Posts tagged with Kansas

Fresh look at Morris twins’ journey to KU, NBA

Anyone with a passing interesting KU basketball has heard the story of the Morris twins.

There's Marcus and Markieff's unique bond on and off the court. The fact that they play for the same NBA team, the Phoenix Suns. The shared house, bank account and tattoos. And, of course, F.O.E.

Luckily, with the Morrii, there's always more. This week, SBNation.com posted a fresh, 10-minute look at the twins. The video includes interviews with the pair, their mother and their coaches — including "mean stepfather" Bill Self.

It's a fun watch, but Self's quotes about pushing the twins' buttons pushes it over the top:

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Jeff Withey building bulk, confidence after rookie season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


— Follow @BentonASmith on Twitter.

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A ringing endorsement for Ben McLemore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Happy birthday, Hinrich

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

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

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

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

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


Twin talk

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


Highlight reel

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

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

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

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

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


Quotables

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and ...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Hawks over the holidays

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

Here’s what you may have missed:


The highlights

Miami’s Mario Chalmers got fancy with a pass to LeBron James on Friday.

The Lakers’ Xavier Henry drew an and-one against Miami on Christmas Day.

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

Oklahoma City’s Nick Collison set up his teammates against the Knicks on Christmas Day

Brooklyn’s Paul Pierce showed some life in those 36-year-old legs on Saturday against Indiana.

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

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

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


The standouts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bonus video:

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


The injuries

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

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

From ESPN Los Angeles:

"I just landed awkwardly on my leg when I was about to plant," Henry said. He added that his knee "feels weird" and "a little loose," saying that it "kind of buckled" but was only experiencing minimal swelling.

On Monday afternoon, Henry was diagnosed with a bone bruise and some cartilage damage but "nothing too severe," a source told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. The Lakers will reevaluate Henry in a week to 10 days.

Meanwhile, Denver’s Darrell Arthur missed two games with a “right quad contusion” before returning on Monday. Arthur celebrated with a near-season-high 13 points and his first made three of the season.

Chicago’s Kirk Hinrich was sidelined for about five games with a back injury that he attributed to “wear and tear.” Hinrich returned to action on Christmas Day and played alongside fill-in starter and fellow Big 12 alum D.J. Augustin.

From the Chicago Tribune:

"He's a great decision-maker, a knockdown shooter," Hinrich said of Augustin. "Me personally, just get my minutes down a little bit so I can just stay healthier. I feel like I'm more effective that way too."


The dunk

First Xavier Henry over Jeff Withey. Now LeBron James over Ben McLemore:

Rookie Jayhawks in the NBA are now 0-for-2 when trying to draw charges on devastating dunkers. Let that be a lesson to next year’s KU draft class: not everyone can be Nick Collison.

Luckily, McLemore’s spirit wasn’t broken by the play, and a few others, including James, shared some kind words after the game. From the Sacramento Bee:

“Just knowing LeBron, I knew they weren’t going to call that call (a charge on James),” McLemore said. “I was just playing my defensive principles. Going in, being the low man and taking the charge.”

Said Kings coach Michael Malone: “Ben is a fearless kid. I love his heart ... Some guys would duck and get of the way because they do not want be on the ESPN highlight tape. Ben is a competitor. He hates to lose.”

Said James: “As a defender it is a split second (decision) and if you make the wrong decision then that is what can happen. I have been fortunate enough to to be on the other end of a lot of those plays. It sucks that it was him too because I like him. I have been talking to him since he was in high school so that sucks.

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

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


The fouls

The holidays also saw a pair of flagrant fouls by the league’s Jayhawks.

Brooklyn’s Paul Pierce clotheslined Indiana’s George Hill on Dec. 23. Pierce was ejected and, a day later, fined $15,000 by the league.

Several nights later, on Dec. 27, Miami’s Mario Chalmers was tagged with a flagrant for contact with Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins.

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

After the game, Chalmers accused Cousins of flopping on the play. From the South Florida Sun Sentinel:

"I asked them, 'Why was that a flagrant foul,' " he said. "They said, 'Unnecessary roughness.' I said, 'How? He shot the ball and I was going for a box out.' I said, 'If I could move 285 that easily then what does that tell you?' "

Chalmers is now one of this season’s leaders in flagrant fouls, a potentially costly distinction. Again, from the Sun Sentinel:

Once a player reaches seven flagrant points (one for a Flagrant 1, two for a Flagrant 2), all suspensions are for two games, all without pay. At Chalmers' $4 million salary, each game suspended is $36,000 in lost pay.

