Posts tagged with Nba

Marcus Morris making strides in Phoenix, too

Phoenix Suns' Marcus Morris (15) makes a shot over Orlando Magic's Andrew Nicholson (44) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 4, 2015, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Phoenix Suns' Marcus Morris (15) makes a shot over Orlando Magic's Andrew Nicholson (44) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 4, 2015, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Years from now, when people look back at Markieff Morris’s NBA career, the 2014-15 season just might stand out as the one in which he shed the label of role player and established himself as one of the more skilled big forwards in the Western Conference.

But his twin brother and Phoenix teammate Marcus is making serious strides this season, too.

2014-15 Morrii stats (through 74 games) PPG FG% 3% FT% RPG APG BPG SPG TOPG MPG
Markieff Morris 15.6 .466 .323 .757 6.0 2.2 0.5 1.3 2.1 31.4
Marcus Morris 10.6 .441 .368 .619 4.6 1.6 0.2 0.7 0.9 24.9

The real breakthrough game for Marcus — as referenced by Ben York at Suns.com — came back in February against Utah. Subbing in off the bench, he put up a career-high 34 points and a then-career-high 12 rebounds. Marcus converted 11 of his 17 field goal tries and nailed 5 of 7 3-pointers.

"He was unstoppable," proud brother Markieff said afterward.

It marked the first time a Suns player produced at least 30 points and 10 boards off the bench since Danny Manning — one of his coaches at Kansas — had 35 points and 10 rebounds in November of 1997.

York wrote the explosion served as a confirmation of what many thought about Marcus’s potential.

More recently, the less heralded Morrii has scored in double figures in 7 of his last 8 games, including 5 straight outings — a first for him this season. In that 8-game stretch, he’s averaging 15.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists, and shooting 44.4% from the floor and 32.7% from 3-point range (just 50% from the foul line).

His playing time has increased of late due to some injury problems for the Suns, and Marcus hasn’t forgotten that with his contributions.

“It’s not really about me,” Morris told Suns.com. “It’s about what coach needs and what the team needs. We have a lot of talent on this team and we’re fighting to get into the playoffs.

“We all have to step our game up and stick together.”

Phoenix (38-36), which lost a critical matchup with Oklahoma City (42-32) Sunday night, currently sits outside of the playoff picture in the West, in 10th place. The Suns have lost 3 straight games and have just 8 games left to try and surpass both New Orleans (39-34) and the Thunder for the final postseason berth available.

“He’s been big for us,” Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek said of Marcus. “With some of the guys injured, we’ve needed that boost in scoring and energy. He’s hit some big shots and starting to find a rhythm. He’s been one of the more consistent guys the last couple weeks and we’ll need that in these final (eight) games.”

Clearly, Hornacek respects Marcus, even if they had an in-game disagreement earlier this season.

Do the Suns have a run in them? Well, their end-of-season schedule is pretty brutal, featuring at least seven playoff teams and both regular-season conference champions.

Phoenix's final regular-season games are: at Portland (47-25), at Golden State (60-13), vs. Utah (32-41), at Atlanta (55-18), at Dallas (45-29), at New Orleans (39-34), at San Antonio (47-26) and vs. the Los Angeles Clippers (49-25).

If the Suns squeeze into the playoffs after that, the Morris twins' reputations will continue taking off.


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


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Cases being made against Andrew Wiggins winning Rookie of the Year (seriously)

Minnesota Timberwolves’ Andrew Wiggins, left, races down court as Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green gives chase in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Minnesota Timberwolves’ Andrew Wiggins, left, races down court as Golden State Warriors’ Draymond Green gives chase in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2015, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

We’ve seen his long arms, his spring-powered legs, the defense and the dunks. He even gets some jump shots to drop through the net every now and then. All of those signs seem to solidify Andrew Wiggins as the no-brainer choice for NBA Rookie of the Year.

Throw in the former Kansas standout’s season averages through 71 games — 16.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.1 steals, 2.0 turnovers, 43.7% shooting, 32.5% on 3-pointers — and the absence of well-known competition due to injuries to fellow top-three draft picks Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid, and the hardware seems all but guaranteed to reside in Wiggins’ trophy case.

However, with the season winding down, and award season approaching, a swell of anti-Wiggins arguments has appeared over the past couple of days.

