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Jayhawks in the Playoffs guide

Congratulations. You survived the 82-game NBA regular season.

Well, even if you didn't, personally, six former Kansas University basketball players did. (Actually, if you want to get technical about it, one of those KU products was a free agent until February. But, hey, now he's in the playoffs.)

It's all right if you weren't checking the box scores every day or watching game highlights every morning on YouTube. Even if you paid absolutely no attention to the NBA from the last week of October to right now, it shouldn't be too difficult to get caught up with the playoff-bound former Jayhawks in our guide to the postseason.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

No. 2 Miami vs. No. 7 Charlotte

Mario Chalmers

Season stats: 9.8 points | 2.9 rebounds | 4.9 assists | 45.4% FGs | 38.5% 3-pointers

Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers (15) drives on Charlotte Bobcats guard Kemba Walker during the first quarter of a preseason NBA basketball game Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, in Kansas City, Mo.

Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers (15) drives on Charlotte Bobcats guard Kemba Walker during the first quarter of a preseason NBA basketball game Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, in Kansas City, Mo.

You might want to sit down for this. As hard as it is to believe, the following statement is true. The two-time defending champion Miami Heat — you know, the team that has LeBron James — swept the Charlotte Bobcats in the regular season. Shocking, I know.

Interestingly enough, though, Miami only beat Charlotte by a point back on Dec. 1. Mario Chalmers scored 12 points and dished six assists in that one, and he averaged 8.3 points, 6.0 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.0 block against the Bobcats in the three games he played against them this season.

Chalmers only made 37.5% of his shots — almost a full eight points below his season field goal percentage of 45.5% — against Charlotte. But he found other ways to disrupt the Bobcats' defense.

As the good folks at stats.nba.com broke it down for us, Chalmers asserted himself on offense, looking to drive almost any time Charlotte's Kemba Walker tried to guard him: 13 drives in nearly 16 minutes of matching up with Walker. The former KU star drove past Ramon Sessions a few times, too — four drives in 5:16.

Of course, Chalmers is known more for his defense, and Walker (three drives in 12:06) and Sessions (one drive in 5:07) didn't have nearly as much success attacking him off the bounce.

This series, which figures to be a short one, begins Sunday at Miami.

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No. 3 Toronto vs. No. 6 Brooklyn

Paul Pierce

Season stats: 13.5 points | 4.6 rebounds | 2.4 assists | 45.1% FGs | 37.3% 3-pointers

Toronto Raptors forward Amir Johnson (15) defends Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) in the first half of their NBA basketball game at the Barclays Center, Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Toronto Raptors forward Amir Johnson (15) defends Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) in the first half of their NBA basketball game at the Barclays Center, Monday, Jan. 27, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The NBA Playoffs are nothing new for Paul Pierce, who has played in 136 games in 10 postseason appearances.

Pierce, who averages 20.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.0 assists in his postseason career, helped Boston qualify for the playoffs each of the previous six seasons — including a 26-game run to an NBA championship in 2008, when he was named NBA Finals MVP.

This spring, in his 16th NBA season, he'll try to bring that experience to a Brooklyn team that underperformed in November and December, but went 34-17 from January on.

Pierce played well against the Raptors this season, as the Nets split the season series, 2-2. The veteran small forward averaged 19.8 points a game against Toronto — more than he did against any team in the league except Miami (21.3 ppg). Toronto didn't have an answer for "The Truth," who made 56.1% of his shots in four meetings, while adding 4.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 2.0 steals.

He scored his season-high, 33 points, against the Raptors in a one-point Nets home loss on Jan. 27.

Defensively, don't be surprised if Nets coach Jason Kidd opts to use Pierce's size to defend Toronto point guard Kyle Lowry occasionally. In limited time defending Lowry, Pierce held him to 2-of-7 shooting, while Deron Williams and Shaun Livingston had issues bottling up Lowry, Toronto's second-leading scorer (17.9 points a game).

This first-round series, which could go the full seven games, begins early Saturday afternoon.

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No. 4 Chicago vs. No. 5 Washington

Kirk Hinrich

Season stats: 9.1 points | 2.6 rebounds | 3.9 assists | 39.13% FGs | 35.1% 3-pointers

VS.

Drew Gooden

Season stats: 8.3 points | 5.2 rebounds | 53.1% FGs | 41.2% 3-pointers [22 games]

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich (12) eyes Washington Wizards point guard John Wall during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Washington, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. The Wizards won 96-93. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich (12) eyes Washington Wizards point guard John Wall during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Washington, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. The Wizards won 96-93. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Of the eight first-round playoffs series, this is the only one in which two former Jayhawks will go head-to-head.

Hinrich and Gooden helped lead Kansas to a Final Four in 2002, and now they'll try to knock each other out of the postseason as role players.

The Bulls and Wizards only faced each other three times this season, and Washington won twice. However, the Wizards' second victory, a three-point win on Jan. 17, came right around the time Chicago began turning into one of the better teams in The Association. The Bulls are 25-12 since February, and beat Washington, 96-78, in D.C. just two weeks ago.

