As the 82-game, nearly six-month-long marathon known as the NBA regular season begins this week, the league’s 30 team rosters feature 15 players from the University of Kansas.
In order to get KU basketball fans up to speed on what they should expect from the Jayhawks representing their beloved program at the highest level, we decided to rank KU’s current pros, counting down from No. 15 to No. 1, in terms of which players will be the most interesting to follow in the months to come.
We now move to Nos. 10-6. A couple of these former Kansas stars are entering the primes of their career and poised to make real impacts as key reserves.
Another’s days in The Association are numbered, one is attempting to finally establish himself and the other is just getting his feet wet in the NBA.
No. 10: Tarik Black — Los Angeles Lakers
After he went undrafted in 2014, who would have thought Tarik Black would be in the league two years later, let alone playing a crucial reserve role for one of the most recognizable franchises on the planet?
True, this is not the Showtime Lakers of the glory 1980s nor the Shaq and Kobe Lakers of 15 years ago. At best, L.A. is a young team building toward what it hopes can become another era of title chases. Those days, if they return, are years away. For now Black will try and be a building block for the future, along with young recent lottery picks such as D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram.
If you watched the 6-foot-9 center play at KU, you know his game: utilize that bulk in the paint to defend and rebound, work hard, finish strong. Those characteristics already have turned Black into a bit of a fan favorite and secured him a guaranteed contract for this season.
Black apparently wasn’t valued by former Lakers coach Byron Scott, who only played him 12.7 minutes a game last year, but Black seems to be in a better situation with Luke Walton taking over, and he’ll back up L.A.’s starting center, Timofey Mozgov.
No. 9: Paul Pierce — Los Angeles Clippers
This is it for Paul Pierce. His 19th NBA season will be his last. And, realistically, at 39 years old, there is only so much the former perennial all-star’s legs will allow him to do on the basketball court at this point.
We won’t see “The Truth” take over fourth quarters like he so often did for Boston in his 15 seasons with the Celtics. Last year with the Clippers, Pierce only played 18.1 minutes a game and scored 6.1 points — both by far career lows. Though a future hall of famer, Pierce has reached a point where the Clippers are better off playing guys such as Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and, at times, Wesley Johnson at small forward in their otherwise superb starting lineup.
The intrigue in watching Pierce play this season comes from knowing it’s his last. What does he have left in that tank? Will he play better this year than last, knowing he can give it all and spend the rest of his life resting?
You know he’s going to have a night or two when he catches fire and looks like vintage Pierce for a stretch, and that will be fun to see, as will the tributes he gets from various organizations as he plays in visiting arenas for the final time.
Here’s one date you’ll want to mark on your calendar for the Clippers: Sunday, Feb. 5. It will be the final time Pierce plays in front of a Boston crowd that adores the 2008 NBA Finals MVP.
No. 8: Cole Aldrich — Minnesota Timberwolves
Last season, while playing with Pierce in L.A., Cole Aldrich established himself as a valuable reserve center in the NBA. Even while playing only 13.3 minutes a game, the burly 6-foot-11 Aldrich routinely made a positive impact in the paint as a rebounder and rim protector and averaged 5.5 points and 4.8 rebounds, while converting 59.6% of his shot attempts.
Aldrich’s best pro season to date came at an ideal time, too, with the big man hitting the free agent market this past summer. He signed with his hometown Timberwolves, one of the league’s up-and-coming franchises for three years and $22 million.
Now 27 years old, Aldrich gets to take his enforcer role to Minnesota’s second unit. When the team’s young star Karl-Anthony Towns or Gorgui Dieng aren’t in the game to control the paint, it will be up to Aldrich to make sure the T’wolves’ interior defense doesn’t experience much of a drop-off.
Minnesota is expected to become one of the more exciting teams in the league to follow, and for KU fans, there is no better bandwagon to hop onto, with Aldrich teaming up with fellow Jayhawks Brandon Rush and Andrew Wiggins.
No. 7: Thomas Robinson — Los Angeles Lakers
We don’t know how much — or how little — former KU star Thomas Robinson will play during his first season with the Lakers. Honestly, it seems another Jayahwk on this list, Black, will feature far more prominently in L.A.’s plans.
Robinson, playing on a one-year, non-guaranteed contract, didn’t even know during the preseason whether he’d make the team’s roster. So he has a long way to go before breaking into the rotation. The months ahead seem intriguing for Robinson, though, because this is his sixth team in five seasons. Organization after organization has passed on retaining the backup power forward. Will the Lakers do the same? Will they even keep him around for the entire season?
