Posts tagged with Kirk Hinrich

Five Jayhawks chasing glory in playoffs

The 2014-15 regular season concluded this week in the NBA, marking the end of the road for the majority of former Kansas players in the league.

Cole Aldrich, Darell Arthur, Tarik Black, Ben McLemore, Marcus and Markieff Morris, Thomas Robinson and Andrew Wiggins? All of them already find themselves in offseason mode.

Even playoff regulars Mario Chalmers of Miami and Nick Collison of Oklahoma City are on the outside, looking in, after monumental injuries derailed their team’s seasons.

So when you start watching the 2015 NBA Playoffs, you’ll only find five Jayhawks playing on the 16 teams chasing a championship.

TORONTO VS. WASHINGTON

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) shoots against Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala (9) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Oakland, Calif., Monday, March 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) shoots against Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala (9) during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Oakland, Calif., Monday, March 23, 2015. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

As you might have figured, Paul Pierce is the most prominent KU product in the hunt. Even at 37, “The Truth” still finds ways to make an impact on the floor. Now in his 17th season, Pierce averaged 11.9 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 0.6 steals in 26.2 minutes, and made 44.7% of his shots, 38.9% of his 3-pointers and 78.1% of his free throws.

Pierce proved last season as a member of the Brooklyn Nets he can still come through with game-winning plays during crunch time in the playoffs.

And he also became quite a villain in Toronto in the process.

None by SLAM Magazine

A pseudo first-round rematch — Pierce vs. the Raptors — should provide plenty of entertainment. Especially when you consider how competitive Pierce is and that he is getting closer to retirement.

The 2008 NBA Finals MVP spoke about the urgency of the postseason with The Washington Post’s Jorge Castillo. As a veteran leader on a team that features an explosive young backcourt in John Wall and Bradley Beal, Pierce’s responsibilities these days aren’t limited to play-making.

“I just try to get the guys to focus in on the task at hand. These are special moments,” Pierce told The Washington Post. “You got to take advantage of these moments. There’s nothing like playoff basketball. The intensity, the smell of the popcorn, the national televised games every night. This is where good players become great players, and you try to relish these moments and that’s what I’m trying to [instill] into these guys, that every moment counts.”

The Wizards, of course, have another veteran from Kansas: Drew Gooden. In his 13th season, the journeyman power forward comes off the bench for Washington and has provided two double-digit rebound games, as well as a pair of double-digit scoring efforts in April.

In D.C.’s last 10 games, Gooden has seen his minutes and production go up: 7.8 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists in 25.7 minutes.

Compare that with his season numbers: 5.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.0 assists in 16.9 minutes.

If Pierce and Gooden can find some of their youthful bounce inside those high-mileage legs, Washington might have a chance to advance to the next round.

MILWAUKEE VS. CHICAGO

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich directs his team against the Charlotte Hornets in an NBA basketball game Friday, March 13, 2015 in Charlotte, N.C. Charlotte won 101-91.(AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich directs his team against the Charlotte Hornets in an NBA basketball game Friday, March 13, 2015 in Charlotte, N.C. Charlotte won 101-91.(AP Photo/Nell Redmond)

Another old man by NBA standards, 12th-year guard Kirk Hinrich has a chance to play a complimentary role for one of the Eastern Conference favorites, Chicago. That is assuming he is healthy enough to do so.

According to an ESPN.com report, Hinrich didn’t practice Friday and he was listed as uncertain for Saturday’s series opener, while recovering from a hyperextended right knee.

Hinrich, who plays alongside ultra-talented Bulls Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol, Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah, sat out the final two games of the regular season. He hasn’t played more than 20 minutes in a game since March 28.

If/when Hinrich plays, he’ll mainly be asked to facilitate and defend. He averaged just 5.7 points this season in 24.4 minutes a game, shot 37.3% from the field and made 34.5% of his 3-pointers. He hasn’t knocked down more than one 3-pointer in a game since Jan. 23.

GOLDEN STATE VS. NEW ORLEANS

Golden State Warriors' Brandon Rush, right, drives the ball against Charlotte Hornets' Kemba Walker during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, in Oakland, Calif. The Warriors won 112-87. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Golden State Warriors' Brandon Rush, right, drives the ball against Charlotte Hornets' Kemba Walker during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014, in Oakland, Calif. The Warriors won 112-87. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Don’t hold your breath waiting to see former KU stars in this series.

Brandon Rush is lucky enough to play for the league’s best team, but Golden State — No. 1 in the Western Conference — doesn’t need to use him much when the Warriors have guys like Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala.

Rush, who only played in 33 games this season, last played significant minutes (23) against Denver in mid-March and went scoreless. He didn’t play in five straight games before making brief appearances in three of the last four, highlighted by 5 points, 2 rebounds and 1 steal in 14 minutes in the finale.

The Warriors might advance far enough for Rush to be the last Jayhawk standing in the playoffs, but when you see him it will usually be on the bench cheering on one of the most entertaining teams in recent memory.

The Pelicans’ Jeff Withey finds himself in the same situation (except that his season figures to end much sooner, playing for No. 8 New Orleans).

