Posts tagged with Nba

Joel Embiid: ‘I wasn’t good at all’ before playing at Kansas

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid of Cameroon (21) reacts prior to the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Monday, Feb. 8, 2016, in Philadelphia. The Clippers won 98-92 in overtime. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid of Cameroon (21) reacts prior to the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Monday, Feb. 8, 2016, in Philadelphia. The Clippers won 98-92 in overtime. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

The most interesting man in the NBA is back — at least in interview form.

Joel Embiid, who still hasn’t spoken with Philadelphia media since the 76ers drafted him nearly two years ago, at least got to gab recently with VICE Sports, which published the one-on-one Q&A Tuesday.

As Embiid rode around The City of Brotherly Love discussing his journey from Cameroon, to Kansas, to the NBA, the gregarious big man more known for two seasons worth of foot injuries keeping him off the court proved as entertaining in conversation as he is with a basketball in his hands.

Though, as the 7-foot-2 center explained, he didn’t immediately excel at the sport when he first picked it up, as a youngster in Africa.

“I wasn’t good at all. I used to suck. I used to be ---," a grinning Embiid shared. “My teammates were laughing at me, because I can’t even pass the ball. It was really tough. When I first started playing ball, it was hard. So I came a long way.”

During the discussion, the 22-year-old who played high school basketball in Florida revealed his one season at KU and the influence of coach Bill Self and his staff molded him into a much more effective interior force. According to Embiid, his confidence began to grow as a prep, during his recruitment.

“The Kansas coaches, coach Norm Roberts and coach Self, they came to watch me. Coach Self was like quiet the whole practice and coach Roberts was like worried that he wasn’t going to like me,” Embiid divulged. “At the end of the practice, (Self) was like, ‘Are you ----ing kidding me? This guy’s gonna be the number one pick.’”

Once the developing young big arrived on campus, in Lawrence, Embiid said he played in a scrimmage and, “same thing as high school,” got pushed around in the paint.

“I’m like, ‘Coach, I can’t do this.’ And then (Self) goes, ‘Just keep working. You’ll see.’ I kept working,” Embiid said. “I was getting better each and every day.”

Kansas center Joel Embiid delivers a dunk against Texas Tech to give the Jayhawks the lead with less than 30 seconds on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014 at United Spirit Arena in Lubbock, Texas.

Kansas center Joel Embiid delivers a dunk against Texas Tech to give the Jayhawks the lead with less than 30 seconds on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014 at United Spirit Arena in Lubbock, Texas. by Nick Krug

Of course, Embiid progressed so much from the beginning of his freshman season to the end that he learned he would be a top pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, and left KU after one 28-game, injury-shortened season.

“It was really hard leaving Kansas,” Embiid told VICE Sports. “I knew for sure I was gonna go to Cleveland, and be the number one pick, and then, just like that, the injury happened a week before the draft. So I’m like, ‘God!’”

You’ll recall Embiid suffered a fracture of the navicular bone in his right foot, which made both Cleveland and Milwaukee pass on the promising pivot, who also missed games at KU because of a back injury. The pre-draft foot fracture proved serious enough for the Sixers, who selected him at No. 3, to hold him out of the entire 2014-15 season.

Little did Embiid know the same bone wouldn’t heal properly, and he would spend his 2015-16 season going through limited rehab-focused workouts, playing video games and again watching basketball instead of playing.

“When I had a setback this past summer, it was really frustrating,” Embiid remarked. “The foot wasn’t even hurting or anything like that, and then that’s when (doctors saw) that the fracture had been opened again.”

Now 7-foot-2, the friendly giant who has rehabbed himself closer to actually playing NBA games — but won’t be rushed back for Summer League exhibitions — still has seen his popularity grow thanks to his Twitter account, which currently has roughly 392,000 followers.

“Right before the first season (in Philly), I was going pretty nuts on there, and just saying dumb ---- or just being funny, and I think people loved it,” Embiid said of his social media appeal. “I got a lot of comments about it, and people actually wanted me to keep doing it.”

Joel Embiid's Twitter presence has gained him thousands of fans. Above is the Philadelphia center's profile picture, a photoshopped image of him on a supposed dinner date with pop star Rihanna.

Joel Embiid's Twitter presence has gained him thousands of fans. Above is the Philadelphia center's profile picture, a photoshopped image of him on a supposed dinner date with pop star Rihanna.