Chalmers already has sat out one game for his Flagrant 2 foul against Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki in November. Following that incident, coach Erik Spoelstra advised him of the stakes going forward.

"I've been trying to stay out of all altercations, keep my elbows down, and if I still get something like that, that's unpredictable," Chalmers said.

Chalmers previously was assessed a Flagrant 2 foul for a Nov. 7 elbow to the neck of Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin.


Notables

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

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

Chalmers’ almost-triple-double: Miami faced Portland on Saturday without the NBA’s active leader in triple-doubles, LeBron James, and Mario Chalmers did his best to fill in with nine points, nine rebounds and nine assists.

From the South Florida Sun Sentinel:

"I wouldn't say he loves it when guys are out," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He's not rooting for guys to be out. But he certainly relishes the chance to shoulder more responsibility."

As for the one point, one rebound and one assist that kept him from his first triple-double? To hear Chalmers tell it (via BleacherReport’s Ethan J. Skolnick), he had at least two assists that weren’t counted.


Pierce a starter again: Brooklyn’s Paul Pierce, who spent most of December coming off the bench after returning from injury, regained his starting job in the last two games. Frontcourt injuries and absences forced the move for the 10-20 Nets. Unfortunately for them, Pierce’s stats as a starter and reserve are nearly identical this season, with career-low 40 percent shooting and scoring in the low double-digits.


#LegendOfTheMorrii: Phoenix’s Marcus and Markieff Morris were the focus of a recent episode of NBATV’s “Inside Stuff.”


T-Rob benched: Portland’s Thomas Robinson hasn’t gotten off the bench in the last four games for the Trail Blazers. He appeared in the Blazers’ first 27 games, but coach Terry Stotts recently swapped Robinson for fellow second-year pro Meyers Leonard. BlazersEdge.com’s Ben Golliver looked at the motives behind the move, and Dane Carbaugh broke down some film on the players:


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

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

Cole "Basically Furniture" Aldrich. Poor Cole Aldrich has averaged just 3.3 minutes in 13 games this season for the New York Knicks. You know, those Knicks. New York’s unwillingness to use Aldrich despite a glaring frontcourt issues has led to great quips from Knicks fans on Twitter, including the aforementioned nickname and this tweet from Yahoo Sports’ Dan Devine:

"Hey, Cole!" "Yes, Coach?" "Go check to see if we have any more of that spiral ham in the locker room." "… OK, Coach."

Even when Aldrich does see time on the court, it’s not too encouraging. His five-minute garbage-time stint on Christmas Day earned him the moniker “Cole Somedrich.” At the very least, more Knicknames should be in store with Monday’s news that New York chose to cut reserve Chris Smith rather than Aldrich.


No baskets for Brandon: Utah’s Brandon Rush hasn’t scored a basket in six games (eight if you count DNPs Saturday and Monday). Rush has taken just eight shots over that span, bringing his season total to a measly 25 attempts in 13 games (11.9 mpg).


Taylor time: Brooklyn’s Tyshawn Taylor was assigned to the NBA D-League’s Springfield Armor for two games … and then recalled in time to play four total minutes in two games with the Nets. Since starting guard Deron Williams returned to the lineup, Taylor has played just 14 total minutes in five of 10 games.


Good news, Ben McLemore! The Kings may be 9-20, but early figures reveal that Sacramento has seen the biggest increase in attendance since last year. A stay of execution from the NBA — not to mention a new owner/GM/coach combo and a few trades — will do that to a franchise. For more on the attendance figures, head over to SBNation.com.


Quotables

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

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

Lakers’ Xavier Henry on texting KU teammate Jeff Withey post-dunk-heard-around-the-world, via Grantland.com:

"He said he was doing all right," said Henry, the Lakers' 6-foot-6 swingman. "It was just one of his 'welcome to the league' moments. He said he learned not to take no charges no more."

