Posts tagged with Nba

Undrafted Tarik Black exceeds expectations in rookie campaign

Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, left, and Los Angeles Lakers forward Tarik Black battle for a rebound as Clippers forward Matt Barnes grabs Blacks jersey during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, April 5, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, left, and Los Angeles Lakers forward Tarik Black battle for a rebound as Clippers forward Matt Barnes grabs Blacks jersey during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, April 5, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Given how the 2014 NBA Draft played out for Tarik Black, it’s hard to imagine his rookie season turning out any better than it did.

Sixty players — including two of his Kansas basketball teammates — heard their names called on draft night this past June, while Black went unpicked. The big man with little flash to his game would have to scrap his way into the professional ranks the hard way, by proving himself in the Summer League and earning a roster spot at a fall training camp.

And even though Houston, the organization that gave him a chance, ended up dumping him when veteran forward Josh Smith unexpectedly became available, that turned out just fine for Black.

A happy and productive member of the Los Angeles Lakers the final 38 games of his rookie season, Black said during his exit-interview press conference he went from a pick-setter and offensive rebounder in Houston to a situation that allowed him to flourish in L.A.

The lottery-bound Lakers, of course, needed him a lot more than the Rockets, the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference. Wearing the vaunted purple and gold, Black started 27 games and averaged 7.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 0.6 blocks in 21.1 minutes a game, while making 58.9% of his field goals.

“I 100 percent feel like I found a home here,” Black said in an interview posted on the Lakers’ website. “It was a great opportunity and a great blessing.”

Been a pleasure but it's a wrap. Very thankful to the Laker fans and organization for affording me this opportunity. Until next year ✌️

Been a pleasure but it's a wrap. Very thankful to the Laker fans and organization for affording me this opportunity. Until next year ✌️ by tarikbblack

In Black’s own words, he was “not even a big name on the team” in his one season at KU, after transferring from Memphis. Once the entire league passed on him at the draft, he didn’t spend any time worrying about the guys who were selected and whether they were better than him. Instead, he successfully kept himself from over-analyzing any perceived misfortune. As it turned out, Black eventually landed in the right situation — and he admitted that doesn’t always happen for rookies.

“I’ve always felt that I had the potential,” the 23-year-old post player said, “and I had the talent that everyone else had.”

The Lakers gave Black a chance to make a name for himself, and upon his exit interview with coach Byron Scott and general manager Mitch Kupchak, he left encouraged by the praise he received.

According to Black, who played center for L.A. even though he says he is only 6-foot-9 while wearing sneakers (don’t trust those roster listings that put him at 6-11), the Lakers’ brass spoke highly of his potential. They said he can become an effective undersized presence in the paint, much like a Charles Barkley, for example. Black isn’t going to become an NBA MVP like Sir Charles, but the confident young man has high expectations for himself.

“I feel like I have the opportunity to be a great basketball player,” Black said. “How that’s been defined? Many greats have done many different things.”

Ideally, he’d like to play power forward in the league, instead of center. Black knows his rebounding is his biggest asset, and he wants to get to a point where he can defend an opposing 3, 4 or 5. He hopes his bulk, athleticism and footwork will allow him to turn this rookie-year success story into a long NBA career.

“I’m undersized as far as height goes,” he admitted, “but I’ve got some tools that I can play five, and that’s gonna make me more valuable at this level.”

Black’s contract with the Lakers isn’t guaranteed for the 2015-16 season, and his success these past few months isn’t going to stop him from continuing his development in the upcoming Summer League. After facing NBA big men for a season, he learned not only do they all have go-to post moves, they also know how to maneuver past screens and work on defense. All the greats, Black said, have perfected aspects of their games, and that’s what makes them unstoppable at times.

His summer plans also include returning to KU. Black said he is one course and a thesis away from completing his master’s degree in African-American studies. Not that he’s sweating the thesis. His mother used to work for the National Civil Rights Museum, in his hometown of Memphis.

“Whatever I decide to write it on,” Black shared, “I’m gonna knock it out. Trust me.”

Confidence carried him far in his first tour of the league. But black said faith proved huge for him, too, because so much of his life as a professional basketball player is out of his hands.

Still, there he sat at the season’s end, having accomplished more than the majority of the 60 players drafted last summer.

“A lot of those guys who were listed above me,” Black said, “I’m amongst them now.”


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


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Five Jayhawks chasing glory in playoffs

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

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

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

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

TORONTO VS. WASHINGTON

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

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

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

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

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

None by SLAM Magazine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MILWAUKEE VS. CHICAGO

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOLDEN STATE VS. NEW ORLEANS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Joel Embiid wowing Sixers while working back into game shape

For the Philadelphia 76ers, next season can’t come soon enough.

As expected (and, let’s be honest, intended), 2014-15 has been a giant bust: Eighteen wins. Sixty-one losses. Three games left.

With another campaign of tanking coming to a close, what makes anyone within the Sixers organization optimistic next season will be any different? For one thing, they should finally have Joel Embiid in uniform and contributing.

