Posts tagged with Kansas Basketball

Seven Jayhawks hitting NBA free agency at perfect time

Los Angeles Clippers center Cole Aldrich (45) blocks a shot by New York Knicks forward Derrick Williams (23) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Friday, March 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

Los Angeles Clippers center Cole Aldrich (45) blocks a shot by New York Knicks forward Derrick Williams (23) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Friday, March 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)

There never has been a better time to be an NBA free agent.

The league’s salary cap is jumping approximately $24 million dollars this summer, meaning all 30 teams will have room to sign available players to what most expect to be eye-popping and/or head-scratching contracts.

The hysteria officially begins at midnight Thursday for the big names such as Kevin Durant and Al Horford, as well as the league’s role players.

Even though the seven former Kansas players available won’t garner maximum contracts, all of them figure to be on the verge of signing the most lucrative deals of their careers.

Here’s a look at what’s ahead for those Jayhawks — other than constantly listening to Drake and Future’s “Big Rings” while rapping along, “What a time to be alive.”

Cole Aldrich

Age: 27 | Position: Center | Most recent team: L.A. Clippers | Seasons played: Six | 2015-16 key stats: 5.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.1 blocks, 59.6% FGs, 13.3 minutes

After playing fewer than 400 total minutes in each of his first four seasons, Cole Aldrich began to carve out a niche for himself as a serviceable backup big man during the past couple of years.

“It just takes an opportunity, and my opportunity took four or five years in,” Aldrich said a few weeks back, while visiting Lawrence. “You get the right opportunity, and for me it was just continue to do what I do, and that was find a way to get better.”

Aldrich played so well in a reserve role for the Los Angeles Clippers this past season, in fact, that he thinks he’s entering the prime of his career, setting up a rather easy decision to opt out of the second year of his contract.

“You kind of look at the situation, and I had to take some time, and you think about what it is,” Aldrich said of leaving $1.2 million on the table to become a free agent, adding he knew the Clippers might have some cap space available to set up a return to L.A.

He is right about that. The Clippers have a little wiggle room thanks to the salary cap jump. But they don’t have as much room to operate as most teams, because more than $63 million of the franchise’s money is tied up in its big three of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.

Should the Clippers keep all of their core in place and successfully bring in a role-playing free agent of note, they might have to part ways with the 6-foot-11 Aldrich if other teams are willing to reward him with a bigger contract. Aldrich played well enough in his one season with Los Angeles to prove he can rebound, defend the paint and finish, setting him up to fit in with any team in need of a second-unit center who eats up space.

L.A. even appears to have a safety net of sorts in place in case it can’t keep Aldrich, by drafting Maryland center Diamond Stone in the second round.

According to L.A. Times reporter Brad Turner the Clippers are interested in bringing Aldrich back, and Orlando and Phoenix have expressed interest, too.

None by Brad Turner

The way Aldrich talked, it sounded like he might prefer to stay with the Clippers. But the NBA is a business, so there is no guarantee it will play out in that fashion.

— PODCAST: Reborn Cole Aldrich leads NBA free agency push for 7 Jayhawks

Darrell Arthur

Denver Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur, left, looks to pass the ball as Phoenix Suns forward Mirza Teletovic, of Bosnia, defends in the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 10, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Denver Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur, left, looks to pass the ball as Phoenix Suns forward Mirza Teletovic, of Bosnia, defends in the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 10, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Age: 28 | Position: Power forward and small forward | Most recent team: Denver | Seasons played: Seven | 2015-16 key stats: 7.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 45.2% FGs, 38.5% 3’s, 21.7 minutes

A steady veteran forward who does what coaches ask of him and has added some 3-point shooting to his repertoire, Darrell Arthur, like Aldrich, opted out of the second year of his deal.

Moving on from Denver could be a course of action for the 6-foot-9 forward, who has only played for Memphis and the Nuggets since leaving Kansas early as a national champion.

Denver has plenty of cap space to re-sign Arthur if it wants. But if Arthur desires an increased role and a change of scenery, he could leave behind a crowded Nuggets frontcourt that includes Danilo Gallinari, Kenneth Faried, Wilson Chandler, Jusuf Nurkic and Nikola Jokic.

Arthur’s reputation will keep him employed in the NBA. Where that happens is up to him. As reported earlier this week, Washington is interested in him as a backup to fellow former KU forward Markieff Morris.

Tarik Black

Los Angeles Lakers center Tarik Black, left, blocks the shot of Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Lakers center Tarik Black, left, blocks the shot of Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Age: 24 | Position: Center | Most recent team: L.A. Lakers | Seasons played: Two | 2015-16 key stats: 3.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 54.8% FGs, 12.7 minutes

Tarik Black serves as a nice reminder to recent KU draft snubs Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden Jr. and Brannen Greene that entering the league as an undrafted free agent can work out in the long run.

The 6-foot-9 post player proved in two years ago in summer league Houston should keep him around. Even when the Rockets waived him during his rookie season in order to go after a veteran, the Los Angeles Lakers quickly claimed him and added Black to their inexperienced core.

However, the fact that L.A. only played Black 12.7 minutes a game during the 2015-16 season makes one wonder how interested the organization is in bringing him back. If the Lakers are married to the idea of keeping him around, they can match any other team’s offer, because Black is a restricted free agent (unlike the rest of the former KU players on this list).