Embiid, who spoke with VICE months ago, during a span in which his Twitter presence seemed to be on hiatus, hinted he might have been encouraged to tone it down.

“When I start playing,” he added, “I think I might go back to my ways, you know. We might see.”

Indeed, the fun-loving big man has rediscovered his tweet game the past several weeks.

None by Joel Embiid

Same as his improving health, this is a significant development for everyone following Embiid’s career. The man was born to entertain, as demonstrated during his interview, when asked about what he likes to eat.

“Mainly Shirley Temples. I drink Shirley Temples by the pitcher. I usually drink like three or four pitchers per day,” Embiid joked, mocking a report that surfaced last year about his suspect dietary habits and an alleged infatuation with the sweet, non-alcoholic mixed drink.

“Nobody really cares about the media. They’re gonna have something to say — ‘300 pounds, Shirley Temples.’ I’m just gonna let my game do the talking,” Embiid proclaimed. “I think some people are gonna be surprised. And I can’t wait to show off.

In fact, The Inquirer’s Bob Ford wrote that Embiid’s skills are so awe-inspiring that his Monday workout at the Sixers’ training facility stole the show, even though possible No. 1 pick Brandon Ingram, out of Duke, was in the same gym for a pre-draft session.

None by Keith Pompey

"You can see what he's doing on the court," 76ers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo told reporters as Embiid wowed nearby observers. "It looks like he's getting more fluidity every day. He's done some things competitively, two-on-two and three-on-three in controlled situations, but the word 'controlled' is the key there. Everything's got to be done within the process set forth and the timeline set forth by the doctors."

If all goes to plan, and Embiid fully recovers and returns to basketball, Philadelphia just might have a star on its hands — on and off the court.

— Watch the entire Vice Sports interview: Joel Embiid Ride Along (Warning: Q&A is uncensored)


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One more year vs. retirement: Decision coming soon for Paul Pierce

Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul Pierce sits on the bench prior to the team's NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul Pierce sits on the bench prior to the team's NBA basketball game against the San Antonio Spurs, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Paul Pierce has experienced just about everything the NBA has to offer in his 18 seasons since leaving Kansas.

In the next few weeks, the 10-time all-star will decide if he is really about that bench life.

This past year with the Los Angeles Clippers, Pierce averaged career lows in minutes (18.1), points (6.1), field goals attempted (5.8), field goals made (2.1), field-goal percentage (36.3%), rebounds (2.7), assists (1.0) and steals (0.5).

Earlier this week, the small forward who earned NBA Finals MVP honors in 2008 with the Celtics told The Boston Globe his most recent season, in which Pierce also started a career-low 38 games, didn’t exactly go as planned.

“I thought I had one more good year [this past season], but obviously I didn’t like how it all went with my role,” Pierce told The Globe. “I’m still just trying to figure it out. A lot has got to do with my role I’m going to play. To come back and sit 82 games, I don’t know if I can do that.”

Injuries to other members of the Clippers pushed Pierce into a fill-in starting role late in the year, but he often didn’t play a starter’s minutes. At 38 years old (Pierce will turn 39 in October, before the start of next season), there is only so much he can bring to the floor in a league filled with world-class athletes in their 20’s.

Plus, at this stage of his playing career, Pierce said offseason training in preparation for the coming 82 games can be just as daunting.

“Really, it’s all about how I feel mentally, getting up and I’m thinking about the grind,” Pierce told The Globe. “People don’t understand, I think a lot of guys retire because of what it takes to each season. You can take the grind once you are in it, but getting ready for the grind is the hard part.”

Whether Pierce decides to go through the process one last time — he said 2016-17 would be his final season should he return — or simply call it a career, a decision is coming soon. The NBA’s 16th leading scorer in history (26,316 points) told The Globe he spoke with former Boston teammate and fellow aging one-time star Kevin Garnett about the pros and cons.

Always a great time with the guys...REAL BROTHERS👊

A photo posted by Kevin Garnett (@tic_pix) on

Always a great time with the guys...REAL BROTHERS👊 by tic_pix

While appearing Thursday on ESPN’s The Jump with Rachel Nichols, Pierce revealed he and his family are taking a vacation in late June, and when they get back he hopes to have an answer to his dilemma.