The former Kansas pivot only played 7.0 minutes a game in the regular season, which ranked him next-to-last on the team. With big men Anthony Davis (an emerging superstar), Ryan Anderson, Dante Cunningham, Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca eating up all the minutes inside, Withey isn’t a part of the Pelicans’ game plan.

The lean 7-footer averaged 2.6 points, 1.7 rebounds and 0.5 blocks this season while shooting 50% from the field.

In theory, he could get some run if New Orleans finds itself on the wrong end of a blowout. Withey last made a field goal on March 20, at Golden State. The Warriors won, 112-96, and he played 29 minutes, going for 14 points (5-for-9 shooting) and 8 rebounds.

Mostly, he should be ready to pose for any celebratory post-game photos quickly, having not expended much energy beforehand.

The squad! #playoffbound #pels #nola #squad #myclique #notdoneyet

The squad! #playoffbound #pels #nola #squad #myclique #notdoneyet by jeffwithey


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


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2014-15 season outlook: Kirk Hinrich

Hunker down, get hydrated and tell your loved ones you will see them next spring.

Hopefully that’s not your mindset, but people should be warned: The at times seemingly never-ending NBA regular season is at hand.

The first handful of games tip off Tuesday, marking the start of the 82-game grind.

Thankfully for us, all we have to do is sit back, watch and enjoy. To make sure you’re fully prepared for the 2014-15 campaign, we’ll be rolling out a season outlook for each former Kansas University player who currently calls The Association home.

Kirk Hinrich — Chicago Bulls

6-foot-4 Guard | 12th season

Chicago Bulls' Kirk Hinrich, left, and Minnesota Timberwolves' Mo Williams dive for a loose ball during the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game Friday, Oct. 24, 2014, in St. Louis. The Timberwolves won 113-112. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Chicago Bulls' Kirk Hinrich, left, and Minnesota Timberwolves' Mo Williams dive for a loose ball during the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game Friday, Oct. 24, 2014, in St. Louis. The Timberwolves won 113-112. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

2013-14 numbers: 73 games | 29.0 minutes | 9.1 points | 3.9 assists | 39.3 FG% | 35.1 3-pt% | 76 FT%

Kirk Hinrich might have one of the cushiest jobs in the NBA right now.

Chicago brought him back on a two-year contract with a player option for 2015-16 and all the league vet has to do is come in off the bench and keep the Bulls’ machine rolling along.

Even when Derrick Rose missed the bulk of the previous two seasons, Chicago made the playoffs and earned a reputation as one of the stingiest teams in the league. Now Rose is back, the Bulls’ roster is stacked and the words “Eastern Conference champs” are starting to swirl in The Windy City.

Hinrich, trusted by coach Tom Thibodeau and beloved by the organization for which he has played nine of his previous 11 seasons, will mix and match in the backcourt with Rose, Jimmy Butler and Aaron Brooks — all of whose jobs figure to be made way easier by the frontcourt power/skill of Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and rookie Nikola Mirotic. Not to mention lottery pick Doug McDermott.

The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson wrote this week about what Hinrich brings to one of the NBA’s projected top teams: stability.

He could start the Bulls’ season opener if Butler (thumb injury) can’t play at New York Wednesday night. And, obviously, Hinrich is excited about the damage Chicago is capable of this season.

"Cleveland is going to be really good," Hinrich told the Tribune. "I think we can be real good too. We have a lot of good new pieces. The core that we have back has proven to be solid. And Derrick looks great.

"The window may be closing for me and I want to keep it open as long as I can. I want to give all I've got but at the same time enjoy it."

Hinrich at least proved he can occasionally bust that window wide open during the preseason. He nailed 11 of 14 shots and scored 26 points Oct. 19 versus Charlotte.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSxNmLxAF8U

You can imagine what kind of “what-the?” responses showed up on Twitter after that “Captain Kirk” performance.

None by Sam Smith

So what do we expect out of Hinrich for the 2014-15 season?

Occasional blasts of offense, mixed with constant professionalism and the kind of non-highlight plays that have kept him around in Chicago: steals, defense, floor burns, annoying the guys he guards, etc.

Also, don’t be surprised when Hinrich and the Bulls (OK, Rose, Noah, Gasol and the Bulls, who also have Hinrich on their team) make a deep playoff run. Does Chicago have enough to get past LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers in the East? We’ve got plenty of basketball ahead of us to figure that part out.


’Hawks in the NBA 2014-15 season outlooks:

• Cole Aldrich — Knicks

Darrell Arthur — Nuggets

Tarik Black — Rockets

Mario Chalmers — Heat

Nick Collison — Thunder

Joel Embiid — 76ers

Drew Gooden — Wizards

Xavier Henry — Lakers


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First comes the clowning, then comes the grind

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid, of Cameroon, poses for a photographer during the NBA basketball team's media day, Monday, Sept. 29, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid, of Cameroon, poses for a photographer during the NBA basketball team's media day, Monday, Sept. 29, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Considering how much of a grind the 82-game regular season has to be for NBA players, you can’t blame the guys for enjoying the preseason goof-off spectacle that is NBA media days.