Hinrich, seen above flashing some wizardry of his own, averaged 12.3 points, 6.0 assists and 3.3 rebounds against Washington this season.

He'll spend a lot of this series matched up with one of the most entertaining and athletic young guards in the league, John Wall.

The 11th-year KU product held his own against Wall this season. Hinrich made 54% of his shots when guarded by Wall, while the budding D.C. superstar only converted 35% of his attempts against Hinrich.

Washington Wizards' Drew Gooden (90) dunks as Charlotte Bobcats' Kemba Walker (15) and Al Jefferson (25) watch during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, March 31, 2014. The Bobcats won 100-94. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Washington Wizards' Drew Gooden (90) dunks as Charlotte Bobcats' Kemba Walker (15) and Al Jefferson (25) watch during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, March 31, 2014. The Bobcats won 100-94. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Gooden could be the ultimate X-factor in this series. Because Washington picked him up as a free agent late in the season, the bearded power forward only played against Chicago once.

Earlier this month, the backup big man scored four points on 2-for-5 shooting and grabbed four rebounds in 22 minutes in Washington's home loss to the Bulls.

However, that's the only time in eight April games in which Gooden played more than 20 minutes. In fact, Washington coach Randy Wittman didn't play Gooden at all in two of the past four games.

By no coincidence, that drop-off in playing time coincided with the return of power forward Nene to D.C.'s lineup. But if Wittman wants to throw Chicago a curve ball, Gooden would gladly oblige and provide points and boards off the bench.

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WESTERN CONFERENCE

No. 2 Oklahoma City vs. No. 7 Memphis

Nick Collison

Season stats: 4.2 points | 3.6 rebounds | 1.3 assists | 55.6% FGs | 16.7 minutes

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) goes to the basket against Memphis Grizzlies forward Ed Davis (32) and center Marc Gasol (33), of Spain, in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Lance Murphey)

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) goes to the basket against Memphis Grizzlies forward Ed Davis (32) and center Marc Gasol (33), of Spain, in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Lance Murphey)

The Thunder won the season series with Memphis, 3-1, but backup power forward Nick Collison didn't have a lot to do with OKC's success.

Limited to 15.3 minutes a game versus the Grizzlies, Collison hit 43% of his shots and only scored 2.5 points a game, but chipped in with 4.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.0 block.

Still, expect Collison to contribute off the bench. In-depth statistics show he is one member of the Thunder's front court who is able to limit hefty Zach Randolph's productivity on the offensive glass.

The series begins Saturday night at Oklahoma City.

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No. 4 Houston vs. No. 7 Portland

Thomas Robinson

Season stats: 4.8 points | 4.4 rebounds | 48.1% FGs | 12.5 minutes

Portland Trail Blazers forward Thomas Robinson (41) drives to the basket past Houston Rockets' Dwight Howard (12) and Jeremy Lin (7) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, in Houston. (AP Photo/Bob Levey)

Portland Trail Blazers forward Thomas Robinson (41) drives to the basket past Houston Rockets' Dwight Howard (12) and Jeremy Lin (7) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 20, 2014, in Houston. (AP Photo/Bob Levey)

Houston beat Portland three out of four times in the regular season, but you couldn't blame Thomas Robinson for the Trail Blazers' struggles.

The second-year power forward barely got on the floor against his former team this season. A Portland reserve, Robinson averaged single-digit minutes against six teams this season, and Houston was one of them. The athletic 6-10 backup logged just 9.5 minutes versus the Rockets, scoring 2.3 points on 2-for-8 total shooting, while averaging 2.5 rebounds in limited action.

The two teams haven't met since March 9, and Robinson's minutes have been right at 14.3 a game in March and April, so he very well could play a bigger role in the playoffs after going scoreless in 11 minutes in a 118-113 Portland loss at Houston more than five weeks ago.

But that will be up to Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts, and will be based upon how he thinks Robinson matches up with Rockets big men Dwight Howard, Terrence Jones and Omer Asik.

Even if Stotts tightens his rotation for the postseason, Robinson should be a part of the game plan off the bench.

A highly anticipated series, this one begins Sunday night in Houston.

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Last game as a rook. Special thanks to all the fans in Sactown. Appreciate how good y'all been to me. #youngking #finishstrong #comebackstonger #sactown

Last game as a rook. Special thanks to all the fans in Sactown. Appreciate how good y'all been to me. #youngking #finishstrong #comebackstonger #sactown by youngsav23


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

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No playoffs for Morris twins

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris sits in the locker room after an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Monday, April 14, 2014, in Phoenix. The Grizzlies won 97-91 eliminating the Suns from the playoffs. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris sits in the locker room after an NBA basketball game against the Memphis Grizzlies, Monday, April 14, 2014, in Phoenix. The Grizzlies won 97-91 eliminating the Suns from the playoffs. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Phoenix needed to beat Memphis Monday night in step No. 1 of its last chance at the NBA Playoffs.

The next couple steps never came into play for the Suns, who bring twins Markieff and Marcus Morris off their bench, because the Grizzlies won in Phoenix, 97-91, to snag the eighth and final available playoff berth in the Western Conference.

