Posts tagged with Paul Pierce
Considering how much of a grind the 82-game regular season has to be for NBA players, you can’t blame the guys for enjoying the preseason goof-off spectacle that is NBA media days.
Players surely take their interview responsibilities seriously enough, but when it comes time to mean-mug or bring some absurdity to photo and video shoots, they happily oblige.
Believe it or not, it’s actually training camp time in The Association, so the past few days have been light-heartedly busy for most of the former Kansas University players lucky enough to call the NBA home.
Some get to enjoy it a little more than others, as you can see in our social media roundup from the festivities.
Cole Aldrich, New York Knicks
Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat
Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Drew Gooden and Paul Pierce, Washington Wizards
Kirk Hinrich, Chicago Bulls
Nick Collison, Oklahoma City Thunder
Xavier Henry, Los Angeles Lakers
Marcus and Markieff Morris, Phoenix Suns
Ben McLemore, Sacramento Kings
Thomas Robinson, Portland Trail Blazers
Brandon Rush, Golden State Warriors
Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota Timberwolves
Media day / throw-down night
Minnesota had an open practice for Timberwolves fans to watch following its media day, nicknaming the fun: Dunks After Dark.
Wiggins delivered a few throw-downs to help it live up to its name.
Paul Pierce must be in the gambling mood this summer.
After surviving for three days at the World Series of Poker Main Event last week in Las Vegas, finishing around 800th, the 16-year veteran out of Kansas University shocked many NBA observers when news surfaced late Saturday night he had reached a deal with Washington.
One of seven former KU players in the expansive pool of available free agents this summer, Pierce, like nearly every other veteran in search of a contract, had to wait until LeBron James made his Decision: The Sequel. Once The King announced his return to Cleveland on Friday, the rest of the league began making moves. The Wizards couldn't re-sign Trevor Ariza, who chose Houston. That left a void at small forward for D.C., which Pierce will happily fill after signing a two-year contract worth $10.8 million.
Prior to the deal, reports indicated Pierce preferred to re-sign with Brooklyn or find a way — preferably via sign-and-trade, for more money — to get on the Clippers' roster and reunite with his former Boston coach, Doc Rivers.
The Nets reached the Eastern Conference semifinals this past spring, and could have made a similar or better run in 2015 with Pierce, Deron Williams, Brook Lopez, Joe Johnson, aging-in-fast-forward Kevin Garnett and Brooklyn's key role players — assuming all were healthy.
Had Pierce landed in L.A., near his boyhood home of Inglewood, California, he could have joined a team that has to be considered one of the handful of favorites to contend for the NBA title next year, with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin leading the way.
Instead, "The Truth" decided to move in a different direction, to the nation's capital.
Why Washington? Well, it's a lot easier to reach the NBA Finals out of the East. In 2013-14, nine Western Conference teams won at least 48 games. In the East, just four organizations — Indiana, Miami, Toronto and Chicago — managed to do so.
Plus, LeBron's relocation makes the East wide open. Miami is no longer a juggernaut. Indiana faltered down the stretch last season. And Toronto is no longer in position to surprise anybody.
Chicago, which added Pau Gasol and (presumably) gets Derrick Rose back from his second knee injury in two years, will be a favorite in the East, along with Cleveland (any team with LeBron James on its roster is a title contender).
Still, neither of those teams is a sure-fire bet. No one knows whether Rose can still play at an MVP level and LeBron will be surrounded by guys with little to no playoff experience — and that includes Kevin Love, if the Cavs can swing a deal for the coveted power forward.
Washington could unseat the Heat atop the Southeast Division and find itself among the conference's top three seeds. The Wizards (44-38 in '13-'14) advanced to the second round as the No. 5 seed in the playoffs a few months back. And D.C. has one of the best young backcourts in the league, with John Wall and Bradley Beal. Add Pierce, in a complimentary role, to those two, Marcin Gortat and Nene Hilario, and you've got a lineup that can play with any of the East's top teams.
Pierce is betting on Wall and Beal instead of Williams and Johnson. If his latest gamble pays off, he could be cashing in on a deep playoff run in 2015.
The weekend also brought new NBA contracts for 'Hawks in the NBA free agents Cole Aldrich (New York), Kirk Hinrich (Chicago) and Mario Chalmers (Miami), all of whom re-signed with their previous teams.
The most surprising of those deals, by far, has to be Chalmers' two-year agreement with Miami. A Heat scapegoat in what turned out to be the franchise's last LeBron hurrah, a 4-1 NBA Finals defeat at the hands of San Antonio, Chalmers was yanked from the starting lineup in Game 5 and presumed on his way out of town once Miami drafted UConn point guard Shabazz Napier.
