By all accounts, Sacramento rookie guard Ben McLemore is doing all he can to become a better NBA player.
Earlier this week, the Sacramento Bee's Jason Jones had a story on that very subject. Even on days off — when players have the freedom to do whatever they please — McLemore hits the weights and works on his game.
McLemore spoke with Jones about some of the aspects of his game that he tries to address:
“I was telling coach (Chris) Jent and coach Dee (Brown) the things we’ve been working on I’ve been perfecting out there on the court,” McLemore said. “I’m more comfortable dribbling the ball, coming off screens and handling it and creating shots for myself. I’m definitely comfortable and I want to continue to grow.”
He put some of those skills to use earlier this week, on his way to 18 points against Denver.
Despite his development, McLemore wasn't one of the nine NBA rookies chosen to participate in the Rising Stars Challenge, a showcase game for first- and second-year players at the NBA's upcoming All-Star Weekend, in New Orleans.
McLemore averages 7.9 points and 2.8 rebounds through 45 games this season for the Kings. He's shooting 36.8 percent from the floor. Below is his shot chart. (Red is below the NBA average for that area of the floor, yellow is about average and green is above average.)
Here's the weird thing about McLemore's omission: he is fifth among NBA rookies in scoring. The only first-year players averaging more than the Sacramento shooting guard are Philadelphia's Michael Carter-Williams, Orlando's Victor Oladipo, Utah's Trey Burke and New York's Tim Hardaway Jr. All five of them made the cut. (Go to BleacherReport.com for a full list of Rising Stars Challenge participants.)
Surely, McLemore must be disappointed about the snub. But the rook seems wise beyond his years in his response to the selections.
Taylor signs on with D-League's Red Claws
Cut by the New Orleans Pelicans last week, Tyshawn Taylor has a new home.
It's just not in the NBA. The D-League's Maine Red Claws announced Thursday they signed the guard out of Kansas and he's expected to join the team on Sunday.
The Red Claws are an affiliate of the Boston Celtics.
Whether Taylor proves himself worthy of a spot in the NBA in the next couple of months — with Boston or another team — remains to be seen. We'll find out in the weeks to come how he responds to a new situation — and one he likely didn't anticipate being in at this point of the season.
Arthur returns to Nuggets lineup
The man known around KU basketball as "Shady" got back on the floor this week for Denver. Darrell Arthur had missed seven games with a strained hip, and played for the first time since Jan. 11 on Wednesday against Charlotte.
Arthur played 17 minutes in his typical role, off the bench, and surpassed his season average (5.7 a game) with seven points for Denver.
The 6-foot-9 forward even buried a three-pointer in the final minute to get the Nuggets within a point, but the Bobcats went on to win.
Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.
It's been a rough couple of days in The Association for the Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris.
First, the typically versatile big man went scoreless in a Saturday loss at Detroit.
Then on Monday at Madison Square Garden, Markieff got tossed from the Suns' game against the New York Knicks after earning his second technical foul in the second quarter.
As reported by Andrew Gilstrap at ArizonaSports.com, the first "T" came early in the second, when Kieff objected to a traveling call.
A few minutes later, after Kieff drew a foul on JR Smith while going up for a dunk attempt, he didn't like the way Smith invaded his personal space and threw Smith's arm off of him.
In case you're counting — by the way, the NBA is, because the league suspends players once they reach 16 technical fouls in a season — Markieff is halfway there, with eight.
If he keeps it up, Markieff might catch up with league leader DeMarcis Cousins, of Sacramento. Kieff's eight "T's" currently tie him for second in the NBA with the Los Angeles Clippers' Blake Griffin. Cousins leads the way with 10.
Hey, not every former Jayhawk had a lousy Monday night. Well … actually no one was that great, either.
But, hey! Kirk Hinrich made SportCenter's Top 10. Now, given that Hinrich plays basketball and Top-10 plays usually involve monster throw-downs, you can probably guess Hinrich did something else to earn some extra TV time. I mean, it's not like Chicago Bulls fans are calling him Air Hinrich, or anything close to that.
The always heady point guard improvised on the fly against Washington, realizing mid-air, upon receiving a pass, that his best move was to keep the ball moving to an open shooter, Jimmy Butler. To add a little flair, Hinrich threw the pass behind his back.
Check it out:
McLemore looks to succeed in bench role
Sacramento rookie Ben McLemore recently learned playing time is far from a guarantee in the NBA. After starting 26 games for the Kings, coach Michael Malone decided to move the high-flying rookie to the bench following a slump.
Jonathan Santiago, at the Cowbell Kingdom blog, offers some insightful quotes on the situation.
“I think he’s pretty confident,” Malone said (last) week of McLemore. “But when you put maybe five to six games together where you’re not getting many looks, your shot’s not going in and then you’re playing against some of the two guards out here in the west and in the NBA as a whole, it’s a handful every night."
The Cowbell Kingdom piece also provided McLemore's take on adjusting to playing as a reserve.