Difficult as it may have been for Markieff to deal with the reality of the Suns' fate, the 6-foot-10 power forward gave his up-and-coming team a legitimate chance, leading Phoenix with 21 points off the bench.

As Paul Coro wrote for AZcentral.com, Markieff hit seven of eight shots in one eight-minute stretch of the second half. He finished 10-for-16 from the floor with three blocks and two rebounds in 28 minutes.

Markieff hit a couple of long jumpers in the fourth quarter, and threw down a dunk, but missed a three-pointer with 20 seconds left that would have cut a 95-91 Memphis lead to one.

Coro discusses what comes next for Markieff and Marcus in a video for AZcentral.com. The twins both are eligible for contract extensions this summer. They could easily play out the 2014-15 season without re-signing, though, and enter free agency in 2015.


Markieff makes his case for sixth man award

Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris dunks during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday, April 11, 2014, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris dunks during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday, April 11, 2014, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

Markieff's value to Phoenix can't be underestimated. He's averaging 13.8 points, 6.0 rebounds and hitting 48.6% from the floor with one game left in the regular season.

He recently was asked by AZcentral.com to explain what makes him a top candidate for Sixth Man of the Year.

"Coming off the bench with energy, scoring, rebounding, making my teammates better and winning games, especially when we were supposed to win 17… You knew the Clippers (Jamal Crawford reference) were going to be good. You knew the Bulls (Taj Gibson reference) were going to be good, with or without D (Derrick) Rose. Y'all thought we were going after a Number 1 pick. I think I deserve Sixth Man Award for the team success."

Markieff went on to say the award would have meant more had Phoenix been a playoff team.

For what it's worth Grantland's Zach Lowe voted Markieff third for Sixth Man of the Year, behind Gibson and San Antonio's Manu Ginobili. Lowe also pegged Markieff as the third-best candidate for Most Improved Player, behind his Phoenix teammate Goran Dragic and Sacramento big man DeMarcus Cousins.

As Lowe points out, Morris has become an efficient offensive threat in his third season in the league:

He’s up to 50 percent on 2s this season, with a refined post-up game. Morris can shoot over guys with a soft touch, but if he thinks he can do better, he’ll face up, put the ball on the floor, and attack the rim.

We know who would receive Marcus' vote for the sixth man award.

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Collison ejected

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison, left, and New Orleans Pelicans guard Austin Rivers, third right, get into a scuffle in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Monday, April 14, 2014. Both were ejected from the game. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison, left, and New Orleans Pelicans guard Austin Rivers, third right, get into a scuffle in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Monday, April 14, 2014. Both were ejected from the game. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Maybe the end of the regular season has some players feeling testy. Maybe college blue bloods don't like each other.

For the second time in less than a week, a former KU player and a former Duke player got into a scuffle on the NBA hardwood. Over the weekend, it was Ben McLemore and J.J. Redick.

Monday night, it was Nick Collison and Austin Rivers.

The veteran power forward from KU and the fiery young guard out of Duke bumped into each other a few times before it turned into a skirmish and both were ejected in the second quarter of what turned out to be a New Orleans victory.

Collison went scoreless in eight minutes of action, and NewsOK.com's Darnell Mayberry reported the 10th-year veteran picked up the first ejection of his career.


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'Hawks in the NBA standings

It's finally the last day of the 82-game marathon that is the regular season, so here's a look at where all of the NBA's Jayhawks stand, with the playoffs starting up this weekend.

We'll rank the Kansas products according to their franchise's record.

PLAYOFF TEAMS

Nick Collison/Oklahoma City (58-23)

  • Currently No. 2 seed in West

  • Northwest Division champs

Mario Chalmers/Miami (54-27)

  • Currently No. 2 seed in East

  • Southeast Division champs

Thomas Robinson/Portland (53-28)

  • Currently No. 5 seed in West

Kirk Hinrich/Chicago (48-33)

  • Currently No. 4 seed in East

Paul Pierce/Brooklyn (44-37)

  • Currently No. 5 seed in East

Drew Gooden/Washington (43-38)

  • Currently No. 6 seed in East

ELIMINATED FROM PLAYOFFS

Markieff Morris & Marcus Morris/Phoenix (47-34)

Darrell Arthur/Denver (36-45)

Cole Aldrich/New York (36-45)

Jeff Withey/New Orleans (33-48)

Ben McLemore/Sacramento (28-53)

Xavier Henry/L.A. Lakers (26-55)

Brandon Rush/Utah (24-57)


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

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Thomas Robinson making his mark in Portland

Portland Trail Blazers' Thomas Robinson (41) scores against Minnesota Timberwolves' Gorgui Dieng (5) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014. The Trail Blazers won 108-97. (AP Photo/Greg Wahl-Stephens)

Portland Trail Blazers' Thomas Robinson (41) scores against Minnesota Timberwolves' Gorgui Dieng (5) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014. The Trail Blazers won 108-97. (AP Photo/Greg Wahl-Stephens)

Drafted by Sacramento, then traded to Houston during his rookie year, second-year power forward Thomas Robinson finally feels at home in the NBA with his third team, the Portland Trail Blazers.