First, the Rookie Ladder feature at NBA.com bumped Wiggins from the No. 1 spot this week.

Scott Howard-Cooper, who runs the rookie-tracking blog, instead bumped defensive-minded Philadelphia big man Nerlens Noel to the top of the list, citing the following:

  • Noel is 6th in the NBA in blocks — 2.0 a game

  • he’s 9th in steals (1.8 a game), despite playing fewer minutes than seven players ahead of him

  • the Sixers' big man leads rookies in rebounding — 8.0 a game (Wiggins is fifth among rookies who have played at least 50 games)

  • Noel is 6th in rookie scoring — 9.6 points a game (on a list that includes Milwaukee’s Parker, who played 25 games, and New York’s Langston Galloway, who has only played 35 games)

Wiggins had occupied the No. 1 slot since the first week of January, but Howard-Cooper pointed out the 20-year-old’s shooting touch has slipped in March.

Entering Friday’s game at Houston, the young Canadian had made 43% of his shots this month. That’s pretty close to his season average. But the glaring statistic is his 3-point shooting: 15.4%.

That’s almost bad enough to make you forget about his freakish athleticism.

Taking flight. The usual. #RisingWolves

Taking flight. The usual. #RisingWolves by mntimberwolves

Almost.

Then came this argument: Andrew Wiggins isn’t actually that great, he’s just putting up numbers on a bad team.

Credit writer Ben Detrick for backing that theory with some advanced statistical data. He questioned Wiggins’ impact by citing VORP (value over replacement player) — defined by basketball-reference.com as:

“a box score estimate of the points per 100 team possessions that a player contributed above a replacement level player, translated to an average team and prorated to an 82-game season.”

Mumbo jumbo? Kind of. But this particular advanced metric ranks Wiggins as the sixth-most valuable rookie in his class — behind Noel, Chicago’s Nikola Mirotic, Boston’s Marcus Smart, Orlando’s Elfrid Payton and Denver’s Jusuf Nurkic.

None by Ben Detrick

None by Ben Detrick

Before you just dismiss this, at least take a look at the NBA’s top-10 players in VORP this season. It reads like a who’s who of impact players in 2014-15: Steph Curry (6.7), James Harden (6.7), Russell Westbrook (6.5), Chris Paul (5.7), LeBron James (5.2), Damian Lillard (4.8), Anthony Davis (4.7), Draymond Green (4.1), Marc Gasol (4.0) and DeAndre Jordan (3.8).

Really, no one you would want to build your NBA team around resides in the same neighborhood as Wiggins (-0.1).

Does this mean Wiggins won’t win Rookie of the Year? Probably not. Plenty of people around the league still love what they’ve seen from the youngster and realize even better days are ahead for him — which is kind of frightening when you consider the things he is doing on the court.

And, of course, he has plenty of time to improve his shooting, efficiency, ball-handling, basketball IQ and everything else.

If Wiggins still doesn’t have an impressive VORP five seasons from now, then he’s got a problem.

Just so you know: Kevin Durant’s rookie VORP was 0.4. That’s obviously better than where Wiggins is at now, but you get the idea. He has years to acclimate himself as a player and make an even more meaningful impact in the league.


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


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Fresh look at Morris twins’ journey to KU, NBA

Anyone with a passing interesting KU basketball has heard the story of the Morris twins.

There's Marcus and Markieff's unique bond on and off the court. The fact that they play for the same NBA team, the Phoenix Suns. The shared house, bank account and tattoos. And, of course, F.O.E.

Luckily, with the Morrii, there's always more. This week, SBNation.com posted a fresh, 10-minute look at the twins. The video includes interviews with the pair, their mother and their coaches — including "mean stepfather" Bill Self.

It's a fun watch, but Self's quotes about pushing the twins' buttons pushes it over the top:

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Joel Embiid suffers setback in injured right foot

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

At this point in what would have been his rookie season, no one expected Philadelphia rookie Joel Embiid to actually put on a 76ers uniform and contribute in a game any time soon.

Not after the one-and-done Kansas product suffered a stress fracture in his right foot last summer. The Sixers snatched him up with the No. 3 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft for his long-term potential, and didn’t mind if an extended rehab process meant Embiid wouldn’t play a regular-season game until the start of the 2015-16 campaign.