“Same mentality,” McLemore said. “Just going out there, giving my all, doing whatever coach wants me to do offensively and defensively and just going out there and do some things to help my teammates and help the team win the game.”
Skip ahead to about the 0:15 mark of the below clip to see McLemore take out whatever frustrations he has with the situation on the rim.
In his last 10 games, McLemore has reached double figures just once, scoring 13 points on New Year's Eve against Houston.
Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports Mario Chalmers, who has missed three games with Achilles tendinitis, should be back in the Miami Heat's lineup tonight at Washington
L.A. Times Lakers beat writer Mike Bresnahan provided an update on Xavier Henry:
Xavier Henry had knee soreness today after yesterday's on-court workouts + will downgrade to non-weightbearing exercises for several days.— Mike Bresnahan (@Mike_Bresnahan) January 13, 2014
- The Denver Post's Christopher Dempsey wrote that the Nuggets left for a brief road trip without Kansas product Darrell Arthur, who injured his groin on Saturday night.
Keep up with the statistical output of all the former Jayhawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.
Through the first 31 games of his NBA career, Sacramento’s Ben McLemore has made a name for himself with highlight-reel dunks.
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."
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 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
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:
Denver’s Darrell Arthur returned reinvigorated from a two-game injury absence, Monday against Miami:
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:
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:
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.
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.
Kirk Hinrich’s been called many things during his 11-year NBA career.
Point guard. Shooting guard. Rookie. Veteran. Bull. Hawk. Wizard. Bull, again. Defender. Marksman. Glue Guy. Floor General. Troublemaker.
Oh, don’t give us that look, Kirk.
Hinrich may not be a brawler, but lest we forget, the Chicago Bulls’ goggles-wearing guard can be an irritant. And that mean streak tends to come out against the Miami Heat.
Take it away, 2007 Pat Riley:
"Just like the Chicago Bulls whine about Dwyane (Wade) always getting too many free throws, a great defender like Kirk Hinrich gets away with everything," he said. "And that's why he's a great defender. He's that way all the time. He's into you. He never stops. He's relentless.
"You develop a reputation as a technique defender, a physical defender. He has earned the right to probably get away with a lot of things.
Whatever the reason, Captain Kirk happens to find himself in quite a few “dust-ups,” like Thursday’s tiff with Miami’s Norris Cole.
The refs gave Kirk a technical for the exchange, and Kirk gave the world a GIFable reaction.
We give you a walk down memory lane:
King Arthur’s Court
Denver’s Darrell Arthur has been living in the mid-range area (10 to 24 feet) this season.
Sure, Arthur’s had a reputation for the mid-range shot since his days at Kansas. And since he’s been in the league, with Memphis, the majority of his shots have come from that distance.
So what makes this season different, other than trading his Grizzlies gear for a Nuggets jersey? It’s not his minutes played (17.7 per game; 18.2 career average) and it’s not his number of shot attempts (5.7 per game; 6.3 career average).
The big difference is that, in the 18 games of 2013-14, Arthur’s taken more than three-fourths of his total shots from mid-range. That’s a HUGE leap.
Take a look: (mid-range shot attempts/total shots attempted)
13-14: 76% (78/103)
12-13: 54% (194/359)
10-11: 50% (313/624)
09-10: 36% (52/146)
08-09: 42% (184/436)
None of those numbers would mean much if he weren’t making the shots. But he is.
Let's bring in a new set of stats. This time, field goal percentage for mid-range shots (makes/attempts in parentheses).
13-14: 51% (40/78)
12-13: 45.4% (88/194)
10-11: 41.2% (129/313)
09-10: 38.5% (20/52)
08-09: 38.0% (70/184)
Put those numbers together, and Arthur’s scored 73.4 percent of his points from mid-range, way up from 48.6% last season, 35.4% before that, and 28.0% before that (He had 33.2 percent of his points from mid-range his rookie year).
Now that we’ve established Arthur’s mid-range mastery, the only questions are:
- Can he keep it up?
- Should he?
DenverStiffs.com asked the second question, and if you’re at all interested in the nitty-gritty mid-range vs. three-pointer debate, check out their thread.
(Big thanks to NBA.com/stats and Chrome’s address bar/calculator for the numbers)
Not rushing back
On Wednesday, Utah’s Brandon Rush scored his first NBA basket in 399 days.
It was his only shot of the game and brings his total to four points in three games this season. Nevertheless, an important milestone for Rush as he works his way back from his second ACL tear in five years.
Rush recently spoke to the Deseret News about where he’s at, mentally and physically:
“What I want to get done first,” Rush said, “is being able to wake up and not think about the game situation, not being nervous and stuff like that.”
“The first time I did it when I was in college, it took me 5 1/2 months to get back. I wasn’t out of the game that long,” Rush explained. “This time, I had that route where I couldn’t have surgery for two months. It took a toll on the muscles in my quad.
