Posts tagged with Ku Basketball

Who wore it best?: Jayhawks make list of all-time greats, by jersey number

The folks behind Mitchell & Ness specialize in sports, nostalgia and jerseys. So when the company put together a list of the all-time greatest NBA players — by jersey number — you knew it would be something to behold.

The accompanying graphic began making its way around social media platforms Monday afternoon.

None by SLAM Magazine

As one might expect, the comprehensive list included some former Kansas basketball standouts who made their way to the league. In fact, five different Jayhawks showed up on Mitchell & Ness’s historic jersey directory. One KU product actually appears twice.

So which Jayhawks made the cut?

How about Jo Jo White?

Chet Walker of the Chicago Bulls is guarded by Jo Jo White of the Boston Celtics (10), as he tried to lay up a shot in their game in Boston at night on Jan. 13, 1972. Tom Sanders of Celtics Comes in at right. Boston won the game 113-112. (AP Photo)

Chet Walker of the Chicago Bulls is guarded by Jo Jo White of the Boston Celtics (10), as he tried to lay up a shot in their game in Boston at night on Jan. 13, 1972. Tom Sanders of Celtics Comes in at right. Boston won the game 113-112. (AP Photo)

Nope. The No. 10 slot belongs to Knicks legend Walt Frazier?

Surely Paul Pierce’s No. 34 is represented?

Boston Celtics' Paul Pierce celebrates during the second half of Boston's 91-89 win over the New York Knicks in an NBA basketball game in Boston Friday, Feb. 3, 2012.

Boston Celtics' Paul Pierce celebrates during the second half of Boston's 91-89 win over the New York Knicks in an NBA basketball game in Boston Friday, Feb. 3, 2012. by Nick Gerik

Wrong again. A few greats have donned the same number combo, including two-time Rockets champion Hakeem Olajuwon.

Actually, in terms of all-time stature, most of the KU names on the list might surprise you.

Except for the first one, which was a no-brainer.

13 — Wilt Chamberlain

In this file photo from March 2, 1962, Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors holds a sign reading “100” in the dressing room in Hershey, Pa., after he scored 100 points as the Warriors defeated the New York Knickerbockers, 169-147.

In this file photo from March 2, 1962, Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors holds a sign reading “100” in the dressing room in Hershey, Pa., after he scored 100 points as the Warriors defeated the New York Knickerbockers, 169-147. by Associated Press

Mitchell & Ness description: “Wilt wore No. 13 over 16 seasons with the Philadelphia/San Francisco Warriors, Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1978, elected into the NBA’s 35th Anniversary Team of 1980 and chosen as one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history in 1996. Over his career, Chamberlain was a two-time NBA champion, NBA Finals MVP, 4-time NBA MVP and 13-time NBA All-Star.”

39 — Greg Ostertag

Utah center Greg Ostertag, right, posts up Sixers center Dikembe
Mutombo. Ostertag was 0-for-4 on field goals in 16 foul-plagued
minutes on Thursday at Allen Fieldhouse.

Utah center Greg Ostertag, right, posts up Sixers center Dikembe Mutombo. Ostertag was 0-for-4 on field goals in 16 foul-plagued minutes on Thursday at Allen Fieldhouse. by Scott McClurg/Journal-World Photo

Mitchell & Ness description: “Only four players have ever worn No. 39 in the NBA, the best of whom is Greg Ostertag. Greg enjoyed a successful 11-year career in which he made back-to-back appearances in the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998.”

62 — Scot Pollard

San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan drives to the basket as Indiana Pacers forward Scot Pollard defends. The Spurs beat the Pacers, 99-86, Tuesday in San Antonio.

San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan drives to the basket as Indiana Pacers forward Scot Pollard defends. The Spurs beat the Pacers, 99-86, Tuesday in San Antonio. by Eric Gay/AP Photo

Mitchell & Ness description: “Only two players have ever worn No. 62 in the NBA: Bob Dille, who only played one season in 1947, and Scot Pollard, who wore it for two seasons in Indianapolis.”

66 — Scot Pollard

Boston's Scot Pollard (66), Kevin Garnett (5), James Posey (41) and Eddie House complain to a referee in this December 2007 file photo. Pollard, a free agent, isn't ready for his NBA career to be over.

Boston's Scot Pollard (66), Kevin Garnett (5), James Posey (41) and Eddie House complain to a referee in this December 2007 file photo. Pollard, a free agent, isn't ready for his NBA career to be over.

Mitchell & Ness description: “Scot wore No. 66 in 2008 with the Boston Celtics when they won the NBA Championship.”

89 — Clyde Lovellette

Mitchell & Ness description: "Clyde wore No. 89 in his first season with the Minneapolis Lakers. Over his 11-year career, Lovellette was a 3-time NBA Champ, 4-time NBA All-Star and All-NBA Second Team. Lovellette was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982.

