Posts tagged with Kansas Basketball

Undrafted Cliff Alexander signs with Portland

Brooklyn Nets’ Cliff Alexander goes up for a shot against New Orleans Pelicans’ Victor Rudd during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game Monday, July 13, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Brooklyn Nets’ Cliff Alexander goes up for a shot against New Orleans Pelicans’ Victor Rudd during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game Monday, July 13, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Passed on 60 times during the 2015 NBA Draft, one-and-done Kansas big man Cliff Alexander had to make the most of his opportunity in the NBA’s summer leagues to keep his professional dream alive.

Though the 6-foot-9 power forward didn’t dominate as a temporary member of the Brooklyn Nets, Alexander did enough to impress the Portland Trail Blazers, who signed the undrafted post player to a contract Friday afternoon.

Alexander was the first to announce the move, via Twitter: “God has still found ways to bless me through the struggle,” he wrote.

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Projected by some to go late in the first round of the draft or early in the second, Alexander watched the made-for-TV event play out without hearing his name called. He later told NBA.com’s Scott Howard-Cooper the entire experience shook him.

"I was thinking I'm not good enough," he said during his stint with the Nets. "Can I play this level? Was it a mistake for me to leave college? I had a lot of doubts. But I'm back confident now. I'm good."

The boost in morale, Alexander shared, arrived when Brooklyn gave him a chance to play on its summer league team in both Orlando and Las Vegas. Just getting back to basketball made all the difference for his psyche.

In five Orlando outings, the raw 19-year-old from Chicago, who missed his final eight games with the Jayhawks due to an NCAA investigation, averaged 6.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 0.8 blocks, while only converting 38.9% of his shot attempts.

Alexander continued to struggle with his field-goal percentage (37.7%) in six Las Vegas games, but increased his other numbers: 8.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.

In a bit of a rebuilding mode after all-star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge left Portland this summer to join San Antonio, the Blazers needed another post player on which they could take a gamble. But reaching a deal doesn’t necessarily mean playing time for Alexander. Portland has six other front court players currently under contract who are 6-9 or taller and have NBA experience: Chris Kaman, Mason Plumlee, Meyers Leonard, Maurice Harkless, Ed Davis and Al-Farouq Aminu. Coach Terry Stotts figures to play each of them ahead of Alexander until the rookie gives him reasons to do otherwise.

Terms of Alexander’s agreement with Portland have yet to be disclosed.

Between not living up to his No. 4 (Class of 204) national recruiting ranking from Rivals.com once he arrived at KU and averaged 7.1 points and 17.6 minutes, to the allegations of his family receiving improper benefits, to seeing his draft stock free fall, the past year hasn’t been easy for Alexander.

Still, as he told NBA.com prior to signing a contract, the youngster remains optimistic about the next phase of his basketball journey.

"I'm going to show people," Alexander said. "I just have to redeem myself. I've been here before. I've started from the bottom before. I've been the underdog before. I know what it takes to get back on top."


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


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Paul Pierce, Cole Aldrich join L.A. Clippers to chase a championship

Los Angeles Clipper, head coach Doc Rivers, center, poses team players, from left, Branden Dawson, 22, DeAndre Jordan, 6, Austin Rivers, 25, Josh Smith, 5, Cole Aldrich, 45, Paul Pierce, 34, and Wesley Johnson, 33, far right, at at a news conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 21, 2015. The Clippers managed to keep DeAndre Jordan after he changed his mind about his verbal commitment to Dallas Mavericks. They offered everything he wanted, including a fresh start and a bigger offensive role. When Jordan thought about it a little more, the craziest free-agent recruitment story in recent NBA history ended with him back on the Los Angeles Clippers. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Los Angeles Clipper, head coach Doc Rivers, center, poses team players, from left, Branden Dawson, 22, DeAndre Jordan, 6, Austin Rivers, 25, Josh Smith, 5, Cole Aldrich, 45, Paul Pierce, 34, and Wesley Johnson, 33, far right, at at a news conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 21, 2015. The Clippers managed to keep DeAndre Jordan after he changed his mind about his verbal commitment to Dallas Mavericks. They offered everything he wanted, including a fresh start and a bigger offensive role. When Jordan thought about it a little more, the craziest free-agent recruitment story in recent NBA history ended with him back on the Los Angeles Clippers. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

With 17 NBA seasons, 1,250 regular-season games and 158 playoff contests in his rear-view mirror, veteran Paul Pierce only had one thing in mind when he hit free agency this summer: getting back to the NBA Finals.

Pierce, Boston’s 2008 Finals MVP, reunited with former Celtics coach Doc Rivers and made his first public appearance as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers at a Tuesday press conference in L.A.