As Robinson told John Wilmes of bleacherreport.com, he has embraced his role as a key reserve, even when his minutes aren't substantial — he's averaging 4.9 points and 4.3 rebounds in 12.4 minutes for Portland (49-27), currently the fifth-best team in a stacked Western Conference.

The former Kansas star enjoys providing a spark off the Blazers' bench.

“Last year, I was trying to make my role, going out of my way to prove something. You want to show everyone you can do something, that you can do can do everything at first.”

“I’m a high-energy player, a defender, and an offensive rebounder. Not a scorer. I love who I am to this team, I wouldn’t change anything.”


Nick Collison, the next WWE superstar

During Oklahoma City's Thursday victory over San Antonio, which ended the Spurs' 19-game winning streak, Thunder power forward Nick Collison, known for his dirty work, added to his reputation as one of the NBA's tough guys.

The Spurs' Jeff Ayers accidentally elbowed Collison in the head late in the third quarter, creating a gash atop Collison's noggin. It looked more like Collison had been walloped with a steel chair in a WWE match.

When the blood began to pour down his face, the NBA twitterverse took a break from the entertaining showdown between two Western Conference powers to marvel at the bloodbath.

None by SB Nation

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None by Red Cross Oklahoma

As you can see in the video, the contact didn't look nearly as bad as the result.

The gritty backup big man played 13 minutes in the OKC victory, scoring four points, and didn't return to the game after suffering the cut.

The best part of the whole ordeal, Collison told Darnell Mayberry of the Oklahoman, was that even though he needed staples in his head to stop the bleeding, it didn't feel all that bad.

“Really, I’m surprised it was bleeding. It hurt a little bit. It stung. But I saw blood coming down my nose so I knew I had to come out.”

"It was one of those ones that’s awesome because you get a ton of credibility from blood coming down your face. But it really wasn’t that big of a deal.”

After the game, Collison couldn't resist joking about the injury, via Instagram, saying: "I really shouldn't have popped that pimple in the game tonight. Sorry guys."


Kirk Hinrich likes the Windy City

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich (12) drives against Atlanta Hawks forward DeMarre Carroll (5) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 2, 2014, in Atlanta. The Bulls won 105-92. (AP Photo/Jason Getz)

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich (12) drives against Atlanta Hawks forward DeMarre Carroll (5) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 2, 2014, in Atlanta. The Bulls won 105-92. (AP Photo/Jason Getz)

Kirk Hinrich's two-year deal with Chicago runs out at the end of the season, but it sounds like he would prefer to remain with the Bulls going forward.

Before putting up 17 points and six assists in a Chicago win at Atlanta Wednesday, the 11th-year guard who has spent nine seasons with the Bulls told the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson there was a reason he signed with the franchise two summers ago, instead of taking more money to play in Milwaukee.

“I like it here. Obviously, returning home was a big factor in why I came back. I would like to stay here. But I don’t know what’s in their future plans. Right now, I’m just trying to enjoy it while I’m in it and take what comes later.”

"At this point of your career, you want to be on a team that is a good fit and has a chance to be a winner."

Despite the absence of Derrick Rose most of the season, the Bulls (43-32) currently sit in the No. 4 slot in the Eastern Conference, and could have home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.


'Hawks in the NBA standings

We're now less than two weeks away from the end of the regular season, so here's a look at where all of the NBA's Jayhawks stand in the hunt for the playoffs.

We'll rank the Kansas products according to their franchise's record.

No. 1 — Nick Collison/Oklahoma City (55-19)

  • Currently No. 2 seed in West

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 2 — Mario Chalmers/Miami (52-22)

  • Currently No. 1 seed in East

  • Clinched Southeast Division title/playoff berth

No. 3 — Thomas Robinson/Portland (49-27)

  • Currently No. 5 seed in West

No. 4 — Markieff Morris & Marcus Morris/Phoenix (44-31)

  • Currently 9th in West, with the same record as No. 8 Memphis

No. 5 — Kirk Hinrich/Chicago (43-32)

  • Currently No. 4 seed in East

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 6 — Paul Pierce/Brooklyn (40-34)

  • Currently No. 5 seed in East

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 7 — Drew Gooden/Washington (39-36)

  • Currently No. 6 seed in East

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 8 — Darrell Arthur/Denver (33-42)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 9 — Jeff Withey/New Orleans (32-43)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 10 — Cole Aldrich/New York (33-43)

  • Currently No. 8 seed in East, 0.02 percentage points ahead of Atlanta

No. 11 — Ben McLemore/Sacramento (27-48)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 12 — Xavier Henry/L.A. Lakers (25-50)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 13 — Brandon Rush/Utah (23-52)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

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

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They’re not booing in D.C., they’re saying ‘Drew’

Now that March Madness — and Stanford — brought a premature end to Kansas University's basketball season, all Jayhawks fans can do is sit around watching their Twitter feeds to see whether Joel Embiid will announce his intentions for next season, as in: Will he play at KU or in the NBA?