“I’m gonna take the next three weeks to figure it out,” Pierce said.

Already retired Tracy McGrady jokingly “poured one out” for Pierce’s career during the show and tried to convince Pierce to join the broadcasting game, adding: “Phenomenal career, first-ballot hall of famer.”

Pierce said he is “50-50” right now on which path he’ll take.

“It’s been a long 18 years,” he added.


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


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Thomas Robinson expected to opt for free agency

Brooklyn Nets forward Thomas Robinson (41) slam dunks over New Orleans Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham (44) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Brooklyn Nets forward Thomas Robinson (41) slam dunks over New Orleans Pelicans forward Dante Cunningham (44) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

If you don’t remember much about Thomas Robinson’s 2015-16 season, well, you’re probably not a Brooklyn season-ticket holder.

Between the Nets’ general ineptitude (21-61 record, second-worst in the Eastern Conference to woeful Philadelphia) and Robinson’s sparse on-court opportunities most of the year, the former Kansas star’s fourth season in the NBA landed somewhere between blah and forgettable.

That’s one reason, perhaps, that Robinson reportedly is expected to opt out of his contract and test free agency this summer.

Robinson played in 71 games for the Nets in his first — and what could be his only — season with the organization, but only averaged 12.9 minutes a game. The backup big man averaged 4.3 points and 5.1 rebounds and shot 44.7% from the floor.

Those numbers dipped significantly from the ones he put up with the 76ers (albeit on a terrible team) to close the previous season: 8.8 points, 7.7 rebounds in 22 games, 18.5 minutes.

The 25-year-old post player already has suited up for Houston, Sacramento, Portland, Philadelphia and Brooklyn. So what harm could another change of scenery do?

The San Antonio Express-News reported Robinson, who signed a two-year deal with the Nets this past offseason, is expected to exercise the player-option on his contract and give up the approximately $1 million Brooklyn agreed to pay him in 2016-17.

This decision makes sense for Robinson on a number of levels. First, as mentioned, there wasn’t much buzz about Robinson or the Nets, outside of a few late-season games when Brooklyn had multiple regulars injured and he put up a career-high 23 points at Washington.

And the Nets aren’t turning things anytime soon, with their first-round draft picks going to Boston each of the next three years.

Opting out also is a wise financial move. Robinson isn’t going to land a massive contract from any team, but he certainly will seek a longer deal than his most recent one. If a franchise is willing to give the well traveled forward a contract for three years or longer, for example, that would give him more security for his future. If he just stayed with Brooklyn for year No. 2 and then suffered some horrible injury, who’s to say whether he could ever again secure longterm guaranteed money.

What’s more, as anyone who follows the NBA knows, the salary cap is scheduled for a massive increase this offseason. Any player able to get a new contract this summer almost has to do so, with all the money league owners can now spend without worrying luxury taxes.

Which teams should Robinson consider? While reuniting with one of his FOE partners and former KU teammates Markieff or Marcus Morris would be an interesting move, it would make more sense for him to seek out the best financial opportunity or playing situation available to him.

Brooklyn Nets forward Thomas Robinson, left, talks with Detroit Pistons forward Marcus Morris during pre game of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Brooklyn Nets forward Thomas Robinson, left, talks with Detroit Pistons forward Marcus Morris during pre game of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Nothing against Detroit (Marcus’ team) or Washington (Markieff’s team) but if you were an NBA player, wouldn’t you rather suit up for, say, San Antonio.

In fact, the Spurs just might be a realistic option for Robinson. Jabari Young of the Express-News wondered whether Gregg Popovich and company might pursue the explosive backup forward, citing Popovich’s recent remarks that San Antonio needs to get younger.

According to Young, Spurs general manager R.C. Buford, a former KU assistant for Larry Brown, has been a Robinson fan “for quite some time.”

While Robinson played a minimal role for playoff teams in Houston and Portland, joining one of the league’s model franchises and contributing to a championship contender would qualify as totally new professional experiences.

All this speculation might not come true. Maybe Robinson won’t get a chance to play for the Spurs. Maybe some average to mediocre team with money to burn gives him a contract that would set him and his family up for life.

Whichever way it turns out, Robinson still hasn’t lived up to his status as the fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft. Figuring out which team really needs him — and will give him more than the career-high 15.1 minutes a game he played as a rookie — should factor into his decision, too.


