Former NBA All-Star point guard Kevin Johnson might be the mayor of Sacramento, but at the rate Ben McLemore is going, the Kings rookie guard could run for election in California's capital city and knock KJ out of office.
The reigning Western Conference Rookie of the Month kept adding to his resume this weekend. On Saturday, McLemore scored in double figures for the fifth time in six games, with 15 at Utah. Three of those, Sacramento's announcers tell us, came on "the biggest shot of his young NBA career."
That three-pointer, his 28th of the season (McLemore is shooting 35 percent on 81 tries), sent the game to overtime and the Kings (5-13) went on to snap a six-game losing streak.
The night before, in a 106-100 home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, McLemore set a new career high with 20 points, via one of his typically ferocious fast-break jams and 4-for-7 shooting from downtown.
Look out, KJ. Mayor McLemore might take Sactown over sooner than you think.
This Sun is on fire
Back in KJ's old stomping grounds of Phoenix, Markieff Morris couldn't miss to open the Suns' victory over Toronto. Kieff knocked down his first 11 shots on the way to 25 points and 11 rebounds — both close to season-highs of 28 and 12.
The 6-foot-10 power forward out of Kansas, as well as his teammates and coach, had plenty to say about his big night, which helped Phoenix (currently ninth out West) improve to 11-9.
"I've just got a great feel for the game right now," Kieff said in the AP's story on the game. "I'm not trying to shoot as many 3s as I have in the past. I've just been working on driving to the basket and trying to get to the line."
Though Markieff was feeling it (more than twin brother Marcus, who had 10 points on 3-for-10 shooting vs. the Raptors), he still managed to pick up his third technical foul of the season. As Paul Coro of azcentral.com writes in his game notes, Kieff might be the most fiery Sun:
On Friday night, Morris picked up his third technical foul in 20 games as a reserve. He and Jonas Valanciunas did some shoving for a double-technical. The part that could have got Morris in trouble was following Valanciunas to midcourt to continue barking at him but Valanciunas never responded.
Most of the buzz in the NBA this weekend surrounded the return of the Lakers' Kobe Bryant, who played for the first time in almost eight months against Toronto on Sunday.
The L.A. legend, back from a torn Achilles tendon injury, scored nine points in 28 minutes, while former one-and-done Jayhawk Xavier Henry made the most of his 14 minutes off the bench, adding 17 points in a 106-94 loss to the Raptors.
Turns out the lefty Henry impressed Kobe (kind of … well, not really) with one of his moves. This from Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding:
Ryan Kelly and Kobe are joking on the bench about Xavier Henry actually finishing with his right hand. TOR 38, LAL 33.— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) December 9, 2013
Also, as you may have noticed if you saw the highlights from Kobe's return, he came out in pre-game intros to some familiar music — familiar to everybody except Xavier Henry, apparently.
Xavier Henry didn't notice the "Darth Vader" theme during Kobe's intro. And with good reason. He's never seen "Star Wars." AK— Kamenetzky Brothers (@KamBrothers) December 9, 2013
Henry has never seen Star Wars? Nerd alert.
Shouldn't he be in green?
The once unthinkable could happen as soon as tomorrow.
Paul Pierce, who spent 15 seasons leading the Boston Celtics, might play against them Tuesday night as a Brooklyn Net.
Paul Pierce said there's a "good" chance he'll play tomorrow vs #celtics— gary washburn (@GwashburnGlobe) December 9, 2013
Check out all of Gary Washburn's twitter feed for much more on The Truth, and his thoughts on the Celtics.
Washburn, of the Boston Globe, also provides an in-depth feature regarding the struggles of former Celtics Pierce and Kevin Garnett, now that they're in Brooklyn (6-14).
“Those close to the Nets intimate that Pierce has lost his passion, still stunned from his departure from Boston and the only team he ever knew …”
“Pierce is shooting a career-worst 36.8 percent from the field in 15 games and has converted just 26.8 percent of his 3-pointers. Observers say Pierce is engaged at times and doesn’t seem interested at others.”
Don’t forget to keep tabs on all your favorite ‘Hawks in the NBA with KUsports.com's daily stat recaps.
It really wouldn't be the 'Hawks in the NBA without some ridiculous highlights, would it?
There was a Thanksgiving feast of dunks from Kansas products damaging rims around the Association this past weekend.
Before we dig in to the main course, the always reliable Morris twins provide some appetizing fix'ins in Orlando.