But James' departure left the Heat scrambling, so Chalmers, after averaging 4.4 points, 2.8 assists and 2.0 turnovers in the Finals, finds himself back in the fold with Miami's new Big Two: Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. (Big Three if you count newly signed Luol Deng.)
Xavier Henry, Drew Gooden and Brandon Rush remain on the market. Gooden is expected to re-sign with Washington, which would give the Wizards a pair of Jayhawks.
Rush will work out for some NBA teams Tuesday in Las Vegas. Bleacher Report's Ethan J. Skolnick says the Heat could be one franchise interested in the 6-foot-6 shooting guard, who only played 38 games for Utah in his sixth season.
Recovering from a torn ligament in his left wrist and an abnormality in his right knee's meniscus, Henry said in June he expects to be at 100 percent before the end of the summer.
Considering his team, the Sacramento Kings, had just selected a shooting guard — the same position at which he started 55 games as a rookie — with the eighth overall pick in the NBA Draft, Kansas University product Ben McLemore played it cool on draft night.
A year removed from his own introduction to the league, when the Kings took him seventh overall, McLemore sent out a welcome tweet to his new teammate (and potential competitor for playing time), Michigan guard Nik Stauskas:
Outwardly congenial, McLemore revealed to the Sacramento Bee's Jason Jones that the choice initially surprised him.
“I wasn’t expecting that,” McLemore told Jones. “At the same time, they felt he was the best available draft pick, so I’m fine with it. At the end of the day, it’s a business, and I’m just going to do what I have to do to get better as a player.”
While his rookie season included flashes of production and promise, such as when the league named McLemore the Western Conference rookie of the month in November, the first-year guard struggled in stretches, too. He finished the season with an 8.8 points per game scoring average and less than impressive shooting percentages: 37.6 from the floor and 32 from three-point range (he missed 202 of his 297 attempts).
As McLemore and other members of the Kings' summer league team gathered in Las Vegas for mini-camp on Monday, head coach Michael Malone indicated to the Bee that McLemore's performance didn't inspire the organization to try and draft a replacement in Stauskas, a 6-foot-6 shooting specialist who drained 44.2 percent of his three-pointers this past season at Michigan.
“There’s only a few LeBron James, Kevin Durants, Kobe Bryants out there,” Malone said. “Most rookies come out and struggle. (McLemore) went through the struggling times. The most important thing for me was February was his toughest month, but in March and April he really got himself up off the mat. He showed resilience and finished the season on a high note (career high 31 points in finale).”
Jones reported Sacramento's Monday practice included some experimentation with playing McLemore and Stauskas side by side.
“It was good,” the rookie told the Bee. “For the most part, we were on the floor at the same time. He’s a great player, and hopefully we can feed off each other well.”
After playing with Stauskas for the first time (they played against each other in the 2013 Sweet 16, when Michigan beat Kansas, 87-85, in overtime), McLemore gave a brief scouting report in a video interview posted on the Kings' website.
"We've kind of got a similar game," McLemore said. "We both can shoot the ball, we can put it down on the floor, you know, (do) different things. I think we'll be a good backcourt."
The Kings play their summer league opener Friday night in Las Vegas, against San Antonio.
'Hawks in free agency
Paul Pierce is in Las Vegas, too. But not for the NBA's summer league. Apparently unfazed by his status as an uncommitted free agent, "The Truth" is working on one of his favorite hobbies at the World Series of Poker.
As for what uniform he'll wear in his 17th NBA season? Pierce could re-sign with Brooklyn. But ESPNNewYork.com's Mike Mazzeo reported the 36-year-old small forward wants $9 to $10 million a year, while the Nets would like to pay him between $6 and $8 million.
According to Mazzeo, Nets general manager Billy King said the Los Angeles Clippers inquired about a sign-and-trade deal for Pierce, who teamed with Clippers coach Doc Rivers to win an NBA title in Boston. However, King didn't like what L.A. offered.
Like Pierce, the six other KU products looking to sign as free agents might have to wait for stars LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh to make their decisions, because so many teams are holding back on contract offers until those pieces of the personnel puzzle fall into place.
Also still in limbo are Mario Chalmers, Xavier Henry, Kirk Hinrich, Drew Gooden, Brandon Rush and Cole Aldrich.
Aldrich told the Journal-World on Monday he would like to re-up with New York. Gooden told the Washington Post's Dan Steinberg he is interested in remaining in D.C., with the Wizards. Hinrich has long stated his desire to keep playing for Chicago.