The good news? You can fill some of your KU hoops void with 'Hawks in the NBA.


Guess who's back

Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden puts up a shot as Los Angeles Lakers forward Jordan Hill defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, March 21, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden puts up a shot as Los Angeles Lakers forward Jordan Hill defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, March 21, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

It's been about a month since our last 'Hawks entry here at KUsports.com, and probably the biggest news in that span was the return of Drew Gooden to the Association.

The bearded, No. 90-wearing veteran — out of the league since getting cut by Milwaukee last summer — joined the Washington Wizards. Initially, the Wiz signed Gooden to a 10-day contract, but he quickly proved his worth, and is under contract for the remainder of the season.

Washington no longer operates as one of the league's laughing stocks. So you'll get a chance to see Gooden in the playoffs. Entering Friday's games, the Wizards (36-35) held the No. 6 spot in the Eastern Conference, and it would take a significant collapse for them to fall out of the top eight.

Gooden came along slowly, with two scoreless games in very limited minutes to begin his stint in D.C. But when he gets minutes, he puts up points. Now in his 12th — though abbreviated — season, the 6-foot-10 veteran came through with a 21-point, nine-rebound outing in a key conference win over Brooklyn two weeks ago.

He has played in just 13 games, went scoreless in three of them (playing single-digit minutes on each occasion) and still averages 10.2 points and 5.7 rebounds in 17.5 minutes a game.

Gooden did get fined $15,000 for a flagrant foul, but mostly his return has worked out for him and Washington.

In a Sam Amick story for USA Today, the former Jayhawk said getting overlooked by the league when he could've signed with any team before the 2013-14 campaign has fueled his late-season addition in D.C.

"I've got a vendetta right now against all the other teams that overlooked me. I wanted to show them once I got an opportunity that I've got a passion and I love this game, and I wasn't going to go and leave my career like it was left last season in Milwaukee."

In his career, Gooden has played for 10 of the league's 30 franchises: Orlando, Memphis, Cleveland, Chicago, Sacramento, San Antonio, Dallas, the Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee and Washington.


McLemore reflects on highs and lows of rookie year

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, right, drives to the basket against New York Knicks defender Tim Hardaway Jr. left, during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., on Wednesday, March 26, 2014.The Knicks won 107-99.(AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, right, drives to the basket against New York Knicks defender Tim Hardaway Jr. left, during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., on Wednesday, March 26, 2014.The Knicks won 107-99.(AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

Since arriving in Sacramento as the Kings' No. 7 overall pick in the 2013 draft, Ben McLemore hasn't exactly set the NBA on fire. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard out of Kansas has averaged 8.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, made 37.2% of his shots and 31.7% of his 3-pointers.

McLemore sat down with James Ham at the Cowbell Kingdom blog for a Q & A this week. Here are a few of the more interesting comments from the rookie, who is constantly learning and adapting in the league.

The reporter asked McLemore what it was like to see Andrew Wiggins and Embiid playing for KU, knowing he could've played with them as a sophomore if he didn't leave for the NBA:

"You’re right, I could have been out there playing with those guys and just having fun playing Kansas basketball with those guys. But at the same time, I made a great decision to come to the NBA. I definitely don’t regret that. I have a great opportunity right now in a great situation."

McLemore also discussed his life-changing NBA contract, which took him from having very little money to a whole lot.

"I think it’s been great. I really haven’t had a problem. My family – as long as my mom, my sisters and brothers are fine, that’s the people I’m looking out for. I’ve got a lot of family and they know my situation and they understand that I did this and I’ve worked hard to get in this position."

McLemore said he will be back in Kansas this summer, taking classes.

"It’s very important because I want to get my degree. I was the first one out of my family to go to a university and I would be the first to have a degree. To look back and tell my kids that their dad got his degree in college, to tell them that this is important, that school is important. And my mom would be proud. She’d be even more proud if I got my degree."

Read the entire interview at CowbellKingdom.com.

Sacramento (25-46) is out of the playoff hunt in the Western Conference.


Hinrich, Bulls keep plugging away

Chicago Bulls shooting guard Kirk Hinrich (12) shoots past San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker (9) during the second half of an NBA basketball game on Tuesday, March 11, 2014, in Chicago. The San Antonio Spurs defeated The Chicago Bulls 104-96. (AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles)

Chicago Bulls shooting guard Kirk Hinrich (12) shoots past San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker (9) during the second half of an NBA basketball game on Tuesday, March 11, 2014, in Chicago. The San Antonio Spurs defeated The Chicago Bulls 104-96. (AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles)

Even though Chicago lost former league MVP Derrick Rose for the season due to a torn right meniscus, the Bulls have remained one of the top teams in the East.

Eleventh-year NBA veteran Kirk Hinrich has played a key role in Chicago's remarkably steady season, starting 50 of the Bulls' 62 games, and averaging 9.0 points and 3.9 assists.