The answers to those questions have a lot to do with how the 6-foot-10, 25-year-old Robinson approaches his place in the roster hierarchy. The Lakers have far more invested in bigs Julius Randle, Mozgov, Larry Nance Jr. and Black than Robinson. He’ll have to prove himself more deserving of playing time than one or two of his frontcourt teammates to feature prominently on this young team building for the future.
It might take an injury to one of those other post players for Robinson to get a long look from Walton and his staff. How will Robinson respond when his chance comes? That’s what will be compelling to observe. He has yet to live up to his position as a lottery pick — will this be the year he finally does?
No. 6: Kelly Oubre Jr. — Washington Wizards
A year ago, appropriately, Kelly Oubre Jr. looked like a 20-year-old rookie not quite skilled enough to make a sustainable impact on an NBA floor.
Now in his second season with Washington, Oubre, who will turn 21 in December, is starting to fit in much better. Whether that’s the result of learning from his first-year struggles, the Wizards hiring a new head coach in Scott Brooks or a combination of the two, look for the 6-foot-7 lefty’s production to spike upward in Year 2.
Say goodbye to the days of Oubre playing only 10 minutes and averaging 3.7 points. Though still playing a reserve role, behind Otto Porter Jr., Oubre looked better suited to contribute during the preseason. He played 25.5 minutes a game for D.C. this past month in exhibitions, and scored 13.1 points while making 49.2% of his field goals.
To take the next step in his career, Oubre will have to develop a better 3-point shot. He only made 25 of 79 last season (31.6%). During the preseason, it didn’t appear a drastic improvement is coming in the months ahead, as Oubre shot 6-for-17 (35.3%) from downtown.
Still, it seems Washington is far more interested in utilizing Oubre's growing skill set now than when he was a rookie.
Some of the other biggest names of his generation have retired, but Paul Pierce will forge ahead and play one more NBA season.
After a summer of contemplation, the former Kansas star, entering his 19th season in the league, announced Monday on The Players’ Tribune his intentions to play this coming year with the Los Angeles Clippers — and then retire. Pierce’s decision comes in the same offseason that saw such legends as Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Pierce’s former Boston and Brooklyn teammate Kevin Garnett call it quits.
“You know, I’ve played a lot of years in this game. I’ve given this game all I’ve had all my life,” Pierce said in a recorded speech. “And just like any difficult decision that you’ve ever got to make in your life, I think you’ve really got to be at peace with yourself to make a decision like this. I realize that it’s time to move on from the game of basketball. It’s the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make in my life, but this is it. This is my final season.”
As the 10-time all-star indicated on The Players’ Tribune post, Pierce remains hopeful the Clippers — led by younger stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin — can help the soon-to-be 39-year-old be a part of a championship level team in his final go-round through the NBA.
Pierce, of course, won a title with the Celtics in 2008, when he earned NBA Finals MVP honors.
For his career, “The Truth” has averaged 20.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists, while shooting 44.5% from the floor. But his numbers have been on a steady decline since Boston, the team that drafted him 10th overall in 1998, traded him away to start rebuilding.
This past season, Pierce’s first with L.A. after stints with the Nets and Washington, he 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).
“I think I’ve had an illustrious career,” Pierce said in The Players’ Tribune video. “I’m very satisfied with the work that I’ve been able to do over the past 18 years, and I realize that you can’t play forever. You know, this is a young man’s game, and as I get older and not being able to be as efficient and do a lot of the things I do, you know, the signs, you know, they’re there. You can’t reach the goals that you put out there for yourself like you’ve done in the past and it gets harder as you get older and the players get better. And I feel like I have one more opportunity on a great team and something to give on and off the court.”
— Watch Pierce’s entire announcement video below:
Paul Pierce, in his 18 NBA seasons following three years at Kansas, has seen it all in the game of basketball. The 38-year-old forward recently imparted some of his hoops wisdom with a young prep player for a feature on The Players’ Tribune.
Pierce, a contributing editor for the site, met with a high school guard named Oscar Lopez, who plays for a team in Pierce’s “The Truth” AAU program. The two of them broke down video and ran through some drills for a segment called “Scouting Myself.”
Before meeting Lopez for the recurring piece, which in the past has featured NFL players Greg Olsen and Clay Matthews, Pierce explained the origins of his interest in AAU basketball and how his own experiences led to him setting up a program.
“In the AAU circuit, you get to play against all type of players. You know, you’re playing against the best of the best,” Pierce said. “There’s some guys on my AAU team that I still talk to today, because we were able to develop that family atmosphere, and that’s what I want to have in my program.”