“This is probably the last ride of my career,” said Pierce, a first-team All-American at Kansas in 1998. “I think this is where I’m going to end it, so I’m going to go all in. And if we can win a championship here for the Clippers, this will be everything for me.”

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At 37 (Pierce will turn 38 before the season begins), “The Truth” realizes he only has so much basketball left in those legs — even if his new contact is for three years and reportedly $10 million.

“I see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said the aging small forward, who opted out of his contract with Washington to head west. “I want another opportunity to win a championship. I thought just being here would be a great fit.”

Pierce was only one of seven Clippers players at the Q & A. While the 10-time all-star and almost-Maverick DeAndre Jordan dominated the press conference, L.A.’s new backup center Cole Aldrich got a little mic time, too.

The former KU big man spent his fourth and fifth seasons with the Knicks, a team that had the Eastern Conference’s worst record (17-65) in 2014-15.

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“You know, going from New York last year, where we struggled, to being on a contending team, it's going to be awesome,” the 6-foot-11 Aldrich said. “You've got a bunch of guys that are going to come in every day and work hard and have fun doing it. And that's the biggest thing is we're a family.”

Joining the Clippers has to feel even more like home for Pierce, and not just because he grew up in nearby Inglewood, California.

“I played with Doc longer than any coach I ever played for in my career,” Pierce said, referencing their nine seasons together in Boston. “Definitely comfortable being around him, being with him. So that really helps out, especially when you go into a new situation, being around things you’re comfortable with.”

Content to play either as a small forward or an undersized stretch-power forward (as he did for the Wizards in the playoffs) with L.A., Pierce anticipates Rivers limiting his minutes throughout the season and even keeping him out of some games in order to keep the team’s elder statesmen feeling a little younger when the postseason comes.

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The NBA’s fifth-leading active scorer (25,899 career points) knows the Clippers don’t need him to be an offensive focal point, considering L.A. has all-stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, and Jordan serving as its big three. Pierce simply wants to be a veteran voice in the locker room and do whatever Rivers asks of him.

“I feel I can just be that,” Pierce said. “Kind of like a glue guy.”

That might be just what the Clippers need, after falling apart in the second round of the Western Conference Playoffs, despite a 3-1 lead over Houston (and a sizable second-half lead in a closeout Game 6). Pierce told NBA.com’s Ian Thomsen he watched that collapse closely, because he knew at the time he would either be playing for L.A. or D.C. next season.

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"No way — if I was in that locker room — I would have allowed that to happen,'' Pierce said. "You picture yourself being that voice or being that guy on the court that can help in those situations. I think I fill a pretty big need for them.''

The Clippers have never even reached a conference final, let alone the NBA Finals. But with Paul, Griffin, Jordan, J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford, Lance Stephenson and L.A.’s other role players, Pierce thinks his new team has all the pieces it needs.

"There are five or six teams that can win it all,” Pierce said, “and it boils down to how you come together and whoever is the healthiest.''


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


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Andrew Wiggins gives downtrodden Timberwolves hope for future

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22) and center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) watch a free-throw during an NBA basketball scrimmage in Minneapolis, Wednesday, July 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22) and center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) watch a free-throw during an NBA basketball scrimmage in Minneapolis, Wednesday, July 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

The Minnesota Timberwolves haven’t finished with a winning record in any of the previous 10 seasons, nor reached the NBA Playoffs since 2004.

This summer, however, only optimism — well, that and probably a lot of patience — surrounds a franchise that won just 19.5% of its games in the 2014-15 season.

Hope for the future springs in the Twin Cities, in part, because of reigning Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins’ presence. The promising 20-year-old who spent one college season at Kansas has become the face of the franchise. And in 2015 No. 1 pick Karl Anthony-Towns, out of Kentucky, Wiggins has another high-ceiling running mate to help carry the burden of one serious reclamation project.

During an interview with NBA TV this week in Las Vegas, Wiggins was asked if the Timberwolves are his team, so to speak.

“I feel like I’m a big part of the team. You can put it that way,” the modest 6-foot-8 rising star said.

With youngsters such as Wiggins, Towns, Zach Lavine, Ricky Rubio and Gorgui Dieng expected to carry Minnesota back to relevance— and beyond — in the coming years, the Canadian sensation already finds himself in somewhat of an influential role.

“I think I’m a good leader,” Wiggins said. “I still have a lot to learn.”

Luckily for him, the T’wolves just re-signed sage NBA veteran Kevin Garnett. One of the most competitive players in league history, Garnett can control the locker room and allow his apprentices to pick his brain and gain some wisdom.

“We’ve got to cherish the moments with him,” Wiggins said. “He’s a living legend.”