The good news for Black is the Lakers have just two post players under contract for next year: Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr. If the once dominant franchise whiffs in free agency on more established big men, re-signing a hard-working, familiar face might appeal. Conversely, should L.A. spend an absurd amount of money on more alluring names, the team might need to bring back Black on an affordable contract to complete the roster.

The real question is: Do other teams value Black as a potential big man?

Mario Chalmers

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mario Chalmers (6) is helped from the court after injuring his right leg during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics in Boston, Wednesday, March 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mario Chalmers (6) is helped from the court after injuring his right leg during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics in Boston, Wednesday, March 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Age: 30 | Position: Guard | Most recent team: Memphis | Seasons played: Eight | 2015-16 key stats: 10.3 points, 3.8 assists, 1.4 steals, 2.6 rebounds, 41% FGs, 30.9% 3’s, 22.5 minutes

Had Mario Chalmers made it through his eighth NBA season unscathed, he would be the most attractive KU free agent this summer by far. And even while recovering from a ruptured right Achilles tendon, Chalmers could still draw the most interest.

Teams will want to take their time and have their medical staffs make sure vitality still exists in the 6-foot-2 veteran’s knee before OK-ing a deal for Chalmers, but the way he played in Memphis prior to the injury setback will keep him as an intriguing choice for organizations in need of a backup guard who can shoot and distribute.

In his 55 games for the Grizzlies, following a trade from Miami, Chalmers thrived as a sixth man coming off the bench to put up points. Throw in his defensive ability and championship experience while playing with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, and you quickly realize how coveted Chalmers would be to a playoff team in search of backcourt assistance.

Chalmers recently said in an interview he is two weeks ahead of schedule with his knee rehab, and the hope is he would be back at 100 percent before the regular season begins.

Kirk Hinrich

Atlanta Hawks guard Kirk Hinrich (12) is helped up after taking a charge against the Denver Nuggets during an NBA basketball game, Thursday, March 17, 2016, in Atlanta. Atlanta won 116-98.(AP Photo/John Amis)

Atlanta Hawks guard Kirk Hinrich (12) is helped up after taking a charge against the Denver Nuggets during an NBA basketball game, Thursday, March 17, 2016, in Atlanta. Atlanta won 116-98.(AP Photo/John Amis)

Age: 35 | Position: Guard | Most recent team: Atlanta | Seasons played: 13 | 2015-16 key stats: 3.0 points, 1.5 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 38% FGs, 38.7% 3’s, 13.7 minutes

As Hinrich began to find out early this past season with Chicago, there simply isn’t much demand for the veteran guard anymore, in terms of minutes. That notion later became reenforced for Hinrich upon arriving via trade in Atlanta.

The longtime Bull only appeared in 11 of a possible 26 games with the Hawks to close the regular season, averaging a paltry 0.5 points, 1.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 6.9 minutes.

Those numbers make one wonder about Hinrich’s future in the league. But there will be roster spots to fill in the months ahead for a number of teams. Though 35 and nearly done as an on-court contributor, some organization might find value in having him around the locker room to guide young players and almost serve as a player/assistant coach.

Former Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau seemed to love Hinrich in Chicago. Could they join up again in Minnesota, with Hinrich helping to bring along youngsters Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Andrew Wiggins?

Thomas Robinson

Brooklyn Nets forward Thomas Robinson (41) dunks the ball in front of Orlando Magic center Dewayne Dedmon (3) and guard Victor Oladipo (5) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Orlando, Fla., Tuesday, March 29, 2016. The Magic won 139-105. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Brooklyn Nets forward Thomas Robinson (41) dunks the ball in front of Orlando Magic center Dewayne Dedmon (3) and guard Victor Oladipo (5) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Orlando, Fla., Tuesday, March 29, 2016. The Magic won 139-105. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Age: 25 | Position: Power forward | Most recent team: Brooklyn | Seasons played: Four | 2015-16 key stats: 4.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 44.7% FGs in 12.9 minutes

The No. 5 overall pick in the 2012 draft, Thomas Robinson still hasn’t made his mark in the NBA. A star at KU, Robinson has turned into a nomad backup power forward. So far, the explosive, 6-foot-10 big has played for Sacramento, Houston, Portland, Philadelphia and Brooklyn.

In all likelihood, Robinson will add a sixth team to that list this summer, after opting out of his contract with the Nets. At 25, one would assume his best years in the league are still ahead of him. And Robinson does bring a valuable skill to the floor, to go with his athleticism and energy. The guy competes on the glass.

Robinson didn’t log enough minutes with Brooklyn to qualify as a league leader in such categories, but his defensive and offensive rebound percentages are up there with the best bigs on the planet. He grabbed 27.8% of available defensive boards this past season, which would have ranked him 10th in the NBA had he played more. Even better, Robinson secured 16.4% of possible offensive boards. Oklahoma City’s Enes Kanter led the league in that category, at 16.7%.

It seems any team in need of a high-energy rebounder would have to consider Robinson.