In particular, the Los Angeles Clippers forward said he wants to give kids a sense of direction.
“I just want to be somebody who they can come to who has no other agenda for them,” Pierce explained.
After surprising the youngster with a visit, Pierce turned into a coach of sorts, watched some game footage with Lopez and gave him some constructive criticism, while also praising him for his pump fake and balance on a move that led to an open jumper.
The two then went out to the court to work on some drills that Pierce told Lopez would help him in the long run. Among other tips, the veteran recommended the prep take jump shots with a band around his lower legs, forcing him to work on his balance.
The session closed with Pierce providing a pep talk, advising Lopez to focus off the court, as well, with an emphasis on the importance of staying on top of school work and “doing the right things.”
Pierce is reportedly leaning toward returning for a 19th season in the NBA, and has two years remaining on his contract with the Clippers.
— Watch The Players’ Tribune’s entire “Scouting Myself” video with Pierce below:
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
"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
As the NBA showcases five Christmas Day games, Kansas basketball fans looking to mix in some Jayhawks with their holiday festivities will have a chance to catch a glimpse of as many as seven former KU players.
Here’s a rundown of ’Hawks in the NBA taking the court while most of the country takes the day off.
Chicago at Oklahoma City — featuring Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison
If you love veteran role players and stars from Roy Williams’ last years at KU, well, you better send the NBA a thank-you note for this present. Both Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison will get some national air-time Christmas afternoon (1:30, ABC) when Hinrich’s Bulls play at Collison’s Thunder (though most promos for the game probably feature Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook).
Now 34 years old, Hinrich plays a backup role for Chicago (15-11) and averages just 16.2 minutes a game. But this is his 11th season playing for the Bulls, the team that drafted him seventh overall in 2003. As pointed out recently by SI.com, the veteran 6-foot-4 guard now leads the franchise in career 3-pointers (1,040) and ranks third all-time in games played (730). The only Bulls who have played more games for Chicago are Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
Hinrich also sits third all-time in steals (853) and assists (3,779) for Chicago — again, behind Jordan and Pippen — and eighth in points (8,486).
“The young guys, they’re joking all the time, ‘Did you play with Bill Cartwright?’” Hinrich told SI.com.
More of a facilitator and defender these days, Hinrich’s best game of the season so far came in November, when Rose was injured and he played 34 minutes. Hinrich scored 17 points and helped limit reigning MVP Steph Curry to 3-for-11 shooting.
“He’s a guy that goes out and does the little things,” first-year Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He organizes everything on both ends of the floor.”
Hinrich’s old running mate at KU, Collison also plays a limited role (13.6 minutes) as a 35-year-old substitute big man for one of the NBA’s premier teams. And like Hinrich, the 6-10 forward ranks pretty high on some of Oklahoma City’s all-time lists.
Drafted by Seattle before the franchise relocated to OKC, Collison is third in games played (841), behind Fred Brown and Gary Payton. He ranks third in offensive rebounds (1,709) and total rebounds (4,566), behind Jack Sikma and Shawn Kemp. Collison also is third in field-goal percentage (.534), sixth in blocks (459) and ninth in minutes played (18,042).
As much of a mentor as a statistical contributor, Collison helps the Thunder (20-9) on and off the floor. He leads by example by defending, rebounding and taking charges.
And he’s helped 22-year-old protégé Steven Adams develop the Thunder’s pick-and-roll into a legitimate weapon.
“The teams that are really hard to guard in this league are the ones where you have a big threat rolling down the middle and you’re really put in a bind,” Collison told Oklahoma City’s website. “We’re trying to get in those situations on the offensive end as much as possible.”
Cleveland at Golden State — featuring Sasha Kaun and Brandon Rush
An NBA Finals rematch? How about the first ever professional meeting between Cleveland’s Sasha Kaun and Golden State’s Brandon Rush (4 p.m., ABC) — teammates on KU’s 2008 national championship team.
A member of the nearly unbeatable defending champion Warriors (27-1), Rush has played more this year (14.9 minutes, 5.2 points) than he has since the 2011-12 season. Golden State made the 30-year-old forward a starter when Harrison Barnes injured his ankle and became unavailable.
“I’ve been waiting for this opportunity to show that I can still shoot the ball and can still play at a high level,” Rush told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I feel so much better than I did last year — with my shot and just being able to move around the court.”
Rush’s best game to date came against Sacramento, when he nailed 4 of 5 from 3-point range and scored 16 points. In December, he is averaging 6.8 points and hitting 50 percent of his 3-pointers (14 of 28).