The Timberwolves would love if KG’s presence accelerates the development of its young troop of talent. In the meantime, Wiggins has spent his first NBA offseason trying to add some muscle onto his roughly 200-pound frame.

“I’ve been working out, trying to get prepared for next season,” he said in an interview posted on the T’wolves’ website. “It’ll be good to gain weight. I’m trying. I got a fast metabolism.”

As Wiggins told the Star-Tribune’s Jerry Zgoda, it’s been a busy summer for him. Last week, Wiggins played a major role in the opening ceremonies for the Pan-Am Games, in his native Canada. He accepted the torch from his mother, Marita Payne-Wiggins, and passed it on to Steve Nash.

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Next month, Wiggins will play for Team Canada at an Olympic-qualifying event in Mexico.

“It’s definitely busy, but I’m prepared for it,” Wiggins said. “I’ve gotten a lot of rest.”

With names like Wiggins and Towns headlining Minnesota’s lineup, people won’t be sleeping on the Timberwolves for long. Wiggins knows it is up to him to keep evolving as a player. Once next season begins, that Rookie of the Year hardware will be old news.

“I think I can make a big improvement,” Wiggins said of his trajectory for Year 2. “I think I can improve in every area, whether it’s defensively or offensively.”

As anyone who has seen Wiggins’ freakish athleticism in person can attest, it is too early to put any limits on what the future holds for the 20-year-old. And that’s very good news for the downtrodden Timberwolves.


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


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Highs and lows of Summer League will help Kelly Oubre Jr.’s development

Washington Wizards' Kelly Oubre Jr. shots over Utah Jazz’s JaJuan Johnson during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game Wednesday, July 15, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Washington Wizards' Kelly Oubre Jr. shots over Utah Jazz’s JaJuan Johnson during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game Wednesday, July 15, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

For an NBA rookie such as Kelly Oubre Jr., the Las Vegas Summer League can serve as a platform to show you belong one night, then humble you the next. It’s a setting full of early lessons about the pro level, and the 19-year-old from Kansas should only benefit from experiencing those peaks and valleys.

The first time Oubre put on a Washington jersey and played in front of a crowd, he looked the part of an NBA-ready player, leading the Wizards in scoring, with 20 points, and registering a double-double, with 10 rebounds.

The 6-foot-7 small forward drove to the paint and finished over longer defenders, threw down a few dunks by crashing the glass and running the floor, and even nailed a step-back 3-pointer. Every time Oubre scored against Phoenix, he looked smooth. And the game looked easy.

Afterward, Oubre credited his immediate prosperity to the NBA having a different style to it than the college game.

“I noticed that the floor was open. You know what I mean, it’s more space,” Oubre said in a video interview posted by Washington’s Monumental Network. “So, sometimes I was indecisive about what I wanted to do… When I got decisive, that’s when I was successful.”

Now that he’s seeing bigger bodies in front of him and stronger competition, Oubre said he wanted to put an emphasis on on getting to the rim, creating and drawing fouls by playing with an assertive mindset.

Always confident, the one-and-done wing from KU shook off any jitters in his summer debut by heeding some advice.

“I missed a lot of my teammates on some of my pick-and-pops or sometimes I would draw two men and try to force it,” Oubre said. “But once coach settled me down and just told me that ‘You’ve really got to look at these things, these things are open. You should facilitate the ball and your shots will come,’ that’s when I started to become successful.”

The rookie carried the momentum of his sensational introduction into his next game, too, going for 18 points and eight rebounds against the D-League Select team.

Oubre again attacked the paint, which helped him draw fouls, and he converted eight of his 10 free-throw attempts. The lean swingman said he doesn’t mind if and when a game turns physical.

“I have a light frame. Everybody knows that, everybody can see that,” the No. 15 pick in the NBA Draft said. “But I’m not weak. I can bang.”

Those who try to bump him around, the 203-pound Oubre warned, will be surprised to learn how strong he is.

Neither offense nor rebounding came as easily in Oubre’s next two games, though. He had 11 points and six rebounds in Washington’s first Vegas victory, over Dallas, then had 12 points and three rebounds in the Wizards’ tournament win against Utah.

Shooting from 3-point range has proven problematic for Washington’s first-round pick. Even when put up more points in his first two outings, he wasn’t helping himself from long range.

Heading into Thursday night’s bracket game against New Orleans, Oubre is averaging 15.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 1.3 assists. But he’s only shooting 33.9% from the floor (20 of 59). His numbers from behind the arc are far worse: 3-for-22 (13.6%).

After missing all five of his 3-pointers against the D-League Select team, a reporter asked Oubre if he was having trouble adjusting to the NBA 3-point line (23 feet, 9 inches, as opposed to the 20-9 distance of the NCAA). He shot down that theory with a series of no’s, and said he had forced shots, rushed things and/or not used his fundamentals.