Most NBA free agents can't wait for July 1. Shortly after midnight, the league's 30 teams can begin their full-court, offseasson press, courting the players they hope to throw multi-million dollar salaries at.
The start of free agency figures to bring equal parts anticipation and uncertainty to unrestricted free agent Mario Chalmers, coming off his sixth NBA season with Miami.
While the 6-foot-2 point guard from Kansas University became a starting lineup mainstay with the Heat, right along with superstar LeBron James and all-stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, his days with the Heat might be over after appearing in four straight NBA Finals with the organization that drafted him in the second round in 2008.
With Miami trying to figure out a way to to bring back the most sought after star in the NBA universe, James, as well as Wade and Bosh — all three free agents themselves — and trying to save every penny it can in the process, Chalmers suddenly appears dispensable. Though the former KU hero averaged 9.8 points and 4.9 assists this past regular season for Miami, but those numbers dropped to 6.4 points and 3.6 assists in the playoffs. Making matters worse for the free agent, Chalmers only put up 4.4 points and 2.8 assists, and averaged 2.0 turnovers in 23.1 minutes a game in the Finals, when San Antonio disposed of the back-to-back champs in five games.
Those five lackluster nights — 33 percent field goals in the series, 1-for-7 from 3-point range — in front of a world wide audience ignited the Twitter trolls, who posted pictures of trash alongside Chalmers' name or claimed his next uniform will be the one issued to Home Depot employees.
Of course, the only opinion that really matters is that of Heat president Pat Riley (who also figures to be keenly aware of LeBron's viewpoint). The night of the draft, James tweeted: "My favorite player in the draft! #Napier."
Shortly after, Miami pulled off a trade with Charlotte to attain the draft rights to Connecticut point guard Shabazz Napier.
Bleacher Report's Ethan Skolnick wrote about Riley's ability to acquire Napier without giving up Miami's other point guard, Norris Cole. Miami's man in charge said the incoming UConn rookie and Cole would compete for playing time, and didn't offer much on where that leaves Chalmers.
"Mario's a free agent, so (we've) got to deal with that," Riley said in the report.
Back on June 17, Skolnick caught up with Chalmers as players packed up for the summer and tweeted that the free agent point guard would prefer to stay with Miami, but was "excited" about free agency.
"Nobody wants to leave South Florida," Chalmers told Skolnick. "We'll see what happens."
He won't be the only Kansas product chasing a new contract. In total, six other Jayhawks are unrestricted free agents: Brooklyn's Paul Pierce, the Los Angeles Lakers' Xavier Henry, Chicago's Kirk Hinrich, Washington's Drew Gooden, Utah's Brandon Rush and New York's Cole Aldrich.
Pierce seemed likely to re-sign with the Nets, but over the past few days, the team's head coach, Jason Kidd, decided he would rather work for Milwaukee. By Monday, the two organizations reached a deal to make Kidd the new coach of the Bucks. A new coach in Brooklyn could mean no more Pierce,
As ESPNLosAngeles.com's Dave McMenamin reported, Henry is recovering from a torn ligament in his left wrist and an abnormality in his right knee's meniscus. He could still be weeks of rehab away from 100 percent.
“All I know is I can play," Henry told McMenamin. "And when I’m 100 percent next season, I’m going to bring the energy and be able to play."
Hinrich stated on more than one occasion during the season that he would prefer to stay with the Bulls. But he might have to do some waiting to figure out if that's possible, as Chicago should be one of the major players in free agency and a possible landing spot for Carmelo Anthony.
Gooden, a late-season addition to Washington's roster might start his 13th NBA season in a striped Wizards uniform. Yahoo's Marc J. Spears tweeted Monday afternoon that the veteran power forward is expected to re-sign with D.C. for the league minimum.
The future, at this point, is far more unpredictable for Aldrich and Rush, though re-signing seems unlikely for either.
The Denver Nuggets' Darrell Arthur could have made it eight Jayhawks in free agency, but exercised the player option on his contract, instead of testing the waters. The six-year pro will make just under $3.5 million this coming season.
Well, that didn't exactly go as planned.
After much was made of Brooklyn veteran Paul Pierce requesting Miami überstar LeBron James as his defensive assignment, the four-time NBA MVP torched the nets and the Nets in Game 4 Monday night for 49 points on 16-for-24 shooting.
As you would imagine, Pierce became a popular Twitter target in the aftermath of Miami's 102-96 win, which put Brooklyn in a 3-1 hole in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Pierce, who scored 16 points in the loss, wasn't the only Net who couldn't as much as slow down the unstoppable James. NBA.com/stats showed LeBron scored 11 while being guarded one-on-one by the Kansas University product. James made 3 of 5 shots, 1 of 2 3-pointers, drew four fouls and drove to the paint twice versus The Truth.