Players surely take their interview responsibilities seriously enough, but when it comes time to mean-mug or bring some absurdity to photo and video shoots, they happily oblige.

Believe it or not, it’s actually training camp time in The Association, so the past few days have been light-heartedly busy for most of the former Kansas University players lucky enough to call the NBA home.

Some get to enjoy it a little more than others, as you can see in our social media roundup from the festivities.

Cole Aldrich, New York Knicks

None by charlie widdoes

Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat

None by Josh Baumgard

Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers

None by Jason Wolf

http://instagram.com/p/tidaY4v1jA/

Drew Gooden and Paul Pierce, Washington Wizards

None by Hoop District

None by ChristyWintersScott

Kirk Hinrich, Chicago Bulls

None by Brian Cassella

Nick Collison, Oklahoma City Thunder

None by OKC THUNDER

Xavier Henry, Los Angeles Lakers

None by linspiredinla

Marcus and Markieff Morris, Phoenix Suns

None by Andrew Joseph

None by Andrew Joseph

Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings

None by Lisa Gonzales

http://instagram.com/p/tbohRrSy8b/

Thomas Robinson, Portland Trail Blazers

http://instagram.com/p/tijn72g8G1/

Brandon Rush, Golden State Warriors

None by Golden St. Warriors

Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves

None by Twolves CR

Media day / throw-down night

Minnesota had an open practice for Timberwolves fans to watch following its media day, nicknaming the fun: Dunks After Dark.

Wiggins delivered a few throw-downs to help it live up to its name.

http://instagram.com/p/tjwq_Nxhzv/

http://instagram.com/p/tkcZyLRh2J/


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Ben McLemore not sweating Kings’ latest draft selection

Ben McLemore brings down the house as he slams home a monstrous dunk over Brady Morningstar during the annual Rock Chalk Roundball Classic, played Thursday evening at Lawrence High.

Ben McLemore brings down the house as he slams home a monstrous dunk over Brady Morningstar during the annual Rock Chalk Roundball Classic, played Thursday evening at Lawrence High. by John Young

Considering his team, the Sacramento Kings, had just selected a shooting guard — the same position at which he started 55 games as a rookie — with the eighth overall pick in the NBA Draft, Kansas University product Ben McLemore played it cool on draft night.

A year removed from his own introduction to the league, when the Kings took him seventh overall, McLemore sent out a welcome tweet to his new teammate (and potential competitor for playing time), Michigan guard Nik Stauskas:

None by Ben McLemore

Outwardly congenial, McLemore revealed to the Sacramento Bee's Jason Jones that the choice initially surprised him.

“I wasn’t expecting that,” McLemore told Jones. “At the same time, they felt he was the best available draft pick, so I’m fine with it. At the end of the day, it’s a business, and I’m just going to do what I have to do to get better as a player.”

While his rookie season included flashes of production and promise, such as when the league named McLemore the Western Conference rookie of the month in November, the first-year guard struggled in stretches, too. He finished the season with an 8.8 points per game scoring average and less than impressive shooting percentages: 37.6 from the floor and 32 from three-point range (he missed 202 of his 297 attempts).

None by Sacramento Kings

As McLemore and other members of the Kings' summer league team gathered in Las Vegas for mini-camp on Monday, head coach Michael Malone indicated to the Bee that McLemore's performance didn't inspire the organization to try and draft a replacement in Stauskas, a 6-foot-6 shooting specialist who drained 44.2 percent of his three-pointers this past season at Michigan.

“There’s only a few LeBron James, Kevin Durants, Kobe Bryants out there,” Malone said. “Most rookies come out and struggle. (McLemore) went through the struggling times. The most important thing for me was February was his toughest month, but in March and April he really got himself up off the mat. He showed resilience and finished the season on a high note (career high 31 points in finale).”

Jones reported Sacramento's Monday practice included some experimentation with playing McLemore and Stauskas side by side.

“It was good,” the rookie told the Bee. “For the most part, we were on the floor at the same time. He’s a great player, and hopefully we can feed off each other well.”

None by Sacramento Kings

After playing with Stauskas for the first time (they played against each other in the 2013 Sweet 16, when Michigan beat Kansas, 87-85, in overtime), McLemore gave a brief scouting report in a video interview posted on the Kings' website.

"We've kind of got a similar game," McLemore said. "We both can shoot the ball, we can put it down on the floor, you know, (do) different things. I think we'll be a good backcourt."

The Kings play their summer league opener Friday night in Las Vegas, against San Antonio.


None by NBA Pictures™

'Hawks in free agency

Paul Pierce is in Las Vegas, too. But not for the NBA's summer league. Apparently unfazed by his status as an uncommitted free agent, "The Truth" is working on one of his favorite hobbies at the World Series of Poker.

None by Paul Pierce

As for what uniform he'll wear in his 17th NBA season? Pierce could re-sign with Brooklyn. But ESPNNewYork.com's Mike Mazzeo reported the 36-year-old small forward wants $9 to $10 million a year, while the Nets would like to pay him between $6 and $8 million.