Still, you got the sense the organization and the Philly fan base felt excited about what the future had in store for the young 7-footer, who turns 21 this month.

Putting in the work.

Putting in the work. by philadelphia76ers

It was just a few days ago that the clip of Embiid’s between-the-legs jam during a workout session blew up on social media. On Monday, though, came news of a possible hindrance to the talented prospect’s progress.

The Intelligencer’s Tom Moore reported Embiid suffered a “minor setback” in his right foot, and the center was back to wearing a protective walking boot.

What’s more, CSNPhilly.com’s Dei Lynam reported Embiid would be in Los Angeles Tuesday for a checkup on the troublesome foot — though it wasn’t clear at that juncture if this appointment had been scheduled before his recent setback or because of it.

Derek Bodner, who covers the 76ers for ESPN South Jersey and LibertyBallers.com, provided an update on that front, via Philadelphia coach Brett Brown.

None by Derek Bodner

None by Derek Bodner

Bodner wrote about those comments and more for SB Nation. Philadelphia’s coach indicated Embiid might sometimes push things too far because he so badly wants to get back to playing.

"Sometimes when we turn our heads he'll go out there and take a shot or do that dunk (the viral between-the-legs one),” Brown continued. "But he gets it. He has been responsible with most of it. We just have to make sure that we continue to help put him in environments that will allow him to maximize his health.

"When he did experience some minor pain he brought it to our attention and we just wanted to stay on top of it.”

The silver lining here? Well, Bodner might have tweeted it best.

None by Derek Bodner

This might not mean anything for Embiid's future at all. He could very well show up in Philadelphia's starting lineup on opening night next fall. Just as planned.

Once Embiid finally reaches a point where he can contribute to the Sixers, Brown envisions the center defending the rim and paint on defense and playing more like a power forward on offense, alongside fellow young big man Nerlens Noel.

“I don’t see Joel guarding people on the perimeter,” Brown said in Moore’s report for The Intelligencer. “I think Nerlens’ athleticism where he can switch out on point guards, guard 4-men, I just think there’s a versatility and athleticism that we’re going to really enjoy tapping into.”

The experiment with a modern day twin towers should be fun to watch — assuming the Sixers can get their two young centerpieces healthy simultaneously.

And assuming Noel and Embiid are both still with the team next season if Philadelphia’s latest tankapalooza (the 76ers’ 14-49 record is second-worst to New York’s 12-50) results in the No. 1 pick of 2015. The Sixers might decide they can’t pass up on a chance to grab Duke’s Jahlil Okafor. And you don’t need your three best players all occupying the same position.

Twin towers? Sure. Triple towers? Let's not go crazy.


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


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Nomad Thomas Robinson not mad about his many moves

Philadelphia 76ers forward Thomas Robinson, center, grabs a rebound against the Milwaukee Bucks during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Darren Hauck)

Philadelphia 76ers forward Thomas Robinson, center, grabs a rebound against the Milwaukee Bucks during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Darren Hauck)

One can’t help but wonder: Does Thomas Robinson just keep all of his things packed, just in case he has to move again?

Maybe now that he has landed in Philadelphia he can at least unpack a few go-to items for use in the next couple of months.

The often traded, once waived former lottery pick out of Kansas has endured quite the journey(s) since leaving KU following a run to the 2012 Final Four.

SI.com’s Chris Mannix caught up with the 6-foot-10 former King/Rocket/Trail Blazer (almost Nugget and Net) to discuss what kind of impact becoming a “roster filler” less than three years after entering the league as a top-five draft pick has had on him.

Already accustomed to being a man on the move, the recent NBA trade deadline in February brought about a bizarre few days for Robinson, who was:

In just his third season in the NBA, Robinson already has worn the jerseys of Sacramento (51 games), Houston (19 games), Portland (102 games) and now Philadelphia, bouncing from city to city on one long road trip.

“I could complain about it, but this is just my path,” Robinson told SI.com. “It’s the hand I have been dealt.”

In four games as a Sixer, Robinson has made the most of his limited playing time. Though he only averages 16.3 minutes since arriving in Philly, he is scoring 9.5 points and pulling down 7.3 rebounds, while making 46.9% of his shot attempts.