Still, Pierce, a longtime rival of James at this point, had to be disappointed that he couldn't lead the charge in containing the force that is LeBron.
Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated noted a few reasons why Pierce never would buddy up with The King:
James's constant complaining irks Pierce, as does his belief, league sources say, that James once tried to recruit Doc Rivers to Cleveland when Rivers was coaching the Celtics.
“I really don’t care what Paul has to say. We don’t really get involved in that."
Game 4 was a difficult, potentially back-breaking loss for Brooklyn.
But Pierce, as quoted by Andrew Keh of The New York Times, hasn't lost all hope.
“We’ve just got to get one game. That’s the mind-set. The series is far from over. We’ve got to go down there, try to get one game and force the series back home.”
The Nets are on the brink of elimination, in part, due to a timely pass from KU product Mario Chalmers, who dished one of his seven assists in the final minute to Chris Bosh for a 3-pointer.
Chalmers, who had made 2 of 3 bombs of his own and scored 8 points, passed up a shot for an even better look.
The Heat will try to close out the series in Game 5 Wednesday night at Miami (6 p.m., TNT).
— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.
Paul Pierce and LeBron James have been battling in the NBA Playoffs for years.
The rivalry between the forwards began when Pierce played for Boston and James played for Cleveland, but it's continuing this postseason with Brooklyn and Miami in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Given the history between the two, it shouldn't surprise anyone that Pierce approached his coach, Jason Kidd, about guarding his old nemesis — as detailed in a story by Ohm Youngmisuk for ESPNNewYork.com.
In Game 3, Brooklyn had to win to keep the best-of-seven series manageable, and Pierce helped limit the ever-explosive James to 12 points over the last three quarters of a 104-90 Nets win on Saturday, which cut Miami's lead to 2-1.
"I went to J-Kidd [for] Game 2 and said I want that assignment. ... I think I've guarded him more than anybody in this gym. I know his tendencies a little bit more and I just try to step up in that role and try to lead that way."
That conversation came after James hit 10 of 15 shots in Game 1. The four-time league MVP shot 9-for-18 in a Game 2 win, and then went 8-for-15 in Game 3.
Pierce's defense against LeBron certainly hasn't been flawless.
But matchup data from NBA.com/stats shows that The Truth is making an impact on the defensive end. James and Dwyane Wade combined to score 48 of Miami's 90 points in the Miami's first loss of the playoffs. Pierce spent more time guarding one of those two in the half court than any other Brooklyn defender.
In 8:31 of game time, James and Wade got 29 half-court touches versus Pierce. They combined to score seven points — 3-for-7 field goals, 1-for-4 on 3-pointers and no trips to the foul line.
If it's up to the 36-year-old Pierce, one of the few people out there who believes Brooklyn can beat Miami and advance to the conference finals, he'll guard the 29-year-old LeBron the rest of the series. Averaging just 11.7 points a game in the series, Pierce told reporters he has to impact the game on defense.
"I don't have the offensive load that I had in the past where I set on having to carry us all the way offensively and then take the best defensive assignment. Now I can reserve a lot of energy toward trying to defend him. When the time comes for me to score, then I'll do that also."
Game 4 is at Brooklyn on Monday night (7 p.m., TNT).
Collison and Durant go way back
When Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant earned his first MVP award last week, he thanked each one of his Thunder teammates during an emotional acceptance speech.
The league's MVP made it clear through his words how important the honor was to him, but he also showed humility and appreciation for the players who helped him reach greatness.
Durant didn't come into the league playing at this level, and few know that better than Kansas alum Nick Collison. He has spent more time with Durant than any other player in an OKC uniform — the two began as teammates with the Seattle SuperSonics before the franchise moved to Oklahoma City.
Due to his unique perspective (Collison has been teammates with Durant since KD entered the league), Sports Illustrated asked him to write about playing alongside Durant for seven seasons.
Collison shared how limited the future superstar was as a rookie, and how he developed into the unguardable monster he is today. Now in his 10th season out of KU, the backup power forward appreciates what the MVP has meant for his livelihood.
Look at my career. I'm viewed as a guy who does the little things that help a team win. I have a niche, even a little bit of a cult following. But if I were on a losing team, no one would talk about that. And the reason for that is Kevin, and Russell Westbrook. Their success raises all of us.
Collison closes the piece by saying what an honor it has been for him to play with Durant.
And the feeling is mutual.