According to Mazzeo, Nets general manager Billy King said the Los Angeles Clippers inquired about a sign-and-trade deal for Pierce, who teamed with Clippers coach Doc Rivers to win an NBA title in Boston. However, King didn't like what L.A. offered.

Like Pierce, the six other KU products looking to sign as free agents might have to wait for stars LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh to make their decisions, because so many teams are holding back on contract offers until those pieces of the personnel puzzle fall into place.

Also still in limbo are Mario Chalmers, Xavier Henry, Kirk Hinrich, Drew Gooden, Brandon Rush and Cole Aldrich.

Aldrich told the Journal-World on Monday he would like to re-up with New York. Gooden told the Washington Post's Dan Steinberg he is interested in remaining in D.C., with the Wizards. Hinrich has long stated his desire to keep playing for Chicago.


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Chalmers, six other KU products hit free agency market

Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers (15) goes to the basket as San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) defends in the first half in Game 4 of the NBA basketball finals, Thursday, June 12, 2014, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers (15) goes to the basket as San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) defends in the first half in Game 4 of the NBA basketball finals, Thursday, June 12, 2014, in Miami. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Most NBA free agents can't wait for July 1. Shortly after midnight, the league's 30 teams can begin their full-court, offseasson press, courting the players they hope to throw multi-million dollar salaries at.

The start of free agency figures to bring equal parts anticipation and uncertainty to unrestricted free agent Mario Chalmers, coming off his sixth NBA season with Miami.

While the 6-foot-2 point guard from Kansas University became a starting lineup mainstay with the Heat, right along with superstar LeBron James and all-stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, his days with the Heat might be over after appearing in four straight NBA Finals with the organization that drafted him in the second round in 2008.

With Miami trying to figure out a way to to bring back the most sought after star in the NBA universe, James, as well as Wade and Bosh — all three free agents themselves — and trying to save every penny it can in the process, Chalmers suddenly appears dispensable. Though the former KU hero averaged 9.8 points and 4.9 assists this past regular season for Miami, but those numbers dropped to 6.4 points and 3.6 assists in the playoffs. Making matters worse for the free agent, Chalmers only put up 4.4 points and 2.8 assists, and averaged 2.0 turnovers in 23.1 minutes a game in the Finals, when San Antonio disposed of the back-to-back champs in five games.

Those five lackluster nights — 33 percent field goals in the series, 1-for-7 from 3-point range — in front of a world wide audience ignited the Twitter trolls, who posted pictures of trash alongside Chalmers' name or claimed his next uniform will be the one issued to Home Depot employees.

Of course, the only opinion that really matters is that of Heat president Pat Riley (who also figures to be keenly aware of LeBron's viewpoint). The night of the draft, James tweeted: "My favorite player in the draft! #Napier."

Shortly after, Miami pulled off a trade with Charlotte to attain the draft rights to Connecticut point guard Shabazz Napier.

None by NBA Meme Team

Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick wrote about Riley's ability to acquire Napier without giving up Miami's other point guard, Norris Cole. Miami's man in charge said the incoming UConn rookie and Cole would compete for playing time, and didn't offer much on where that leaves Chalmers.

"Mario's a free agent, so (we've) got to deal with that," Riley said in the report.

Back on June 17, Skolnick caught up with Chalmers as players packed up for the summer and tweeted that the free agent point guard would prefer to stay with Miami, but was "excited" about free agency.

"Nobody wants to leave South Florida," Chalmers told Skolnick. "We'll see what happens."

NBCSports.com's Kurt Helin put Chalmers at No. 42 on his list of top 50 free agents. At USA Today's hoopshype.com, Chalmers comes in as the No. 10 point guard available this summer.

He won't be the only Kansas product chasing a new contract. In total, six other Jayhawks are unrestricted free agents: Brooklyn's Paul Pierce, the Los Angeles Lakers' Xavier Henry, Chicago's Kirk Hinrich, Washington's Drew Gooden, Utah's Brandon Rush and New York's Cole Aldrich.

Pierce seemed likely to re-sign with the Nets, but over the past few days, the team's head coach, Jason Kidd, decided he would rather work for Milwaukee. By Monday, the two organizations reached a deal to make Kidd the new coach of the Bucks. A new coach in Brooklyn could mean no more Pierce,

As ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin reported, Henry is recovering from a torn ligament in his left wrist and an abnormality in his right knee's meniscus. He could still be weeks of rehab away from 100 percent.

“All I know is I can play," Henry told McMenamin. "And when I’m 100 percent next season, I’m going to bring the energy and be able to play."

Hinrich stated on more than one occasion during the season that he would prefer to stay with the Bulls. But he might have to do some waiting to figure out if that's possible, as Chicago should be one of the major players in free agency and a possible landing spot for Carmelo Anthony.

Gooden, a late-season addition to Washington's roster might start his 13th NBA season in a striped Wizards uniform. Yahoo's Marc J. Spears tweeted Monday afternoon that the veteran power forward is expected to re-sign with D.C. for the league minimum.

The future, at this point, is far more unpredictable for Aldrich and Rush, though re-signing seems unlikely for either.