“This has just been complicated,” he added. “I have been out a whole complete year. That takes anybody’s confidence away.”
Starting to look bad
Tyshawn Taylor tallied a career-high 16 points and 12 assists off the bench for the Brooklyn Nets on Nov. 29. In the week since, Taylor started all three games (filling in for Deron Williams and his injured ankle) but averaged just 7.3 points, 31 percent shooting, 1.3 assists and 2.3 turnovers in 27 minutes a game.
It hasn’t been pretty.
In Taylor’s defense, it’s not an enviable spot to be in — big media market, big payroll, big expectations but a lowly 5-14 record. Add to the mix a second-year player with limited in-game experience, and …
As Tyshawn Taylor barks out defensive instructions, Nate Robinson goes backdoor on him for an alley-oop layup. God this season.— devin kharpertian (@uuords) December 4, 2013
At least he’s trying.
Nets have given up. It's 55-34 in 2nd quarter Tyshawn Taylor is the only player talking in the huddle. Everyone else looking at cheerleaders— Stefan Bondy (@NYDNInterNets) November 30, 2013
Speaking of point guards ...
The Los Angeles Lakers have turned to Xavier Henry for help at point guard, according to practice reports from this week. With Steve Nash and Jordan Farmar injured and Steve Blake starting, Henry will be pressed into service as the backup point guard (or backup-backup-backup?). Henry briefly played the position Sunday during his 27-point explosion against Portland.
On Ben McLemore, via the Sacramento Bee:
“When you have talent like he has, and a work ethic like he does, you are going to succeed,” said Kings adviser and Hall of Famer Chris Mullin. “I love the way he runs the floor. He’s fluid. He’s got beautiful form (on his jumper). He’s got to become more consistent, but if we start finding him out on the break more, he’ll get layups and free throws, and not have to rely on the 3-point shot. The quality of the shots will get better.”
Nick Collison, on trying to win more jump balls, via DailyThunder.com:
“It’s not a huge deal,” Collison said, “but you know what it is, it’s good to be at a place as a team where you’re worried about that stuff.”
Don’t forget to keep tabs on all your favorite ‘Hawks in the NBA with KUsports.com’s daily stat recaps.
As long as Kobe Bryant is out for the Los Angeles Lakers and they're missing other key pieces, Xavier Henry will have the stage to prove he belongs in the NBA.
Some nights he looks like a great piece for a team hoping to contend in the West, and other nights his production is that of a scrub.
But Sunday night against Portland, the on-again, off-again Henry showed out. In 29 minutes off the bench, the 6-foot-6 swingman hit nine of his 12 shots, including two of four from three-point range, for 27 points, a career high.
Serving momentarily as the backup point guard for the 9-9 Lakers, Henry finished with one assist in a role that's clearly new to him. The Lakers Nation youtube channel provides us Henry's thoughts on his career night and playing point guard for L.A. while Jordan Farmar is out
Henry even converted a four-point play versus Portland. But, as ESPN Los Angeles reporter Dave McMenamin points out, it was just another example of the ups and downs of Henry's season:
Xavier Henry's 4-pt play gives him 26 pts on the night. He has 3 games with 20-plus this season and 6 games with 3 pts or less. Go figure— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) December 2, 2013
The AP's Greg Beacham was in the locker room for postgame interviews, too, and tweeted this comment from Henry after the Blazers win.
Xavier Henry: "We have guys down right now, but the guys we do have can still give any team a run for the money."— Greg Beacham (@gregbeacham) December 2, 2013
Mining for minutes, production
Darrell Arthur (remember him? He's in the NBA, ya know.) scored 14 points (a season-best) off the bench in Denver's 112-98 road win at Toronto, helping the Nuggets improve to 10-6 in the loaded Western Conference.
#Nuggets F Darrell Arthur: "We have a tag team mentality which is first team wear them down and second team wear them out"— Denver Nuggets (@denvernuggets) December 1, 2013
And now for the portion of the blog in which we marvel at a Ben McLemore slam.
The Kings rookie/walking highlight reel has to compete in the dunk contest at All-Star weekend, right? Well, the rookie guard talked about that very subject, as presented in the comments thread here at Sactown Royalty.
McLemore on the Dunk Contest: “I think I have a shot. I’m trying to see if I can have the opportunity to make it, you know, that would be great. I just got to keep showing things to get entered into it.”
On what he is trying to do to get into it: “Get a couple of posters here and there, that’s about it. Everybody in the NBA knows I’m athletic, but I don’t know, we’ll see.”
On what type of dunks he may do: “I have some crazy dunks, as you can see my signature dunk is the reverse, you know, behind the back.”
Don’t forget to keep tabs on all your favorite ‘Hawks in the NBA with KUsports.com's daily stat recaps.
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.
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.
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)
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 ...
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.”
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.
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:
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’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)
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!"
Don’t forget to keep tabs on all your favorite ‘Hawks in the NBA with KUsports.com’s daily stat recaps.