Posts tagged with Nba

Sixers slowing down Joel Embiid’s recovery process

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid of Cameroon shoots the ball prior to the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014, in Philadelphia. The Nets won 99-91. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid of Cameroon shoots the ball prior to the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014, in Philadelphia. The Nets won 99-91. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Almost a year ago, coveted 7-foot NBA prospect Joel Embiid fractured a bone in his right foot. Proceeding with caution, Philadelphia elected to bring the promising young Cameroonian along slowly in the rehab process, ultimately deciding to keep him out for the entirety of what would have been his rookie season.

Over the weekend, the franchise that took a chance on the young center out of Kansas with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft revealed that foot hasn’t healed as much as anticipated.

As bad as that bit of news sounded for Embiid and the 76ers, it got worse Monday when The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey reported the injured big man might not be available when the season begins in a little more than four months. What’s more, “a legitimate chance” exists that he could miss the entire 2015-16 season.

None by Keith Pompey

The upcoming NBA Summer League figured to mark Embiid’s unofficial professional debut, but now he isn’t expected to participate in any of the July exhibitions. The Sixers, Pompey reported, still are trying to figure out Embiid’s next step, and nothing — including surgery — has been ruled out.

The future didn’t seem so dire, though, in one third-hand account of the center’s situation. On Monday afternoon, Bill Self told reporters KU assistant coach Norm Roberts spoke with Embiid on the phone this past weekend and the injury-plagued big told his former college assistant “he hasn’t re-injured anything.”

“Basically, he’s been working out and everything, and the doctor told him — based on doing the MRIs or X-rays or whatever they do… even though it feels better, it doesn’t look like it’s made the progress they would hope at this stage, so they were gonna slow him down,” Self related. “But by no means, from what Jo has told us, 'slow down' does not mean major setback. It means they’re gonna give it a little bit more time to heal before they put him in stressful situations.”

The Inquirer reported Embiid hadn’t quite reached the portion of his rehab that allowed him to play five-on-five, but the Sixers had claimed his rehab process was moving along on schedule before the unexpected news release about his recovery this past weekend.

It appears the organization is prepared to keep Embiid out as long as necessary. General manager Sam Hinkie knew when he drafted the 7-footer, despite the pivot’s arsenal of skills, risks could accompany Embiid to the NBA. The GM doesn’t want to wreck his investment just to get him in a Philadelphia uniform more quickly.

"Our priority remains providing Joel with every opportunity to ensure he has a long and successful NBA career," Hinkie said Saturday.

An unnamed Eastern Conference executive told Pompey Embiid is the centerpiece of Philadelphia’s ongoing rebuilding process.

"They were hoping he was a franchise player. If he's not a franchise player, their whole plan is gone,” the source told The Inquirer. “If Embiid can't play or if he can't reach a superstar level, their plan is really in trouble."

Late in another losing-filled season (the Sixers finished 18-64 and secured the No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft), Philadelphia slowly began building the hype for Embiid’s debut, but now no one is sure when exactly that day will come.

None by Philadelphia 76ers

Oozing with potential but handcuffed by injuries, Embiid hasn’t played in a game since March 1, 2014, when he re-injured his back in a road loss at Oklahoma State. Whatever the timetable for his return turns out to be, the 21-year-old big man (who, as of Monday afternoon, had maintained social media silence on the matter) has to be looking forward to feeling like a basketball player again.


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Ben McLemore venturing into rap

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (23) drives against Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood (5) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 8, 2015, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (23) drives against Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood (5) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 8, 2015, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

When you hear the name Ben McLemore and the word mixtape used together, you might assume a YouTube highlight reel awaits: 3-pointers, drives to the rim and dunks in transition.

However, SB Nation site Sactown Royalty reports McLemore has plans for a different type of mixtape this summer. The former Kansas shooting guard wants to release a mixtape of rap tracks.

Sacramento’s starting 2-guard already has two songs posted on YouTube — listen to them at SactownRoyalty.com (as long as you don’t mind lyrics that would come with a PARENTAL ADVISORY label).

McLemore told SB Nation’s Blake Ellington he began rapping while attending KU, in Lawrence, and he just considers it a hobby.