90 — Drew Gooden

Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden (90) celebrates after a play with Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (24) nearby in the second half of an NBA basketball game on Friday, March 28, 2014, in Washington. The Wizards won 91-78. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden (90) celebrates after a play with Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (24) nearby in the second half of an NBA basketball game on Friday, March 28, 2014, in Washington. The Wizards won 91-78. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Mitchell & Ness description: “Drew has worn No. 90 (and is the only one to do so) with a number of different teams throughout his still active career. He’s enjoyed a successful career, averaging 11.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.”


In the case of this particular catalog of jerseys, it pays to be have an atypical number — less competition — to match your offbeat basketball personality (see: Pollard, Ostertag and Gooden).

Some advice for Kelly Oubre Jr. and Cliff Alexander: choose from the numbers 58, 59, 63, 64, 69, 74, 75, 78-82, 87, 95 and 97 for your first NBA jersey. No player ever has worn any of those numbers. Go with something crazy. You might end up in the same graphic as Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Bill Russell one day.


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Kelly Oubre Jr. wants to become top SF in 2015 draft class

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. celebrates as the Jayhawks begin to take over the game late in the second half against Texas on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. celebrates as the Jayhawks begin to take over the game late in the second half against Texas on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

The 2015 NBA Draft class doesn’t include a can’t-miss, franchise-changing small forward, and ever-confident Kelly Oubre Jr. thinks he has the potential to become the best from this crop of draftees at his position.

That certainly isn’t the popular opinion, or one reflected on publicized mock drafts and big boards. However, the one-and-done wing from Kansas who currently projects as a late lottery pick has a goal of going in the top seven a few weeks from now.

The 6-foot-7 forward admits there are plenty of other great prospects available, but he told DraftExpress.com he is out to prove people wrong.

“I feel like I’m the hardest-working guy in this draft,” Oubre said, “because I have a chip on my shoulder.”

Most draft prognosticators have Oubre going somewhere around 14th in the June 25 draft. If he is indeed able to attain his top-seven goal, it would likely mean jumping the small forwards currently rated ahead of him.

ESPN’s Chad Ford proclaimed Oubre may have “more upside than any other wing in the draft” after watching him work out in Santa Barbara, California, in late May.

Ford said when Oubre began his one college season in Bill Self’s doghouse, players such as Duke’s Justise Winslow and Arizona’s Stanley Johnson moved ahead of him. Those two, as well as 20-year-old Croatian Mario Hezonja, in particular figure to be his stiffest competition if an organization wants to use its lottery pick on a wing.

Oubre told Ford that Self brought out the best in his game by demanding he compete on both ends of the court.

“Once coach dropped the hammer on me and made it known I needed to be a two-way player, I kind of started to get things and flow better. Now I know that at the next level, I have to be a two-way player."

According to Ford, scouts now question Oubre’s offense. Shooting and ball-handling both give evaluators pause. So the wing from KU is working with Drew Hanlen — the same trainer who worked with Andrew Wiggins — on his jump shot and ball-handling.

Santa Barbara has become Oubre’s temporary home as he trains at P3, the same place where Arizona’s Stanley Johnson, Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, Duke’s Jahlil Okafor and others are preparing for their first years as pros. Wiggins trained at P3 last year, and other standouts such as Dwight Howard and Al Horford have utilized the services available there in the past.

None by Jay Williams

Oubre told DraftExpress.com his goal by the time he leaves P3 is to become faster and “a more well rounded athlete.” The workouts focus on his upper body and core, he added, so he can drop his hips more when he makes certain moves. Oubre wants to become a stronger player and be able to assert himself when he attacks on offense.

The good news for the 203-pound 19-year-old is a lot of what he goes through at P3 isn’t too different from what he picked up at KU.

“Andrea Hudy is one of the best strength coaches in the country. She pretty much had us doing a lot of mobility things we’re doing at P3,” Oubre said of the easy transition. “I had a little step up from when I came to school, so it was great.”

Of course, plenty of his training is strictly basketball-focused, with an emphasis on his one-on-one skills, his defense and becoming a better shooter. Oubre said he needs to show consistency with his jump-shooting, and he’ll become more fluid with hours of repetition.

“I’m just trying to perfect something I know I can be great at at the next level,” he said.

Oubre also understands he’ll need to become a better ball-handler than he was in his one season with Kansas. Basically, he said he’s working on all the things he knows “will get me paid higher at the next level.” Good idea.

Wisely, Oubre says he plans to utilize the whole pre-draft process to improve himself, by learning from the people around him not just about the game, but also the business side of being an NBA player.

“This past season was great. I learned a lot,” he said of his stop in Lawrence. “It wasn’t the best season for me, but I just feel like this is the right move for me and I’m just learning a lot and growing as an individual.”

Early in the NBA Playoffs, Oubre spent some of his down time watching a couple of the players he hopes to emulate as a pro, Chicago’s Jimmy Butler and San Antonio’s Kawhi Loenard.