The Thunder are tied with the Los Angeles Clippers, 2-2, in a West semifinal. Game 5 is Tuesday night at Oklahoma City (8:30 p.m., TNT).
Social media buzz — Mother's Day edition
Noteworthy tweets and Instagram posts from and about the 'Hawks in the NBA:
— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.
You think Thomas Robinson looks upset in the above photo from Portland's 114-97 Game 2 loss at San Antonio Thursday night?
If only cameras had been in the locker room before the game.
That's when Robinson ran into something far scarier than Tim Duncan. He saw a snake in his locker-room stall.
Joel Odom of The Oregonian got the details from Robinson himself.
"It took a couple minutes for everybody to believe me. 'There’s a snake in my locker.' But everybody thought I was playing, until they came over and looked for ourselves. And then he told us to get away from it, it was a rattlesnake. "
Robinson's initial reaction?
"I screamed, jumped, yelled, all that."
His teammate, Mo Williams, seemed braver than the other Blazers in the locker room at the time. He posted a photo of the rattler to Instagram.
Reporters asked Robinson after the fact what the snake looked like, and he had the perfect description:
"Black and white. Spurs."
Robinson went on to score two points and grab two rebounds in 14 minutes after the pre-game scare. Portland, down 2-0 in the series, plays host to San Antonio on Saturday (9:30 p.m., ESPN).
Chalmers a steady component for Miami
In the Jayhawk vs. Jayhawk Eastern Conference semifinals — also known as Brooklyn vs. Miami — Mario Chalmers' Heat put Paul Pierce's Nets in a 2-0 hole Thursday with a 94-82 victory.
Though Chalmers (11 points, 5 assists) was outscored by Pierce (13 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists), Miami's sixth-year guard has to be feeling better about his team's chances of moving on to the conference finals — especially with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on his side.
Chalmers doesn't have the name power of the Heat's Big Three, but he has been in the starting lineup in every game he's played during the previous three regular seasons for the back-to-back NBA champions.
Shandel Richardson of the Sun Sentinel wrote about Chalmers' consistency following Game 2 of the series. His biggest accomplishment in this one might have been his role in holding Nets guard Deron Williams scoreless (0-for-9 in 37 minutes).
"I just provide all I can for my teammates. My main focus this year was just being a consistent player. I think I've done a pretty good job with that. My teammates trusted me. The coaching staff trusted in me."
Bosh said the Heat need Chalmers in that role, and appreciate what he brings.
"When Rio is playing well, we're tough to beat. He's just that fourth or fifth guy who you can't leave. When he's controlling his tempo, doing his job, making open shots, it's really all uphill for us."
Game 3 is Saturday at Brooklyn (7 p.m., ABC).
McLemore planning on busy offseason
The 2014 NBA Playoffs are in full effect as eight of the league's 30 teams still have dreams of hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy come June.
For most of the league, though, it's already summertime.
Trying to reach the playoffs himself one day, Sacramento shooting guard Ben McLemore hasn't stopped working on his game while returning to Lawrence, where he played one season for Kansas.
But he's also in town to get in some off-court work, toward completing his degree.
McLemore, drafted seventh by the Kings last summer, didn't receive any votes for the NBA's Rookie of the Year award, won by Philadelphia's Michael Carter-Williams, the 11th overall pick in 2013.
Sacramento general manager Pete D'Alessandro addressed the 21-year-old shooting guard's first season — 82 games, 55 starts, 8.8 points, 2.9 rebounds, 37.6% shooting, 32% from 3-point range — in a recent Q & A.
“I think Ben had a very common rookie year. His performance is something we see a lot from guys like him. I think we saw it early on and he stepped up quickly and played well, hit somewhat of a wall and now you see later on he’s getting there. If you took the beginning and end of this season and put them together, you’d look at him and go, ‘Hey, those are pretty decent looking numbers.’ I think it’s common when you have a young guy who’s played a year of college and steps into that starting position. It’s a lot to ask. We have three high-scoring pieces on a team. How do you step up and be that fourth guy? It’s tough."
To D'Alessandro's point, McLemore's numbers fluctuated throughout his first year:
• November: 9.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 39.3% FGs, 36.4% 3s in 23.2 minutes
• December: 8.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 37.6% FGs, 35.1% 3s in 28.2 minutes
• January: 5.9 points, 2.3 rebounds, 35.1% FGs, 29.3% 3s in 19.7 minutes
• February: 6.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 30.1% FGs, 23.5% 3s in 25.1 minutes
• March: 10.6 points, 2.9 rebounds, 42.7% FGs, 32.8% 3s in 31.4 minutes
• April: 13.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, 39.1% FGs, 31.6% 3s in 37.3 minutes
The rookie's confidence began growing late in the season, after Sacramento traded away Marcus Thornton, and re-inserted McLemore into the starting lineup.