"I want people to hear my music to see what they think about it," McLemore said. "I've got some nice feedback."

The 6-foot-5 22-year-old certainly realizes basketball will take him farther than the rap game. He showed improvements in his second year in the league while also standing out as someone who gives back to the community.


So don’t wrongly assume his passion for hip-hop means he’s putting hoops on the back burner.

"This upcoming year, I want to make another leap," McLemore told SB Nation. "I'm going to work hard this summer, it's just the type of player I am."

McLemore, who began playing for new Kings coach George Karl late in this past season, also said he’s excited about what will be his third year in Sacramento.

"I think my skill set and his system collapse together. It fits perfect in what he's trying to do with this program,” he told SB Nation.


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Veteran Nick Collison ready to work with new coach Billy Donovan

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) shoots in front of Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) during an NBA basketball game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City, Friday, Feb. 20, 2015. Oklahoma City won 104-89. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) shoots in front of Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (41) during an NBA basketball game between the Dallas Mavericks and the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City, Friday, Feb. 20, 2015. Oklahoma City won 104-89. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

In his 11 NBA seasons since graduating from Kansas, Nick Collison has played for just one franchise: the Oklahoma City Thunder (formerly the Seattle Super Sonics).

He began his professional career playing for coach Nate McMillan, then Bob Weiss, Bob Hill and P.J. Carlesimo before spending the past six seasons under Scott Brooks.

As Collison’s career winds down, he’ll play for a winner at the college level who hopes his own pro days are just beginning. Former Florida coach Billy Donovan took over as OKC head coach this offseason.

Collison had minor knee surgery recently, and his rehab has kept him around the Thunder’s facilities. His time there allowed the veteran to speak with Donovan on several occasions. Collison said in an interview on Oklahoma City’s website he tried to help the new coach get acclimated to the franchise.

At KU, Collison actually faced Donovan’s Gators in the 2002 Preseason NIT, and Florida won 83-73. Collison scored 16 points in the November setback before eventually helping the Jayhawks reach their seconds straight Final Four.

Kansas University's Aaron Miles, front, goes for a loose ball
against Florida's Anthony Roberson. The Gators beat the Jayhawks,
83-73, in the consolation game of the Preseason NIT on Friday in
New York.

Kansas University's Aaron Miles, front, goes for a loose ball against Florida's Anthony Roberson. The Gators beat the Jayhawks, 83-73, in the consolation game of the Preseason NIT on Friday in New York. by Scott McClurg/Journal-World Photos

Now the two basketball lifers are working together in the NBA. Collison said even with a coach as well known as Donovan, it takes working with someone to find out how well he might fit in. The 34-year-old power forward said Donovan already is learning a lot about the Thunder, its players and how the team needs to improve.

“He’s a very sharp guy. I think he’s going to do a good job,” Collison said.

While the 6-foot-10 backup big man and his OKC teammates have grown accustomed to Brooks and his staff the past several seasons, Collison said they need to be open to suggestions and changes with Donovan taking over.

“We’ve done things one way for a long time. A lot of things are going to be different. It doesn’t do any good to waste time fighting that,” Collison said. “We need to come in with the idea that we’re going to be open-minded, we need to get better and we need to buy into whatever the staff wants to do.”

Playing for a perennial title contender in Oklahoma City, Collison said the team has a lot of work to do after missing the playoffs this past season. The Thunder finished 45-37 and lost a tie-breaker with New Orleans for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. OKC surely would have won more games and perhaps made a deep postseason run had it not been forced to deal with so many injuries. Not a single player on the roster played in all 82 games. Star point guard Russell Westbrook missed 15 games, starting power forward Serge Ibaka missed 18 and franchise centerpiece Kevin Durant missed 55.

Collison said the Thunder always have had the pieces to be great and the team needs to improve defensively under Donovan to become even tougher to beat. Even though he described 2014-15 (Collison played in 66 of 82 games) as a struggle, the potential for next season seems limitless.

“There’s no guarantee that everyone is healthy all the time but we’re looking forward to having everybody back and are excited to play with the full squad again,” Collison said. “We have a ton of talent. We have a great roster. It’s going to hopefully be a really good year for us.”