In the past few days, interest in the rookie-to-be out of Kansas has grown. Still working his way back into shape after suffering a stress fracture in his right foot prior to being picked No. 3 in the NBA Draft, Embiid played two-on-two basketball for the first time earlier this week.

Bob Cooney of the Daily News reported the recovering young 7-footer also displayed his jump-shooting and post moves after a recent practice. Philly coach Brett Brown, of course, has seen far more. And he says Embiid has a long way to go.

"Physically, it's important that none of us get ahead of ourselves or expect something too quick, too soon, because that's not going to happen,” Brown said. “But when you see glimpses of his skill package, you can't help but say, 'Wow.' Just like we saw when we saw him play at Kansas. It's a two-way player and you're just seeing hints of some of the great players and all wrapped up into somebody that hasn't played basketball in a really long time.”

The work Embiid is putting in is impressing teammates, too. Fellow KU product Thomas Robinson said he would bet on the phenom from Cameroon soon becoming a productive NBA player.

"He's my teammate and a KU guy. He'll be great,” Robinson predicted. “I like that he's not a typical back-to-the-basket center. He is a little versatile. He can do a lot more than just stand in the post and shoot jumpers. He can handle the ball. I'm not saying he's going to do these things, but he has the package to use them if he has to. Later on in his career, once everything gets together, then he'll be a problem."

Kansas center Joel Embiid and Oklahoma State forward Kamari Murphy tangle for position during the first half on Saturday, March 1, 2014 at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Kansas center Joel Embiid and Oklahoma State forward Kamari Murphy tangle for position during the first half on Saturday, March 1, 2014 at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

The next big step for the 21-year-old with monumental upside figured to be the NBA’s Summer League, his first chance to prove himself in live competition since his final game for the Jayhawks, a loss at Oklahoma State in which he had 13 points and 13 rebounds before re-injuring his back.

However, The Inquirer’s Marc Narducci reported the Sixers have yet to officially decide whether Embiid will play in the summer showcase for young, developing players and unaffiliated free agents.

Brown first wants to see the injury-plagued big man run up and down the court.

“When we get to that level,” the coach told The Inquirer, “then we are really cooking, and a hell of a lot closer than we are today to making better assessments and projecting him out as it relates to summer league."

Embiid, of course, can’t wait to be an active member of the 76ers. He recently suited up just to be on the floor for pre-game introductions.


Philadelphia plans to pair Embiid with 6-foot-11 rookie Nerlens Noel to form a dynamic, rim-protecting wall of “we dare you to come in here.” Noel, averaging 9.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.9 blocks, told Sixers.com he expects his fellow big man to be a welcome, game-altering addition.

“He takes up a lot of space. He is always going to draw attention. His shooting ability is definitely there,” Noel said. “He practices shooting the three. I don't know how much he will be doing that, but just having that ability is going to open up a lot of things."

Inquirer beat writer Keith Pompey recently posted some clips of Embiid working out on his Instagram account, and he’s definitely working on his inside game, too.

The Sixers just hope they get a chance to see even more out of their potential franchise cornerstone. And soon.


Embiid dancing on the bench while wearing a suit only provides so much entertainment value.


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


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NBA All-Stars gush about Andrew Wiggins’ potential

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) passes against Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) in the second half of an NBA basketball game, in Miami, Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014. The Heat won 102-92. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) passes against Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins (22) in the second half of an NBA basketball game, in Miami, Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014. The Heat won 102-92. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

With the 2014-15 NBA season quickly winding down, the Minnesota Timberwolves would like to remind you they have a future star in rookie Andrew Wiggins.

The T’Wolves (16-60 with with six games left) do this because it’s better to look far down the road than focus on the fact they have a legitimate shot to finish with the worst record in the league. Also, a little publicity never hurts as Wiggins figures to hold off late pushes from Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel and Chicago’s Nikola Mirotic for Rookie of the Year.

Minnesota recently posted a video on its website which features superstars and all-stars gushing about Wiggins’ athleticism and potential.

Check out what some of the best players in the NBA have said about the 20-year-old out of Kansas this season.

Kobe Bryant, Los Angeles Lakers:

“I remember being Andrew Wiggins. I remember playing against Michael (Jordan) my first year. And playing against (Wiggins) and seeing the baby face and the little footwork and technique things that he’s gonna be much, much sharper at as time goes on, it’s just looking at a reflection of myself, you know, 19 years ago. It’s pretty cool, man.”

Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls:

“I think everybody knew he was gonna be a really special player in this league. He’s tough. He’s learning. There’s a learning curve for the kid, but he’s gonna make his mark and have a great career.”

James Harden, Houston Rockets:

“Obviously he’s a great talent. You know, he’s so athletic, so skilled and so long that offensively he’s getting a lot better, feeling more comfortable. I think that, as a rookie, the more comfortable you are the better off you’ll be.”

LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers:

“He’s a great talent. Great talent. And I think he has a very, very good feel for the game. And that’s good to see. I think he’s grown each month this season.”

“I remember when I was a rookie, you know, I played against T-Mac (Tracy McGrady) on Christmas day. I played against Kobe, I played against A.I. (Allen Iverson) and all those guys that was shining in the league at that time. I remember how I got up to play those guys, so I know what he was feeling.”