Brandon Rush

Golden State Warriors' Brandon Rush, right, shoots over Minnesota Timberwolves' Tyus Jones (1) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Golden State Warriors' Brandon Rush, right, shoots over Minnesota Timberwolves' Tyus Jones (1) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

Age: 30 | Position: Shooting guard and small forward | Most recent team: Golden State | Seasons played: Eight | 2015-16 key stats: 4.2 points, 2.5 rebounds, 42.7% FGs, 41.4% 3’s, 14.7 minutes

Back-to-back NBA Finals appearances, a championship ring and a role on the record-breaking 73-win Warriors. Life has been pretty good for Brandon Rush the past couple of years.

Now Rush’s contract is up, and the free agency hullabaloo in the days ahead could determine his place going forward with the defending Western Conference champs. Golden State values defensive versatility and Rush definitely gives the team that as a backup. But if the Warriors return all of their core perimeter players — Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Shawn Livingston and Harrison Barnes — would they really need Rush?

Rush proved this season, while starting 25 games, he can fill in and mesh well. In December, Rush averaged a season-high 20.3 minutes and put up 5.5 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists while knocking down 40.5% of his 3-point attempts.

By no means is he a game-changer, but he isn’t going to shoot your team in the foot, either. Whether it’s with the Warriors or another franchise, Rush figures to find a spot as a veteran role player.


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


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Valuable role player Darrell Arthur might be on move in free agency

Denver Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur, right, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers center Roy Hibbert defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 25, 2016, in Los Angeles. AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Denver Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur, right, shoots as Los Angeles Lakers center Roy Hibbert defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, March 25, 2016, in Los Angeles. AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

It’s not often that the name Darrell Arthur comes up in the buzz surrounding the NBA, but with the season over, the draft complete and free agency revving up at the end of the week, rumors regarding Arthur’s future began swirling Monday.

A few days after reports of the former Kansas forward opting out of the second year of his contract with Denver in order to hit the open market, word out of the nation’s capital is Washington could be a destination for the 6-foot-9 veteran who won a national championship with KU in 2008.

According to a report from CSNAtlantic.com, Arthur is on a “short list” of targets for the Wizards, when teams can start negotiating with free agents on July 1.

Arthur averaged 7.5 points and 4.2 rebounds in 21.7 minutes a game — mostly as a reserve — this past season with the Nuggets, during his third year with the franchise. While his numbers don’t blow you away, Arthur is respected around the league for his work ethic and ability to defend pick-and-roll action as a 6-foot-9 frontcourt player.

What’s more, Arthur hit a career-high 38.5% of his 3-pointers during his seventh season in the league, making 45 shots from downtown, easily beating his previous season-best of 26 3-pointers.

Besides his valuable skills, which likely on their own merit could’ve earned him more than the $2.9 million he just left on the table for next season, the NBA salary cap is rising significantly this summer. Any player in his right mind would opt out of his contract now if he could, because pay raises will be readily available.

If Arthur were to reach a deal with the Wizards, he’d likely serve as a backup at power forward to another Jayhawk, Markieff Morris.

Plus, Washington would probably become a new favorite NBA team for Kansas fans, with four former KU players on the roster: Arthur, Morris, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Drew Gooden.

Of course, it might not work out that way. Most teams looking for a backup power forward, likely would have interest in a 4 who can stretch the floor and move his feet well while defending — inside and out — in the half court.

Arthur’s name certainly won’t be the biggest one on the market this summer, but he is an important role player to watch amid the free agency frenzy.


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


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Joel Embiid: ‘I wasn’t good at all’ before playing at Kansas

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid of Cameroon (21) reacts prior to the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Monday, Feb. 8, 2016, in Philadelphia. The Clippers won 98-92 in overtime. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid of Cameroon (21) reacts prior to the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Monday, Feb. 8, 2016, in Philadelphia. The Clippers won 98-92 in overtime. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

The most interesting man in the NBA is back — at least in interview form.

Joel Embiid, who still hasn’t spoken with Philadelphia media since the 76ers drafted him nearly two years ago, at least got to gab recently with VICE Sports, which published the one-on-one Q&A Tuesday.

As Embiid rode around The City of Brotherly Love discussing his journey from Cameroon, to Kansas, to the NBA, the gregarious big man more known for two seasons worth of foot injuries keeping him off the court proved as entertaining in conversation as he is with a basketball in his hands.

Though, as the 7-foot-2 center explained, he didn’t immediately excel at the sport when he first picked it up, as a youngster in Africa.

“I wasn’t good at all. I used to suck. I used to be ---," a grinning Embiid shared. “My teammates were laughing at me, because I can’t even pass the ball. It was really tough. When I first started playing ball, it was hard. So I came a long way.”

During the discussion, the 22-year-old who played high school basketball in Florida revealed his one season at KU and the influence of coach Bill Self and his staff molded him into a much more effective interior force. According to Embiid, his confidence began to grow as a prep, during his recruitment.

“The Kansas coaches, coach Norm Roberts and coach Self, they came to watch me. Coach Self was like quiet the whole practice and coach Roberts was like worried that he wasn’t going to like me,” Embiid divulged. “At the end of the practice, (Self) was like, ‘Are you ----ing kidding me? This guy’s gonna be the number one pick.’”

