Tarik Black only spent one season playing for Kansas, but he quickly became a fan favorite.
After leaving Memphis as a graduate transfer, Black played 13.5 minutes per game in his senior year, mostly playing behind Joel Embiid.
But since his time in Lawrence, Black has continued to maximize his opportunities from KU.
He recently earned his master’s degree in African-American studies from Kansas. According to a story from Marc J. Spears in The Undefeated, Black put in paperwork to start the Tarik Black Foundation, which he hopes will provide opportunities for inner-city youth in his hometown Memphis.
“I live life to be the role model that I always wanted,” Black said. “And if anybody can learn anything from my story, it is to take what you need, because I’ve experienced a lot. I’ve seen a lot and I won’t be bold enough to say I’ve seen everything. So I won’t ever sit and say that I don’t want anybody to ever mimic me, because a lot of people mimic people.”
In his third year in the NBA, the 6-foot-9, 250-pound Black is averaging 6.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per game with the Los Angeles Lakers. He’s played in 40 games, making three starts.
Black didn’t hear his name called during the 2014 NBA draft, but he’s carved out a role with his strength and hustle.
During his summer offseasons, Black was focused on finishing classes and earning his master’s degree. He told Spears that he chose African-American studies after finishing three points shy of passing the GRE General Test to enter business school. His mother used to work for the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.
“My dream and passion actually is doing nonprofit work in a city with so much history when it comes to civil rights leaders or slavery,” Black said. “And the Underground Railroad, Memphis was the main stop in it. So, being from a city like that, understanding the background and wanting to go back and work with inner-city youth, which is my true passion, it actually ended up being a blessing.”
Perhaps what made Black such a strong fan favorite was his positive attitude and ability to notice the big picture.
So it’s no surprise that Black has big plans once he’s done playing basketball.
“It took people helping me through it,” Black said. “People were there for me and my backbone, and carried me through it, locking me into getting it done. It feels wonderful to have that paperwork, especially in today’s world. A bachelor’s doesn’t mean much. It’s basically like a high school diploma. So, having a master’s, it means so much, especially to have the accolade as 24-year-old black man and to me personally.”
When newly acquired power forward Markieff Morris realized where the Washington Wizards were hosting this year's preseason training camp, bad memories instant began flooding his mind.
See, the Wizards are conducting this year's camp at the home arena of Virginia Commonwealth University, the same VCU that knocked Morris and the Jayhawks out of the 2011 NCAA Tournament one game shy of the Final Four.
In an interview with WRIC's Mitch Carr, Morris expressed his frustration of having to practice under VCU's Final Four banner.
Now with his third team in his sixth NBA season, the 2011 NBA Draft lottery pick is projected to be the Wizards' starting power forward this season and is looking forward to playing alongside backcourt standouts John Wall and Bradley Beal.
During his first five seasons in the league — with Phoenix and Toronto — Morris, 27, has averaged 11.5 points and 5.4 rebounds in 372 career games.
Morris will be joined on this year's Wizards' roster by fellow former Jayhawk Kelly Oubre, who was the No. 15 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft after one year at Kansas.
Here's a look at the recent interview with Morris inside VCU's home gym:
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:
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.”
Through the first 31 games of his NBA career, Sacramento’s Ben McLemore has made a name for himself with highlight-reel dunks.
But coming out of Kansas, most of the attention was on McLemore’s smooth jump shot. McLemore wowed with his textbook release and clutch shots, and during his one-and-done year, he shot 42 percent (73 of 174) from beyond the arc.
As the NBA draft approached, scouts and journalists never missed an opportunity to compare McLemore to the league’s all-time leader in three-pointers, Ray Allen. McLemore embraced the narrative, too. From the Orlando Sentinel, days before the draft:
"I definitely can compare myself to Ray Allen, especially with the shooting ability," McLemore said. "I don't know about the athleticism anymore. But I definitely can say I compare myself with him a lot as far as getting myself open, coming off screens and little things like that."