None by Keith Pompey

Monday night against Toronto (in another loss for the 13-47 Sixers, neck-deep in a long rebuilding overhaul), the high-energy power forward scored 13 points in 15 minutes.

Philadelphia coach Brett Brown, who saw management deal away some productive young players in Michael Carter-Williams and K.J. McDaniels less than two weeks ago, likes the way the 23-year-old forward asserts himself, describing him to SI.com as “a bull.”

“He fits all the things we like when we identify keepers. It’s a look that we couldn’t pass up. He’s not going to have a better environment to have a legitimate chance to be a legitimate NBA player.”

That's a dub. #SIXERSWIN

That's a dub. #SIXERSWIN by philadelphia76ers

Robinson, in a story by Tom Moore for mccall.com, pointed to Brown as a reason the transition to his latest team has felt easier than one might think.

"I'm definitely more comfortable," Robinson said. "Like I said, all credit to coach. He's been talking to me every day since I've been here and just pretty much making me believe we're on the same page I and we think I am as a player."

The 76ers have 22 more games to play this season (and no playoffs). For Robinson, this qualifies as an open audition, because he becomes a free agent this summer.

“I know what I can do,” Robinson told SI.com. “I’m just keeping it simple here: rebound, defend, get to the open spots. Energy and toughness is my game. That’s who I am as a player right now.”

By the time the 2015-16 season begins, odds are Robinson could be in his fifth NBA uniform, far away from Philly. It’s easy to envision him as a complimentary role player on a solid playoff team that needs a rebounder who will get after it when his name is called.

Don’t forget, though, if Robinson does move on, there will be another KU product making an impact in the City of Brotherly Love next season.


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


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Report: Thomas Robinson to sign with Brooklyn Nets

Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler, left, guards Portland Trail Blazers forward Thomas Robinson (41) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014, in Denver. The Trail Blazers won 130-113. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Denver Nuggets forward Wilson Chandler, left, guards Portland Trail Blazers forward Thomas Robinson (41) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014, in Denver. The Trail Blazers won 130-113. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

About that Thomas Robinson to Denver trade.

Yeah, it happened. But, no, the 23-year-old former Kansas standout won’t be playing for the Nuggets.

In the hours that followed Robinson getting dealt from Portland to Denver on Thursday, rumors of a possible buyout of his contract emerged. By Sunday, the Nuggets had waived Robinson.

So where does the high-energy power forward go from here?

Well, Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports Robinson is Brooklyn-bound.

None by Adrian Wojnarowski

Robinson confirmed as much via Twitter Monday afternoon.

None by thomas robinson

Now in his third season in the league, Robinson already has called Sacramento, Houston and Portland home. Denver will just be a footnote by the time his career ends, as the Nets become his fourth NBA team.

It has to be better than finishing out the season with the Nuggets (20-35).

According to RealGM.com’s Shams Charania, Robinson spoke with defending NBA champion San Antonio (34-21, seventh in Western Conference), Brooklyn (22-31, eighth in Eastern Conference), Phoenix (29-27, ninth out West), Miami (23-31, seventh in East) and Charlotte (22-32, 0.5 games out of eighth place in East).

None by Shams Charania

The most intriguing options appeared to be playing with the Spurs or Suns.

San Antonio, of course, is a threat to win the championship every single season, and Robinson could have learned from some all-time greats in Tim Duncan and coach Gregg Popovich. But where would he have fit into the Spurs’ rotation? Duncan plays about 30 minutes a game inside, while Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter, Aron Baynes and Matt Bonner are veteran frontcourt guys who know San Antonio’s system.

The Suns, on the other hand, might not make the playoffs. They’re 2 games behind Oklahoma City for the No. 8 seed, and 5.5 games behind San Antonio. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the Spurs or Thunder falls out, barring an injury to one of their stars. But Phoenix has Robinson’s crew from KU, Marcus and Markieff Morris.

#foe

#foe by mookstar2

It seemed Robinson, if Phoenix was interested in him, could have slid into the Suns’ frontcourt rotation, with the Morrii and Alex Len.

Instead, Robinson will play for his first Eastern Conference team, in Brooklyn.

None by Adrian Wojnarowski

The Nets are one of six teams vying for the final two available spots in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Miami, Brooklyn, Detroit, Indiana, Charlotte and Boston all are with in 2.5 games of each other in the standings, between seventh and 12th place, with roughly 30 games to go.