On Sacramento’s Ben McLemore, from SBNation.com’s Tom Ziller:

The rookie was not good on Sunday. He had a rough time on offense, and he got torched quite a bit on defense. But he played 31 minutes, including all of crunch time. And I am totally fine with that, and legitimately prefer it to any other option. You don't learn how to play at the NBA level wearing warmups. You learn on the court. And Manu taught McLemore a few lessons on Sunday.

Brooklyn’s Tyshawn Taylor on Twitter … on Twitter:

I think it's funny when people say "you in the league why you respond to that" ain't that what twitter is for --to interact

I don't take this serious ... Like at all lol

On a former Jay in the NBA, as tweeted by retired NBA great and part owner of the Sacramento Kings Shaquille O’Neal:

Kings Fans, who is your favorite King of all time? Mine was Scot Pollard!


Required reading

Grantland.com’s Jonathan Abrams on Xavier Henry

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


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

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Cold snap strikes the league’s Jayhawks

Welcome to the Debbie Downer edition of 'Hawks in the NBA.

The past three December nights in The Association have been pretty dismal for KU products. On Friday, former Jayhawks combined to make 23 of their 57 shots (40.4 percent), and it only got worse from there.

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

Xavier Henry's 15-point, four-rebound night on Friday, when his Lakers got smoked by Oklahmoa City, 122-97, was the best offensive outing this past weekend among the league's 'Hawks.

Ready for more? Cue up the sound effects.


Pierce still in bench role

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

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

Here is the best news we can offer: Paul Pierce is actually playing. It just so happens he is doing so off the bench.

Three games into his return from an injured hand, Pierce remains a reserve for the Brooklyn Nets. That will continue to be his role "for now," Nets coach Jason Kidd said — as documented in an ESPN New York blog entry.

Pierce's production and minutes have increased in each of the three games, so if that trend continues, it's hard to imagine he will remain in the role long term. The Nets are 2-1 since getting the 16-year veteran back on the floor, and he delivered 12 points, four rebounds and four assists in his most recent outing, a loss at Detroit.

Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams, who returned from an injury of his own at the same time as Pierce, said in the ESPN NY blog that he appreciated what The Truth is doing for the team right now:

“[Paul]’s selfless. That shows what kind of person he is. He can be a guy that says, ‘I’m Paul Pierce, I’m a starter in this league,’ you know? Like some guys have done. He’s just worried about winning right now, and he’s trying to get back healthy and get back into a rhythm and I think he’s doing whatever the team needs right now.”



Slumping in Sacramento

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

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

So much can change in a week. Sacramento Kings rookie Ben McLemore, who recently won the NBA's Western Conference Rookie of the Month award, and seemed to be turning into a reliable double-digit scorer, hasn't lived up to the standard he set for himself of late.

Suddenly, McLemore can't get more than one shot to drop a night. In his last four games, the rookie went 1-for-7, 1-for-8, 1-for-6 and 1-for-4.

As the folks over at the Cowbell Kingdom blog note, Sactown has some issues at shooting guard:

"Ben McLemore is struggling. As is Marcus Thornton. The Kings are searching for answers at shooting guard and after tonight, I’m not sure where (coach Michael) Malone will turn next. Against some teams, we will probably see (newly acquired Rudy) Gay pick up a few minutes and even (Travis) Outlaw again, but these aren’t really long-term solutions. Sacramento needs McLemore and Thornton to get better and to do it quickly."


Can McLemore bust out of his slump? Has he hit a rookie wall? Will he remain a fixture of the re-tooled Kings' rotation. We'll keep you posted.


Rush wants more playing time

Utah Jazz guard/forward Brandon Rush

Utah Jazz guard/forward Brandon Rush

Don't let that media day smile deceive you. Brandon Rush is not happy in Utah.

Aaron Falk, of the Salt Lake Tribune, notes the difficulty the sixth-year pro has had adjusting to not only his return from a torn ACL, but also his limited role with the Jazz this season.

"It’s been really frustrating because I’ve worked hard," Rush said in Falk's story. "I wanted to be able to get some minutes and help the team out."

Falk reported that Rush met with Utah coach Tyrone Corbin this past Wednesday to discuss his lack of minutes, and thought it went well. It seemed to work in Rush's favor, too, because in Utah's next game after the talk, he played 20 minutes and scored nine points — far better than the DNP's he registered in the previous two Jazz games.