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Drew Gooden claims he snuck into White House to play basketball

Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden (90) and Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh (1) have a light moment in the second half of an NBA preseason basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Miami. The Heat won 110-105. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden (90) and Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh (1) have a light moment in the second half of an NBA preseason basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015, in Miami. The Heat won 110-105. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Former Kansas star Drew Gooden is known in the NBA for a couple of things: rebounding and his unique sense of humor.

The 34-year-old Washington power forward showed off the latter of his defining characteristics when bombarded by a TMZ video camera in Los Angeles.

Gooden, while getting into his vehicle to leave a restaurant, was asked whether his time in D.C. had provided him with the opportunity to play basketball at the White House with President Barack Obama.

That’s when — we assume — Gooden decided to have some fun.

“Nah, but I snuck back and played on the court there a couple times, though,” Gooden deadpans to TMZ Sports. “I guess that’s out there now.”

How does a 6-foot-10, 250-pound man creep into the White House undetected?

“Hey, if I tell you,” Gooden says, “I have to kill you.”

Now, it’s not unfathomable that a Wizards player such as Gooden might actually have played at the White House when Obama wasn’t there. Perhaps that’s the case, and this tale is Gooden’s way of clowning the paparazzo.

Or maybe, as the man behind the camera suggests, the secret service agents looked the other way because they like KU basketball.

“Rock chalk!” Gooden responds.

Check out the entire video below and decide for yourself the real story behind Gooden’s supposed stealth move.


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Sixers coach ‘thrilled’ with Joel Embiid’s progress

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid, right, of Cameroon plays around with Jahlil Okafor, left,prior to the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in Philadelphia. The Bulls won 115-111 in overtime. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid, right, of Cameroon plays around with Jahlil Okafor, left,prior to the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in Philadelphia. The Bulls won 115-111 in overtime. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Joel Embiid will play in the NBA next season. No, seriously. It must be true. His coach said so.

That would be a first for the former Kansas center from Cameroon. But Philadelphia coach Brett Brown, in an interview on Sports Radio 94 WIP in Philadelphia, went as far as to say he thinks Embiid, who missed each of the previous two years due to foot injuries — or one injury with a complication, depending on how you look at it — will play in the Sixers’ 2016-17 season opener.

“That is my strong belief,” Brown said in his radio appearance, during which, according to the coach, Embiid was at the franchise’s facility for weight lifting and a basketball workout.

Perhaps next season Embiid will become less of a mystery man. In the meantime, Brown said Philadelphia’s medical staff wants the 7-footer, as well as the coaches working with him, taking everything slowly.

“I think that he’s coming along tremendously,” Brown said of Embiid, who averaged 11.2 points and 8.1 rebounds during his one-and-done season at KU. “I feel like from a maturity standpoint and the reality of the professionalism that is required for him to be money and just perfect with the rehab, ‘pre-hab,’ nutrition, all of that, is ever-present in Joel Embiid.”

New Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo, appearing on Comcast’s Breakfast on Broad, also provided some insight on Embiid’s progress. Colangelo said the 22-year-old big man eventually will be cleared for five-on-five basketball activity.

“At what point, I’m not sure yet, but he looks terrific in his drill work,” Colangelo said. “He’s coming along. That’s not to get over-hyped about it. It’s just to say he’s progressing well, and that’s encouraging for all of us.”

None by Philadelphia 76ers

Brown remains optimistic about Embiid’s potential impact with the franchise, and said all signs point to him producing a “solid” rookie season.

“There could me minute restrictions on his first year, where we start off the season slowly with him,” the Sixers coach said. “But, in general, I know he’s just so excited to get out there and play basketball again.”

In a different interview, for the Sixers 365 podcast, Philadelphia’s third-year coach said he put Embiid through a workout just a few days ago, and left pleased after seeing some of the center’s agility.

“I think his spirit’s fantastic,” Brown added. “If people truly understood the work that he has put in to arrive to this place now — and we’ve still got a long ways to go — but he is moving comfortably and confidently in the direction that we all hope he will move to. Everything is looking great right now.”

Added the 76ers coach: “I’m thrilled for him. He deserves it. He put in the time.”