A major knee injury in 2012 derailed Rush’s career a bit, but now he finally appears to be back on track.
“It’s been up and down, especially these past two or three years,” Rush told the San Francisco Chronicle. “But now, everything is looking up. Things can’t get any better. I’m shooting the ball well, we’re the best team in the league, and we’re on the verge of trying to get another championship. I’m definitely in a great place right now.”
Kaun landed in a pretty good situation to start his NBA career. Cleveland, home of superstar LeBron James, is 19-7 and the prohibitive favorite in the Eastern Conference to return to the NBA Finals.
The Cavs don’t exactly need Kaun, a 30-year-old, 6-11 center that much, though. After spending most of his professional career overseas, Kaun has played in just seven games in his rookie season, with eight total points in those cameos (4.4 minutes).
"But, you know, his game is very simplistic,” Cavs coach David Blatt told Northeast Ohio Media Group before the season began, “so it's not like he has to do a lot of things that would require him to adjust. He just has to get used to the size and the length of the guys and the speed of the game."
L.A. Clippers at L.A. Lakers — featuring Paul Pierce, Cole Aldrich and Tarik Black
This NBA nightcap in Los Angeles (9:30 p.m., ESPN) seems like it would provide the most bang for a KU fan’s buck, with three Jayhawks in the mix.
But even longtime NBA star Paul Pierce isn’t expected to participate all that much. The 38-year-old forward sat out the Clippers’ previous game to rest his sore back, and coach Doc Rivers said his veteran forward will be limited in the battle of Los Angeles.
Pierce has played less for his new team of late, averaging only 10.8 minutes and 3.0 points in December (16.3 minutes, 4.1 points on the season).
On the other hand, another Jayhawk this week suddenly found himself in a more active role.
Reserve center Cole Aldrich, after not registering a single minute in 11 straight games, has played in each of the Clippers’ last two games and even played in the fourth quarter of a one-point loss to Oklahoma City earlier this week. Aldrich finished with five points, four rebounds and two blocks in 14 minutes.
"I think that was a prime example of being a star in your role and not trying to reach outside of that," Blake Griffin told the Los Angeles Times. “(Aldrich) just did what we need him to do and that's huge."
Rivers told the L.A. Times he turned to Aldrich to give the Clippers (16-13) an energetic boost. That’s what the 27-year-old did, playing in just his seventh game of the season (1.7 points, 2.1 rebounds in 5.3 minutes).
"If we play this way the rest of the year, we're going to win a lot of games," Aldrich told the L.A. Times. "We played with a lot of heart and a lot of enthusiasm and it was fun out there."
Meanwhile, the struggling Lakers (5-24) could use a similar spark from second-year big man Tarik Black. The 6-foot-9 center hasn’t played for the purple and gold since Nov. 24, but just got called back up from the team’s D-League affiliate on Wednesday.
Black put up 25 points and 14 rebounds in his final appearance with the D-Fenders. The 24-year-old big averaged 18.5 points and 11.8 rebounds in a four-game D-League stint, coming off an ankle injury.
Lakers coach Bryron Scott didn’t play Black Wednesday, while utilizing three other big men off the bench in a 35-point loss to the Thunder. So there is no guarantee Black will see the floor versus the Clippers.
— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com
During the past few days, players for the NBA’s 30 franchises posed for photos, answered questions and took in media day festivities with varying degrees of seriousness.
That means it’s time to get the old ’Hawks in the NBA blog up and firing again. At this moment 19 former Kansas players draw paychecks in The Association, and they all — well, almost all of them — had their moments in the spotlight at media days.
From rookies just getting started, to veterans joining new teams to role players fitting in, here are some of the KU-related social media highlights from around the league.
COLE ALDRICH, L.A. CLIPPERS
CLIFF ALEXANDER, PORTLAND
DARRELL ARTHUR, DENVER
TARIK BLACK, L.A. LAKERS
MARIO CHALMERS, MIAMI
In case you were wondering, “Spo” is Miami coach Erik Spoelstra, and Chalmers’ “new role” will be him coming off the bench.
NICK COLLISON, OKLAHOMA CITY
JOEL EMBIID, PHILADELPHIA
If you were curious about how Joel Embiid is handling his ongoing injury and rehab process, you’re not alone.
Appropriately enough, the injured-for-another-entire-season Embiid wasn’t a part of the 76ers’ media day, according to The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey.
Presumably, he’ll attend a media day and play in the NBA one of these years.
Embiid’s last known whereabouts? Going to see the Pope.
DREW GOODEN, WASHINGTON
Before looking for Drew Gooden content, I thought, What’s that maniac up to?