"He looked good," Corbin said in the Tribune. "He just played, man. That’s what we were looking for because he can help us. He can make shots. He can defend; he’s long. But we can’t have him be apprehensive about it, when to go or not go, because it throws the rhythm of all the other guys off."

Maybe Corbin forgot about that in Utah's next two games, because Rush only played 10 minutes and 4 minutes, following what seemed to be a positive transitional moment in his season.

Stay tuned.


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

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Quarter-season All-Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Morris twins march on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scoring: 3rd. Markieff; 6th. Marcus

Rebounding: T1st. Markieff; 3rd. Marcus

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

Steals: T4th. Marcus; T9th. Markieff

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

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

Earlier this month, Keef explained his new offensive mindset:

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

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

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

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

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

Defensive improvements have been just as important.

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

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

From Paul Coro of AZCentral.com:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, from AZCentral.com:

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

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

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

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


Can Xavier Henry still dunk?

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

Yes.


Tyshawn to Toronto?

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

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

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

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


Blooper reel

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

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

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

Two former KU stars ended up with brilliant bloopers recently.

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

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

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

Good grief, indeed.


Collison makes his case

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

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

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

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

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

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


Quotables

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Pierce returns off bench, beats former team

Boston Celtics guard Jeff Green (8) and Celtics forward Kris Humphries (43) defend Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) in the second half of their their NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, in New York. The Nets defeated the Celtics 104-96. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Boston Celtics guard Jeff Green (8) and Celtics forward Kris Humphries (43) defend Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) in the second half of their their NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, in New York. The Nets defeated the Celtics 104-96. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

It finally happened. Not that Paul Pierce ever intended for things to go down this way, exactly, but the 16-year veteran, in his 1,118th NBA game, played against the Boston Celtics for the very first time Tuesday night in Brooklyn.

Now a member of the Nets, Pierce had missed the previous four games with a broken bone in his right hand, so he came off the bench in his not-so-storybook showdown with his former team, which traded him away to build for the future.

The (hurt) Truth at least got the win after playing 22 minutes, going 0-for-3 from the field and finishing with four points, seven rebounds and three assists. But it was the return of another once ailing Net, point guard Deron Williams, that led Brooklyn to a 104-96 home win.

Pierce served as a sub for just the fourth time in his illustrious career and didn't appear to be 100 percent (he wore a protective glove of sorts on his hand), but he proved he could still make plays, with this dish to Nets big man Andray Blatche.

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

One might assume Pierce only came back at this point so he could do damage against his former team. However, the veteran called the timing a "coincidence" in a story from Newsday's Roderick Boone:

"My whole focus was about getting back healthy, coming out trying to help my team, establishing something at home. It just happens to be a coincidence that the day I come back is against the Celtics. It will probably be a little bit more emotional when I go back to Boston. We already had a preseason game against them. I already had a chance to holler at them in the preseason."


It's hard to imagine a guy with 24,211 career regular-season points to his name could become a backup, but his first-year coach, Jason Kidd, hinted the struggling Nets (7-14) could use Pierce in that role, according to a story from Stefan Bondy in the New York Daily News:

“I liked him being a leader with that second group,” Kidd said. “Will it stay that way? I don’t know. We will look at the video tomorrow as a team and coaches. I will talk to Paul and see what his comfort level is, but I would like to get him back, give him more minutes and get him used to that glove.”


We'll have to wait and see how long that takes, and if the highly touted Nets can start living up to their hype with the help of the former Jayhawks star.


Super Morris Bros.

Phoenix Suns' Marcus Morris (15) shoots over Memphis Grizzlies' Mike Miller (13) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Memphis, Tenn., Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

Phoenix Suns' Marcus Morris (15) shoots over Memphis Grizzlies' Mike Miller (13) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Memphis, Tenn., Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

In the ongoing battle to see who is the superior Morris twin off of the Phoenix Suns' bench, Marcus took another step forward Tuesday night.