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Mother’s Day a big holiday for Morris twins

Washington Wizards forward Markieff Morris, front left, talks with his mother Angel Morris, from Clinton, Md., before an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Washington. Markieff just joined the team in a trade from the Phoenix Suns. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Wizards forward Markieff Morris, front left, talks with his mother Angel Morris, from Clinton, Md., before an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Friday, Feb. 19, 2016, in Washington. Markieff just joined the team in a trade from the Phoenix Suns. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

When Markieff Morris landed in Washington D.C. earlier this season via a trade from Phoenix, it didn’t only mean a better basketball situation for the former Kansas star.

The move also brought the fifth-year power forward much closer to his hometown of Philadelphia and his mother, Thomasine “Angel” Morris.

“It’s a great fit,” Angel said in a special Mother’s Day feature produced by Monumental Sports Network. “I’m from D.C.”

Markieff, now a lot closer geographically to his twin brother and former KU teammate Marcus (of Detroit), as well, agreed the Wizards are a much better fit for him than Phoenix, where he and his brother used to play before their relationship with the organization soured.

“I’m just excited to be able to play in front of my family and perform in front of them,” said Markieff, who averaged 12.4 points and 5.9 rebounds while shooting 46.7% from the field in 27 games with Washington to close the year.

Angel’s support, Markieff explained, played a significant role in shaping the twins’ basketball careers.

“I hope that she’s proud,” Markieff said. “Everything we do is for her. I think she knows that. I just want to make her proud.”

Now that both of her sons play on the east coast, Angel said she tries to attend as many of their home games in Detroit and D.C. as possible.

“I just look at the schedule and figure out where I’m supposed to be,” Angel said. “If there’s a lot of games over there, I go there. If there’s a lot of games here, I go here. And I watch (on) TV in between.”

Of course, Angel, who Markieff described as a “tough lady,” began shaping her sons’ lives long before they became big-time basketball players.

Washington Wizards forward Markieff Morris (5) defends Detroit Pistons forward Marcus Morris during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, April 8, 2016, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Washington Wizards forward Markieff Morris (5) defends Detroit Pistons forward Marcus Morris during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, April 8, 2016, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Said Marcus: “Since I got to college she’s been heavy in basketball, but before then she was all about keeping us off the streets, keeping us in school, things like that.”

Just because the 26-year-old twins play in the NBA doesn’t mean they avoid receiving some occasional scolding from their mother. Markieff said she’s always there to encourage them, but also gets on them for any technical fouls they pick up throughout the season.

The twins likely get an earful of ‘What were you thinking?’ from Angel. Marcus had 12 techs this season, while Markieff got whistled for 11.

“Technical fouls, I don’t like,” Angel said. “I fight about (them) all the time.”

The twins’ admiration for their mother is clear — both said a perfect Mother’s Day gift for her might be a Range Rover. Markieff said Angel often leaves an imprint on the lives’ of everyone she meets, not just her sons.

As KU fans remember, that includes Thomas Robinson, whose mother, Lisa, died unexpectedly during the 2010-11 season, while Robinson was teammates with the Morris twins.

Brooklyn Nets forward Thomas Robinson, left, talks with Detroit Pistons forward Marcus Morris during pre game of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Brooklyn Nets forward Thomas Robinson, left, talks with Detroit Pistons forward Marcus Morris during pre game of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Robinson told Monumental Sports Network that Angel stepped in and tried to provide care in whatever way she could when he lost his mother.

“That’s just who she is in general,” Robinson explained. “That’s just her as a person. She meets you right now she’s gonna act like your mom and she’s gonna take care of you and make sure you’re fine.”

According to Marcus, Angel always has been a “team mom” or “community mom” in the twins’ lives.

Check out the entire video feature at Monumental Sports Network’s website.


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This former KU player is on an NBA playoff team’s roster?

The 2016 NBA Playoffs haven’t exactly been a showcase for former Kansas players.

Other than Marcus Morris averaging 17.8 points for Detroit while the Pistons got swept by Cleveland, and an occasional Cole Aldrich effort play here and there for the Los Angeles Clippers, KU products haven’t stepped into the postseason’s luminous spotlight.

Eight different Jayhawks appeared on rosters of playoff teams entering the first round, but most of them play minimal roles — or don’t play at all — for their respective teams, with Morris being the clear exception, and Aldrich and Paul Pierce chipping in for the Clippers. Both the Pistons and Clippers, however, lost in the first round.