The Denver Nuggets' Darrell Arthur could have made it eight Jayhawks in free agency, but exercised the player option on his contract, instead of testing the waters. The six-year pro will make just under $3.5 million this coming season.


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Tough couple days for Jayhawks veterans

Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, left, and Terrence Ross, right, battle for a loose ball with Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce during the first half of Game 5 of the opening-round NBA basketball playoff series in Toronto, Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)

Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, left, and Terrence Ross, right, battle for a loose ball with Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce during the first half of Game 5 of the opening-round NBA basketball playoff series in Toronto, Wednesday, April 30, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)

Less than two weeks ago, Paul Pierce opened the NBA Playoffs by taking over in the final minutes of a Brooklyn road win at Toronto.

Fast-forward to Wednesday's Game 5 at Toronto, and Pierce sat on the bench the entire fourth quarter of a furious Nets rally that ultimately ended with the Raptors winning, 115-113, to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

The Nets trailed 91-69 after three quarters, and as Toronto's lead began disappearing, 16-year NBA veteran Pierce, the team's third-leading scorer in the playoffs (14.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 48.1% shooting, 29.2% on 3-pointers), never checked in for coach Jason Kidd. The veteran whom the Nets presumably brought to Brooklyn for this exact scenario had nothing to do with the game's outcome. He finished with 10 points, and went 3-for-5 from the floor in 24 minutes.

At the postgame press conference, Kidd addressed sitting Pierce and fellow future hall of famer Kevin Garnett (less surprising) in crunch time. Here's a quote from Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

"It's about the team, not about two guys."

Mitch Lawrence of the NY Daily News wrote a piece on the loss that put Brooklyn on the verge of elimination, too, and said that Pierce handled his coach's decision well.

This spring was supposed to be different, with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce brought in more for their veteran leadership and toughness than their production in the playoffs. But in the fourth quarter of Game 5, Jason Kidd left the two old Celtics on the bench for all 12 minutes. They had given him next to nothing up to that point as the Nets were almost blown out by halftime.

Strange as it had to have been, Pierce took on his role of cheerleader enthusiastically.

The veteran, it appears, also remains optimistic about his role with the team and Brooklyn's ability to survive in the postseason.

“I think we’ll play better on Friday at home and we’ll see them back [at Toronto] Sunday.”

None by Rod Boone

The Nets play Game 6 against Toronto Friday night in Brooklyn (6 p.m., ESPN 2).


Hinrich's season ends in first round

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich puts his hands on his head after fouling out of Game 5 in an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday, April 29, 2014, in Chicago. The Wizards won 75-69. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich puts his hands on his head after fouling out of Game 5 in an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Washington Wizards, Tuesday, April 29, 2014, in Chicago. The Wizards won 75-69. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The way Chicago played the last few months of the regular season, many expected the Bulls to make a bit of a run in the playoffs — perhaps even earning an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals.

However, the young, up-and-coming Washington Wizards bounced the hard-nosed, grind-it-out Bulls from the playoffs by winning the first-round series, 4-1.

Veteran guard Kirk Hinrich, who just completed his 11th season in the NBA, scored 16 points, made 6 of 11 field goals and drained 4 of 5 3-pointers in what proved to be the final game of Chicago's season on Tuesday.

It was his best showing of the playoffs and proved what kind of competitor he is. In five games, Hinrich averaged 11.0 points, 4.4 assists and 3.0 rebounds, and shot 41.1% on FGs and 36.8% on 3s.

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich's shot chart for the 2013-14 NBA Playoffs.

Green = Above league average for that area of the floor 

Yellow = Comparable to league average 

Red = Below league average

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich's shot chart for the 2013-14 NBA Playoffs. Green = Above league average for that area of the floor Yellow = Comparable to league average Red = Below league average by NBA.com/Stats

Next up for Hinrich, instead of a conference semifinals series, is the summer, and free agency. The Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson reported that Bulls general manager Gar Forman (not to be confused with Abe Froman, the sausage king of Chicago) said re-signing Hinrich is one of the organization's offseason goals.

And Hinrich has stated on more than one occasion that he would prefer to stay with Chicago, where he has spent nine of his seasons.

"I grew up a Bull in this league and I'll always think of myself as a Chicago Bull no matter what happens."


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

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Paul Pierce still doing playoff damage at 36

Toronto Raptors' Greivis Vasquez defends Brooklyn Nets' Paul Pierce (34) during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, April 25, 2014, in New York. The Nets won 102-98. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

Toronto Raptors' Greivis Vasquez defends Brooklyn Nets' Paul Pierce (34) during the second half of Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series Friday, April 25, 2014, in New York. The Nets won 102-98. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

He may not be flashy, his offense might not always be pretty, but it's hard to argue with results. Enjoying the most productive postseason among 'Hawks in the NBA, Paul Pierce, at 36, is still the best former Kansas player in the league.

A little more than a week into the NBA Playoffs, none of the other former Jayhawks chasing an NBA title have played as big a role for their team as Pierce has for Brooklyn.