His twin brother, Markieff (13.0 points, 6.2 rebounds), has stood out most of the season thus far for the surprising Suns (12-9), but Marcus (11.0 points, 4.9 rebounds) had another breakout game in Phoenix's 114-108 win at the Los Angeles Lakers. Mook (is that short for Marcus? I don't know, but his Twitter handle is @MookMorris2) made 10 of his 13 shots in the Phoenix win and scored a season-high 22 points.

Paul Coro, of azcentral.com, called it Marcus's best game of the season, noting the 6-foot-9 Wonder Twin exploits bigger power forwards when the Suns go small ball. In those situations, Marcus said, his larger defenders tend to back off on the perimeter, in order to better defend potential drives.

“Little do they know, that’s what I want,” Morris said. “I work on (jumpers) every day with Mark (West, Suns assistant coach).”


The Morrii, Coro pointed out, scored 11 straight points for the Suns late. And Markieff didn't have a bad game, either, with 15 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

Good thing Marcus was looking out for him.

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


Chalmers a surefire hall-of-famer (in Alaska)

Indiana Pacers guard George Hill, right, defends Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. The Pacers defeated the Heat 90-84. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

Indiana Pacers guard George Hill, right, defends Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. The Pacers defeated the Heat 90-84. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

NBA fans got to see the season's first marquee matchup of the Eastern Conference Tuesday night, when the Miami Heat played at the Indiana Pacers.

In the first of what figures to be numerous battles (regular-season and playoffs) between the clear-cut favorites of the East, Mario Chalmers had kind of a rough night in a 90-84 loss.

The sixth-year guard out of Kansas shot 3-for-7, had nine points, two steals, two assists and two turnovers for the two-time defending champion Heat (16-6) against the league's current top team, Indiana (19-3).

These in-game tweets from the media reveal a little more about what Chalmers endured.



Chalmers at least served up a highlight dish in the final minutes — not that it will win him any notoriety.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G2wW5_C0zOU

The Anchorage, Alaska, native's past performances earned him some distinction, though. He received some good news before the game: Chalmers will be inducted into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.

And, hey, even after a disappointing loss, things could be worse: Chalmers could spend his winters in Minnesota, instead of Miami.



Before we wrap things up, just for good measure, here's Ben McLemore in a Sacramento Kings Santa hat doing good.


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McLemore taking over in Sacramento

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


This Sun is on fire

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

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

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

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ACMQA0Zcbuo

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

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

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

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


Kobe who?

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

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

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

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

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


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


Henry has never seen Star Wars? Nerd alert.


Shouldn't he be in green?

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

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

The once unthinkable could happen as soon as tomorrow.

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


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

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

Washburn writes:

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

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


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Kirk Hinrich gets Heated

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

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

Kirk Hinrich’s been called many things during his 11-year NBA career.

Point guard. Shooting guard. Rookie. Veteran. Bull. Hawk. Wizard. Bull, again. Defender. Marksman. Glue Guy. Floor General. Troublemaker.

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

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

Oh, don’t give us that look, Kirk.

Hinrich may not be a brawler, but lest we forget, the Chicago Bulls’ goggles-wearing guard can be an irritant. And that mean streak tends to come out against the Miami Heat.

Take it away, 2007 Pat Riley:

"Just like the Chicago Bulls whine about Dwyane (Wade) always getting too many free throws, a great defender like Kirk Hinrich gets away with everything," he said. "And that's why he's a great defender. He's that way all the time. He's into you. He never stops. He's relentless.

"You develop a reputation as a technique defender, a physical defender. He has earned the right to probably get away with a lot of things.

Whatever the reason, Captain Kirk happens to find himself in quite a few “dust-ups,” like Thursday’s tiff with Miami’s Norris Cole.

The refs gave Kirk a technical for the exchange, and Kirk gave the world a GIFable reaction.

We give you a walk down memory lane:

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


King Arthur’s Court

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

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

Denver’s Darrell Arthur has been living in the mid-range area (10 to 24 feet) this season.

Sure, Arthur’s had a reputation for the mid-range shot since his days at Kansas. And since he’s been in the league, with Memphis, the majority of his shots have come from that distance.

So what makes this season different, other than trading his Grizzlies gear for a Nuggets jersey? It’s not his minutes played (17.7 per game; 18.2 career average) and it’s not his number of shot attempts (5.7 per game; 6.3 career average).

