: Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade.

Collison told Mayberry:

“I know it’s really rare for somebody to be able to stick that long. And now, to be successful at the end part of it, too, to build up to being a really good team at the end, that’s how I would want it to go.”

The reliable backup big man averages just 4.2 points and 3.7 rebounds in 17.0 minutes a game for OKC (54-19), but general manager Sam Presti calls him a "founding member" of the Thunder, along with superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

“He represents the type of player that we want to ultimately have our organization embody,” Presti told Mayberry.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGS-0iCOxfo

Between charges, screens, hustle plays, easy second-chance buckets, and defensive stops, you can see why the Thunder have kept Collison around.

And why he has become a fan favorite. Here's what Collison said to Mayberry on that subject:

“I feel like they really appreciate what I do, and I know that’s rare for a player like me. A role player like me who averages four (points) and four (rebounds) or whatever it is, no one really thinks twice about him. But I know that I have kind of a special place here. So I really appreciate that.”

The Thunder currently hold the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference and are one of the favorites to win the 2014 NBA title.


Finishing strong

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (16) shoots between Oklahoma City Thunder guard Derek Fisher (6) and guard Jeremy Lamb (11) during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Friday, March 28, 2014. Oklahoma City won 94-81. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (16) shoots between Oklahoma City Thunder guard Derek Fisher (6) and guard Jeremy Lamb (11) during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Friday, March 28, 2014. Oklahoma City won 94-81. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

It would be a stretch to say Ben McLemore's rookie season in Sacramento has been a complete success.

Even though the Kings have shown their commitment to the young guard, he hasn't separated himself as one of the league's very best first-year players.

Still, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee wrote that the youngster out of Kansas is settling in to his position as the Kings' starting shooting guard.

Sacramento spent the opening months of the season bringing the rookie along slowly, but McLemore told Jones his confidence began to grow after the franchise dealt starter Marcus Thornton, opening a spot in the starting rotation for the former Jayhawk.

“It’s an opportunity for me. Why not take it? That’s what I did, and I just want to keep doing that. I’m not finished. I just want to keep working and finish this season out strong and in the offseason work on my weaknesses.”

The best news for McLemore and Sacramento? He is starting to take his game to another level in the closing weeks of the season.

In his previous 10 games, the rook with huge upside averaged 11.8 points, while hitting 40.9% of his shots and 33.3% of his 3-pointers. Those numbers get even better in his past five outings: 14.6 points, 41.3% field goals and 42.9% 3-pointers. Compare those numbers to his season averages of 8.2 points, 37.3% shooting and 32% from 3-point range.

Monday night at New Orleans, McLemore scored 14 points and grabbed five rebounds (he has only averaged 2.8 boards on the year).

In Jones' feature on the developing shooting guard, Kings coach Michael Malone said McLemore knows these late-season games with Sacramento (26-48) are his chance to shine.

“He’s just kind of relaxing, stopped putting so much pressure on himself where he feels he has to make every shot, and he’s just going out there and playing,. And he’s taking the shot and shooting it with great confidence.”


Hungry for minutes?

Utah Jazz guard Brandon Rush (25) shoots against San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 109-105. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

Utah Jazz guard Brandon Rush (25) shoots against San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 109-105. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

When you're an NBA veteran at the end of a team's bench, often picking up the dreaded DNP in the box score, it has to get under your skin.

Utah shooting guard Brandon Rush is living out that reality. He has played in 38 games, and averaged a minuscule 2.1 points and 1.2 rebounds in 11.0 minutes a game — far below his career averages of 8.3 points and 3.3 rebounds in 24.9 minutes.

So Rush will have to forgive Desert News reporter Jody Genessy if he truly misinterpreted this tweet from the sixth-year pro following another DNP against Memphis last week.

None by Brandon Rush

Genessy asked Rush about the meaning of his four-word declaration a few days later. Rush told the reporter he was communicating with a cousin in that particular message.

But Rush admitted to Genessy that this season with Utah (23-52) has been "a little frustrating."

“It’s been up and down. It’s not what I expected. But I just fight through it and continue to try to get better, try to get this knee right for summertime. It happens.”

As noted by Genessy, Rush missed basically all of 2012-13 due to an ACL injury.

He'll be a free agent at the end of this season. And you don't have to read into Rush's tweets to figure out he won't be in Utah's training camp next fall.


'Hawks in the NBA standings

Only a couple of weeks remain in the regular season, so here's a look at where all of the NBA's Jayhawks stand in the hunt for the playoffs.

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

No. 1 — Nick Collison/Oklahoma City (54-19)

  • Currently No. 2 seed in West

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 2 — Mario Chalmers/Miami (51-22)

  • Currently No. 1 seed in East

  • Clinched Southeast Division title/playoff berth

No. 3 — Thomas Robinson/Portland (48-27)

  • Currently No. 5 seed in West

No. 4 — Markieff Morris & Marcus Morris/Phoenix (44-30)

  • Currently 9th in West, with the same record as No. 8 Memphis

No. 5 — Kirk Hinrich/Chicago (42-32)

  • Currently No. 4 seed in East

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 6 — Paul Pierce/Brooklyn (39-33)

  • Currently No. 5 seed in East

No. 7 — Drew Gooden/Washington (38-36)

  • Currently No. 6 seed in East

No. 8 — Darrell Arthur/Denver (32-42)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 9 — Jeff Withey/New Orleans (32-42)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 10 — Cole Aldrich/New York (32-43)

  • Currently 9th in East, 1 game back of No. 8 Atlanta

No. 11 — Ben McLemore/Sacramento (26-48)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 12 — Xavier Henry/L.A. Lakers (25-48)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 13 — Brandon Rush/Utah (23-52)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

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

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