“It’s so wide-open when we get our shots sometimes, it’s like, ‘Oh, snap.’ But we’ll be fine,” Oubre said. “I know I can shoot. I have 100 percent confidence in my shot. I just have to get over the hump.”

Wizards star point guard John Wall agrees, and gave Oubre a vote of confidence during an NBA TV interview.

“I think he’s gonna be good. He can shoot the ball very well. He just hasn’t been making shots so far,” Wall said. “But I talked to him… and told him it ain’t all about trying to prove you can make jump shots right now. It’s about doing what your strengths are: attacking the basket, playing defense and doing the little things.”

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Unsatisfied with his individual showings a few nights, Oubre hit UNLV’s practice gym to work on his flaws. In the future, he said he’ll need to stay poised and remember his fundamentals to reach his full potential.

“Sometimes when I get fatigued it can get away from me,” Oubre said.

It’s all part of the learning process. The more Oubre discovers about his shortcomings and the challenges of the NBA, the better. The rough patches will only bolster the rookie going forward.


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


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Cole Aldrich leaves woeful Knicks for contending Clippers

New York Knicks center Cole Aldrich (45) pulls down a rebound as Milwaukee Bucks center Zaza Pachulia (27) defends with New York Knicks forward Quincy Acy (4) getting in on the action in the first half of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York, Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

New York Knicks center Cole Aldrich (45) pulls down a rebound as Milwaukee Bucks center Zaza Pachulia (27) defends with New York Knicks forward Quincy Acy (4) getting in on the action in the first half of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York, Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Just a few weeks ago, before NBA free agency began, former Kansas standout Cole Aldrich really had no idea which team he might play for in the 2015-16 season.

At the time, re-signing with New York, which finished with the worst record in the Eastern Conference (17-65), seemed like a legitimate possibility.

The open market, however, led the 6-foot-11 Aldrich to a much better situation. On Monday, the five-year veteran officially joined his fifth NBA team and signed with the Los Angeles Clippers. The new contract moves Aldrich from one of the worst teams in the league to a franchise that earned the No. 3 seed in the loaded Western Conference.

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The Los Angeles Times’ Ben Bolch reported Aldrich’s two-year contract has a player option for the second year, meaning he can opt out and test free agency next summer if he so desires. The center signed for the veteran’s minimum, and will earn $1.1 million this coming season.

After achieving new career-highs of 5.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 16.6 minutes last season with the woeful Knicks, Aldrich figures to become the Clippers’ backup center, playing behind DeAndre Jordan. L.A. just re-signed Jordan to a max contract after nearly losing him to Dallas in free agency, and the SportsCenter Top-10 regular is one of the faces of the franchise, along with point guard Chris Paul and power forward Blake Griffin.

Even as a substitute, though, Aldrich will get playing time the Clippers. Coach Doc Rivers often is forced to sub out his star center, because Jordan is an atrocious free-throw shooter (41.7% for his career, 39.7% last season). Aldrich made 78.1% of his free throws in 2014-15, which is right at his career mark of 78%. So Rivers won’t have to worry about Aldrich costing the team easy points at the foul line.

Between regular reserve minutes in the rotation and helping L.A. avoid Hack-a-DeAndre situations, Aldrich will get a chance to contribute to one of the West’s top teams, as the Clippers try to contend for an NBA title, along with Golden State, San Antonio, Houston, Memphis and Oklahoma City.

Aldrich became the second Jayhawk to sign with the Clippers this offseason, joining 17-year veteran Paul Pierce.

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The move westward also teams the former KU center with a fellow member of the 2008-09 All-Big 12 Team, Griffin — Oklahoma’s conference player of the year that season.

All-Big 12 first-teamer Cole Aldrich, right, walks off the court with Big 12 Player of the Year Blake Griffin of Oklahoma.

All-Big 12 first-teamer Cole Aldrich, right, walks off the court with Big 12 Player of the Year Blake Griffin of Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

Aldrich’s time at KU made him a lottery pick in 2011. He failed to catch on as a valued contributor with Oklahoma City, Houston or Sacramento in his first three seasons in the league. His past two years with the Knicks — last season in particular — set him up for what will be the most interesting stretch of his career to date.

The 26-year-old Bloomington, Minnesota native took to Twitter to thank the Knicks organization and its supporters for his time there.

“Always have love for you guys,” he wrote.

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Even so, chasing a championship with the Clippers should increase his on-the-court enjoyment by an incalculable amount.