Robinson had averaged 3.6 points and 4.2 rebounds in just 12.2 minutes this season in Portland. If he’s willing to go play with Brooklyn, you have to assume they promised him far more time on the court.

Brooklyn bigs Brook Lopez and Mason Plumlee aren’t going anywhere, so backup power forward Mirza Teletovic appears to be Robinson’s primary competition in terms of minutes. Also, the Nets could use newly acquired Thaddeus Young as a stretch-4.

We’ll see how Robinson’s latest situation works out for him.

Wojnarowski reports his deal with the Nets is a 10-day contract that will be extended through the end of the season.

Remember, it looks like Robinson still will become a free agent this summer, so if Brooklyn isn’t a fit either, he could pursue other options soon. But Wojnarowski reports the Nets could be interested in him long-term.


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


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Thomas Robinson dealt to Denver Nuggets

FILE — Portland Trail Blazers forward Thomas Robinson dunks against the Milwaukee Bucks during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Darren Hauck)

FILE — Portland Trail Blazers forward Thomas Robinson dunks against the Milwaukee Bucks during the first half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Darren Hauck)

It’s official. Thomas Robinson is headed to Denver, meaning the third-year power forward is about to play for his fourth team.

But the deal was not for Wilson Chandler, as early rumors indicated.

Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported Thursday, a few hours before the NBA trade deadline, the former Kansas star is part of a swap between Portland and the Nuggets that landed the Trail Blazers veteran guard Aaron Afflalo to bolster their push toward the postseason.

Drafted by Sacramento, traded to Houston as a rookie, then moved again to Portland before the start of his second year, Robinson turned in some positive moments in a Trail Blazers uniform this season, including a double-double in his first career start. For the most part, though, he never became a factor or a significant part of the rotation.

The 6-foot-10 power forward from KU only played in 32 of 53 games and averaged 3.6 points (a career low) and 4.2 rebounds while hitting 51.6% of his shots in 12.2 minutes a game this season for Portland. He had DNP’s in three of the last five games.

There might be more available minutes for Robinson, a free-agent-to-be, in the Mile High City. The Nuggets have a couple of talented young big men in Kenneth Faried and Jusuf Nurkic starting, but Wojnarowski reported Denver shipped backup post player JaVale McGee to Philadelphia.

Robinson might actually have to beat out another former KU standout for playing time in Denver. Darrell Arthur plays 17.9 minutes a game off the bench and is averaging 7.5 points and 3.2 rebounds in 44 appearances.

J.J. Hickson, another Denver backup big, could be another obstacle for Robinson’s minutes — if the Nuggets don’t deal Hickson before the end of the day.


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


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Andrew Wiggins lone KU representative for All-Star Weekend

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22) pushes up to the basket against New Orleans Pelican center Omer Asik (3) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 23, 2015, in Minneapolis. The Pelicans won 92-84. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22) pushes up to the basket against New Orleans Pelican center Omer Asik (3) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 23, 2015, in Minneapolis. The Pelicans won 92-84. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)

Looking for a ’Hawks in the NBA fix this All-Star Weekend?

Your options are limited. That is, you only have one.

Of the 15 Kansas basketball players currently active in the Association, only one earned a spot in the league’s myriad of made-for-TV events this weekend in New York.

You won’t see a KU product in the All-Star Game. Paul Pierce (12.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.0 assists this season with Washington) is too old. Markieff Morris (15.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists with Phoenix) isn’t quite there, and plays in the loaded Western Conference.

You won’t find a Jayhawk in the slam dunk contest this weekend, either. (Though Andrew Wiggins obviously would have been an intriguing challenger.)


Not the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest.

Not even the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, nor the Degree Shooting Stars competition. (Yes, those are things that apparently exist.)

But you can watch Minnesota prodigy Wiggins in the Rising Stars Challenge — 8 p.m., Friday night on TNT.

It used to be that a team of rookies faced a team of second-year players in this showcase, and the league tried changing the setup before, but this year marks the first time for a brand new format: The U.S. vs. The World.

None by NBA

Canadian native Wiggins headlines the World Team, which also features Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, aka “The Greek Freak.”