“Guys like that, I feel like they’re the new wave,” Oubre said, describing Butler and Leonard as players who can lock down on defense and have huge offensive games.

Speaking of defense, Oubre doesn’t lack sureness in his own potential there. Asked how many positions he could guard in the NBA, he responded: “Four. Maybe five.”

Really?

“There are superior athletes, great big men at the next level,” Oubre said, “but I don’t want to put any boundaries on myself.”

Oubre considers himself a “superior athlete,” as well. We’ll soon find out how many NBA decision-makers agree with that forecast.

DraftExpress.com currently has Miami taking Oubre with the 10th overall pick in the draft — behind fellow small forwards Johnson (No. 9, Charlotte), Winslow (No. 7, Denver) and Hezonja (No. 5, Orlando). Another potential lottery wing, Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker, currently sits just outside the top 14 (No. 15, Atlanta).


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Paul Pierce would fit in nicely with Clippers next season

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) reacts in the second half of Game 4 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks, Monday, May 11, 2015, in Washington. The Hawks won 106-101. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) reacts in the second half of Game 4 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks, Monday, May 11, 2015, in Washington. The Hawks won 106-101. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Paul Pierce proved in the 2015 NBA Playoffs he’s still relevant in the league, even with 17 seasons of mileage on his veteran frame.

The 37-year-old small forward from Kansas scored 14.6 points per game and drilled 33 of his 63 3-pointers (52.4%) for Washington in the postseason before Atlanta eliminated the Wizards in the second round, leading Pierce to say his offseason plans would include contemplating retirement.

It turns out those within NBA circles, though, anticipate “The Truth” returning for Year No. 18 — and playing for a different organization.

David Aldridge reported on NBA.com “many around the league” think Pierce will finish his career in Los Angeles, with the Clippers. Though the former Boston star, who also spent one season with Brooklyn, signed a two-year deal with Washington this past summer, he can opt out of the contract and become a free agent again in July if he so chooses.

The Clippers make perfect sense as a potential destination for Pierce. He grew up in nearby Inglewood, California, and won the 2008 NBA championship with current L.A. coach Doc Rivers. Plus, with younger stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin carrying the Clippers, Rivers easily could use Pierce in a reduced role during the regular season — Washington used a similar approach — to save his legs for when they need them the most.

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce (34) hugs coach Doc Rivers after the Celtics defeated the Detroit Pistons, 89-81, to win the Eastern Conference finals. The Celtics advanced to the NBA finals with the victory Friday in Auburn Hills, Mich.

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce (34) hugs coach Doc Rivers after the Celtics defeated the Detroit Pistons, 89-81, to win the Eastern Conference finals. The Celtics advanced to the NBA finals with the victory Friday in Auburn Hills, Mich.

Then again, if Pierce indeed becomes a free agent, who’s to say he wouldn’t join another franchise? Celtics guard Avery Bradley told 98.5 Sports Hub he would love to see his former Boston teammate back in Celtics green.

“To me, Paul is always going to be a Boston Celtic,” Bradley said. “The things that he’s been able to accomplish in his time here, it was just amazing. And I’m pretty sure all the Boston fans would love that, too.”

Boston, coached by Brad Stevens, surprised the league this past season by reaching the playoffs, despite trading away veterans Jeff Green and Rajon Rondo. The Celtics became one of the more competitive teams in the NBA the final three months of the season and won eight of their final 10 games to grab the No. 7 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Pierce’s former franchise is trending upward, but the current roster wouldn’t contend for a title, even with the addition of No. 34. Boston would need to make a few more moves and bring in an all-star or two before Pierce could return knowing he had a chance to get back to the NBA Finals.

No road to the championship is easy, but for Pierce, returning to Washington or joining the Clippers would provide paths with fewer obstacles.

The Wizards came close to reaching the East finals this season, and his young teammates John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter all showed serious improvement. It’s easy to envision D.C. taking another step forward in 2016. But if Pierce stays in the East, he’ll have to go through his old rival, LeBron James, to reach The Finals.

The Clippers had Houston on the ropes and blew a huge lead in Game 6 of the second round before their season ended on the road, in Game 7, against the Rockets. Even though the West is loaded, L.A. has the star power of Paul and Griffin, who could propel the franchise to an unprecedented Finals appearance in 2016 — especially if the Clippers re-sign DeAndre Jordan and add some more complimentary pieces.

Ultimately, the lack of a supporting cast led to L.A.’s demise. Griffin and Paul had to carry the load so much, the fatigue caught up with them late in the Houston series. Pierce isn’t the same defender he was earlier in his career, so he wouldn’t be the perfect “3-and-D” wing for the Clippers. But he could lessen the offensive burden placed on the shoulders of Griffin and Paul, particularly late in games.

After so many seasons in Boston green, Pierce has become a bit of a hired gun late in his career. Why not make one last run at a championship with your old coach in your home town?