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Report: Joel Embiid to have another foot surgery, could miss 2015-16 season

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid chats up Kansas assistant coach Kurtis Townsend on the way to the locker room following the Jayhawks' 74-64 win over Baylor on Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid chats up Kansas assistant coach Kurtis Townsend on the way to the locker room following the Jayhawks' 74-64 win over Baylor on Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Joel Embiid’s injury-riddled, still-young basketball career just suffered another blow.

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey reported Saturday the 7-footer from Kansas, who just sat out what would have been his rookie season with the 76ers, will have a second surgery on his right foot after suffering a setback in his healing process.

What’s more, a source tole The Inquirer a “great possibility” exists that Embiid won’t begin his NBA career in the coming 2015-16 season, either. Philadelphia could opt to once again have him sit out.

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Pompey reported the Sixers, who just took big man Jahlil Okafor out of Duke with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft a year after selecting Embiid, are planning as if their 2014 lottery pick from Cameroon won’t play in what should have been his second season.

Another source said the organization wonders whether this latest recovery obstacle could be career-threatening.

Expected by many to be taken No. 1 overall in the 2014 draft, Embiid suffered a stress fracture in the navicular bone in his right foot weeks before the draft. Cleveland and Milwaukee passed on the injury-prone post player, who also missed time at KU with a stress fracture in his back. The Sixers took a gamble on him, and appear once again prepared to not rush him back from this latest blow.

According to The Inquirer, the Sixers are expected to release a statement about Embiid’s immediate future in the coming days.

Embiid hasn’t spoken publicly on the matter, but posted a message on his Instagram account before the news broke:

“My time is coming… Too blessed to be stressed.”


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Forget Phoenix: Marcus Morris ready for expanded role with Detroit

Vacationing with his twin brother and teammate Markieff Morris last week, Marcus Morris abruptly learned Phoenix had traded him to Detroit.

Caught off guard by the news then, Marcus appeared over the transaction that split up the Suns’ twin tandem when the Pistons introduced their newest player at a Friday afternoon press conference.

“At the same time it’s a business,” said Marcus, joining the third organization of his four-year NBA career. “Forget Phoenix. I’m here in Detroit and I’m ready to get started. I have high expectations of myself and I’m just ready to get to work. You’ll see.”

The Morris twins, of course, starred together at Kansas before leaving school one year early to enter the 2011 NBA Draft. The Suns took Markieff 13th overall, and Marcus went next in the first round, to Houston.

During his first appearance as a member of the Pistons, Marcus admitted he never settled in with the Rockets, because he always thought he would end up in Phoenix, with his brother. He was right. The Suns reunited the Morrii in 2013 via a trade. Marcus assumed he and Markieff would remain teammates for the foreseeable future.

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Wearing a Detroit Bad Boys cap, Marcus reflected on the business move that sent him away from his brother.

“I mean, things change, situations change,” he said. “I’m a basketball player, I’m a man, so nobody’s gonna feel sorry for me — me going different places. So I just have to adjust and, you know, do my job.”

Asked during the press conference about playing on a different team than Markieff, Marcus simply responded: “Life goes on.”

Shortly after the Q and A, though, Perry A. Farrell of the Detroit Free Press got Marcus to open up more on the matter.

“Everybody knew how bad I wanted to play with my brother. Phoenix knew,” Marcus told the Free Press. “For them to trade me without consent or telling me was like a slap in the face, because of the contract I took from those guys and the money I took from them. I'm happy to be here. I'm a Piston. I'm a Bad Boy. I'm ready to get started.''

Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy had a lot to do with Marcus feeling better about going to Detroit, where he’ll wear No. 13.

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“We said coming into the summer that our biggest priority was to get a starting small forward, and with this deal we think we’ve done that,” Van Gundy said.

In Phoenix this past season, Marcus started in 35 of his 81 appearances, but butted heads with coach Jeff Hornacek and only played 25.2 minutes a game — averaging 10.4 points and 4.8 rebounds while making 35.8% of his 3-pointers.

Upon welcoming Marcus to Detroit, Van Gundy told the 25-year-old forward the organization had significantly different plans for him.

“We were really, really happy that this (trade) was available,” the Pistons coach said. “We think Marcus is at a point in his career where he’s already established himself as a very good player, but now with an increased opportunity we think he’s got a chance to really blossom into even more than we’ve seen so far.”

Not only does Van Gundy want Marcus to mentor incoming lottery pick Stanley Johnson, of Arizona, but he expects the 6-foot-9 forward to play a large role in the offense, with big man Andre Drummond and point guard Reggie Jackson.

“I’ll probably have more opportunities than I had in Phoenix, so I’m definitely looking forward to that part,” Marcus said.

In Detroit, he might be able to catch up with the production of twin brother Markieff, who averaged 17.5 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals for the Suns while starting all 82 games in the 2014-15 season.