“I’ve said this from the beginning of the year, the guy works like no other young guy works. He and Ray (McCallum, another 2013-14 rookie) together, I really give them a lot of credit for their work ethic. If you have talent, athleticism, and that work ethic – which he does – I think it’s a recipe for success. I really look forward to what has yet to come for him. I’ve been very happy with Ben. I’ve said it all year long, and I stand by it.”
Clearly that work ethic is already being put to use. In a quote from CowbellKingdom.com, the young guard described how the 82-game grind of his first NBA season shaped his plan of attack going forward.
“Just coming in the league, I’ve seen so much playing against these different type of caliber guys every night, just seeing what I need to work on. It definitely helped me (realize), ‘Ok, I need to work on this, this summer.’”
Markieff Morris snubbed in Sixth Man voting?
Once the NBA announced Los Angeles Clippers gaurd Jamal Crawford as the 2013-14 Sixth Man of the Year, it didn't take long for someone to pose the question: Why not Markieff Morris?
That someone was Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic, who covers the Phoenix Suns and used his ballot to vote Morris as the league's top reserve.
Coro's case against Crawford stems from the fact he started 24 games for the Clippers in the regular season, and the Suns beat writer said Morris or Chicago's Taj Gibson were more deserving.
Morris had plenty going for him, and Coro provides the evidence. Among bench players (the 6-foot-10 power forward served as a backup in all 81 games he played), Morris scored the most points (1,115) had the most double-doubles (11), was fourth in rebounds per game (6.0), fifth in points per game (13.8), sixth in field-goal percentage (48.6), and even seventh in steals per game (0.85).
— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.
Arguably the two most successful 'Hawks in the NBA, Miami's Mario Chalmers and Brooklyn's Paul Pierce will be seeing a lot of each other in the coming days.
Chalmers and the Heat took a step toward the Eastern Conference finals by beating Pierce and the Nets, 107-86, Tuesday night in Miami.
Chalmers hit 5 of his 9 shots for 12 points in Game 1, while Pierce went 3-for-8 and scored 8 points.
The outcome and low point total for Pierce proved the playoffs are a lot different than the regular season — he averaged 21.3 points and the Nets swept Miami in four pre-playoffs meetings.
Of course, the 16-year veteran has been through enough grinding postseason series to know even a 21-point loss doesn't guarantee Miami anything. As Andrew Keh quoted Pierce for The New York Times:
“It was a 3-point game at the half, fellas. I mean, we’re not overreacting. We feel like we still can get a game in this building.”
And that came following a game in which Pierce only scored two points after the first quarter, with LeBron James often defending him in the second half. So don't expect confidence to be an issue in the Brooklyn locker room.
Miami fans, who grew to dislike Pierce when he played for Boston, aren't too fond of him in a Brooklyn uniform, either. Plus, colliding with Chalmers and sending his fellow KU product to the floor with a thud in Game 1 didn't win him any popularity points.
Game 2 of Nets-Heat tips off at 6 p.m. Thursday at Miami (on TNT).
The reemergence of Drew Gooden
Someone forgot to tell Drew Gooden this isn't 2005. The 12th-year power forward isn't supposed to be able to sub in and produce a double-double, no problem. But that's just what Gooden did in Game 1 of Washington's second-round playoff series with Indiana on Monday.
In the Wizards' five first-round games against Chicago, Gooden played five minutes or less in four games, earning a DNP-coach's decision in the series finale. He scored all of two points in 26 minutes of floor time in Game 4.
So Gooden was the last guy in a D.C. uniform anyone expected 12 points and 13 rebounds out of in Game 1 at Indiana. Anyone not named Drew Gooden, that is. The 6-foot-10 Kansas product put up his first double-double since March 21 while playing 18 minutes in Washington's 102-96 victory over the East's top seed, the Pacers. What's more, most of his timely jumpers and tip-ins came in the second half, when Washington needed them.
Playing for his 10th NBA team, Gooden's stat line looked far better than those of Indiana big men Roy Hibbert (zero points, no rebounds), Ian Mahinmi (2 points, zero boards) and Luis Scola (12 points, five rebounds).
The Washington Post's Michael Lee wrote about how Gooden, out of the NBA most of the 2013-14 regular season, kept his hopes up and stayed in shape before Washington picked him up in late February and then embraced his opportunity in D.C.
Wizards starting center Marcin Gortat told Lee Gooden changed Game 1.