Here's a look at the playoff averages for the six former Jayhawks in the hunt:

Paul Pierce, Brooklyn: 15.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.3 steals, 46.8% FGs, 31.4 minutes — Brooklyn tied with Toronto, 2-2

Kirk Hinrich, Chicago: 9.8 points, 4.5 assists, 3.3 rebounds, 1.0 steal, 37.8% FGs, 31.9 minutes (age: 33) — Chicago trails Washington, 3-1

Mario Chalmers, Miami: 8.7 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 42.9% FGs, 50% 3s, 27.2 minutes (age: 27) — Miami leads Charlotte, 3-0

Nick Collison, Oklahoma City: 2.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.0 block, 40% FGs, 15.4 minutes (age: 33) — Oklahoma City tied with Memphis, 2-2

Thomas Robinson, Portland: 2.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.0 blocks, 50% FGs, 8.2 minutes (age: 23) — Portland leads Houston, 3-1

Drew Gooden, Washington: 0.5 points, 0.8 rebounds, 25% FGs, 9.0 minutes (age: 32) — Washington leads Chicago, 3-1

Now in his 16th season, Pierce put up 22 points and hit 9 of 14 shots Sunday in Game 4 against Toronto.

The cagy head fakes and moves that kept Pierce's offense flowing all evening weren't enough for a Nets victory, though. The Raptors won, 87-79, because Pierce's layup with 6:12 to go was Brooklyn's last field goal of the game.

As Rod Boone wrote for Newsday, the Nets missed their last six shots and went turnover-crazy. Pierce knew they only had themselves to blame:

"I think a lot of it was on us, our execution, our turnovers. A combination of our turnovers and our lack of execution really did us in."

With his team now tied with Toronto, 2-2, in the best-of-seven series, Pierce told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News the Nets are capable of far better.

“You get in a playoff situation, one guy or two to three guys want to do it on their own instead of just running the offense, executing. I think we got caught up into that. When we learn our plays, we’ve got movement, we seem to score most of the time, but I just think we got out of our offense and that can’t happen in the playoffs. It’s got to come down to execution. You can’t have turnovers, especially in the fourth quarter.”

Unfortunately for the players and coaches around the league, there was more to discuss than the playoffs this weekend. A veteran leader on and off the court, Pierce also spoke about the alleged racist comments made by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling.

None by Stefan Bondy


Gooden wisdom

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) shoots under pressure from Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden (90) during the first half of Game 4 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series in Washington, Sunday, April 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) shoots under pressure from Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden (90) during the first half of Game 4 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series in Washington, Sunday, April 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

With starting big man Nene suspended for Game 4, Washington gave veteran power forward Gooden 26 minutes of court time Sunday against Chicago.

It didn't translate into much production — two points, two rebounds — but Washington won, 98-89, to put the No. 4 seed Bulls in a 3-1 hole, and on the brink of elimination.

Still, Gooden had some wise words to share with Michael Lee of the Washington Post, regarding Game 5, Tuesday at Chicago (7 p.m., TNT).

“It’s an old saying: ‘Once satisfied, all forward progress ceases.’ So we don’t want to come in here satisfied with just three wins. We want to go in there and go for the jugular."

That wasn't the 12th-year pro's only line.

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Always entertaining, Gooden couldn't let himself off too easy for his stat line, either.

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Another Robinson denial

Houston Rockets' James Harden (13) put sup a shot against Portland Trail Blazers' Thomas Robinson (41) during the first half in Game 2 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series Wednesday, April 23, 2014, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Houston Rockets' James Harden (13) put sup a shot against Portland Trail Blazers' Thomas Robinson (41) during the first half in Game 2 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series Wednesday, April 23, 2014, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

You can count on a couple of things in the first-round series between Portland and Houston.

First of all, each game will be entertaining (three of the four so far have gone to overtime). Secondly, Robinson will come off the bench and deny some Rocket at the rim.

Though the second-year power forward has played sparingly for the Trail Blazers, Robinson has delivered a highlight-worthy blocked shot four times in the series — Portland leads, 3-1.

On Sunday, he blocked Dwight Howard on an alley-oop attempt.

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Game 5 is 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Houston (TNT).


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Playoffs roundup: Aaron Rodgers leading Drew Gooden fan club

Washington Wizards John Wall, left, celebrates with Al Harrington and Drew Gooden (90) after an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics Wednesday, April 2, 2014 in Washington. The Wizards won 118-92, and clinched a playoff berth. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Wizards John Wall, left, celebrates with Al Harrington and Drew Gooden (90) after an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics Wednesday, April 2, 2014 in Washington. The Wizards won 118-92, and clinched a playoff berth. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

As if Chicago sports fans needed another reason to despise Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

What does an NFL star have to do with the 'Hawks in the NBA? Well, it turns out Rodgers is not only a friend of KU product Drew Gooden, who used to play in the same state as the QB, with Milwaukee, but the Super Bowl MVP is openly rooting for Gooden and Washington in the first-round series between the Wizards and Bulls.

As Rodgers informed the Twitterverse, he would typically cheer for the Bucks or Sacramento (Rodgers is originally from California), but neither made the NBA Playoffs.

So, for now at least, he's all in on the Wizards — and has an autographed Gooden jersey to prove it.