Paul Pierce's 3-point shot chart from the 2015 NBA Playoffs. (Via NBA.com/Stats)

Paul Pierce's 3-point shot chart from the 2015 NBA Playoffs. (Via NBA.com/Stats)

Truthfully, Pierce would look good in a Clippers uniform. With him camping out behind the 3-point line on one side of the court, and J.J. Redick doing the same on the opposite side, imagine the extra room Paul and Griffin (and Jordan?) would have to operate.

And if defenses decide to focus on L.A.’s stars, Pierce will be there licking his lips, waiting to deliver a crunch-time dagger.

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Cliff Alexander shows improvements at workout

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) wrestles under the bucket with TCU Horned Frogs center Karviar Shepherd (14) during the first half at Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) wrestles under the bucket with TCU Horned Frogs center Karviar Shepherd (14) during the first half at Wilkerson-Greines Activity Center on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015 in Fort Worth, Texas. by Nick Krug

After one disappointing season at Kansas, forward Cliff Alexander appears to be making the best of his uphill climb toward an NBA career.

When your college basketball résumé includes such numbers as 7.1 points per game, 17.6 minutes per game and eight games missed due to an NCAA investigation, there isn’t much with which to impress the organizations you’re hoping agree to offer you a contract.

The 6-foot-8 1/2 big finds himself engrossed in the pre-NBA Draft process with his stock in a deficit. As a projected second-round pick, he’ll have to spend the next several weeks wowing coaches and management at workouts to sneak his way into the first round of the June 25 draft, in Brooklyn.

Training in his hometown of Chicago recently, Alexander spoke with Slam’s Rodger Bohn about the challenging road in front of him. He also said his one-season stop in Lawrence wasn’t a total loss.

“I learned a lot of knowledge from Coach (Bill) Self,” Alexander told Slamonline.com. “I learned the history of basketball and was just a sponge to everything that he told me.”

While Alexander often struggled to stay on the floor for Kansas, Self complimented the freshman forward on several occasions during this past season for being one of the more coachable players on the team.

That trait should help the young post player, now that his sole focus turns to showcasing his abilities as a player. Alexander acknowledged in the Slam interview he needs to improve his ball-handling and develop a more consistent jumper. Still, the 239-pound big man thinks he has more to offer, and his best attributes will help his cause.

“I’m going to surprise teams with my physical ability,” he predicted. “I didn’t really get a chance to show that at Kansas. A better Cliff Alexander, that’s all.”

To that point, Bohn reported Alexander looked best during drills that relied on his strength and athleticism, as shown in the highlight video put together by City League Hoops.

The big guy definitely has himself in outstanding shape, so give him credit for that. Probably the most impressive thing about the whole ordeal Alexander went through, which hurt both KU and his standing as a draftee, is that he responded the best way imaginable. It looks like he’s channeled his frustrations into making himself a more appealing player.

Although, Alexander is only putting up practice jumpers in the video — without the pressure and fatigue of in-game situations — those look good, too. The same goes for his footwork, which is one of the many aspects of his overall game he’ll have to continue to develop in order to successfully implement such maneuvers against NBA defenders.

Those finishes at the rim stand out, as well. Alexander isn’t exactly explosive when he leaves the floor, as far as the speed with which he gets to the rack, but he consistently finishes with strength — and throw-downs.

Some have claimed Alexander could only play center in the NBA because of his skill set, and his lack of height makes him undesirable. Actually, what position he plays — power forward or center — will depend solely on a team’s needs and style. In the right situation, he could come off the bench at either position.

In a list of the top 10 power forwards available from NBA.com’s David Aldridge, Alexander ended up just outside, in the realm of honorable mention.

Here are the prospects Aldridge ranks ahead of him:

1. Karl-Anthony Towns, Kentucky

2. Kristaps Porzingas, Latvia

3. Trey Lyles, Kentucky

4. Myles Turner, Texas

5. Bobby Portis, Arkansas

6. Kevon Looney, UCLA

7. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville

8. Jarell Martin, LSU

9. Chris McCollough, Syracuse

10. Jordan Mickey, LSU


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Stock watch: Lottery possible for Oubre, but Alexander seemingly destined for 2nd round

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

Now that the NBA Lottery and Draft Combine have concluded, the landscape for the 2015 draft began to come into focus a little more this week.

We know that Minnesota, the Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia won the rights to picks 1, 2 and 3, but we also now have the exact order for the entire first round. That information is more important to one-and-done Kansas wing Kelly Oubre Jr., than his KU teammate, big man Cliff Alexander, of course.

Since Oubre officially declared for the draft, his name has been thrown out as an option in the later half of the lottery, most often in the 10 to 14 range.