So far, McLemore hasn’t come close to matching the pre-draft expectations and is shooting just 34 percent (41 of 120) from three. But the lofty comparisons to Allen persist, and Kings blog CowbellKingdom.com recently went to the future Hall of Famer for the definitive answer on McLemore:
He’s a jump shooter, first and foremost. He looks like, I haven’t seen him a lot, but every shot he takes, it seems like he duplicates the first one to the next one to the one after that. He stays consistent in how he puts the ball in the air. He has great athleticism, and he uses it on his jump shot and most players now in the NBA don’t do that.
Allen — who probably resisted the urge to simply say “He Got Game” — also told CowbellKingdom that he’s impressed by 20-year-old McLemore’s fundamentals:
We’re creatures of habit. When you play sports a certain way, it’s hard to change who you are. So, he has great athleticism, (but) you can tell whoever taught him young kept him in great form with how he shoots the ball. It really has nothing to do with age because if you’re taught the fundamentals of the game when you’re 15, you’ll shoot the ball the right way – the way you’re supposed to be (shooting). It’s just we’re so surprised (when) we see players come to the NBA, professional players that don’t have the skill-set or the fundamentals that we know we should be seeing.
Nice of you to say, Ray. But as NBATV’s Trey Kerby pointed out, McLemore still has a ways to go:
Now, to live up to these kind words, all Ben McLemore has to do is play another 16 seasons, raise his three-point accuracy five percentage points while doing so, break all kinds of records, credibly appear in a major motion picture, shave his head right when it becomes time to shave his head, always look like he’s snarling even though he’s generally happy, and win two titles while also making one of the most clutch three-pointers in league history to save a championship season. Simple stuff.
For the full quotes from Allen on McLemore, head over to CowbellKingdom.com.
Happy birthday, Hinrich
Chicago guard Kirk Hinrich turned 33 years old on Thursday. To mark the occasion, Bulls blog PippenAintEasy.com compiled some of Hinrich’s best moments in red, white and black, including this dunk during his rookie season in 2004:
The ProHoopsHistory Twitter account also looked back at Hinrich’s Bulls career on Thursday:
Kirk Hinrich is 4th in total assists in 3rd in APG in the history of the Chicago Bulls. A legend in his own time
Phoenix broadcaster Tom Chambers recently sat down with Suns forwards Markieff and Marcus Morris. In the two-part interview, the twins talk quite a bit about family and their lifelong dream of playing together:
Denver’s Darrell Arthur returned reinvigorated from a two-game injury absence, Monday against Miami:
Brooklyn’s Paul Pierce wasn’t happy with his team’s effort Tuesday against San Antonio (more on that in a minute), so he took his frustration out on the rim:
And Portland’s Thomas Robinson, who hadn’t played in five games, showed no rust on this slo-mo slam before a return in Thursday’s game:
Brooklyn’s Paul Pierce on the Nets’ struggles, via ESPN.com:
It’s embarrassing. I don’t know if I’ve probably been a part of this many blowouts in one season already. But at some point, we’ve gotta have our pride. It has to come from each individual and say we’ve had enough of this. It’s extremely embarrassing.
Miami’s Mario Chalmers, likely flashing back to the 2008 NCAA tournament after getting torched by Golden State’s Stephen Curry on Thursday:
"You can't defend that. Once a player gets hot like that, you can't stop anybody like that."
On Portland's Thomas Robinson during Thursday's game against Charlotte, via Blazers media tweets:
I believe @Trobinson0 is yelling "lunch meat" every time Aldridge touches the ball against Josh McRoberts.
T Robinson on why he said "lunch meat" when LMA gets the ball. "Whatchu do with lunch meat? Eat it. He gets the ball and he eats all day."
Phoenix’s Marcus Morris on the Suns’ bench, via AZcentral.com:
“Once somebody cracks it open, you’ve got some wild stuff coming behind,” Marcus Morris said. “ … That’s what Coach (Jeff Hornacek) preaches. The more we get up, the more our percentages go higher.”