“Thanks to him, obviously, we got this win. It was all about Drew Gooden. He was just outstanding. I guess they just underestimated this guy and, you know, he brought it. He’s a veteran. He’s a talented guy and you know, he knows how to put himself in the position to rebound the ball, and his timing today was very good.”
The 32-year-old Gooden, Lee pointed out, became the first player since the inception of the shot clock to have at least 12 points and 13 rebounds in only 18 minutes. After his critical playoff performance, the substitute big man couldn't believe that nugget.
“That’s a wow to me, because I know it’s been a lot of better players, a lot of greats that had that opportunity but to throw Drew Gooden in that mix, I’m flattered.”
We'll find out if Gooden can continue his role as the X-factor in the series when Game 2 tips off Wednesday night at 6 p.m. in Indiana (on TNT).
Noteworthy tweets (or Instagram posts) from and about the 'Hawks in the NBA:
— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.
During the first round of the NBA Playoffs, the narrative moved back and forth regarding how much Brooklyn needed veteran small forward Paul Pierce in crunch time.
In his 16th season out of Kansas, Pierce only scored 10 points in 25 minutes in Sunday's Game 7 at Toronto, but he made one of the top defensive plays of the postseason so far in the final seconds, blocking Raptors guard Kyle Lowry in the paint. His blocked shot sealed a 104-103 Brooklyn victory, and saved the Nets' postseason.
If Lowry's shot had dropped through the net, Toronto would have moved on to the Eastern Conference semifinals. Instead, it will be Pierce and the Nets taking on back-to-back NBA champion Miami in the next round.
Newsday's Rod Boone and the rest of the media on hand spoke with an elated Pierce after the thrilling Game 7 win. The Truth was asked if he had ever swatted a shot to win a game.
"Nah, I don't think at this magnitude. On the road. Game 7. You're playing for your lives and you've got to sell out for your team.
"I really didn't have a great offensive game. I was in foul trouble most of the night and sometimes you've got to find ways to help your ball club win.
"I saw him go up, I went up with him, got my hand on the ball. Game over."
Pierce didn't make a basket in the fourth quarter, but he proved yet again he can still come through in crunch time.
On to the next round
Pierce wasn't the only former Jayhawk to move on to the second round of the NBA Playoffs. In fact, his Nets will be up against another KU product, the Heat's Mario Chalmers, in the East semis.
Miami is one of the favorites to win the NBA Finals, but Brooklyn swept the Heat in the regular season, so this could be a long, exciting series with the Nets trying to knock out the defending champions.
After disposing of Toronto, Pierce told reporters the Nets know taking on LeBron James and the Heat will be quite a challenge. Here is what Pierce said in Lang Whitaker's preview for NBA.com:
"When you play against the best, as a competitor, you want those moments. If you look at all the great competitors in this league, they want to play against the other best [players], to see where they are, to see how they measure up throughout history. When you play against the best like LeBron, it brings out the best in I think everyone. I think that's in any sport, when you're a great competitor. And I consider myself a great competitor, who wants to be in those moments, who wants to play against who people call the best."
That mentality showed during the regular season, when Pierce averaged 21.3 points in Brooklyn's four wins versus the Heat — he didn't average 20 or more points against any other team in the league this year. Pierce hit 55.3% of his shots against Miami, 45% of his 3-pointers, and averaged 4.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists.
Chalmers, meanwhile, only played in three of the Heat-Nets games, and averaged 11.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists. He shot 40.7% from the floor, and did most of his damage from long range, drilling 57.1% of his 3's vs. Brooklyn.
Game 1 of Brooklyn vs. Miami is set for Tuesday night (6 p.m., TNT).
Among the rest of the 'Hawks in the NBA lucky enough to make it to the playoffs, only Chicago's Kirk Hinrich didn't move on to the second round.
The Bulls were ousted by Washington, home of former KU power forward Drew Gooden. Though he only played 9.0 minutes a game in the first round and didn't even get off the bench in the Wizards' Game 5 victory, the typically jovial Gooden is looking forward to Washington's upcoming series with top seed Indiana.
Gooden, a late-season acquisition in D.C., only faced the Pacers once this season, and had three points and six rebounds in 20 minutes of a Washington win on March 28. Indiana won the two previous regular-season matchups.
Game 1 of Wizards-Pacers tips off at 6 p.m. Monday (TNT).
Oklahoma City backup big man Nick Collison might only be a role player, but he's about to take part in what figures to be one of the most entertaining series of the playoffs as the Thunder take on the Los Angeles Clippers.