But it sounds as if the twins aren’t expecting Markieff to stick around in Phoenix much longer, either — which could stem from the brothers’ alleged involvement in an aggravated assault, a charge to which they pleaded not guilty.

“I hope he does well wherever he’s at,” Marcus said, “if it’s Phoenix or wherever.”


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Kelly Oubre Jr. learns quickly, changes his brash approach

Washington Wizards' Kelly Oubre Jr. speaks during an NBA basketball news conference, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Washington. Washington moved up four spots in the first round to get the Kansas freshman in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks, who selected Oubre with the 15th overall pick in the NBA draft the night before.. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Wizards' Kelly Oubre Jr. speaks during an NBA basketball news conference, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Washington. Washington moved up four spots in the first round to get the Kansas freshman in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks, who selected Oubre with the 15th overall pick in the NBA draft the night before.. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Kelly Oubre Jr. has yet to play even a Summer League game in the NBA, but it appears he is learning quickly. After making some brash statements about how he compared to other 2015 draft picks in his initial Washington D.C. media appearances, the rookie from Kansas turned down his bravado in his most recent round of interviews.

The most noteworthy player representing the Wizards at the Las Vegas Summer League, Oubre didn’t speak of the “kill-or-be-killed” nature of the NBA when conversing with reporters after a mini-camp session this week. Instead, the small forward used words like “blessing” and “privilege” when describing what it’s like to represent Washington.

“I’m ready to earn everything that’s gonna be given,” Oubre said.

Although he has only participated in mini-camp practices with D.C., Oubre admitted to already noticing the NBA game is faster.

“The quicker you adjust to it… the slower it gets,” he said. “It’s my job to make sure I stay on top of my game, make sure I watch film, to make sure that I’m up to speed, because it’s a new level — bigger players, better players — so, I’m ready for it.”

Obviously, we don’t yet have any evidence this more humble version of Oubre translates to on-the-court improvement, as well. He’ll get his first crack at impressing Washington and its fan base Saturday, when the Wizards face Phoenix in Vegas. Asked what he expects out of the exhibitions, Oubre briefly relapsed to a more cocky tone.

“I’m just expecting to show out. Show out within the confines of my team, the offense and everything, and make sure, most importantly, we win.”

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Since arriving in D.C., Oubre has made sure to pick up on what more experienced players offer up in conversation. Reading between the lines, that likely explains why his statements now seem less boastful.

“A lot of the older guys give me a lot of great input, you know, and I put that into my mental,” Oubre said. “It prevents me from making mistakes. I definitely need to listen to every single thing everybody tells me.”

Since the draft, when Atlanta took him 15th overall, then traded him to Washington, Oubre has gone “non-stop” with basketball, first in Los Angles, then in D.C., because that’s his job now. He said improvement is a must. That’s the approach any rookie with his head screwed on straight would take.

Oubre said he looks forward to facing some other members of his draft class in Las Vegas. Kentucky’s Devin Booker plays for the Suns, who took Booker 13th overall, passing on Oubre in the process.

“Whoever’s in front of me, it’s my job to pretty much destroy, you know what I mean? I’m gonna try to go hard,” Oubre began, before catching immodesty mid-statement. “And they’re gonna do the same, because they’re competitors.”

During a radio interview with ESPN 980 on Wednesday, Oubre spoke more about setting the tone for his new career at the Summer League, saying he can make shots and defend.

“The thing I want to really emphasize is being the best playmaker that I can be,” the 6-foot-7 swingman added, “getting into the paint, not necessarily always shooting when I’m in the lane, but kicking out to the open guy or just making the necessary plays.”

Oubre is no dolt. He also spoke fondly of Washington coach Randy Wittman, going as far as to say he loves him.

“He’s a perfectionist. He doesn’t let you get away with anything, and that’s what I need,” the suddenly self-aware rookie out of KU said. “He’s definitely a guy that I can definitely learn from and continue to get better. I look forward to my long career here and I’m definitely blessed to be a Washington Wizard.”

The radio platform even allowed Oubre to back off of the bizarre statement he recently made about not being enamored with Kevin Durant, the NBA’s 2013-14 MVP who prior to the draft had wished Oubre luck via an Instagram post.

https://instagram.com/p/4Sz2MYzSrs/

“We’re just competitors,” Oubre clarified of his relationship with Durant, a free agent next summer and widely expected to be targeted by Washington. “He realized I wasn’t going to back down from him even though he’s KD, so he has a level of respect for me and I have the same for him. It’s a relationship that we see each other, I hit him up, or we’ll do some stuff. It’s hard work. He wants to be great. He’s on his way to being great, very close. And I definitely want to be where he’s at one day, so he’s like a big bro. … It’s definitely a great relationship we have.”