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Clearly, Gooden and Rodgers are bros. Brandon Parker provided some of the details on the Washington Post's Wizards Insider blog. Rodgers routinely attends Milwaukee home games, and Gooden said the two of them hit it off when he was a member of the Bucks.

“He’s been one of my biggest supporters once I got to Milwaukee and he’s come to a lot of our games. I became, I guess, his favorite player on the Bucks. He always came to support us courtside and talk to me after the games and text me after the game ‘Good job.’ It kind of escalated from there.”

Rodgers even went all fan boy after the Wizards won Game 1 on Sunday, jokingly calling out Washington coach Randy Wittman for not playing his buddy enough minutes.

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Imagine Rodgers' outrage when Gooden only played two minutes of the Wizards' 101-99 OT win in Game 2 on Tuesday. Whatever he thought of it, he maintained social media silence on the matter.

Rodgers might soon be forming some more 'Hawks in the NBA connections. The next time he goes to a Bucks game, Milwaukee might be home to a 2014-15 rookie by the name of Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid. The Bucks (15-67) owned the worst record in the league, and thus have the best odds to win the Draft Lottery and the No. 1 overall pick.

At least Rodgers got some advanced scouting in on Wiggins and Embiid and will know what to expect.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers receives a Kansas football jersey from head coach Charlie Weis prior to Saturday's basketball game against Oklahoma State at Allen Fieldhouse.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers receives a Kansas football jersey from head coach Charlie Weis prior to Saturday's basketball game against Oklahoma State at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug


Noah loves 'old man' Hinrich

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) and guard Kirk Hinrich (12) celebrate at the end of the team's 100-91 comeback win over the Dallas Mavericks in an NBA basketball game on Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, in Dallas. (AP Photo/John F. Rhodes)

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) and guard Kirk Hinrich (12) celebrate at the end of the team's 100-91 comeback win over the Dallas Mavericks in an NBA basketball game on Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, in Dallas. (AP Photo/John F. Rhodes)

Voted the NBA's best defensive player this season, Chicago center Joakim Noah began shouting out other members of the Bulls at a Monday press conference announcing the award.

His first nod went toward Chicago veteran guard Kirk Hinrich, now in his 11th season out of Kansas. Here's what Noah said in Joe Cowley's story for the Chicago Sun-Times:

“This award is a team award. This wouldn’t be possible without my boy Kirk Hinrich, an old man, picking up [the opposition] full-court. My whole team. Of course, [coach Tom Thibodeau], we’ve definitely had our hard times, our ups and downs, but without your system, this wouldn’t be possible.’’

After losing Game 1 against Washington on Sunday, the Bulls fell behind, 2-0, in the first-round series on Tuesday, dropping a second straight home game.

Hinrich scored 12 points, pulled down seven rebounds and distributed four assists. His exuberant pal Noah again showed support for the vet early in the game when the "old man" tangled with one of the game's up-and-coming players, Bradley Beal.

Hinrich and Beal earned technicals for the shoving match. The play got Chicago's fans back into it and, eventually, the Bulls forced overtime.

Down 101-99 with 2.4 seconds left, Hinrich could have extended the game to double OT. He drove in and drew a foul on a layup attempt, earning two free throws. But Hinrich misfired the first attempt and missed the second one on purpose, aiming to give the Bulls an offensive rebound, which they couldn't secure.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune provided the following quote from Hinrich, who knew an and-one would've given the Bulls the lead:

"I was upset. I felt I should have made the layup, to be honest. Just wasn't able to do it. I thought I shot a little quick. But you have to move on and stay confident."

What do you know? Noah defended Hinrich:

"I love him to death. I got his back 150 percent."


Pierce reveals crunch time secret

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) drives to the basket against Toronto Raptors forward Amir Johnson (15) during the second half of Game 2 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, April 22, 2014, in Toronto. Toronto won 100-95. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) drives to the basket against Toronto Raptors forward Amir Johnson (15) during the second half of Game 2 in an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Tuesday, April 22, 2014, in Toronto. Toronto won 100-95. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)

We now know how Paul Pierce turned it on late to lead Brooklyn to a Game 1 win at Toronto on Saturday.

A veteran of the postseason, Pierce told reporters Tuesday morning he can't help it.

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None by Stefan Bondy

Hours later, it seemed Pierce might have spoken too soon. The stage was set for him to again emerge as a late-game hero. Pierce subbed in with less than six minutes to go, without a field goal to his name in Game 2, and Brooklyn down three points.

He would miss his first shot of the fourth around the four-minute mark, but quickly redeemed himself with a a mid-range jumper and drew a foul for a three-point play, which tied the game at 83.

After missing a jumper with 2:32 left, Pierce later showed some of that clutch DNA, driving to create another and-one situation for Brooklyn, which trailed by five with a minute to go.

Pierce hit the free throw to cut the Raptors' lead to two, but he missed two three-pointers in the final 30 seconds as Brooklyn lost, 100-95, and Toronto evened the series, 1-1.

After picking up two quick first-quarter fouls that contributed to an unproductive offensive night — Pierce scored seven points on 2-for-11 shooting, with six rebounds, three assists and three steals in 25 minutes — he didn't hold any punches. This is what Pierce had to say in Andrew Keh's game story for The New York Times:

“We were a soft team tonight."