Here’s a look at the order for the first 14 picks, keeping in mind it’s difficult to come up with a scenario in which Oubre would go much higher than No. 8 overall:

None by NBA Draft

1. Minnesota

2. L.A. Lakers

3. Philadelphia

4. New York

5. Orlando

6. Sacramento

7. Denver

8. Detroit

9. Charlotte

10. Miami

11. Indiana

12. Utah

13. Phoenix

14. Oklahoma City

Who knows which NBA front-office types and/or coaches will become enamored with Oubre’s skill set in the weeks to come, but he said at the combine he wants to prove he is one of the top talents in this rookie class.

Alexander, meanwhile, has much more work to do, just to validate himself as a player who is worth a late first-round pick. Last week he claimed there is more to his game than some may realize.

Many websites posted updated mock drafts with the lottery order in place. Check out where the following sites predicted Oubre and Alexander will end up (some sites don’t include second-round projections).

MOCK
DRAFTS
Kelly Oubre Jr.
projections
Cliff Alexander
projections
NBADraft.net 15th 39th
MyNBADraft.com 15th 38th
DraftExpress.com 10th 41st
DraftSite.com 20th 41st
Chad Ford, ESPN.com 17th N/A
SheridanHoops.com 11th N/A
BleacherReport.com 15th N/A
Sam Vecenie, CBSSports.com 12th 37th
Gary Parrish, CBSSports.com 11th 35th
Zach Harper, CBSSports.com 10th 29th

Kelly Oubre Jr.

Kansas' Kelly Oubre participates in the NBA draft basketball combine Thursday, May 14, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Kansas' Kelly Oubre participates in the NBA draft basketball combine Thursday, May 14, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

— SF, 6-foot-7, 204 pounds, 19 years old, from Richmond, Texas —

Average mock draft position: 14th

Current high: 10th (DraftExpress.com and Zach Harper, CBSSports.com)

Current low: 20th (DraftSite.com)

Stock assessment: Slightly slipping. Oubre hasn’t dropped too far since we last checked in on the mock drafts, two weeks ago. His average position then was 13th, and at 14 he’d still end up in the lottery — and become the 14th player from Kansas to get picked in that range in a span of 16 seasons.

Five of the 10 prognosticators listed above think Oubre will go that early, with Miami and Indiana standing out as popular destinations for the long, lean small forward. Three different mocks sent Oubre to Atlanta, the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed this season.

Toronto, Milwaukee and Utah also could land Oubre, according to some forecasts.

If Miami, which owns the 10th pick, indeed is interested in Oubre, it sounds like he’d be ecstatic to join the organization. As detailed by the Palm Beach Post’s Jason Lieser, Oubre sat down for an interview with Heat president Pat Riley at the combine.

“It was great,” Oubre said. “He’s a legend who has coached greats in the past, and seeing what he knows about the game of basketball is something I would never take for granted. I listened to every single thing he said. I asked him a couple questions, also, to see if I could pick his brain for things I need to know about my future.

“One of the things that stuck out to me was he said, ‘If you want to play for us, you’ve gotta be in the best shape of your life.’ I like to run and gun. If I’m running, I’m scoring in transition, and that’s what I do best.”

Cliff Alexander

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander chases after a loose ball with Kansas State forward Stephen Hurt (41) during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander chases after a loose ball with Kansas State forward Stephen Hurt (41) during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

— PF/C, 6-foot-9, 254 pounds, 19 years old, from Chicago —

Average mock draft position: 37th

Current high: 29th (Zach Harper, CBSSports.com)

Current low: 41st *(DraftExpress.com and DraftSite.com)*

Stock assessment: Falling. More mocks listed Alexander as a first-round pick last time around, and his average spot has dropped six spots since then.

Only one of the seven above projections that included the second round had Alexander going in the first, and it was 29th overall — the next-to-last pick in Round 1 — to Brooklyn.

Potential second-round suitors for the project power forward included Charlotte, Detroit, Philadelphia and (again) Brooklyn.

The good news for Alexander is it sounds like he’s entering this pre-draft process with realistic expectations. At the combine, he told zagsblog.com he kind of expected his stock to take a hit because of the way his one season at KU turned out.

One un-named scout told zagsblog.com, though, teams are less interested in Alexander because he has “limited upside” and he would be undersized in the NBA as a center.

“It is a shame that the NCAA ruled him ineligible at the end of his freshman year,” the scout said, “because he really needed at least one more year of college. He is a D-League guy no matter where he gets drafted.”


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LeBron James credits old rival Paul Pierce with shaping his career

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce, center, dunks as Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, left, and center Anderson Varejao of Brazil, right, watch during the second half of Game 4 in a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Sunday, May 9, 2010, in Boston. The Celtics won 97-87, tying the series at 2-2. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce, center, dunks as Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, left, and center Anderson Varejao of Brazil, right, watch during the second half of Game 4 in a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Sunday, May 9, 2010, in Boston. The Celtics won 97-87, tying the series at 2-2. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Years from now, when basketball fans who have yet to be born learn of LeBron James or Paul Pierce by watching hologram highlight clips of their Hall-of-Fame careers, one small forward will inevitably be linked with the other.