Once the developing young big arrived on campus, in Lawrence, Embiid said he played in a scrimmage and, “same thing as high school,” got pushed around in the paint.

“I’m like, ‘Coach, I can’t do this.’ And then (Self) goes, ‘Just keep working. You’ll see.’ I kept working,” Embiid said. “I was getting better each and every day.”

Kansas center Joel Embiid delivers a dunk against Texas Tech to give the Jayhawks the lead with less than 30 seconds on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014 at United Spirit Arena in Lubbock, Texas.

Kansas center Joel Embiid delivers a dunk against Texas Tech to give the Jayhawks the lead with less than 30 seconds on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014 at United Spirit Arena in Lubbock, Texas. by Nick Krug

Of course, Embiid progressed so much from the beginning of his freshman season to the end that he learned he would be a top pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, and left KU after one 28-game, injury-shortened season.

“It was really hard leaving Kansas,” Embiid told VICE Sports. “I knew for sure I was gonna go to Cleveland, and be the number one pick, and then, just like that, the injury happened a week before the draft. So I’m like, ‘God!’”

You’ll recall Embiid suffered a fracture of the navicular bone in his right foot, which made both Cleveland and Milwaukee pass on the promising pivot, who also missed games at KU because of a back injury. The pre-draft foot fracture proved serious enough for the Sixers, who selected him at No. 3, to hold him out of the entire 2014-15 season.

Little did Embiid know the same bone wouldn’t heal properly, and he would spend his 2015-16 season going through limited rehab-focused workouts, playing video games and again watching basketball instead of playing.

“When I had a setback this past summer, it was really frustrating,” Embiid remarked. “The foot wasn’t even hurting or anything like that, and then that’s when (doctors saw) that the fracture had been opened again.”

Now 7-foot-2, the friendly giant who has rehabbed himself closer to actually playing NBA games — but won’t be rushed back for Summer League exhibitions — still has seen his popularity grow thanks to his Twitter account, which currently has roughly 392,000 followers.

“Right before the first season (in Philly), I was going pretty nuts on there, and just saying dumb ---- or just being funny, and I think people loved it,” Embiid said of his social media appeal. “I got a lot of comments about it, and people actually wanted me to keep doing it.”

Joel Embiid's Twitter presence has gained him thousands of fans. Above is the Philadelphia center's profile picture, a photoshopped image of him on a supposed dinner date with pop star Rihanna.

Joel Embiid's Twitter presence has gained him thousands of fans. Above is the Philadelphia center's profile picture, a photoshopped image of him on a supposed dinner date with pop star Rihanna.

Embiid, who spoke with VICE months ago, during a span in which his Twitter presence seemed to be on hiatus, hinted he might have been encouraged to tone it down.

“When I start playing,” he added, “I think I might go back to my ways, you know. We might see.”

Indeed, the fun-loving big man has rediscovered his tweet game the past several weeks.

None by Joel Embiid

Same as his improving health, this is a significant development for everyone following Embiid’s career. The man was born to entertain, as demonstrated during his interview, when asked about what he likes to eat.

“Mainly Shirley Temples. I drink Shirley Temples by the pitcher. I usually drink like three or four pitchers per day,” Embiid joked, mocking a report that surfaced last year about his suspect dietary habits and an alleged infatuation with the sweet, non-alcoholic mixed drink.

“Nobody really cares about the media. They’re gonna have something to say — ‘300 pounds, Shirley Temples.’ I’m just gonna let my game do the talking,” Embiid proclaimed. “I think some people are gonna be surprised. And I can’t wait to show off.

In fact, The Inquirer’s Bob Ford wrote that Embiid’s skills are so awe-inspiring that his Monday workout at the Sixers’ training facility stole the show, even though possible No. 1 pick Brandon Ingram, out of Duke, was in the same gym for a pre-draft session.

None by Keith Pompey

"You can see what he's doing on the court," 76ers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo told reporters as Embiid wowed nearby observers. "It looks like he's getting more fluidity every day. He's done some things competitively, two-on-two and three-on-three in controlled situations, but the word 'controlled' is the key there. Everything's got to be done within the process set forth and the timeline set forth by the doctors."

If all goes to plan, and Embiid fully recovers and returns to basketball, Philadelphia just might have a star on its hands — on and off the court.

— Watch the entire Vice Sports interview: Joel Embiid Ride Along (Warning: Q&A is uncensored)


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


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One more year vs. retirement: Decision coming soon for Paul Pierce

Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul Pierce sits on the bench prior to the team's NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul Pierce sits on the bench prior to the team's NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Paul Pierce has experienced just about everything the NBA has to offer in his 18 seasons since leaving Kansas.

In the next few weeks, the 10-time all-star will decide if he is really about that bench life.

This past year with the Los Angeles Clippers, Pierce averaged career lows in minutes (18.1), points (6.1), field goals attempted (5.8), field goals made (2.1), field-goal percentage (36.3%), rebounds (2.7), assists (1.0) and steals (0.5).

Earlier this week, the small forward who earned NBA Finals MVP honors in 2008 with the Celtics told The Boston Globe his most recent season, in which Pierce also started a career-low 38 games, didn’t exactly go as planned.