The big difference is that, in the 18 games of 2013-14, Arthur’s taken more than three-fourths of his total shots from mid-range. That’s a HUGE leap.

Take a look: (mid-range shot attempts/total shots attempted)

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

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

13-14: 76% (78/103)
12-13: 54% (194/359)
11-12: injured
10-11: 50% (313/624)
09-10: 36% (52/146)
08-09: 42% (184/436)

None of those numbers would mean much if he weren’t making the shots. But he is.

Let's bring in a new set of stats. This time, field goal percentage for mid-range shots (makes/attempts in parentheses).

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

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

13-14: 51% (40/78)
12-13: 45.4% (88/194)
11-12: injured
10-11: 41.2% (129/313)
09-10: 38.5% (20/52)
08-09: 38.0% (70/184)

Put those numbers together, and Arthur’s scored 73.4 percent of his points from mid-range, way up from 48.6% last season, 35.4% before that, and 28.0% before that (He had 33.2 percent of his points from mid-range his rookie year).

Now that we’ve established Arthur’s mid-range mastery, the only questions are:

  • Can he keep it up?

and

  • Should he?

DenverStiffs.com asked the second question, and if you’re at all interested in the nitty-gritty mid-range vs. three-pointer debate, check out their thread.

(Big thanks to NBA.com/stats and Chrome’s address bar/calculator for the numbers)


Not rushing back

Utah Jazz guard/forward Brandon Rush

Utah Jazz guard/forward Brandon Rush

On Wednesday, Utah’s Brandon Rush scored his first NBA basket in 399 days.

It was his only shot of the game and brings his total to four points in three games this season. Nevertheless, an important milestone for Rush as he works his way back from his second ACL tear in five years.

Rush recently spoke to the Deseret News about where he’s at, mentally and physically:

“What I want to get done first,” Rush said, “is being able to wake up and not think about the game situation, not being nervous and stuff like that.”

“The first time I did it when I was in college, it took me 5 1/2 months to get back. I wasn’t out of the game that long,” Rush explained. “This time, I had that route where I couldn’t have surgery for two months. It took a toll on the muscles in my quad.

“This has just been complicated,” he added. “I have been out a whole complete year. That takes anybody’s confidence away.”


Starting to look bad

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

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

Tyshawn Taylor tallied a career-high 16 points and 12 assists off the bench for the Brooklyn Nets on Nov. 29. In the week since, Taylor started all three games (filling in for Deron Williams and his injured ankle) but averaged just 7.3 points, 31 percent shooting, 1.3 assists and 2.3 turnovers in 27 minutes a game.

It hasn’t been pretty.

In Taylor’s defense, it’s not an enviable spot to be in — big media market, big payroll, big expectations but a lowly 5-14 record. Add to the mix a second-year player with limited in-game experience, and …


At least he’s trying.



Speaking of point guards ...

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

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

The Los Angeles Lakers have turned to Xavier Henry for help at point guard, according to practice reports from this week. With Steve Nash and Jordan Farmar injured and Steve Blake starting, Henry will be pressed into service as the backup point guard (or backup-backup-backup?). Henry briefly played the position Sunday during his 27-point explosion against Portland.


Quotables

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

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

On Ben McLemore, via the Sacramento Bee:

“When you have talent like he has, and a work ethic like he does, you are going to succeed,” said Kings adviser and Hall of Famer Chris Mullin. “I love the way he runs the floor. He’s fluid. He’s got beautiful form (on his jumper). He’s got to become more consistent, but if we start finding him out on the break more, he’ll get layups and free throws, and not have to rely on the 3-point shot. The quality of the shots will get better.”

Nick Collison, on trying to win more jump balls, via DailyThunder.com:

“It’s not a huge deal,” Collison said, “but you know what it is, it’s good to be at a place as a team where you’re worried about that stuff.”


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All hail the king (of West rookies)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore talks with Official Sean Wright during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors in Sacramento, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013. The Warriors won 115-113. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore talks with Official Sean Wright during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors in Sacramento, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013. The Warriors won 115-113. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Six teams passed on rookie Ben McLemore in the 2013 NBA Draft, but the 20-year-old rookie from Kansas is proving he can play at the next level just 16 games into his first season.