The rivalry between Pierce and James took off in the 2008 NBA Playoffs. Ever since, their one-on-one battles have been a prominent storyline each time their two teams meet.

When Pierce, a 17-year veteran from Kansas, hinted at retiring upon Washington’s elimination from the playoffs this past week, Northeast Ohio Media Group’s Chris Haynes asked James about his old antagonist and their showdowns through the years.

Still in the hunt for this season’s championship with the Cavaliers, James told Cleveland.com Pierce actually helped shape his career.

"Obviously he gets a Cliff note or a couple notes in my book as far as guys that helped me get over the hump or kept me where I was at the time," James said. "I knew I had to become much better individually. He's one of those guys."

Playing with the Celtics and Nets, Pierce has faced James’ Cavaliers and Heat in five postseason series. “The Truth” prevailed in both 2008 and 2010, before James went to Miami and won titles in 2012 and 2013.

Now a four-time NBA MVP, James went toe-to-toe with Pierce in a second-round series in 2008 that featured a remarkable Game 7. James put up 45 points, but Pierce scored 41 and the Celtics won in Boston, on their way to an eventual championship.

In 2010, James played what many assumed would be his last game in a Cleveland uniform against Pierce’s Celtics. Cleveland lost in the second round to Boston before James headed south to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.

Once the Heat formed its own “Big Three” to counter Boston’s combination of Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, the playoff showdowns started going James’ way. LeBron and company ended Pierce’s season in 2011, 2012 and 2014 (when Pierce and Garnett played in Brooklyn).

The adversaries could have met again in the Eastern Conference Finals beginning this week, but Pierce’s Wizards couldn’t extend their postseason lives past Game 6 vs. Atlanta — a series that ended with an overtime-forcing 3-pointer from Pierce getting waved off upon further review.

"[When] I first saw it and when he got the ball, I knew it was going in," James told Cleveland.com. "I just know how clutch Double-P is. I knew it was going in, but I didn't know if he got it off in time just because he had to make that extra move to get back behind the three-point line after [Kyle] Korver kind of stepped in front of him."

James, who has a 17-20 record vs. his rival in the regular season and a 17-13 record in the playoffs, knows first-hand what Pierce can do with the game on the line. In the 2012 East Finals, Pierce buried a clutch 3 to put Miami in a 3-2 series hole.

No one knows at this point whether the two adversaries will get another playoff showdown in 2016 to cap the old rivalry.

"I've been competing against him my whole career and our battles that we've had, our differences that we've had,” James told Cleveland.com. “But you know one thing about it, when you face him; you're going to always compete. I wish him the best in whatever he decides to do."

Visit basketball-reference.com for a detailed look at each head-to-head meeting between Pierce and James.

REGULAR SEASON


PLAYOFFS


Check out Boston.com’s Top 5 Pierce vs. James moments


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Paul Pierce contemplating retirement

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) waves to the crowd as he leaves the court after Game 6 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs Atlanta Hawks, Friday, May 15, 2015, in Washington. The Hawks won 94-91. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce (34) waves to the crowd as he leaves the court after Game 6 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs Atlanta Hawks, Friday, May 15, 2015, in Washington. The Hawks won 94-91. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

The NBA’s new Mr. Clutch, Paul Pierce, caught the basketball with time vanishing in the final seconds of Washington’s second-round elimination game Friday night and drained a contested, fade-away 3-pointer from the left corner.

The Verizon Center crowd exploded, and Pierce’s Wizards teammates congratulated him on sending Game 6 against Atlanta to overtime.

However, upon further review, the ball left the veteran’s fingertips a split-second too late. “The Truth” had not saved the day this time, and the Hawks advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.

The stunned 17-year veteran from Kansas left the court afflicted with the feeling he let his team down, and, as he told The Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore, wondering about his future.

“Truthfully, what was going through my mind is, I don’t have too much of these efforts left, if any,” Pierce said. “These rides throughout the NBA season, throughout the playoffs, are very emotional. They take a lot out of not only your body, but your mind, your spirit.”

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Pierce averaged 14.6 points and drained 52.4% of his 3-pointers in the playoffs, but finished what proved to be the season finale with 4 points on 1-for-7 shooting (0-for-2 from downtown). No competitor of Pierce’s caliber would want to walk away from the game on that note, particularly after having a clutch shot waved off, but it’s an option the 2008 Finals MVP finds himself considering.

As Kilgore reported, Pierce has a player option for next season on his contract worth $6 million dollars. Will he take it, extend his late-career sting with the Wizards and play an 18th season?

“I don’t even know if I’m going to play basketball anymore,” Pierce told The Washington Post.

The veteran revealed the emotions of the season-ending loss in many of his post-game comments.

“It affects not only you, but the people around you,” Pierce said. “Days like this, you go home and you’re around your family, you don’t feel like talking to them or doing anything because of what the game does. It takes a bit out of you.”