“I thought I had one more good year [this past season], but obviously I didn’t like how it all went with my role,” Pierce told The Globe. “I’m still just trying to figure it out. A lot has got to do with my role I’m going to play. To come back and sit 82 games, I don’t know if I can do that.”

Injuries to other members of the Clippers pushed Pierce into a fill-in starting role late in the year, but he often didn’t play a starter’s minutes. At 38 years old (Pierce will turn 39 in October, before the start of next season), there is only so much he can bring to the floor in a league filled with world-class athletes in their 20’s.

Plus, at this stage of his playing career, Pierce said offseason training in preparation for the coming 82 games can be just as daunting.

“Really, it’s all about how I feel mentally, getting up and I’m thinking about the grind,” Pierce told The Globe. “People don’t understand, I think a lot of guys retire because of what it takes to each season. You can take the grind once you are in it, but getting ready for the grind is the hard part.”

Whether Pierce decides to go through the process one last time — he said 2016-17 would be his final season should he return — or simply call it a career, a decision is coming soon. The NBA’s 16th leading scorer in history (26,316 points) told The Globe he spoke with former Boston teammate and fellow aging one-time star Kevin Garnett about the pros and cons.

Always a great time with the guys...REAL BROTHERS👊

A photo posted by Kevin Garnett (@tic_pix) on

Always a great time with the guys...REAL BROTHERS👊 by tic_pix

While appearing Thursday on ESPN’s The Jump with Rachel Nichols, Pierce revealed he and his family are taking a vacation in late June, and when they get back he hopes to have an answer to his dilemma.

“I’m gonna take the next three weeks to figure it out,” Pierce said.

Already retired Tracy McGrady jokingly “poured one out” for Pierce’s career during the show and tried to convince Pierce to join the broadcasting game, adding: “Phenomenal career, first-ballot hall of famer.”

Pierce said he is “50-50” right now on which path he’ll take.

“It’s been a long 18 years,” he added.


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


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Thomas Robinson expected to opt for free agency

Brooklyn Nets forward Thomas Robinson (41) slam dunks over New Orleans Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham (44) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Brooklyn Nets forward Thomas Robinson (41) slam dunks over New Orleans Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham (44) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

If you don’t remember much about Thomas Robinson’s 2015-16 season, well, you’re probably not a Brooklyn season-ticket holder.

Between the Nets’ general ineptitude (21-61 record, second-worst in the Eastern Conference to woeful Philadelphia) and Robinson’s sparse on-court opportunities most of the year, the former Kansas star’s fourth season in the NBA landed somewhere between blah and forgettable.

That’s one reason, perhaps, that Robinson reportedly is expected to opt out of his contract and test free agency this summer.

Robinson played in 71 games for the Nets in his first — and what could be his only — season with the organization, but only averaged 12.9 minutes a game. The backup big man averaged 4.3 points and 5.1 rebounds and shot 44.7% from the floor.

Those numbers dipped significantly from the ones he put up with the 76ers (albeit on a terrible team) to close the previous season: 8.8 points, 7.7 rebounds in 22 games, 18.5 minutes.

The 25-year-old post player already has suited up for Houston, Sacramento, Portland, Philadelphia and Brooklyn. So what harm could another change of scenery do?

The San Antonio Express-News reported Robinson, who signed a two-year deal with the Nets this past offseason, is expected to exercise the player-option on his contract and give up the approximately $1 million Brooklyn agreed to pay him in 2016-17.

This decision makes sense for Robinson on a number of levels. First, as mentioned, there wasn’t much buzz about Robinson or the Nets, outside of a few late-season games when Brooklyn had multiple regulars injured and he put up a career-high 23 points at Washington.

And the Nets aren’t turning things anytime soon, with their first-round draft picks going to Boston each of the next three years.

Opting out also is a wise financial move. Robinson isn’t going to land a massive contract from any team, but he certainly will seek a longer deal than his most recent one. If a franchise is willing to give the well traveled forward a contract for three years or longer, for example, that would give him more security for his future. If he just stayed with Brooklyn for year No. 2 and then suffered some horrible injury, who’s to say whether he could ever again secure longterm guaranteed money.

What’s more, as anyone who follows the NBA knows, the salary cap is scheduled for a massive increase this offseason. Any player able to get a new contract this summer almost has to do so, with all the money league owners can now spend without worrying luxury taxes.

Which teams should Robinson consider? While reuniting with one of his FOE partners and former KU teammates Markieff or Marcus Morris would be an interesting move, it would make more sense for him to seek out the best financial opportunity or playing situation available to him.

Brooklyn Nets forward Thomas Robinson, left, talks with Detroit Pistons forward Marcus Morris during pre game of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Brooklyn Nets forward Thomas Robinson, left, talks with Detroit Pistons forward Marcus Morris during pre game of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Nothing against Detroit (Marcus’ team) or Washington (Markieff’s team) but if you were an NBA player, wouldn’t you rather suit up for, say, San Antonio.

In fact, the Spurs just might be a realistic option for Robinson. Jabari Young of the Express-News wondered whether Gregg Popovich and company might pursue the explosive backup forward, citing Popovich’s recent remarks that San Antonio needs to get younger.

According to Young, Spurs general manager R.C. Buford, a former KU assistant for Larry Brown, has been a Robinson fan “for quite some time.”