On the improvement of Marcus and Markieff Morris, from Phoenix head coach Jeff Hornacek, via CBS Sports’ Matt Moore:
"They were horrible defensively," Hornacek says. "Whether that was the system, or what. But we're putting a lot of responsibility on them to help out and to rotate and these guys are following it, and I think that's what's taking them to the next level."
On Sacramento’s Ben McLemore, via the Sacramento Bee:
“One thing I love about Ben is he is a great kid, his heart’s in the right place, he wants to do well,” said Kings coach Michael Malone. “He wants to watch film, learn and get better, he takes it very seriously and I know he’s going to get there and experience is the best teacher. What he went through (Sunday), even though it was a hard lesson for him and us, that’s going to help him (Tuesday) night and hopefully throughout the season.”
Remember to check KUsports.com every night for the latest line scores from the ‘Hawks in the NBA.
We took a break for the Christmas holiday, but the NBA didn’t.
Here’s what you may have missed:
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.
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.
Phoenix’s Markieff Morris put back a buzzer-beating offensive rebound against Philadelphia on Saturday.
Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat (Dec. 28 / W, 108-107 at POR)
Marcus Morris, Phoenix Suns (Dec. 28 / W, 115-101 vs. PHI)
Marcus Morris, Phoenix Suns (Dec. 23 / W, 117-90 vs. LAL)
Markieff Morris, Phoenix Suns (Dec. 20 / W, 103-99 at DEN)
Paul Pierce, Brooklyn Nets (Dec. 20 / L, 121-120 OT at PHI)
Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings (Dec. 20 / L, 122-103 at MIA)
Los Angeles Lakers early-season surprise and part-time starter Xavier Henry injured his right knee on Sunday against Philadelphia.
"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.
"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."
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.
"At some point, you just cut your losses and do the fake trip and say, ‘Oh well, I tried.’"
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.
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.
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.
"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:
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.
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!
Remember to check KUsports.com every night for the latest line scores from the ‘Hawks in the NBA.
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.
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
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
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
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.
Keep up with the statistical outputs from the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.
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 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:
12.8 points (50.2 FG%), 6.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.9 steals in 26.0 minutes a game
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.
Meanwhile, Marcus’ shooting is up from 29.6 and 42.2 percent to 47.0 percent.
Defensive improvements have been just as important.
(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.
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.
Can Xavier Henry still dunk?
Tyshawn to Toronto?
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.
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
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:
Remember, kids, setting screens and taking charges can be cool, too:
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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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.
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.
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.
Chalmers a surefire hall-of-famer (in Alaska)
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.
David West scores, then drills Mario Chalmers with a forearm coming back up the floor. Chalmers still rubbing his chest.— Chris Mannix (@ChrisMannixSI) December 11, 2013
Mario Chalmers gets up with a smile after he's not rewarded for his flop— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) December 11, 2013
Chalmers at least served up a highlight dish in the final minutes — not that it will win him any notoriety.
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.
It's official Minnesota is colder than Alaska. Never thought I would see the day. Enjoy y'all day.— Mario Chalmers (@mchalmers15) December 7, 2013
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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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.
Look out, KJ. Mayor McLemore might take Sactown over sooner than you think.
This Sun is on fire
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.
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.
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:
Ryan Kelly and Kobe are joking on the bench about Xavier Henry actually finishing with his right hand. TOR 38, LAL 33.— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) December 9, 2013
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.
Xavier Henry didn't notice the "Darth Vader" theme during Kobe's intro. And with good reason. He's never seen "Star Wars." AK— Kamenetzky Brothers (@KamBrothers) December 9, 2013
Henry has never seen Star Wars? Nerd alert.
Shouldn't he be in green?
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.
Paul Pierce said there's a "good" chance he'll play tomorrow vs #celtics— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) December 9, 2013
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).
“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.”
Don’t forget to keep tabs on all your favorite ‘Hawks in the NBA with KUsports.com's daily stat recaps.