Retirement is on the table for the future Hall of Famer now, and Pierce said calling it quits — whether it comes this offseason or down the road — will probably be the hardest thing he ever has to do.

“I’m never going to have no regrets, whether I hang it up now or later,” Pierce said. “I know that people who have been around me all these years know that Paul Pierce came every day, left it out there every day. I know I left everything out there.”


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Joel Embiid aids Sixers brass at Draft Combine

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

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

Joel Embiid has yet to play a game in the NBA for Philadelphia, but the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft already has dabbled in coaching, scouting and interviewing prospects.

During the final week of the 76ers’ 18-64 season, coach Brett Brown let the one-and-done center from Kansas draw up a play in a timeout.

Thursday in Chicago, Brown and the Philadelphia brain trust had Embiid in tow at the Draft Combine. The 21-year-old 7-footer watched this year’s crop of incoming rookies run through drills and scrimmages and even sat in on interviews with potential draftees.

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The Sixers’ head coach told the Philadelphia Daily News he thought bringing a young player with the franchise’s decision-makers was a unique and great idea. On-76ers-Meetings-With-Prospects-At-Combine

"He gets a chance to talk to the guys who may be his future teammates,” Brown said. “He gets to listen to the answers to the questions that we ask, whether it be about their character, work ethic, whatever it may be.”

Philadelphia’s coach went on to call the 7-footer from Cameroon the franchise’s cornerstone.

“We want him being involved in our decisions moving forward,” Brown told the Philadelphia Daily News. “We're all in this together, and Jo knows that he is a very big piece for all of us moving forward. The more we can get him involved in everything is just better for everyone. I think this is the first time anyone has done anything like this."

Embiid didn’t attend last year’s combine, which has become common practice for the elite rookies in each class. CSNPhilly.com’s John Gonzalez reported the young big man asked Brown and Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie if he could tag along this week.

“I think that for him to come here to Chicago and share in the selection and opinions of people that we may draft is an impressive quality that he has shown us,” Brown told CSNPhilly.com.

The agenda also included non-combine activities, such as individual workouts and weight-lifting sessions for Embiid, but the highlight of the trip to Chicago had to be sitting in with his bosses as Philadelphia’s contingent interviewed his potential future teammates.

As you might imagine, the participation of Philly's player/coach/scout caught some prospects off guard. But Arizona’s Stanley Johnson told CSNPhilly.com the addition Embiid’s presence helped him feel at ease.

“It was fun because I got to have some dialogue with him,” Johnson said. “Jo Jo is always playing around. You know that.”

The fun-loving big man, Texas one-and-done Myles Turner shared, brought that same approach to his interview.

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“His first question was: Why didn’t you go to Kansas?” Turner said, laughing.

Brown enjoyed every minute of keeping his young center involved as the Sixers put potential draftees on the hot seat.

“I just think it's healthy,” Brown told CSNPhilly.com, “and I think it's got to be accumulative effort that we're putting out there where these guys have a say in the design and the growth of their own program."


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Kelly Oubre Jr. reveals lofty NBA goals at Draft Combine

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) goes hard to the bucket against Texas guard Kendal Yancy (0) and forward Myles Turner during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) goes hard to the bucket against Texas guard Kendal Yancy (0) and forward Myles Turner during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

For Kelly Oubre Jr., leisure time is a thing of the past.

With each passing day, the one-and-done Kansas basketball product inches closer to his NBA dream. The future had to feel tangible this week, as the 19-year-old attended the Draft Combine in Chicago.

Oubre spoke with NBA TV about the pre-draft process and said he has a lot of work to do each day, because he wants to put himself in position to reach his full potential and become an impactful player in the league.

“I’m hoping to show people I’m more than just a basketball player. I’m a student of the game,” Oubre said. “I take pride in showing everybody every aspect of the game.”

The 6-foot-7 wing revealed he studies some of the league’s current greats, such as Houston’s James Harden, Chicago’s Jimmy Butler and San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard. Ideally, he’d like to one day emulate aspects of all of their games and be able to score on offense while also standing out as a “lockdown” defender.

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Once a team selects Oubre, who projects as a late lottery pick, he wants to one day be a part of taking that organization to the NBA Finals.

Such sentiments are the types he wants to get across to team executives and coaches in the many interviews he’ll go through, to accompany his workouts, in the weeks leading up to the June 25 draft, in Brooklyn. Oubre knows he will have to demonstrate his maturity and prove he is ready — both physically and mentally.

In Oubre’s one season at KU, his adjustment to a new level of competition didn’t start too smoothly. Bill Self only played him single-digit minutes in five of the Jayhawks’ first seven games. Though ranked No. 6 in the Class of 2014 by Rivals.com coming into college, Oubre didn’t become a permanent starter for Kansas until the 10th game of the season, in late December.