On Tuesday, the NBA named McLemore its Western Conference Rookie of the Month for games played in October and November.

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

As pointed out in the NBA's official release, the No. 7 pick in the 2013 draft led the West in scoring at 9.1 points, and among rookies, McLemore tied for the league lead with 21 three-pointers.

Here are some of the games that nabbed McLemore the honor:

-- Nov. 2 @ Golden State: Contributed 19 points (8-of-17) and four rebounds in a 98-87 loss to the Warriors.

-- Nov. 5 vs. Atlanta: Tallied 15 points, six rebounds and two steals in a 105-100 loss against the Hawks.

-- Nov. 19 vs. Phoenix: Recorded 19 points and five rebounds in a 107-104 win over the Suns.

McLeomore commented on the award before the Kings nearly knocked off Oklahoma City, in a 97-95 loss Tuesday night. Check out the blurb over at CowbellKingdom.com.

On the court, McLemore showed off his speed and nightly high-flying act against the Thunder.

Check out all the youtube highlights from his 14-point, three-assist outing after becoming rookie of the month.

Even bigger in McLemore's development is his defense. The Sacramento Bee's Jason Jones wrote about the rookie tackling a defensive assignment few would jump at: checking the Thunder's Russell Westbrook.

The Thunder superstar only made seven of his 19 field-goal attempts, thanks in part to McLemore's D.


What happened to Pierce?

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) reacts as he is sandwiched between Portland Trail Blazers point guard Mo Williams (25) and Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews (2) while driving toward the basket in the first half of their their NBA basketball game at the Barclays Center, Monday, Nov. 18, 2013, in Brooklyn. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) reacts as he is sandwiched between Portland Trail Blazers point guard Mo Williams (25) and Trail Blazers guard Wesley Matthews (2) while driving toward the basket in the first half of their their NBA basketball game at the Barclays Center, Monday, Nov. 18, 2013, in Brooklyn. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

No one is questioning the legitimacy of the injury, but there is a little mystery surrounding how exactly former Boston Celtics great and current Brooklyn Nets, umm ... former Celtics great Paul Pierce broke a bone in his right hand, an injury expected to sideline the 6-foot-7 forward for two to four weeks.

If there is any good news in this for Pierce and the struggling Brooklyn Nets (5-13) it's that the Eastern Conference is atrocious.

So even if Brooklyn continues to lose while Pierce is out – or even after he's back – it shouldn't be too difficult to get hot and make up ground. No one is catching Indiana (16-2) or Miami (14-4) in the top two slots, but the final six playoff positions – currently occupied by Washington (9-9), Boston (8-12), Atlanta (9-10), Detroit (8-10), Chicago (7-9) and Charlotte (8-11) are there for the taking.


Testing Hinrich's legs

The New Orleans Pelicans's defense of Jason Smith, left, and Ryan Anderson (33) force Chicago Bulls shooting guard Kirk Hinrich (12) to pass the ball under the basket during the second overtime period of an NBA basketball game Monday, Dec. 2, 2013, in Chicago. The Pelicans won 131-128 in triple overtime. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The New Orleans Pelicans's defense of Jason Smith, left, and Ryan Anderson (33) force Chicago Bulls shooting guard Kirk Hinrich (12) to pass the ball under the basket during the second overtime period of an NBA basketball game Monday, Dec. 2, 2013, in Chicago. The Pelicans won 131-128 in triple overtime. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

It took 48 minutes and three overtime sessions to determine a winner between Chicago and New Orleans. By the time Ryan Anderson's 37 points helped the Pelicans win, 131-128, four players had logged 50-plus minutes, including Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich (53). (Fellow 'Hawk in the NBA Jeff Withey, a backup center for New Orleans, played just over four minutes.)

Hinrich scored 13 points, dished 11 assists and grabbed six boards in the loss, but the 32-year-old is no stranger to such marathons. In fact, Hinrich last went 50-plus minutes in the 2013 playoffs.

This week's game nearly matched Hinrich's career high (54 minutes in 2004) for minutes played in a regular-season game. Including the playoff game this past spring, Hinrich has endured three 50-minute games this calendar year. Ice those knees, man.


Don't forget to keep tabs on all your favorite 'Hawks in the NBA with KUsports.com's daily stat recaps.

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