Pretty cool little improvisation here. Marcus Morris comes off a screen set by brother Markieff, and just when you think Marcus is rising up for the jumper, he notices Keef rolling to the paint and just lofts an easy lob for a Morris-oop.
Both twins produced in the win against another former Kansas star, Orlando Magic coach Jacque Vaughn.
"I had a talk with Coach and he said I have to get my swag back. When I got sick, I felt like I lost it a little bit. Tonight, I was out there for a while and I thank coach for just letting me play so I can find it."
The Highlight King
All right, on to what everybody has been waiting for on Thanksgiving week. Phoenix's Morrii brought the rolls, green beans and essential sides, but Sacramento rookie Ben McLemore delivers the turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie.
You'd be in the holiday spirit, too, if you had this kind of weekend in L.A.
McLemore's one-on-none fast-break flight against the Los Angeles Clippers is just the latest in what is becoming a nightly expectation for the ridiculously athletic shooting guard.
Notice where he takes off on that? And how high he explodes for his sky-walking trip? That highlight alone would be enough to keep some players satisfied with their baller status for the rest of the season. Yet, here's another McLemore jam the very next night — back in Staples Center, but this time against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Sure, there is zero deterrence put forth by the Clippers or Lakers in these McLemore take-off scenarios, but that doesn't make them any less impressive. I mean, look at this photo of the first dunk from a tweet by @Jim_ICE:
'X' finds 'O'
Xavier Henry continued his fight to remain relevant in the NBA, against Sacramento. It seemed like Henry might have been out of the league by now after his first three seasons with New Orleans. But he's the kind of athlete/gunner that can thrive in Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni's system — especially considering the Lakers need all the help they can get while Kobe Bryant is out.
Mike Bresnahan writes in the Los Angeles Times that Henry improved his free-throw shooting in the Lakers win, and scored 12 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter.
The Lakers (7-7) might not be a contender anymore — even when they get Kobe back. But Henry seems to be enjoying the ride.
Fun from winning locker room Friday night: Xavier Henry was trying to get Nick Young to give him Rihanna's phone number after the game.— KEVIN DING (@KevinDing) November 25, 2013
Bad news, Bulls
If you're a fan of the NBA, you've already heard the horrible news about Chicago point guard Derrick Rose. The 2010-11 NBA MVP missed the entire 2012-13 season while recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee. Then he tore the meniscus in his right knee Friday at Portland.
There is no reason to celebrate this, and if you do, you're just a sicko. But this means former KU star Kirk Hinrich will see a lot more minutes for Chicago. We'll probably see a lot more Hinrich production, and possibly more amazing screen grabs, like this one from Deadspin, which shows Hinrich tying up Denver's Nate Robinson and giddily smiling.
The truth hurts
Paul Pierce isn't injured, but he's probably sick of the struggles he and the high-paid Brooklyn Nets (3-10) have endured so far this season.
For his career, Pierce is a 44.7-percent shooter, making 36.9-percent of his threes and averaging 21.7 points. Maybe it's his new digs, away from Boston, where his jersey will one day be retired in the rafters, or maybe it's his 36-year-old legs finally wearing down, but Pierce hasn't produced the way many around the league expected him to.
Pierce is averaging just 13 points, hitting 37.9-percent of his shots and 27.9 from downtown.
Here is Stefan Bondy's story on the matter, in the NY Daily News: Paul Pierce ineffective again
The Truth's numbers improved slightly on Sunday, against Detroit: Pierce had 19 points, went 5-for-13 and hit two of his four three-pointers.
— Don't forget, keep up with all the 'Hawks in the NBA and their statistical output every day at KUSports.com.
It might be time to re-name this blog Toma-'Hawks (or something cooler and more clever). Just about every time we post a new blog, there is another Kansas product throwing down a ludicrous dunk.
The latest offering comes courtesy of Sacramento Kings rookie Ben McLemore.
I'll be honest, when I was on twitter after watching future Jayhawks in the NBA Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Wayne Selden, etc., etc., beat Iona, I though McLemore might have dunked on one (or both?!) of the Morrii.
McLemore now with 16 points after that poster dunk on two Suns players. #ForeverPurple— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) November 20, 2013
With the recent rash of Jayhawk-on-Jayhawk crime (see Xavier Henry on Jeff Withey, and Thomas Robinson over the Morrii), one could only assume the spree would continue. But, no. McLemore actually posterized one of the 16 or so Plumlees to come out of Duke and Arizona product Channing Frye.