OKC and the Clippers split four regular-season encounters, in which Collison averaged 3.8 points and 4.5 rebounds in 15.8 minutes. Expect Collison to score easy baskets against the Clips, because he made 6 of the 7 shots he took against them this season.
The first game of Clippers-Thunder begins at 8:30 p.m. Monday (TNT).
For Thomas Robinson's season to continue on into the conference finals, his Portland Trail Blazers will have to oust always steady No. 1 seed San Antonio, the defending Western Conference champions.
The Spurs won the last two meetings with Portland to even the season series at 2-2.
Robinson played 13.3 minutes a game against San Antonio this season, averaging 4.8 points and 4.5 rebounds.
Game 1 of Blazers-Spurs tips off at 8:30 p.m. Tuesday (TNT).
Vaughn part of Magic's plan
Orlando (23-59) didn't come close to making the playoffs. But that really wasn't part of the organization's master plan.
Another key part of the blue print: keeping head coach Jacque Vaughn in place.
The Magic extended the former KU point guard's contract through the 2015-16 season, as reported by Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel.
Robbins wrote that Vaughn, hired in the summer of 2012, has been patient as the franchise implemented a plan of rebuilding through the draft.
Vaughn started his head-coaching career with a 12-13 record. Since then, however, the Magic have posted a 31-108 record.
According to the report, Magic CEO Alex Martins and general manager Rob Hennigan have appreciated Vaughn's ability to build working relationships with players and "for maintaining an even keel despite the losing."
Vaughn and Orlando will find out May 20 at the NBA Draft Lottery just how useful the latest season of losing will be for the team's longterm success.
— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.
Less than two weeks ago, Paul Pierce opened the NBA Playoffs by taking over in the final minutes of a Brooklyn road win at Toronto.
Fast-forward to Wednesday's Game 5 at Toronto, and Pierce sat on the bench the entire fourth quarter of a furious Nets rally that ultimately ended with the Raptors winning, 115-113, to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
The Nets trailed 91-69 after three quarters, and as Toronto's lead began disappearing, 16-year NBA veteran Pierce, the team's third-leading scorer in the playoffs (14.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 48.1% shooting, 29.2% on 3-pointers), never checked in for coach Jason Kidd. The veteran whom the Nets presumably brought to Brooklyn for this exact scenario had nothing to do with the game's outcome. He finished with 10 points, and went 3-for-5 from the floor in 24 minutes.
At the postgame press conference, Kidd addressed sitting Pierce and fellow future hall of famer Kevin Garnett (less surprising) in crunch time. Here's a quote from Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.
"It's about the team, not about two guys."
Mitch Lawrence of the NY Daily News wrote a piece on the loss that put Brooklyn on the verge of elimination, too, and said that Pierce handled his coach's decision well.
This spring was supposed to be different, with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce brought in more for their veteran leadership and toughness than their production in the playoffs. But in the fourth quarter of Game 5, Jason Kidd left the two old Celtics on the bench for all 12 minutes. They had given him next to nothing up to that point as the Nets were almost blown out by halftime.
Strange as it had to have been, Pierce took on his role of cheerleader enthusiastically.
The veteran, it appears, also remains optimistic about his role with the team and Brooklyn's ability to survive in the postseason.
“I think we’ll play better on Friday at home and we’ll see them back [at Toronto] Sunday.”
The Nets play Game 6 against Toronto Friday night in Brooklyn (6 p.m., ESPN 2).
Hinrich's season ends in first round
The way Chicago played the last few months of the regular season, many expected the Bulls to make a bit of a run in the playoffs — perhaps even earning an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals.
However, the young, up-and-coming Washington Wizards bounced the hard-nosed, grind-it-out Bulls from the playoffs by winning the first-round series, 4-1.
Veteran guard Kirk Hinrich, who just completed his 11th season in the NBA, scored 16 points, made 6 of 11 field goals and drained 4 of 5 3-pointers in what proved to be the final game of Chicago's season on Tuesday.
It was his best showing of the playoffs and proved what kind of competitor he is. In five games, Hinrich averaged 11.0 points, 4.4 assists and 3.0 rebounds, and shot 41.1% on FGs and 36.8% on 3s.
Next up for Hinrich, instead of a conference semifinals series, is the summer, and free agency. The Chicago Tribune's K.C. Johnson reported that Bulls general manager Gar Forman (not to be confused with Abe Froman, the sausage king of Chicago) said re-signing Hinrich is one of the organization's offseason goals.
And Hinrich has stated on more than one occasion that he would prefer to stay with Chicago, where he has spent nine of his seasons.
"I grew up a Bull in this league and I'll always think of myself as a Chicago Bull no matter what happens."
— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.