Sure, Brandon Rush plays some mop-up duty for the incredible defending champion Golden State Warriors. But can you even name the other four KU players alive in the playoffs?

Oklahoma City mainstay Nick Collison is an easy one, but it gets difficult after that.

Kirk Hinrich has played a total of 27 minutes and did not play at all in four playoff games for Atlanta.

You might — emphasis on might — remember that Sasha Kaun signed with defending Eastern Conference champion Cleveland. But the 30-year-old NBA rookie hasn’t played a single minute this postseason for the Fightin’ LeBrons.

So who is the other Jayhawk in the playoffs? Well, his role mirrors Kaun’s in Cleveland, but it’s actually another rookie out of KU. Cliff Alexander.

Portland Trail Blazers forward Cliff Alexander (34) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Portland Trail Blazers forward Cliff Alexander (34) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Nov. 9, 2015, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Granted, Alexander’s on-court role with Portland in the playoffs is non-existent, but it’s still pretty remarkable that he’s even there.

Think back to the 6-foot-8 power forward’s 28-game stop at Kansas during the 2014-15 season. A player who started all of 6 games for KU and topped 5 rebounds once in his final 10 games with the Jayhawks is on the roster of a respected NBA franchise that reached the second round of the playoffs.

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Alexander, once considered one of the top high school prospects in his class, didn’t even get drafted. But you have to give him props. The big man stuck around with the Trail Blazers, who could have waived him without thinking twice about it.

True, he only appeared in 8 games all season as a rookie, totaling 36 minutes and 10 points, but Alexander had to be doing something right for a playoff team like Portland to bother with paying him ($525,093 this season, according to HoopsHype.com).

In March, Alexander had a rare opportunity to publicly display his basketball skills while on assignment with Santa Cruz, in the NBA’s D-League.

Santa Cruz play-by-play announcer Kevin Danna told The Oregonian earlier this year if Alexander doesn’t make it in the NBA, it won’t be because of the Chicago native’s effort. Alexander’s talent and work ethic impressed those who saw him score 21 points and grab 6 rebounds in one D-League game.

Don’t expect to see Alexander pull off any follow slams against Golden State. Just as in most of the regular season, Portland has kept the 20-year-old rookie inactive throughout the playoffs. It would take a pile of frontcourt injuries for the Blazers to put him in a game.

Once the Blazers’ season ends, Portland has the option to bring Alexander back for the second year of his contract. Assuming that happens, it will be interesting to see if he impressed coaches and front office personnel enough to take on a larger role next season.

Before that, Alexander figures to play significantly more minutes in the Summer League. He’ll need to approach those games the same way he did his D-League assignment. That’s the next step in figuring out a way to turn this NBA gig into a career, and one day earning his way into a playoff rotation.


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Paul Pierce again contemplating retirement

Since leaving Kansas a year early in 1998 to enter the NBA Draft, Paul Pierce has put together quite the storied career.

A 10-time all-star, and NBA Finals MVP in 2008, Pierce has scored a whopping 26,316 points in the league, good enough for 16th all-time.

But after 18 seasons worth of dagger jumpers, drives to the paint, and-ones, three-pointers and free throws, there is a chance we might have seen the last of Pierce in the NBA.

After Pierce’s postseason with the Los Angeles Clippers came to a close in the first round, “The Truth” told reporters he was “50-50” on whether he should retire or run it back for one more season.

Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul Pierce, left, shoots as Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, March 5, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul Pierce, left, shoots as Atlanta Hawks forward Paul Millsap defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, March 5, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Pierce, who will turn 39 during training camp in October if he does decide to return, said in a story on the Clippers’ website he wants to take his time and avoid making an “emotional” decision on his future as a player.

“If I don’t feel that feel, that fire’s not there, then it’s going to be tough,” Pierce said of returning for the second year of his three-season deal with the Clippers.

This offseason contemplation, of course, isn’t new to Pierce, who was a free agent each of the past two summers, during which he decided on returning — first signing in 2014 with Washington, then signing last year with L.A., near his hometown of Inglewood.

“Every heartbreak makes you want to come back,” Pierce said. “That’s the competitive nature of a player. That’s the competitive nature of me.”

As any hall of fame athlete would tell you, though, that fire can’t combat the effects of time. It is up to each individual how he wants to play out the final years of his career.