Unlike some of his past games, though, McLemore did much more than produce a showy dunk. His 19 points in the Kings' 107-104 victory matched a career high, and he played 34 minutes, which likely means coach Mike Malone wants the 6-foot-5 shooting guard playing a prominent role in his rotation.
Here's a postage interview with McLemore: from News 10 ABC, in Sacramento.
In Phoenix's loss, it was Marcus (averaging 10 points per game), not Markieff (13.1 ppg), doing more damage. Marcus put up 19 points in the loss, while twin brother Kieff got in foul trouble, only played 11 minutes and had season lows of zero field goals and three points.
Even before the game, Paul Coro from azcentral.com had a story on Marcus playing better for Phoenix, which proved to be prophetic.
Here's how Marcus went to work versus Sactown.
We told you the other day about Mario Chalmers' ejection and suspension following a forearm to Dirk Nowitzki's face. Well, Chalmers used the punishment as motivation and returned Tuesday night to help the Miami Heat beat Atlanta, 104-88.
The Miami Herald's Joseph Goodman highlights Chalmers' night in his story. And the Heat's James Jones told Goodman the Heat need the former Jayhawk on the floor:
“Our core guys are still LeBron, D-Wade, [Chris Bosh] and Mario, so as long as we have three or four of those guys, the rest of our supporting cast just comes in and does what we do. We make shots, we’re aggressive, we’re active and we moved the ball.”
Chalmers scored 14 points and passed out four assists in his return. Clearly he enjoyed himself, as you can see in these gifs, and postgame interview with Chris Bosh.
— Don't forget, keep up with all the 'Hawks in the NBA and their statistical output every day at KUSports.com.
NBA Draft blog: Jeff Withey selected with 39th pick by Portland; discussing the fit for Ben McLemore in Sacramento
11:15 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
No other Jayhawks were taken in the second round, which means Ben McLemore (No. 7 to Sacramento) and Jeff Withey (No. 39 to Portland) will remain as the only Jayhawks drafted.
With that, we're going to sign off on our live coverage.
Be sure to check back to KUsports.com for your complete draft wrap-up, which includes Withey's reaction to getting taken by Portland, a Tom Keegan column saying that McLemore slipping was a case of paralysis by analysis and also quick-hit commentary from Keegan where he provides his thoughts on each of the picks of the first round.
10:36 p.m. update: By Matt Tait
Here's a photo of the inside of McLemore's suit coat ...
10:21 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
The Portland Trail Blazers have selected KU center Jeff Withey with the 39th pick in the draft.
10:16 p.m. update: By Matt Tait
Hey, folks. Thanks for following along with all our of coverage from Brooklyn and this year's NBA Draft. It's been an awesome night and a great week out here.
Just wanted to chime back in with a couple of thoughts about McLemore to Sacramento.
My first thought was that this was a bad deal for Ben. Sacramento has been in a bit of a rut for the past few years and just doesn't seem like that appealing of a place to play ball.
But after talking to Self and Ben and his agent, I think it's a pretty good spot. Not ideal, maybe, but not all that bad either. I like the market and the fact that there won't be a ton of pressure on him out there. I like the commitment to the team from the new ownership group and the fan base and I still think they have some nice, young pieces.
DeMarcus Cousins could still turn into a very solid player; Jimmer Fredette is a stud; Tyreke Evans showed early in his career what he's capable of and still has youth on his side; and there are a few solid role players like Patrick Patterson, Marcus Thornton and Isaiah Thomas.
Fran Fraschilla, as he always does, hit it right on the head, though, when he told me that the biggest concern will be someone to get McLemore the ball. Without a stellar and proven point guard, the Kings often struggle to get into their sets and also lack leadership. It's possible that they could employ a more wide-open, up-and-down style — and that would suit McLemore perfectly — to overcome that, but until they do, the PG spot still has to be a major question mark.
Time will tell how this pans out for Ben, but I don't think they'll give up on him as quickly as they did Thomas Robinson and I also think Ben will benefit from playing in a distraction-free, low-pressure organization.
Should be fun to watch. Thanks again for joining the coverage all week and also for the kind comments. It's because of you guys that we do all we can to bring as much KU coverage to your computers/phones/iPads/brains.
9:59 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
A couple of former Jayhawks are on the move.
Also, numerous reports say that Paul Pierce will be traded from Boston to Brooklyn when the deal can be made official on July 10.