Collison’s interview came after he spent some time talking hoops and the tricks of the up-and-under at the Thunder’s youth basketball camp

He said starting the summer with knee rehab should help him get to a good spot by the time the Thunder opens preseason camp this fall. As Collison’s knee gets stronger, he said he’ll add in more weight training. Once he’s cleared to get back to regular basketball activities, he’ll do a couple days of individual work and pickup games and take some days off for recovery.

“Knowing yourself in your 30’s, like the wise old man that I am,” joked Collison, who averaged a career low 4.1 points per game last season, “I think I have that figured out pretty well, a good mix, and I’ll be ready to go when camp starts.”

In the meantime, he knows the offseason is just as much about recharging your batteries after a long, draining campaign.

Kite surfers, @michaelcollison33, and I.

A photo posted by Nick Collison (@nicholascollison) on Jun 2, 2015 at 6:58pm PDT


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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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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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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.

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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.”

None by Dan Worthington

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.

None by Jeff Goodman

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.

None by Philadelphia 76ers

“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."


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


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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.


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


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Paul Pierce offers insight on crunch-time heroics

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce, in headband, celebrates with his teammates after Game 3 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks, Saturday, May 9, 2015, in Washington. The Wizards won 103-101. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce, in headband, celebrates with his teammates after Game 3 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs against the Atlanta Hawks, Saturday, May 9, 2015, in Washington. The Wizards won 103-101. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

From the man who brought you, “This is why they brought me here.” …

Paul Pierce presents: “I called game.”

“The Truth” beat the buzzer — and Atlanta — Saturday night by banking in a contested game-winning jumper as time expired.

With the Hawks’ Kent Bazemore and Dennis Schroder defending Pierce, the 17-year veteran from Kansas got off as tough a crunch-time shot as you’ll find, and got the lucky bounce off the glass to give Washington a 2-1 lead in the second round of the NBA Playoffs.

ESPN reporter Chris Broussard asked Pierce afterward if he called bank on the absurdly difficult winner. The cagy forward thought about it a second before answering with his one-liner, “I called game,” and walking away.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gT8PziyuIqc

Pierce, of course, made himself a household name with his playoff performances in Boston (see: his 2008 NBA Finals MVP award), before playing the past two seasons for Brooklyn and the Wizards.

None by ESPN Stats & Info

As much as trash-talking and bravado have become a part of Pierce’s NBA persona, he takes his role as a trusted clutch player seriously. He wrote about “Making the Big Shot” for The Players Tribune, a pro-athlete focused website for which he is a contributing editor.

“Whenever I’ve been put in a situation where the game is on the line and I know that the ball will be in my hands, I’ve always tried to visualize how I want everything to play out,” Pierce wrote. “Having a positive mindset helps me relax during high-pressure situations.

“Visualize. Execute.”

As many big moments as the 10-time all-star has played a part in through the years, Pierce singled out a regular-season game-winner from 2010 against New York as one of his most memorable.

The Celtics and Knicks had a nice little rivalry brewing, and New York’s fans didn’t mind constantly reminding Pierce about how little they thought of him.

“I remember that it was a tie game and we were in a timeout going over the play,” Pierce wrote for The Players Tribune. “All I could think about was breaking the heart of every Knicks fan in that building.”

Pierce said the play called in a last-second situation might ask him to do any number of things before the ball leaves his hands, but he finds ways to adjust when things inevitably break down and force him and his teammates to improvise.

“While I always picture the ball going in prior to the play, I don’t really know what I’m going to do beforehand to make that happen. Sports aren’t scripted,” Pierce pointed out. “The great players thrive on their instincts.”

Pierce continues to do that in Washington this postseason. The Wizards enter Monday’s Game 4 against the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, Atlanta, with a 6-1 playoff record. Washington’s elder statesman is averaging 15.6 points, and 4.0 rebounds, hitting 51.4% of his shot attempts and 52.1% of his 3-pointers now that the lights are brighter and each moment is bigger.

“Whenever I win a game in that fashion,” Pierce shared of clutch heroics, “I feel like I’m going to hyperventilate. My adrenaline is through the roof and my heart is beating out of my chest. It is the ultimate basketball high.”


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


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