Pierce, unlike Kobe Bryant, for example, clearly doesn’t mind taking on a minor role as his legs gradually lose that bounce that made him such a dangerous scorer in his heyday with Boston. The 6-foot-7 small forward has served as a complimentary veteran with Brooklyn, the Wizards and Clippers over the past three seasons.

Still, his numbers have steadily declined in that time, as well:

- 13.5 points per game, 45.1% FGs in 2013-14, with the Nets

- 11.9 points per game, 44.7% FGs in 2014-15, with the Wizards

- 6.1 points per game, 36.3% FGs in 2015-16, with the Clippers

If Pierce, a 20.0 points-per-game scorer through 18 years, listens to his body and hears, ‘Hey, man, it’s been real, but I can’t do that 82-game grind again,’ he’ll listen, and call it a career.

However, if the old man thinks he still has more buckets in him, don’t be surprised to see him back in L.A., chipping in when coach Doc Rivers needs him.

The whole wild card in this decision, though, might be the Clippers’ ability to contend for an NBA title. At this point in his career, that’s what’s keeping Pierce around. If the Clippers shake up their core of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan this summer, and the roster doesn’t look like it stacks up in the Western Conference, it would be difficult to see Pierce wanting to stick around.

Now, in that scenario, if Pierce wanted to keep playing — just not with L.A. — the good news for him is his relationship with Rivers, president of the Clippers, would likely secure him an affable departure and some sort of transaction that would land him with a title contender elsewhere.

Look out in the days and weeks — possibly months — ahead for Pierce’s decision.


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


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Veteran Paul Pierce goes through new playoff experience

Through the years, NBA veteran Paul Pierce made a name for himself by coming through in the playoffs.

In the 2008 postseason alone, the former Kansas star scored 20-plus points 11 times. Pierce went for 41 points in a series-clinching victory over LeBron James and Cleveland, scored 27 points in the decisive game of the Eastern Conference Finals against Detroit and went on to be named NBA Finals MVP, as Boston defeated the Los Angeles Lakers.

Now in his 18th season, with 159 playoff games behind him, the cagy small forward known as “The Truth” went through a whole new postseason experience in the L.A. Clippers’ Game 2 victory over Portland. For the first time in his illustrious career, Pierce watched an NBA playoff game from the bench, and never checked in.

It almost seems impossible for a player of Pierce’s stature. He has averaged 19.8 points in the playoffs for his career — Pierce even scored 14.6 a game for Washington one year ago. Still, next to his name in the box score it read: DNP-Coach’s Decision.

Los Angeles Clippers' Paul Pierce warms up prior to an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Los Angeles Clippers' Paul Pierce warms up prior to an NBA basketball game against the Phoenix Suns Wednesday, April 13, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

This came three days after Pierce played just 11 minutes, made 1 of 2 shots and had an assist in a Game 1 win.

The 38-year-old future hall-of-famer spoke about the unprecedented move with Chris Mannix, for Yahoo’s NBA site, The Vertical.

"It is what it is. It's difficult,” Pierce said. “As a competitor, you want to compete and help your team win. A close game – I've been in those situations lots of times. When you have competed at a high level, it's difficult."

Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who coached Pierce with the Celtics and is well aware of the aging small forward’s ability to come through in the clutch, told The Vertical he almost subbed Pierce in against the Trail Blazers in Game 2.

"A guy like Paul,” Rivers said, “you always want to use him."

Pierce, of course, isn’t nearly as lethal as he used to be. With more than 47,000 minutes on his NBA odometer, no one would expect him to start at this stage of his career and come out and score 30 points.

But he can still play. Earlier this month, Pierce scored 18 points and shot 4-for-5 from 3-point range in a Clippers win at Utah.

According to Mannix’s report, Rivers is just having trouble finding minutes for Pierce because the Clippers’ bench unit began to flourish, oddly enough, when Pierce moved into the starting lineup in place of injured Blake Griffin. Once Griffin returned, Rivers didn’t want to hinder the progress of backups Jeff Green, Wesley Johnson, Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers, all of whom had played well, along with former KU big man Cole Aldrich.

Pierce, though more accomplished than all of those role players combined, became the odd man out.

Still, Pierce remains a valuable part of the team. According to The Vertical, all-stars Griffin and Chris Paul trust him and look to him for guidance.