9 p.m. update: By Tom Keegan
I asked Jay Bilas on a pre-draft conference call how much he liked Jeff Withey compared to former Kansas center Cole Aldrich.
His response: "They're really different. Withey is probably a little bit more mobile. He's a better shot blocker and rim protector, but he's slight of build. So getting and holding position down low is an issue for him. That's not going to change. I don't see him getting a lot bigger and wider. It's not like he's not an older guy. He transferred in from Arizona, so he's a red-shirt player. He's been around awhile.
"But he can make a face-up shot. I think he's a better shooter than he got credit for, but he's not a low-post player. He's not a guy you're going to throw the ball to him in the low post and he's going to go to work on you. He's more a guy to defend the post, block shots. I think he's a backup center in the league, but he's a valuable piece, and I think he's a late first‑round pick. He's a good pick."
8:30 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
A couple more McLemore photos from the Associated Press ...
7:57 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
According to HoopsWorld's rookie salary scale, here's what McLemore will make in his first three years in the pros:
Year 1: $2,413,300
Year 2: $2,521,900
Year 3: $2,630,500
7:52 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
A few notes on the McLemore selection from KU Athletics:
• This is the fourth straight season a Jayhawk has been selected in the first round of the NBA Draft.
• In the last decade, KU is among the top five for producing the most NBA Draft picks (18).
• Since the inception of the Big 12 in 1996-97, KU has had 24 players drafted to the NBA, which is the most of any league member.
• KU has sent 28 players to the NBA during the past 20 years, passing North Carolina for third-most among all Div. I schools. KU only trails Kentucky (31) and Duke (29).
7:32 p.m. update: By Matt Tait
A couple photos and video showing McLemore right after he was taken by the Kings.
7:16 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
David Stern makes it official: Ben McLemore is taken with the seventh pick by the Sacramento Kings.
7:13 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
ESPN reporting Ben McLemore will be taken at No. 7 by the Sacramento Kings.
7:12 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Kentucky's Nerlens Noel goes to New Orleans at No. 6 to team up with Anthony Davis.
Looking likely that McLemore will go No. 7 to Sacramento.
7:07 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Maryland's Alex Len going to the Phoenix Suns at No. 5. Noel and McLemore still available.
6:58 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Charlotte Bobcats take Indiana's Cody Zeller at No. 4. NBA teams look like they're following Keegan's list below (except for McLemore, of course).
6:53 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Washington makes it official and selects Georgetown's Otto Porter. McLemore and Nerlens Noel still on the board.
6:47 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
Indiana's Victor Oladipo goes No. 2 to the Orlando Magic. Some media sources already reporting that the Washington Wizards will take Georgetown's Otto Porter.
6:41 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
UNLV's Anthony Bennett is taken with the No. 1 pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Shocker there. I don't think any mock drafts had that.
6:16 p.m. update: By Matt Tait
So I just spotted two-time NBA champion Shane Battier in the room and thought, well, a lot of people are comparing McLemore to Ray Allen and seeing how Battier, whose HUGE Game 7 helped propel the Miami Heat to this year's title, played with Allen this past season, I thought who better to ask.
Battier had some interesting thoughts about the comparison, but said, in short, that he had seen McLemore a few times this year and that he thought the former KU star could be a special player in the NBA.
I'll have more from Battier later, and will have up as much reaction as possible sometime tonight.
Coach Self said he'd talk to me for a few minutes sometime after McLemore was selected so I'll be sure to get Self's first thoughts on Ben's big night up on the site as soon as possible.
So stay plugged in to KUsports.com all night for all the latest from Brooklyn and the 2013 NBA Draft.
6:10 p.m. update: By Tom Keegan
This isn’t a list of where I think players will be drafted, just the top dozen prospects in my mind, so that I can compare it five years from now to how the general managers picked. If five years from now this list proves I’m smarter than the average general manager, I’ll link to it. If it shows I’m dumber, the list forever will be lost in cyberspace and nobody will remember I ever wrote it:
1. Ben McLemore: My guess is if Cleveland Cavaliers point guard sensation Kyrie Irving were allowed to make the selection, he would take McLemore. He knows McLemore’s long shooting range and explosiveness at the hoop could lead to tons of assists and victories. General managers often are guilty of over-analysis. If he drops, blame it on that.