After Hinrich's 18-point night helped Chicago beat the East's top team, Indiana, earlier this week, Sam Smith of bulls.com wrote that the former Kansas guard reflects the hard work of the Bulls, even though he might get overlooked.

As the article touches on, Hinrich hasn't had a stellar shooting season (39% field goals, 35% 3-pointers). He told Smith:

“The hard thing is when it’s not going in and you are not making it to stay confident and looking for your shot. But I feel I’ve done a better job (the last few months). I feel I’ve turned a corner in that regard.”

Chicago (40-31) currently holds the No. 4 seed in the East.


X, man

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo can not stop Los Angeles Lakers' Xavier Henry from dunking the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 27, 2014, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo can not stop Los Angeles Lakers' Xavier Henry from dunking the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 27, 2014, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)

Xavier Henry had to hit the pause button on the best season of his career when he was diagnosed with an abnormality of the lateral meniscus in his right knee.

After missing all of January and February, Henry (10.3 points per game, 42.2% shooting) returned to the Los Angeles Lakers' lineup in March, and has played in 11 of L.A.'s 12 games since then.

He dropped 24 points on San Antonio on March 19 in a loss, and later scored 22 on 8-of-11 shooting in a win against the Knicks earlier this week.

As you can see, the knee is doing just fine.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qq9NIzopEEY

Still, as Mark Medina wrote for the Los Angeles Daily News, teammates both admire and worry about the explosive Henry.

Fearless attacks on the rim have proven to be the norm for Henry, who hurt his left wrist doing so after returning from his knee injury. So the Lakers try to convince him to take it easy.

Here's what Henry told Medina of his teammates' conversations:

“All the time they tell me I’m crazy. They say, ‘What are you doing this for? You have nothing to prove.’ I have something to prove to myself. I’m not quitting. I’m not going to take a step back.”


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

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Taylor, Withey reunited in New Orleans

Jeff Withey (5) gets hug from Tyshawn Taylor (10) after a rebound and drawing a foul, in the last minute of the Jayhawks 66-58 win over the Aggies of Texas A&M.

Jeff Withey (5) gets hug from Tyshawn Taylor (10) after a rebound and drawing a foul, in the last minute of the Jayhawks 66-58 win over the Aggies of Texas A&M. by Mike Yoder

Look who is back together again.

Former Kansas standouts Jeff Withey and Tyshawn Taylor will be teammates once more — this time in the NBA, with New Orleans. So run out to the store and buy all the Pelicans gear you can. (Actually, not sure which would be more difficult: finding Pelicans attire or not being ridiculed for wearing Pelicans attire.)

And what better place to reunite than New Orleans, the site of the 2012 Final Four? After all, Taylor and Withey helped Kansas beat Ohio State in the national semifinals in the very city they will both now call home.

The trade that sent Taylor away from Brooklyn (and another former Jayhawk, Paul Pierce) became official Tuesday morning. As reported by John Reid of NOLA.com, the Nets dealt Taylor for cash and the draft rights to Edin Bavcic.

New Orleans acquired Taylor to for some much-needed backcourt flexibility, Reid wrote:

The Pelicans likely made the move to add depth in the backcourt because starting point guard Jrue Holiday is sidelined indefinitely with a fractured tibia.


Taylor's only averaging 3.9 points and 1.6 assists in 11.7 minutes a game this season, so it will be interesting to see whether Pelicans coach Monty Williams makes him a small part of the rotation or if Taylor will take on the same role he had in Brooklyn.

That remains to be seen, and the move definitely makes it seem like New Orleans might like Taylor, because the franchise had other options, as pointed out by NOLA.com's Nakia Hogan:

Instead of calling up NBA D-League leading scorer Pierre Jackson, whom the Pelicans hold the rights to, or standing pat with young guards Austin Rivers and Brian Roberts, the Pelicans looked to Taylor.


Whatever happens, it's safe to assume Taylor will spend more time on the floor than his old buddy, Withey, who is averaging 6.0 minutes a game.


Hinrich prefers Windy City

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich (12) eyes Washington Wizards point guard John Wall during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Washington, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. The Wizards won 96-93. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich (12) eyes Washington Wizards point guard John Wall during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Washington, Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. The Wizards won 96-93. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

A little while back, trade winds started swirling and whispering the name of Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich, with hints floating around that he could be dealt to Golden State.

If the 11th-year NBA veteran could call the shots, though, he would at least stick with the Bulls for the remainder of the season, before his contract expires.

The one-time Jayhawk, who teamed with Oklahoma City's Nick Collison to lead Kansas to back-to-back Final Fours in 2002 and 2003, told the Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson he wants to keep playing as long as he can be effective, and right now he'd prefer that happen in a Bulls uniform.

"I'm happy here," Hinrich said. "I came back here because I wanted to be here. I still like our team. I get along great with the guys. We've been playing well lately so I just want to keep that going."


A trade to Golden State for Hinrich very well might be dead. The Warriors addressed their need for point guard help by acquiring Jordan Crawford from Boston. None of the talk gets to Hinrich, though.