It’s refreshing to hear Oubre’s adapted, less arrogant tone. The way he’s talking now mirrors the approach he took while dealing with media in his one season at Kansas. Whomever convinced him to lead with the hotshot persona before the draft appears to have been drowned out by more sensible voices.

None of this means Oubre will assimilate perfectly to the next level or make an immediate positive impact to the Wizards’ on-the-court product. At least it’s a head-start down a better path than he seemed routed toward a couple weeks ago.

His answer to a question about the kind of feedback he has received from Wizards coaches provides a perfect example of the earliest lesson of his NBA career.

“Apparently they like me. They drafted me,” a smiling Oubre said. “It’s my job to put a smile on their face, and put money in their pocket, too.”


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Tarik Black enters Summer League prepared to prove himself to Lakers all over again

Los Angeles Lakers forward Tarik Black, right, shoots as Minnesota Timberwolves forward Adreian Payne defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, April 10, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Lakers forward Tarik Black, right, shoots as Minnesota Timberwolves forward Adreian Payne defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, April 10, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

In the NBA, you constantly have to prove yourself, especially if you’re an un-drafted player on a non-guaranteed contract. Such is the life of Tarik Black.

You wouldn’t know it by listening to the former Kansas big man speak, but Black might not have nearly as large a role with the Los Angeles Lakers in his second season as he did as a rookie.

Listed at 6-foot-11 (but actually 6-9 in sneakers), Black started 27 games for the Lakers after being waived by Houston. The undersized center contributed 7.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and made 59.8% of his shot attempts in 21.1 minutes a game for an underwhelming L.A. team that finished the season 21-61.

As one of the NBA’s marquee franchises, the Lakers weren’t about to run it back with the same roster. And although they whiffed on big-name big men free agents such as LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Monroe, they made less headline-grabbing moves by trading for center Roy Hibbert and signing power forward Brandon Bass. Throw in the return of power forward Julius Randle, who broke a leg in his NBA debut last season, and you’re looking at three guys likely to get minutes ahead of Black.

So why is Black so positive about his role with the franchise entering Summer League play? The gregarious big man said in an interview posted on the Lakers’ website he felt like a part of the team within a couple of weeks of arriving in L.A. — like he was supposed to be there.

The Lakers begin playing in the Las Vegas Summer League on Friday, where Black enters the showcase with a list of personal targets in terms of improvements.

“A lot of things last season with me was moving too fast,” Black said. “I have a lot of tools, a lot of things I can utilize there on the floor, but I was moving so fast and just so anxious that I was maybe throwing the ball away or making a move and I had a shot and I didn’t recognize it, because my head’s down and I’m just moving. So now I’m just trying to slow myself down.”

After having conversations with coach Byron Scott on the matter, Black thinks improving offensively will come by pacing himself, as well as investing some off-the-court time in watching video.

“To see yourself on film, I think it’s an underplayed thing nowadays in the game,” Black said. “We watch film on teams when we travel, but watching yourself is huge.”

Of course, Black didn’t mean watching his own highlights. Examining areas where he came up short in his first tour through the league will do him far more good. All the while, he plans on expanding his “bread and butter” plays, too, and constantly finding ways to improve his greatest skills.

“That’s gonna keep me at this level: my rebounding, my hustle plays, playing defense, things like that,” Black pointed out.

One facet that needs a lot of improvement, Black admitted, is his jump shot. Primarily an interior force his entire basketball life, he has spent a lot of time since the end of the season taking jumpers.

At the college and high school levels, Black always played center and never had a coach ask him to take jumpers, let alone work on them. Accordingly, he is happy to put in the time to become a more complete NBA player.

An overview of Tarik Black's rookie-year shot chart, via NBA.com/stats.

An overview of Tarik Black's rookie-year shot chart, via NBA.com/stats.

Honest with reporters about not just his development, but also adjusting to all that comes with professional basketball, Black said he had trouble at first determining the ideal approach to his offseason routine. After all, this is his first summer as an NBA player. A little over a year ago, he had pre-draft workouts through June. Before that, as Black put it, college players stayed on campus in the summer months, because coaches didn’t want them to leave and “you don’t have money to leave, so it’s a little bit different routine.”

Black, who has one season left on his contract for $845,059, understands he’ll have to maneuver through this offseason properly to make sure he enters training camp prepared for the 82-game grind. He said he returned to KU “like two days later,” after the Lakers’ season ended and went in the opposite direction of immediate rest.

“I was playing five-on-five as soon as I touched down off the plane,” Black said.

However, he kept hearing the same advice from people who know the league: get some rest. So Black tried to take about a month off to get rejuvenated.

“I want some longevity in my career,” Black explained. “And I know what you do now definitely affects you down the road, even though you might not feel it as much.”