The international up-and-comers will face the U.S. Team, featuring Philadelphia’s Michael Carter-Williams (the reigning Rookie of the Year) and Nerlens Noel, Orlando’s Victor Oladipo and Wiggins’ Minnesota teammate Zach LaVine, among others.

While Ben McLemore put on quite a show in the dunk contest last season, he didn’t get asked back to that event, or to represent his country in the Rising Stars game. So Wiggins is all KU fans of the NBA have to look forward to.

The 6-foot-8, soon to be 20-year-old (birthday coming up on Feb. 23) began playing at a higher level in January. And while his production has leveled off since finishing last month with a career-high 33 points against Cleveland, the team that drafted him, look at his numbers since Jan. 1:

18.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.3 steals, 2.0 turnovers, 45.9% FGs, 32.7% 3s, 79.6% FTs in 38.7 minutes.

Wiggins’ recent uptick has impressed many around the NBA, and his game became the subject of a TrueHoopTV blog earlier this week on ESPN.

While David Thorpe said the “Rising Stars” showcase for first- and second-year players doesn’t actually feature a whole lot of talent, Wiggins will be one of the exceptions.

“He’s amazing. He doesn’t really know what he’s doing yet, but he knows more than what he did,” Thorpe said, noting the rookie’s ability to post up, hit jumpers from mid-range and beyond the 3-point line and come up with difficult offensive rebounds.

“He’s attacking crowds and making plays above the crowd,” Thorpe said, “which he is capable of doing.”

The TrueHoop analyst who spends a lot of time focusing on the NBA’s young guys also said Wiggins is playing harder now than he did the first couple weeks of the season, and the amazingly athletic small forward now better understands how to get to the middle of the paint.

If opponents try and defend Wiggins with a smaller player, Thorpe added, he will square up and shoot over him before help comes, and Wiggins makes it look easy.

Facing the league’s top team Wednesday, Wiggins didn’t have an amazing game by any means, scoring just 6 points on 3-for-7 shooting in 38 minutes versus Golden State. But he kept the young, struggling Timberwolves (11-42, last in the Western Conference) competitive in a 94-91 loss.

First-year Golden State coach Steve Kerr, whose Warriors own the league’s best record, at 42-9, said before the game between the two teams on the opposite end of the NBA’s power spectrum Wiggins is a shoo-in for Rookie of the Year.

“I don’t even know who else would be in the conversation,” Kerr said. “He’s going to be an All-Star (in the future). He’s a terrific player, a good talent, and it looks like he’s figuring out the NBA game. … He’s really going to be a good player.”

Here’s a look at some of what the young star-in-the-making already has done to grab the league’s attention.


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


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Jacque Vaughn focused on coaching Magic, not rumors or speculation

Orlando Magic's head coach Jacque Vaughn coaches against Boston Celtics during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Orlando, Fla, Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.)

Orlando Magic's head coach Jacque Vaughn coaches against Boston Celtics during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Orlando, Fla, Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Willie J. Allen Jr.)

When Jacque Vaughn accepted the position of head coach of the Orlando Magic before the 2012-13 season, he knew the organization had a long way to go to reach respectability.

The former Kansas point guard, who went on to play 12 seasons in the NBA with Utah, Atlanta, Orlando, New Jersey and San Antonio, joined the organization at the ground floor of a major overhaul. That’s why the Magic didn’t overreact and fire the young coach — who landed the gig after spending two years as a Spurs assistant — when the team struggled in Vaughn’s first two seasons (20-62, then 23-59) down in Mickey Mouse Land.

Now in Year 3, the young Magic have shown promise at times, but Orlando has lost six straight and 11 of 14.

The Magic’s most recent struggles, Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel reported, have led some of the team’s fans to call for Vaughn’s dismissal.

Orlando (13-27) currently is tied with Boston for 11th in the mostly wide-open Eastern Conference and sits in fifth place in the five-team Southeast Division (comprised of Atlanta, Washington, Miami, Charlotte and the Magic).

However, Vaughn told the Sentinel he isn’t worried about what outsiders think of the job he’s doing and he avoids reading about rumors and speculation.

"I'm not on social media,” Vaughn said. “And the great thing is I do my job as hard as I can every single day, and I'll always keep it that way. I keep it that simple. I don't complicate it. What I do know is, since Day One, since I accepted this job, everything I've done has been for this organization and it'll continue to be that way."