"It's out of your control so you just keep going and trying to take care of business and focus on what we're doing here," he said. "It's not the first time my name has been in trade rumors. It's something I'm kind of used to and don't read too much into them."


In some possible bad news for Hinrich, he suffered a hamstring injury in Chicago's Monday night win over the Lakers.


Good time for a vacation

Atlanta Hawks' Dennis Schroder, right, competes for the ball with Brooklyn Nets' Paul Pierce during an NBA basketball game at the O2 Arena in London, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Atlanta Hawks' Dennis Schroder, right, competes for the ball with Brooklyn Nets' Paul Pierce during an NBA basketball game at the O2 Arena in London, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

The Brooklyn Nets went on holiday to London last week for an NBA excursion against Atlanta, and amid the sight-seeing and exploring Paul Pierce scored 18 points in a 127-110 Nets victory.

Here is Pierce discussing the trip and the importance of winning this showcase game:

Seems like he enjoyed the trip, though it took some adjusting:

None by Paul Pierce

Brooklyn, which got off to a dreadful start this season, despite acquiring Pierce and Kevin Garnett (and Jason Terry, if you want to count him) from the Celtics in an off-season mega-deal, has won seven of its last eight games to climb into the No. 7 spot in the putrid Eastern Conference.

Even with a dud of a 1-for-4, three-point night Monday in the Nets' win against New York, Pierce is averaging 14.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists in the Nets' last eight games, as Brooklyn appears to finally be living up to its expectations.


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Markieff Morris ejected; now has eight technicals

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris (11) is defended by New York Knicks' Amar'e Stoudemire (1) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 13, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris (11) is defended by New York Knicks' Amar'e Stoudemire (1) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Jan. 13, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

It's been a rough couple of days in The Association for the Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris.

First, the typically versatile big man went scoreless in a Saturday loss at Detroit.

Then on Monday at Madison Square Garden, Markieff got tossed from the Suns' game against the New York Knicks after earning his second technical foul in the second quarter.

As reported by Andrew Gilstrap at ArizonaSports.com, the first "T" came early in the second, when Kieff objected to a traveling call.

A few minutes later, after Kieff drew a foul on JR Smith while going up for a dunk attempt, he didn't like the way Smith invaded his personal space and threw Smith's arm off of him.

In case you're counting — by the way, the NBA is, because the league suspends players once they reach 16 technical fouls in a season — Markieff is halfway there, with eight.

If he keeps it up, Markieff might catch up with league leader DeMarcis Cousins, of Sacramento. Kieff's eight "T's" currently tie him for second in the NBA with the Los Angeles Clippers' Blake Griffin. Cousins leads the way with 10.


Hinrich highlight

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich (12) drives past Washington Wizards guard John Wall, left, as Joakim Noah (13) watches during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 13, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich (12) drives past Washington Wizards guard John Wall, left, as Joakim Noah (13) watches during the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 13, 2014, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Hey, not every former Jayhawk had a lousy Monday night. Well … actually no one was that great, either.

But, hey! Kirk Hinrich made SportCenter's Top 10. Now, given that Hinrich plays basketball and Top-10 plays usually involve monster throw-downs, you can probably guess Hinrich did something else to earn some extra TV time. I mean, it's not like Chicago Bulls fans are calling him Air Hinrich, or anything close to that.

The always heady point guard improvised on the fly against Washington, realizing mid-air, upon receiving a pass, that his best move was to keep the ball moving to an open shooter, Jimmy Butler. To add a little flair, Hinrich threw the pass behind his back.

Check it out:


McLemore looks to succeed in bench role

Sacramento Kings shooting guard Ben McLemore (16) battles Atlanta Hawks power forward Paul Millsap on a jump-ball in the first half of an NBA basketball game on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Sacramento Kings shooting guard Ben McLemore (16) battles Atlanta Hawks power forward Paul Millsap on a jump-ball in the first half of an NBA basketball game on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Sacramento rookie Ben McLemore recently learned playing time is far from a guarantee in the NBA. After starting 26 games for the Kings, coach Michael Malone decided to move the high-flying rookie to the bench following a slump.

Jonathan Santiago, at the Cowbell Kingdom blog, offers some insightful quotes on the situation.

“I think he’s pretty confident,” Malone said (last) week of McLemore. “But when you put maybe five to six games together where you’re not getting many looks, your shot’s not going in and then you’re playing against some of the two guards out here in the west and in the NBA as a whole, it’s a handful every night."

The Cowbell Kingdom piece also provided McLemore's take on adjusting to playing as a reserve.

“Same mentality,” McLemore said. “Just going out there, giving my all, doing whatever coach wants me to do offensively and defensively and just going out there and do some things to help my teammates and help the team win the game.”

Skip ahead to about the 0:15 mark of the below clip to see McLemore take out whatever frustrations he has with the situation on the rim.

In his last 10 games, McLemore has reached double figures just once, scoring 13 points on New Year's Eve against Houston.