While Robinson played a minimal role for playoff teams in Houston and Portland, joining one of the league’s model franchises and contributing to a championship contender would qualify as totally new professional experiences.

All this speculation might not come true. Maybe Robinson won’t get a chance to play for the Spurs. Maybe some average to mediocre team with money to burn gives him a contract that would set him and his family up for life.

Whichever way it turns out, Robinson still hasn’t lived up to his status as the fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft. Figuring out which team really needs him — and will give him more than the career-high 15.1 minutes a game he played as a rookie — should factor into his decision, too.


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


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‘I’ve been here so long’: Nick Collison remains fixture with Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) comes down with a rebound in front of Dallas Mavericks' J.J. Barea (5) of Puerto Rico during an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 22, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) comes down with a rebound in front of Dallas Mavericks' J.J. Barea (5) of Puerto Rico during an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 22, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Most veterans fortunate enough to have played 12 NBA seasons have bounced around the league, worn an assortment of uniforms and called city after city their new hometown. Stability just doesn’t exist for them.

Former Kansas star Nick Collison hasn’t dealt with such turmoil. The 35-year-old power forward, whose Oklahoma City team is tied with defending champion Golden State, 1-1, in the Western Conference Finals, has played for the organization since he graduated from KU.

In fact, as pointed out in a Q&A with Collison posted on the National Basketball Players Association’s website about him being the “backbone” of the Thunder’s roster, the 6-foot-10 backup big man — drafted by Seattle in 2003, before the franchise relocated to Oklahoma City — is part of a very small group of longtime NBA players who have been with only one organization for at least that long. The others are Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki, Miami’s Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem, and San Antonio’s Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

A backup veteran can’t be the face of the franchise. But Kevin Durant once called Collison “Mr. Thunder,” a title Collison doesn’t exactly consider his nickname.

“It’s more of almost a joke because I’ve been here so long,” Collison said. “It’s fun to be able to have a lot of shared history with those guys. We’ve got a lot of stories, a lot of inside jokes from all those years together. That’s another cool thing about it: getting to really build friendships with guys.”

Collison said in his NBPA interview he considers himself fortunate to have played with the Thunder (formerly the Sonics) his entire career.

“It’s been a place I’ve wanted to be and they’ve wanted to have me around. I feel like contractually it’s always worked out where we can come to a fair deal, and I’ve liked how I’ve been treated,” Collison said. “I never felt the need to go anywhere else and the way our team has grown, it’s been really fun to be a part of — to be with these guys for a long time when they were younger coming up and having success. And I know that’s really rare in the NBA, to be able to have that continuity and those teammates year after year, especially in today’s NBA with so much movement.”

No longer a player Thunder coach Billy Donovan turns to in crucial moments of a game, Collison still has value to the team just in the way he approaches his job. OKC general manager Sam Presti had that in mind when he signed the forward to a two-year extension last season. At the time, Presti cited Collison’s professionalism as a great example for the entire organization.

While Collison only has played 79 total minutes in the Thunder’s first 13 postseason games this year, it doesn’t change his approach.

“I think I want to always be like an authentic teammate — really try to do whatever I can to help guys out, help the team out,” Collison said in his NBPA interview. “It’s just the way that I’ve been taught to be part of a basketball team. And I think it’s helped me in my career being helpful, being a good teammate. It’s allowed me to last this long.”

Still, Collison shook off the notion that Thunder bigs Steven Adams, Serge Ibaka and Enes Kanter play well because of him.

The Thunder, led by stars Durant and Russell Westbrook, would have to beat a Golden State team that lost nine games the entire regular season three more times in order to reach the NBA Finals. Without addressing just how difficult that might be, Collison, who played for OKC in the 2012 Finals against Miami, said he sees some similarities in how this season has progressed for OKC, with the Thunder improving as the playoffs go on.

The core players who reached the championship round four years ago, Collison said, can still recall what worked during that run and feed off of that knowledge now.

“There’s a lot of guys who don’t have that experience, but when half the team can bring along the other guys, it really helps,” Collison explained. “Whereas in 2012, we did have some veteran guys, but the guys playing the majority of the minutes were there for the first time. And there’s just certain things that you have to go through.”

• Read the full Q&A at the NBPA website: Nick Collison, “Mr. Thunder,” Reflects on Being Oklahoma City’s Longtime Backbone


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Drew Gooden claims he snuck into White House to play basketball

Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden (90) and Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh (1) have a light moment in the second half of an NBA preseason basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Miami. The Heat won 110-105. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden (90) and Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh (1) have a light moment in the second half of an NBA preseason basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Miami. The Heat won 110-105. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Former Kansas star Drew Gooden is known in the NBA for a couple of things: rebounding and his unique sense of humor.

The 34-year-old Washington power forward showed off the latter of his defining characteristics when bombarded by a TMZ video camera in Los Angeles.

Gooden, while getting into his vehicle to leave a restaurant, was asked whether his time in D.C. had provided him with the opportunity to play basketball at the White House with President Barack Obama.

That’s when — we assume — Gooden decided to have some fun.

“Nah, but I snuck back and played on the court there a couple times, though,” Gooden deadpans to TMZ Sports. “I guess that’s out there now.”