Robbins reports that the Magic have expectations for improvement this season, with young players such as Tobias Harris, Nikola Vucevic, Victor Oladipo and Evan Fournier (Vucevic is 24 and the other three are 22 years old) gaining experience.

While Orlando is 5-4 in games decided by 3 points or less, it is 10-11 against teams that are below .500. That’s where much of the criticism originates.

The Sentinel lists “head-scratching” Magic losses to teams such as Boston, Utah, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Detroit and the L.A. Lakers as signs Orlando has lost its way recently.

Harris, though, doesn’t agree with disgruntled fans pointing their fingers at Vaughn.

"I think for us as a team we need to turn it around, not just for Coach but for ourselves," Harris told the Sentinel. "At the end of the day, Coach can't come on the floor. He can't box out for you. He can't dive on the floor for you. Nobody on the staff can get on the floor and go out there and out-hustle somebody and play with a passion and a heart for you as a player.”

Harris went on to speak of Vaughn’s passion behind the scenes, as well as the coach putting in long hours to study game video.

Vucevic also defended the 39-year-old man in charge.

"You can't blame it on Jacque," Vucevic told the Sentinel. "We're the guys out there playing. You can't say that it's Jacque's fault. The effort has to come from us. He can't control that. He can give us plays and X's-and-O's and all that, but if we don't come out with any effort ... it's not going to do anything.”

The Magic had two lottery picks in the 2014 Draft and picked up 20-year-old point guard Elfrid Payton (Louisiana-Lafayette) and 19-year-old forward Aaron Gordon (Arizona). Injured early in the season, Gordaon has only played 11 games.

The schedule doesn’t get any easier for Orlando coming up. Its next five opponents are Chicago, Houston, Memphis, Oklahoma City and the suddenly recharged Pistons. Then the Magic get lowly New York (5-35) and mediocre Indiana (15-24).

If Vaughn survives this season it likely will mean his young players show competitiveness and promise down the stretch. And if that happens, things could turn around for Vaughn and Orlando in the next couple of seasons.


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


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Marcus Morris loses cool, yells at Suns head coach

Phoenix Suns forwards Marcus Morris (15) and P.J. Tucker celebrate during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks Friday, Dec. 5, 2014, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Phoenix Suns forwards Marcus Morris (15) and P.J. Tucker celebrate during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Dallas Mavericks Friday, Dec. 5, 2014, in Dallas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Well, now we know who the evil Morris twin is.

Because neither Marcus nor Markieff wears a sinister mustache, there used to be no way to tell.

The typically laid back twins who first teamed up at Kansas in college before reuniting in the NBA with Phoenix live together, get matching tattoos and spout the power of #FOE (family over everything). But Marcus lost his cool Wednesday night, during the Suns’ 113-111 win over Minnesota.

First, the 6-foot-9 forward got hit with a technical foul in the third quarter. Next, he took his anger with him to the bench, and was caught by ESPN’s cameras during an animated and intense back-and-forth with Phoenix head coach Jeff Hornacek.

The Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro reported Marcus became agitated on the court when he got hit in the nose and no foul was called. He remained in that state during the ensuing timeout and when Hornacek didn’t side with him, Marcus started yelling at the coach while stating his case.

Eventually, Suns assistant Corey Gaines stepped in before the situation got any worse.

Coro reported Marcus settled things with Hornacek shortly after the game.

"It was heat of the moment," Marcus told the Arizona Republic. "Coach knows I've got a lot of respect for him. As soon as the game was over, I apologized to him and the team, especially the younger guys for them having to see that. I felt like I got hit in the nose and my nose was bleeding and he had took me out so I was really upset about it.

"When I apologized to Jeff, he said, 'You don't have to apologize.' He knows. He's been a player. I hate that it had to be televised like just because it seemed worse than what it was."

Marcus also took to Twitter to apologize publicly.

None by Marcus Morris

None by Marcus Morris

The backup Morris finished the game with 8 points in 14 minutes. Starting brother Markieff scored 14.

Meanwhile, Timberwolve rookie Andrew Wiggins went for 25 points, 4 rebounds and 3 steals, to go with 6 turnovers. The No. 1 overall pick hit 1 of his 4 3-point tries and just missed one that would’ve won the game.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSW5QNmQFVA


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


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