Kyle Korver, Atlanta Hawks:

“It feels like he’s not even loading and he’s jumping at the top of the backboard. I don’t even know if he’s using all of his muscles. … He’s just like a pogo stick. He jumps up there, and he’s still really raw, but his potential is really amazing.

Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers:

“You know, he’s gonna continue to evolve and he’ll get better as time goes on.”

Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat:

“Like I told him when we played them in Miami, ‘You know, man, the sky’s the limit for you.’ You know, if you want it and you put the work in, he has that talent. And he’s so young, man, he’s a raw talent right now, but the kid can be good. I see him getting better and more confident in his game.”

“To be 19 and come into this league, I give a lot of respect for all the guys that come in. I mean, six years from now my son’ll be 19. When you think about something like that, in the NBA? Living his own life? That’s crazy.”

The feature also includes some praises from NBA coaches, who probably look at young players with an even more critical eye.

Rick Carlisle, Dallas Mavericks:

“He’s a tremendous young player that’s growing all the time. Very skilled, as you can tell by his three-point numbers. And he’s developing a really nice inside game to go with his outside game.”

Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors:

“I don’t even know who else would be in the conversation. He’s gonna be an all-star. He’s a terrific player, a good talent and he’s figuring out the NBA game.”

Watch the video — which also includes plenty of slow-motion, highlight-reel jams, footage of Wiggins taking on the league’s top stars and more — at the Timberwolves’ website.

Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com took an informal poll of some voters last week and determined Wiggins has a significant lead in the Rookie of the Year race. But some media members said their vote could change before final ballots are in.

Those who dive into the advanced metrics might prefer Noel and the way his defense has made a terrible Philadelphia team competitive.

While the Timberwolves are even worse than the 76ers (18-60), Wiggins does put up numbers: 16.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.1 steals, 43.6% shooting, 32.2% on 3-pointers.

(Noel averages 10.0 points, 8.1 rebounds. 1.7 assists, 1.9 blocks, 1.8 steals and shoots 46.5% from the floor.)

Plus, Wiggins makes jaw-dropping plays, such as this soaring slam dunk that left broadcasters comparing him to Dr. J.

The race might be a little tighter than we originally thought when Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid became non-factors due to season-ending injuries, but Wiggins taking home the hardware remains a safe bet.


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


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Tarik Black auditioning for his NBA future

Los Angeles Lakers' Tarik Black, center, goes up for a basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz, Thursday, March 19, 2015, in Los Angeles. The Jazz 80-73. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Los Angeles Lakers' Tarik Black, center, goes up for a basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Utah Jazz, Thursday, March 19, 2015, in Los Angeles. The Jazz 80-73. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

In the grand scheme of things, the next couple of weeks are fairly meaningless for the Los Angeles Lakers.

At 20-54 with eight games left, the marquee franchise won’t come close to sniffing the playoffs this season. Really, the Lakers would be better off losing out to give themselves the best chance at retaining their 2015 lottery pick, which is top-five protected.

But you better believe the final games of the season mean the world to rookie big man Tarik Black. Undrafted out of Kansas, and waived by Houston in December, the powerful young big man now starts for one of the most storied franchises in pro sports.

That fact alone, however, guarantees Black nothing. As Mike Bresnahan wrote for the Los Angeles Times, the first-year post player currently finds himself in an ongoing audition for his future NBA livelihood.

Black’s contract for next season isn’t guaranteed, and though the Lakers would only have to pay him $850,000 in 2015-16 — we say only because this is the NBA, and most guys make millions upon millions annually — the wise-beyond-his-years 23-year-old told the L.A. Times he isn’t about to assume anything.

Black learned that the hard way, when Houston released him.

"Every article was the same — 'Tarik Black is a keeper, a surprise because nobody drafted him,'" Black told the L.A. Times. "Then a situation popped up where a star free agent came up (Josh Smith) and I ended up getting waived. It's why I tend not to think about tomorrow."

Since the second week of March, Black’s minutes have gone up, and he has responded with some solid outings, including double-doubles versus New York and Utah, and a career-high 16 points on Wednesday against New Orleans.

Between Houston and L.A., Black has averaged 5.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 0.4 blocks in his first NBA campaign, while hitting 55.2% of his shots and playing just 18.2 minutes a game.

His numbers look even better in the past 13 games, while playing 24.4 minutes: 8.4 points, 6.8 rebounds, 0.8 blocks, 54.8% shooting.

The more opportunities Black gets to prove himself, the more he looks like a legitimate role player who could contribute on a winning team.

Whether that is the Lakers or some other organization next season, Black told the L.A. Times he can’t let that bother him.

"I'm very happy with the way I've been playing. I love this organization. I want to stay with the Lakers. But if I end up somewhere else, I'll just have to work hard there as well.”

Black’s season has gone so well, he actually is ranked 10th on the Rookie Ladder blog at NBA.com.

If he can do that after all 30 teams passed on him in the draft, you know his effort and attitude will take him far in The Association — in Los Angeles or elsewhere.


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


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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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