How does a 6-foot-10, 250-pound man creep into the White House undetected?

“Hey, if I tell you,” Gooden says, “I have to kill you.”

Now, it’s not unfathomable that a Wizards player such as Gooden might actually have played at the White House when Obama wasn’t there. Perhaps that’s the case, and this tale is Gooden’s way of clowning the paparazzo.

Or maybe, as the man behind the camera suggests, the secret service agents looked the other way because they like KU basketball.

“Rock chalk!” Gooden responds.

Check out the entire video below and decide for yourself the real story behind Gooden’s supposed stealth move.


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Sixers coach ‘thrilled’ with Joel Embiid’s progress

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid, right, of Cameroon plays around with Jahlil Okafor, left,prior to the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in Philadelphia. The Bulls won 115-111 in overtime. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid, right, of Cameroon plays around with Jahlil Okafor, left,prior to the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in Philadelphia. The Bulls won 115-111 in overtime. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Joel Embiid will play in the NBA next season. No, seriously. It must be true. His coach said so.

That would be a first for the former Kansas center from Cameroon. But Philadelphia coach Brett Brown, in an interview on Sports Radio 94 WIP in Philadelphia, went as far as to say he thinks Embiid, who missed each of the previous two years due to foot injuries — or one injury with a complication, depending on how you look at it — will play in the Sixers’ 2016-17 season opener.

“That is my strong belief,” Brown said in his radio appearance, during which, according to the coach, Embiid was at the franchise’s facility for weight lifting and a basketball workout.

Perhaps next season Embiid will become less of a mystery man. In the meantime, Brown said Philadelphia’s medical staff wants the 7-footer, as well as the coaches working with him, taking everything slowly.

“I think that he’s coming along tremendously,” Brown said of Embiid, who averaged 11.2 points and 8.1 rebounds during his one-and-done season at KU. “I feel like from a maturity standpoint and the reality of the professionalism that is required for him to be money and just perfect with the rehab, ‘pre-hab,’ nutrition, all of that, is ever-present in Joel Embiid.”

New Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo, appearing on Comcast’s Breakfast on Broad, also provided some insight on Embiid’s progress. Colangelo said the 22-year-old big man eventually will be cleared for five-on-five basketball activity.

“At what point, I’m not sure yet, but he looks terrific in his drill work,” Colangelo said. “He’s coming along. That’s not to get over-hyped about it. It’s just to say he’s progressing well, and that’s encouraging for all of us.”

None by Philadelphia 76ers

Brown remains optimistic about Embiid’s potential impact with the franchise, and said all signs point to him producing a “solid” rookie season.

“There could me minute restrictions on his first year, where we start off the season slowly with him,” the Sixers coach said. “But, in general, I know he’s just so excited to get out there and play basketball again.”

In a different interview, for the Sixers 365 podcast, Philadelphia’s third-year coach said he put Embiid through a workout just a few days ago, and left pleased after seeing some of the center’s agility.

“I think his spirit’s fantastic,” Brown added. “If people truly understood the work that he has put in to arrive to this place now — and we’ve still got a long ways to go — but he is moving comfortably and confidently in the direction that we all hope he will move to. Everything is looking great right now.”

Added the 76ers coach: “I’m thrilled for him. He deserves it. He put in the time.”


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Mother’s Day a big holiday for Morris twins

Washington Wizards forward Markieff Morris, front left, talks with his mother Angel Morris, from Clinton, Md., before an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Washington. Markieff just joined the team in a trade from the Phoenix Suns. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Wizards forward Markieff Morris, front left, talks with his mother Angel Morris, from Clinton, Md., before an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Washington. Markieff just joined the team in a trade from the Phoenix Suns. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

When Markieff Morris landed in Washington D.C. earlier this season via a trade from Phoenix, it didn’t only mean a better basketball situation for the former Kansas star.

The move also brought the fifth-year power forward much closer to his hometown of Philadelphia and his mother, Thomasine “Angel” Morris.

“It’s a great fit,” Angel said in a special Mother’s Day feature produced by Monumental Sports Network. “I’m from D.C.”

Markieff, now a lot closer geographically to his twin brother and former KU teammate Marcus (of Detroit), as well, agreed the Wizards are a much better fit for him than Phoenix, where he and his brother used to play before their relationship with the organization soured.

“I’m just excited to be able to play in front of my family and perform in front of them,” said Markieff, who averaged 12.4 points and 5.9 rebounds while shooting 46.7% from the field in 27 games with Washington to close the year.

Angel’s support, Markieff explained, played a significant role in shaping the twins’ basketball careers.

“I hope that she’s proud,” Markieff said. “Everything we do is for her. I think she knows that. I just want to make her proud.”

Now that both of her sons play on the east coast, Angel said she tries to attend as many of their home games in Detroit and D.C. as possible.

“I just look at the schedule and figure out where I’m supposed to be,” Angel said. “If there’s a lot of games over there, I go there. If there’s a lot of games here, I go here. And I watch (on) TV in between.”

Of course, Angel, who Markieff described as a “tough lady,” began shaping her sons’ lives long before they became big-time basketball players.