For someone who has played all of 63 games in the NBA, Black sure talks like a veteran. It’s smart of him, too, to neither address the diminished role he may occupy next season, nor waste time worrying about it at this point. As he told reporters, the Lakers have “so much talent” it’s difficult to predict what they’ll ask of him or how much they’ll utilize him, particularly on offense.

“I’m not really tripping about that,” Black said. “Because I know I’m getting better. I’m working on it every day. When you get the chance to show it, that’s when the opportunity opens up.”

Once free agent agreements and trades from the past week become official, the Lakers’ frontcourt will feature Black, Hibbert, Bass, Randle, Ryan Kelly, Robert Sacre and rookie Larry Nance Jr. That’s a lot of big men. But the group could get less crowded, according to the L.A. Times, which reported the Lakers could trade Kelly or Sacre to make sure they have enough room under the salary cap to accommodate their offseason acquisitions.

Given Black’s cheap contract (by NBA standards, of course) and his attitude, it’s hard to imagine the Lakers getting rid of him. But anything could happen in the weeks and months to come.

Beginning this weekend at the Summer League, Black will just keep working, trying to prove that he can be trusted inside, even on offense.

“I’m gonna keep on playing my age and show that I’m getting better,” Black said.

It’s that approach that got him to the NBA, via the 2014 Summer League, to begin with, and it’s that mindset that will keep him around the league.


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


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Thomas Robinson finds ‘right opportunity’ with Brooklyn Nets

Philadelphia 76ers' Thomas Robinson, left, dunks past Los Angeles Lakers' Robert Sacre during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, March 30, 2015, in Philadelphia. Los Angeles won 113-111 in overtime. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Philadelphia 76ers' Thomas Robinson, left, dunks past Los Angeles Lakers' Robert Sacre during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, March 30, 2015, in Philadelphia. Los Angeles won 113-111 in overtime. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Thomas Robinson didn’t have to wait long to find his new NBA home for the 2015-16 season.

On the second day of free agency, the former Sacramento King, Houston Rocket, Portland Trail Blazer and Philadelphia 76er (who was waived by the Denver Nuggets without playing a game for them) agreed to a contract with the Brooklyn Nets.

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Rather than waiting to see which teams misfired on their home-run pitches to the big-name free agents, Robinson on Thursday went ahead and decided to stick with the franchise that already had shown interest in him. The Nets planned to sign Robinson once he cleared waivers in February, but Philadelphia claimed him before that became an option.

Considering how the first three seasons of his professional career have gone — never playing more than 15.1 minutes a game over the course of one of them — its easy to see why Robinson would jump at the chance to join an organization who has shown an inkling of belief in him.

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The New York Post’s Tim Bontemps reported the addition of Robinson helps Brooklyn meet one of its offseason goals: to add younger, more athletic players. The Nets will sign the 24-year-old power forward to a two-year contract for the league minimum, and he has a player option to become a free agent again next summer.

There are months to go before the season actually begins, but at this point it appears Robinson will be a regular rotation player — likely even the first big off the bench to replace either Brook Lopez or Thaddeus Young.

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Perhaps the most important development in all of this, though, is the nature of the contract. Brooklyn could have only been interested in a short-term deal, but that’s best for Robinson, too. This way, he can bet on himself.

In his eyes, he hasn’t yet received a legitimate shot to prove he belongs in the NBA. If he finally gains relevancy with the Nets, he can opt out of his deal next July and get more money from Brooklyn or another team.

Robinson took a step in the right direction during his short, 22-game stay with Philadelphia, averaging 8.8 points and 7.7 rebounds (2.8 offensive) in 18.5 minutes.

Some advanced stats from basketball-reference.com tell even more of the story. Robinson had a player efficiency rating of 19.3 with the Sixers, which was more than 4 points higher than he had posted with any other team. For a reference point, Miami’s Dwyane Wade had a PER of 21.4 for the season, which ranked 20th overall in the NBA.

While wearing a 76ers uniform, Robinson also set new personal marks in offensive rebound percentage (15.8%) and defensive rebound percentage (30.2%). Had either of those come over the course of the entire season, Robinson would have ranked third in ORB%, behind Andre Drummond (18.3%) and DeAndre Jordan (16.2%), and third in DRB%, behind Jordan (32.4%) and DeMarcus Cousins (30.6%).

The No. 5 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Robinson knows he has yet to live up to the expectations that come with that status. Next season in Brooklyn could change all of that, as long as he maintains that high-energy approach and keeps crashing the glass like a maniac.

As he tweeted out upon coming to terms with the Nets, Robinson thinks he’s finally on his way to earning respect around the league.

None by thomas robinson


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