2. Anthony Bennett: So he’s shorter than most who play his position? So what. He’s a more talented, more explosive version of Draymond Green. Charles Barkley was too small for his position too. Bennett isn’t Charles Barkley, but he might have a little Sir Charles to his game.
3. Cody Zeller: GM's are looking at him all wrong. He’s not a center. He’s a stretch four, whose long-range shooting wasn’t on display for Indiana because the Hoosers needed him in the post. He’s not Dirk Nowitzki, but he might be as close to Dirk as he is in the other direction to Tyler Zeller.
4. Alex Len: Intriguing center prospect, but not worthy of the No. 1 pick. He projects as a solid starter, not an All-Star.
5. Nerlens Noel: Terrific athlete who does far more than block shots defensively. Deflects and steals passes with reactions rare for a man his size. There is no reason to believe he ever will be a big scorer.
6. Victor Oladipo: Explosive athlete will get the absolute most out of his talent, but his ceiling is nowhere near as high as McLemore’s because he doesn’t have his shooting touch or range and never will.
7. Otto Porter: Nice small forward. Right size, right shooting touch, but he’s not a superior athlete at a position where he’ll be defending plenty who fit that description.
8. Dennis Schroeder: Slender 6-2 guard from Germany has a 6-7 wingspan, is crazy quick and is only 19. He won’t go this high, but five years from now we’ll all look back and wonder why he didn’t.
9. Michael-Carter Williams: Tall point guards who have great vision can be difference-makers. It might not happen for him immediately, but he’s a gifted enough athlete to develop into a better-than-average starting point guard.
10. Kelly Olynyk: Sure, he’s too skinny, but he’s so coordinated and so skilled he’ll be a tough guy to guard, which he’ll need to be because he also might have a difficult time guarding powerful NBA centers.
11. Trey Burke: Not as quick as most NBA point guards his size, but he has tons of moxie and terrific shooting range.
12. Steven Adams: Really big and really strong, he looked lost offensively at times for Pitt, but he has the drive and the talent to grow offensively and could become an excellent defensive center.
6 p.m. update: By Matt Tait
Just spoke with KU coach Bill Self who is in the Green Room and at McLemore's table tonight.
Self's in as good a mood as anyone could possibly be at this event. He's loose, working the room and talking to all of the other prospects, coaches and media members he knows.
He made sure that I knew Ben and when I told him that Ben was with me all day yesterday and didn't even get sick of me, Self set the record straight.
"Oh, he got sick of you," Self cracked with a smile. "He's just too nice to tell you."
Fair enough, coach. Gotta love it! Even his college head coach is pushing the image that McLemore is the nicest kid in America. May very well be true.
After that he asked me to snap a photo of the two and said, with a huge smile, "Get this one for the LJ-World."
Like I said, both guys are in great moods and are completely relaxed.
Almost go time out here. This place is hopping.
Stay tuned for much more …
5:55 p.m. update: By Jesse Newell
While we're waiting for the draft to start, here's a fun video from ESPN that features some of the top picks, including McLemore. The KU star even demonstrates his dance — "The McLemore" — at the end.
Original post: 4:32 p.m. by Matt Tait
Good evening ladies, gents and Ben McLemore fans. Welcome to Brooklyn, N.Y., site of this year's NBA Draft.
I'm Matt Tait and I've been in the Big Apple all week following around former KU star Ben McLemore as he embarks upon the beginning of his NBA career.
In a little less than two hours, McLemore, a likely Top 5 pick, will know the location of his new team.
But until then, the speculation continues.
Just talked to some more folks from Cleveland, which picks No. 1, and the general feel there is that McLemore will not go first tonight, but when asked if that happening would shock them they all said absolutely not.
So, we'll see.
I think Orlando at 2, Charlotte at 4 and Phoenix at 5 remain the most likely destinations, but I'm not ready to say McLemore is out of the running for No. 1 just yet.
What the heck, let's do a percentage wheel, shall we.
- Orlando (2) - 50%
- Charlotte (4) - 24%
- Phoenix (5) - 20%
- Cleveland (1) - 5%
- Other - 1%
I'll be here all night at the Barclay's Center (which is incredible, by the way) and will bring you videos, photos and reaction from draft headquarters and the Green Room while Tom Keegan and Jesse Newell handle the blog from Lawrence.
Please remember that once McLemore is picked, I'm going to be out of commission for a while, following him around once again.
Let's get this party started. This is one of my favorite nights of the year and Brooklyn, though not quite Madison Square Garden, is right up there in terms of hosting this event.