"When I see stuff," Pierce said, "I'm going to talk about it."

Plus, Rivers predicts we haven’t seen the last of Pierce this postseason.

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"He's going to help us," Rivers said. "I have no doubt about that. There's a lot left in him."

But will this, Pierce’s 13th trip to the NBA Playoffs, be his last? He signed a three-year deal with the Clippers last summer, but Pierce has contemplated calling it a career before.

"The last few years it has been an end-of-the-season decision," Pierce told The Vertical. "I'll make that decision after this season, too"

Before that day comes, maybe Pierce will remind the league he still can play the role of playoff hero.


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


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Cole Aldrich emerges as key contributor for Clippers in playoffs

When the Los Angeles Clippers signed Cole Aldrich in free agency last summer, the move didn’t exactly generate buzz in the NBA, or even among the Clippers’ fan base.

Even when the regular season began this past fall, the non-response seemed appropriate, as Aldrich, a former standout center at Kansas, barely played at all.

Yet, here we are in the first round of the Western Conference Playoffs, and the 6-foot-11 reserve has morphed into a critical contributor for the Clippers, who now have a 2-0 series lead against Portland.

According to teammate Blake Griffin, Aldrich’s relentless work ethic turned him into an important cog in L.A.’s rotation.

“He’d be the first guy in here,” Griffin told Rowan Cavner for the Clippers’ website. “Doc (Rivers) challenged him to get into better shape, and he accepted it and it paid off.”

Los Angeles Clippers' Cole Aldrich, bottom, gets the ball against Portland Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard in the second half in Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series Sunday, April 17, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 115-95. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Los Angeles Clippers' Cole Aldrich, bottom, gets the ball against Portland Trail Blazers' Damian Lillard in the second half in Game 1 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series Sunday, April 17, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 115-95. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Early in the season, Aldrich didn’t play in 23 of L.A.’s first 27 games, but he consistently showed up to the Clippers’ practice facility more than two hours early to run on the treadmill, lift weights and work on his game.

“That was just kind of my thing,” Aldrich told the Clippers’ website. “When I was going through that period of time and I wasn’t playing, it was just knowing at some point in time it was going to happen. I had to be in shape and be ready and kind of run with the opportunity.”

According to Aldrich, he has lost 25 pounds since the beginning of his sixth NBA season. That has transformed him into a much more agile defender and finisher in the paint. Wednesday night, in L.A.’s victory over Portland, Aldrich scored 8 points, grabbed 8 boards and blocked 2 shots in just 12 minutes of action.

“Maybe we should write down the Cole diet,” Clippers head coach and president of basketball operations Doc Rivers said, “because I don’t know what he did. But, he really worked his butt off.”

In Aldrich’s limited minutes he helps the Clippers get defensive stops. According to basketball-reference.com, Aldrich is securing 31.4% of available defensive rebounds and blocking 9% of Portland’s shot attempts when he is on the court.

None by J.A. Adande

“He’s blocking everything that comes in the paint,” said DeAndre Jordan, L.A.’s starting big man. “He’s gobbling up every rebound, he’s running, he’s dunking now, which is nice to see. He definitely helped our second unit out a lot.”

Aldrich, far from ever being mistaken for the most athletic player on the floor, has even been described as “clumsy” in a feature by Shaun Powell for NBA.com.

None by Anthony Slater

Still, his progress and small contributions can’t be ignored.

"He's been outstanding for us, really all season, doing everything asked of him," Rivers told NBA.com.

Just before the playoffs began, Aldrich turned out his best stretch of the season, averaging 9.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 1.6 steals in 19.4 minutes off the bench, while converting on 75% of his field-goal attempts.

In the midst of the Clippers winning six of their final seven games, Aldrich started at Utah, played 40 minutes and went for 21 points and 18 boards in a road win.

"This has been great for me and hopefully great for the team," Aldrich told NBA.com of his recent success. "My teammates have been very supportive and shown a lot of confidence in me, and I think that's played a huge part in how this season has turned out."

One of the most demanding players in the league, Clippers point guard Chris Paul appreciates what the 27-year-old veteran has brought to the team, as it tries to advance through the playoffs.

“I think Cole is a lot better than a lot of people realize,” Paul told the Clippers’ website.


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