Injury roundup

  • Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports Mario Chalmers, who has missed three games with Achilles tendinitis, should be back in the Miami Heat's lineup tonight at Washington

  • L.A. Times Lakers beat writer Mike Bresnahan provided an update on Xavier Henry:



Keep up with the statistical output of all the former Jayhawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.

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Hinrich’s days in Chicago could be numbered

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich, center, looks to pass as Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap, left, and guard Jeff Teague guard during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich, center, looks to pass as Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap, left, and guard Jeff Teague guard during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Chicago on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Currently in his second go-round as a Chicago Bull, and a former member of the Washington Wizards and Atlanta Hawks, 10-year NBA veteran Kirk Hinrich could soon be playing in the Western Conference for the first time in his career.

According to USA Today’s Sam Amick, the Bulls could move Hinrich as they continue to deal with the absence of franchise point guard Derrick Rose and, simultaneously, make cost-saving decisions with their roster.

Speculation surrounding a Hinrich trade grew once Chicago dealt Luol Deng, one of its core members. As Amick reported, the Golden State Warriors could be Hinrich’s new home:

“... it appears point guard Kirk Hinrich will be drawing the most immediate interest when it comes to the Bulls' possible next move. According to a person with knowledge of the situation, the Golden State Warriors are among teams that had been showing serious interest in Hinrich long before the Deng trade.”

Considering the state of affairs in Chicago (15-18) – no Rose, no Deng, no way the Bulls will be able to contend in the East – joining the Warriors (24-13) could be an ideal situation for the Kansas legend.

Hinrich, of course, wouldn’t start for Golden State. But the Warriors essentially have no backup point guard, with Toney Douglas playing just 11.7 minutes a game. If Golden State is able to acquire Hinrich, coach Mark Jackson would surely have him in the backcourt with either of the Warriors’ budding stars, Steph Curry or Klay Thompson (aka The Splash Brothers, who have combined to make 219 three-pointers so far), for long stretches.

Goggled and gritty, Hinrich (7.8 points, 4.7 assists this season) might not have the flash of his potential backcourt mates, but he could certainly facilitate and give the Warriors another ball handler.

Stay tuned, and let us know in the comments section if you would like to see Hinrich join one of the most entertaining teams in the league.


McLemore back on the bench

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (16) shotts against the Charlotte Bobcats during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014. The Bobcats beat the Kings 113-103.(AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (16) shotts against the Charlotte Bobcats during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014. The Bobcats beat the Kings 113-103.(AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

In our last edition of ‘Hawks in the NBA, we told you about the often cited comparison of Sacramento rookie Ben McLemore to renowned sniper Ray Allen, currently of the Miami Heat.

Well, the 17-year veteran Allen has spent most of his renowned career as a starter, until becoming a backup when he joined the Heat.

McLemore, who had started 26 games for Sacramento (11-22), returned to a bench role Tuesday for the Kings’ 123-119 home win over one of the West’s top teams, Portland (26-9).

After the victory, Jason Jones, of the Sacramento Bee, reported that Marcus Thornton will start instead of McLemore for the “foreseeable future," according to Kings coach Michael Malone:

“This is a not a demotion for Ben McLemore,” Malone said. “This is not us losing confidence or faith in him. Ben’s been struggling and I wanted to put him in a position where maybe he could have more success coming off the bench.”

Malone said with the Kings having three volume shooters in the starting lineup, he’ll need Thornton and Jason Thompson to serve as facilitators and “ball movers” with the starting five.

Kings part-owner Shaquille O’Neal has other ideas about what’s next for McLemore:

Good call, Shaq.


Pierce climbing NBA career scoring ladder

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) shoots in front of Oklahoma City Thunder guard Jeremy Lamb (11) during an NBA basketball game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) shoots in front of Oklahoma City Thunder guard Jeremy Lamb (11) during an NBA basketball game between the Brooklyn Nets and the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City, Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

The Truth has surpassed The Answer. That is, Paul Pierce moved past Allen Iverson on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Pierce took over 19th place, pushing Iverson to 20th, with 17 points in a Brooklyn win over Cleveland on Saturday.

With 24,392 points to his name, and a 21.6 points per game career average, Pierce is in elite company, and the next three players in front of him on the list are all within 900 points. Already ahead of NBA legends such as Tim Duncan (21st, 24,249 points) and Charles Barkley (22nd, 23,357), next up on the ladder are Patrick Ewing (18th, 24,815), Jerry West (17th, 25,192) and Reggie Miller (16th, 25,279).


Former Jayhawks to rock nickname jerseys

Speaking of The Truth, Pierce will soon don a Brooklyn jersey with his nickname on the back of it, instead of his last name.

Both the Miami Heat and Brooklyn Nets will wear the gimmicky nickname jerseys when the teams square off Friday night at Brooklyn.

Check out a sneak peek of Pierce’s "Truth" jersey and Mario Chalmers’ “Rio” uni over at Sports Illustrated’s Point Forward blog.

However, it remains to be seen if Chalmers will be able to wear his specialty jersey on Friday. He missed Tuesday’s Heat victory over New Orleans with Achilles tendinitis.


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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.”


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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:

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.


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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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.”


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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