“That whole process was a learning experience for me,” Oubre said. “When I was sitting on the bench at Kansas it was pretty much opening up my eyes (to see) the world doesn’t revolve around myself. I have to abide by a team’s process, and pretty much I did so.”

That rough stretch as a freshman, he added, proved to be a breakthrough event in his evolution as a player.

“I just thank Coach Self and the coaching staff at Kansas for allowing me to learn, because I came in as a highly recruited athlete and he humbled me, pretty much,” Oubre said. “If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be half of the man I am today.”

Although Oubre, who averaged 9.3 points and 5.0 rebounds in his one season at KU, admitted he could’ve benefited from a second year with the Jayhawks, he thinks the open-court style of the NBA will play to his strengths.

“I just believe I can compete at the highest level,” he said. “My determination and my drive and my work ethic is second to none. I believe that. And I believe I can make a heavy impact at the next level.”

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College basketball analyst Clark Kellogg offered an assessment of Oubre’s abilities, upon the conclusion of the NBA TV interview, and said the confident young swingman has a bright future if he honors the process of learning and developing.

“I like his stroke,” Kellogg said. “He shoots it easily from deep, and with confidence.”

Kellogg agreed Oubre should be able to take advantage of his athleticism in the open court:

“He can play, it’s just a matter of refining.”

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Oubre understands in order to attain the lofty goals he has set for himself, he’ll have to work maniacally. But he said the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft, Joel Embiid, had some advice for him about how to approach the weeks ahead.

“He just told me to enjoy it,” Oubre shared. “This is the only time in your life you’re gonna be able to do this, because you’re not getting any younger. So just have fun. I’ll always remember that.”

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Ben McLemore shows improvement in Year 2, and stands out in community

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, left, stuffs as Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce, right, looks on during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Sunday, March 22, 2015. The Kings won 109-86. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, left, stuffs as Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce, right, looks on during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Sunday, March 22, 2015. The Kings won 109-86. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

It can’t be easy playing for the Sacramento Kings right now.

An afterthought of an NBA franchise since the early 2000’s and the glory days of Chris Webber and Mike Bibby, the Kings haven’t reached the playoffs since 2006. They went through another lackluster season (29-53) in 2014-15, marred by an organization-inflicted coaching carousel that forced the players to take the floor under three different leaders: Mike Malone (fired), interim Tyrone Corbin and late-season hire George Karl.

Amid all that, somehow, second-year shooting guard Ben McLemore found ways to improve.

The Kansas product mostly struggled through his rookie campaign, but looked more comfortable in Year 2. McLemore again played in all 82 games for the Kings, but unlike the previous season, when his role changed a few times, the 22-year-old high-flyer started every game.

Accordingly, the 6-foot-5 guard showed improvements in his shooting percentages and scoring.

Ben McLemore
statistical comparison
G GS Mins. Pts FG% 3% FT% Rebs. Asts. Stls. TOs
Rookie (2013-14) 82 55 26.7 8.8 37.6% 32% 80.4% 2.9 1.0 0.5 1.2
Sophomore (2014-15) 82 82 32.6 12.1 43.7% 35.8% 81.3% 2.9 1.7 0.9 1.7

Perhaps the best news for McLemore? He finished the season in impressive fashion.

His April included 20-point performances against Utah, Oklahoma City and Denver, and he put up 24 points in Sacramento’s season finale, vs. the Los Angeles Lakers.

In his final nine games of the season — under the team’s presumably longterm coach, Karl — McLemore trended upward, averaging 16.2 points, 3.6 boards, 3.1 assists, 2.2 turnovers and 1.8 steals in 33.5 minutes. In April, he made 49.1% of his field goal attempts and 35.4% of his 3-pointers.

Karl has gone on record as saying no one on the team is untradeable, but if McLemore keeps showing new wrinkles, progress and improves defensively, he could be the kind of piece the Kings want to keep around for the long haul.

Just as impressive as his improvement on the court, though, have been his contributions to the people of Sacramento. The Kings named him the winner of their Oscar Robertson Triple-Double Award, given to the player who “exemplifies excellence on the court and in the community.”

Since joining the ranks of the best basketball players on the planet, McLemore has helped out not only in his NBA city, but also in his hometown of Wellston, Missouri.

“When I was growing up, my family didn’t have much, so it’s always been extremely important for me to give back and help wherever and whenever I can,” McLemore told the Kings’ website. “I cherish the opportunity to be a role model for young kids and to give back to Sacramento and the community in which I grew up in Missouri. I’m honored to receive this recognition named for an NBA legend and great humanitarian.”

McLemore also became one of the finalists for the league-wide Community Assist Award.

His nonprofit organization, All 4 Kids, provides meals for underserved and low-income youth and families in Wellston and surrounding communities.

Things weren’t easy for McLemore growing up, and it’s obvious he hasn’t forgotten that.

“Now it’s our time to provide for those who dream bold, too,” the young guard said.


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