Chalmers questionable for Game 2

Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers (15) passes the ball as Charlotte Bobcats' Kemba Walker (15) defends during the second half in Game 1 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series, Sunday, April 20, 2014, in Miami. The Heat defeated the Bobcats 99-88. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Miami Heat's Mario Chalmers (15) passes the ball as Charlotte Bobcats' Kemba Walker (15) defends during the second half in Game 1 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series, Sunday, April 20, 2014, in Miami. The Heat defeated the Bobcats 99-88. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Mario Chalmers could miss Game 2 of the Miami-Charlotte series.

The Miami Herald's Joseph Goodman reported Tuesday that the Heat's starting point guard is questionable for a Wednesday home game against the Bobcats.

Chalmers bruised the knee/shin area on his right leg in Game 1, a 99-88 Heat win in which he shot 3-for-7 and scored seven points in 25 minutes.

The sixth-year guard out of Kansas didn't practice Tuesday and will be re-evaluated before Game 2's shootaround.

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Miami coach Erik Spoelstra commented Tuesday on the injury.

“He still has that bruise on his knee and we’ll see how he feels [Wednesday]. He did make progress from [Monday].”

Goodman reported the injury occurred in the first quarter of Game 1, but Chalmers continued playing after the fact.

In 80 career playoff games with Miami — 67 of which came in the past three postseasons, as the back-to-back NBA champions played in three straight Finals — Chalmers averages 9.4 points, 3.1 assists and 1.3 steals.


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Paul Pierce clutch in playoffs opener

Brooklyn Nets' Paul Pierce, center, drives to the net against Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson, left, during the first half of Game 1 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series, in Toronto on Saturday, April 19, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese)

Brooklyn Nets' Paul Pierce, center, drives to the net against Toronto Raptors Patrick Patterson, left, during the first half of Game 1 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series, in Toronto on Saturday, April 19, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Darren Calabrese)

For the first 30-plus minutes he spent on the court Saturday at Toronto, it didn't look like veteran Brooklyn small forward Paul Pierce would play a key role in the outcome of the Eastern Conference first-round playoffs series between the Raptors and Nets.

But when crunch time came around, Pierce instinctively took over, and led Brooklyn to a 94-87 win.

With the Nets holding a slim, one-point lead with less than four minutes to play, Pierce fed Kevin Garnett for his only bucket of the game, then proceeded to tap the fountain of youth and score nine straight Brooklyn points, helping his team amass an eight-point lead with a minute and a half left.

If you squint your eyes enough, it's like watching a young Paul Pierce in Boston green, instead of Brooklyn black.

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Pierce had just six points to his name late in the fourth quarter before taking over in front of a once enthused crowd at Air Canada Centre. NBA.com's John Schuhmann wrote about how Pierce's years of playoff experience helped Brooklyn close out a road win to open the best-of-seven series. Here's what Pierce had to say on the matter:

“You’ve been in those situations a number of times. I don’t get rattled in the fourth quarters, down the stretch of playoff settings. I just try to stay calm, bring my calmness to the game, and just try to influence the rest of the guys.”

"The Truth" isn't The Guy anymore, now that he's in his 16th season out of Kansas. But when the Raptors' defense focused on stopping his Nets teammates, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams, Pierce feasted with a clutch, game-changing run.

“I thought it was part of great execution. They took away our first and second option and I was able to fill in as a third option and make some plays.”

Pierce and Brooklyn resume their series with Toronto Tuesday night.


Weekend recap: Hinrich only former Jayhawk to lose

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich, left, shoots against Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat during the second half in Game 1 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series in Chicago, Sunday, April 20, 2014. The Wizards won 102-93. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich, left, shoots against Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat during the second half in Game 1 of an opening-round NBA basketball playoff series in Chicago, Sunday, April 20, 2014. The Wizards won 102-93. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

All but one of the 'Hawks in the NBA began their postseason with a win this past weekend, when Pierce (15 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists) and Chicago's Kirk Hinrich (16 points, 2 assists) stood out with the best individual performances.

Despite a productive night for the Bulls veteran guard (7-for-16, shot chart below), Hinrich was the odd man out among KU products, as Chicago fell, 102-93, to the Wizards Sunday night.

Chicago's Kirk Hinrich hit 7 of his 16 shots in Game 1 against Washington — a 102-93 Wizards victory.

Chicago's Kirk Hinrich hit 7 of his 16 shots in Game 1 against Washington — a 102-93 Wizards victory.

Drew Gooden only played three minutes for Washington and didn't take a shot, but his team prevailed at Chicago. Mario Chalmers had seven points in Miami's win against Charlotte, Thomas Robinson scored three in an overtime Portland victory at Houston and Nick Collison had three points and five rebounds in Oklahoma City's Saturday win against Memphis.


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Gettin these legs ready for tomorrow. The journey begins for number 3. One step at a time tho

Gettin these legs ready for tomorrow. The journey begins for number 3. One step at a time tho by mchalmers15


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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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