Washington Wizards forward Markieff Morris (5) defends Detroit Pistons forward Marcus Morris during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, April 8, 2016, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Washington Wizards forward Markieff Morris (5) defends Detroit Pistons forward Marcus Morris during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, April 8, 2016, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Said Marcus: “Since I got to college she’s been heavy in basketball, but before then she was all about keeping us off the streets, keeping us in school, things like that.”

Just because the 26-year-old twins play in the NBA doesn’t mean they avoid receiving some occasional scolding from their mother. Markieff said she’s always there to encourage them, but also gets on them for any technical fouls they pick up throughout the season.

The twins likely get an earful of ‘What were you thinking?’ from Angel. Marcus had 12 techs this season, while Markieff got whistled for 11.

“Technical fouls, I don’t like,” Angel said. “I fight about (them) all the time.”

The twins’ admiration for their mother is clear — both said a perfect Mother’s Day gift for her might be a Range Rover. Markieff said Angel often leaves an imprint on the lives’ of everyone she meets, not just her sons.

As KU fans remember, that includes Thomas Robinson, whose mother, Lisa, died unexpectedly during the 2010-11 season, while Robinson was teammates with the Morris twins.

Brooklyn Nets forward Thomas Robinson, left, talks with Detroit Pistons forward Marcus Morris during pre game of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Brooklyn Nets forward Thomas Robinson, left, talks with Detroit Pistons forward Marcus Morris during pre game of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Robinson told Monumental Sports Network that Angel stepped in and tried to provide care in whatever way she could when he lost his mother.

“That’s just who she is in general,” Robinson explained. “That’s just her as a person. She meets you right now she’s gonna act like your mom and she’s gonna take care of you and make sure you’re fine.”

According to Marcus, Angel always has been a “team mom” or “community mom” in the twins’ lives.

Check out the entire video feature at Monumental Sports Network’s website.


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This former KU player is on an NBA playoff team’s roster?

The 2016 NBA Playoffs haven’t exactly been a showcase for former Kansas players.

Other than Marcus Morris averaging 17.8 points for Detroit while the Pistons got swept by Cleveland, and an occasional Cole Aldrich effort play here and there for the Los Angeles Clippers, KU products haven’t stepped into the postseason’s luminous spotlight.

Eight different Jayhawks appeared on rosters of playoff teams entering the first round, but most of them play minimal roles — or don’t play at all — for their respective teams, with Morris being the clear exception, and Aldrich and Paul Pierce chipping in for the Clippers. Both the Pistons and Clippers, however, lost in the first round.

Sure, Brandon Rush plays some mop-up duty for the incredible defending champion Golden State Warriors. But can you even name the other four KU players alive in the playoffs?

Oklahoma City mainstay Nick Collison is an easy one, but it gets difficult after that.

Kirk Hinrich has played a total of 27 minutes and did not play at all in four playoff games for Atlanta.

You might — emphasis on might — remember that Sasha Kaun signed with defending Eastern Conference champion Cleveland. But the 30-year-old NBA rookie hasn’t played a single minute this postseason for the Fightin’ LeBrons.

So who is the other Jayhawk in the playoffs? Well, his role mirrors Kaun’s in Cleveland, but it’s actually another rookie out of KU. Cliff Alexander.

Portland Trail Blazers forward Cliff Alexander (34) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Portland Trail Blazers forward Cliff Alexander (34) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Granted, Alexander’s on-court role with Portland in the playoffs is non-existent, but it’s still pretty remarkable that he’s even there.

Think back to the 6-foot-8 power forward’s 28-game stop at Kansas during the 2014-15 season. A player who started all of 6 games for KU and topped 5 rebounds once in his final 10 games with the Jayhawks is on the roster of a respected NBA franchise that reached the second round of the playoffs.

None by Cliff Alexander

Alexander, once considered one of the top high school prospects in his class, didn’t even get drafted. But you have to give him props. The big man stuck around with the Trail Blazers, who could have waived him without thinking twice about it.

True, he only appeared in 8 games all season as a rookie, totaling 36 minutes and 10 points, but Alexander had to be doing something right for a playoff team like Portland to bother with paying him ($525,093 this season, according to HoopsHype.com).

In March, Alexander had a rare opportunity to publicly display his basketball skills while on assignment with Santa Cruz, in the NBA’s D-League.

Santa Cruz play-by-play announcer Kevin Danna told The Oregonian earlier this year if Alexander doesn’t make it in the NBA, it won’t be because of the Chicago native’s effort. Alexander’s talent and work ethic impressed those who saw him score 21 points and grab 6 rebounds in one D-League game.

Don’t expect to see Alexander pull off any follow slams against Golden State. Just as in most of the regular season, Portland has kept the 20-year-old rookie inactive throughout the playoffs. It would take a pile of frontcourt injuries for the Blazers to put him in a game.

Once the Blazers’ season ends, Portland has the option to bring Alexander back for the second year of his contract. Assuming that happens, it will be interesting to see if he impressed coaches and front office personnel enough to take on a larger role next season.

Before that, Alexander figures to play significantly more minutes in the Summer League. He’ll need to approach those games the same way he did his D-League assignment. That’s the next step in figuring out a way to turn this NBA gig into a career, and one day earning his way into a playoff rotation.


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