Well, he’s up to this:
That dude has to be a blast to cover. Rarely not entertaining.
KIRK HINRICH, CHICAGO
BEN MCLEMORE, SACRAMENTO
MARCUS MORRIS, DETROIT
The Pistons’ Twitter account did a tweet Q&A with a number of Detroit players Monday, but apparently Marcus bounced before they could get one rolling with him.
As a side note, ESPN’s NBA folks ranked Marcus Morris as the 191st-best player in the league. So there’s that.
MARKIEFF MORRIS, PHOENIX
By far the biggest ’Hawks in the NBA news to come out of media days was presumably disgruntled forward Markieff Morris putting on a happy face and stating he wants to be in Phoenix.
That’s not what he was saying back in August, when he told The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey: “One thing for sure, I am not going to be there.”
At the time at least, Markieff was hot and bothered about Phoenix shipping his twin brother and roommate Marcus off to the Pistons. He still might be a little sour with Suns general manager Ryan McDonough about that transaction.
SASHA KAUN, CLEVELAND
Sasha Kaun is Russian. Timofey Mozgov is Russion. Hijinks ensued.
KELLY OUBRE JR., WASHINGTON
Looks like Kelly Oubre Jr. loosened up and got comfortable at the Wizards’ media day.
PAUL PIERCE, L.A. CLIPPERS
THOMAS ROBINSON, BROOKLYN
BRANDON RUSH, GOLDEN STATE
Yes, Brandon Rush won an NBA championship with the Warriors. But, no, there isn’t a lot of media interest in him out in Oakland.
Upon posting this blog, Rush hadn't appeared in any Golden State tweets — or, really, anywhere else in the Twitterverse.
ANDREW WIGGINS, MINNESOTA
Unlike Marcus Morris, the 2014-15 Rookie of the Year was able to answer a few questions on Twitter.
JEFF WITHEY, UTAH
With 17 NBA seasons, 1,250 regular-season games and 158 playoff contests in his rear-view mirror, veteran Paul Pierce only had one thing in mind when he hit free agency this summer: getting back to the NBA Finals.
Pierce, Boston’s 2008 Finals MVP, reunited with former Celtics coach Doc Rivers and made his first public appearance as a member of the Los Angeles Clippers at a Tuesday press conference in L.A.
“This is probably the last ride of my career,” said Pierce, a first-team All-American at Kansas in 1998. “I think this is where I’m going to end it, so I’m going to go all in. And if we can win a championship here for the Clippers, this will be everything for me.”
At 37 (Pierce will turn 38 before the season begins), “The Truth” realizes he only has so much basketball left in those legs — even if his new contact is for three years and reportedly $10 million.
“I see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said the aging small forward, who opted out of his contract with Washington to head west. “I want another opportunity to win a championship. I thought just being here would be a great fit.”
Pierce was only one of seven Clippers players at the Q & A. While the 10-time all-star and almost-Maverick DeAndre Jordan dominated the press conference, L.A.’s new backup center Cole Aldrich got a little mic time, too.
The former KU big man spent his fourth and fifth seasons with the Knicks, a team that had the Eastern Conference’s worst record (17-65) in 2014-15.
“You know, going from New York last year, where we struggled, to being on a contending team, it's going to be awesome,” the 6-foot-11 Aldrich said. “You've got a bunch of guys that are going to come in every day and work hard and have fun doing it. And that's the biggest thing is we're a family.”
Joining the Clippers has to feel even more like home for Pierce, and not just because he grew up in nearby Inglewood, California.
“I played with Doc longer than any coach I ever played for in my career,” Pierce said, referencing their nine seasons together in Boston. “Definitely comfortable being around him, being with him. So that really helps out, especially when you go into a new situation, being around things you’re comfortable with.”
Content to play either as a small forward or an undersized stretch-power forward (as he did for the Wizards in the playoffs) with L.A., Pierce anticipates Rivers limiting his minutes throughout the season and even keeping him out of some games in order to keep the team’s elder statesmen feeling a little younger when the postseason comes.
The NBA’s fifth-leading active scorer (25,899 career points) knows the Clippers don’t need him to be an offensive focal point, considering L.A. has all-stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, and Jordan serving as its big three. Pierce simply wants to be a veteran voice in the locker room and do whatever Rivers asks of him.
“I feel I can just be that,” Pierce said. “Kind of like a glue guy.”
That might be just what the Clippers need, after falling apart in the second round of the Western Conference Playoffs, despite a 3-1 lead over Houston (and a sizable second-half lead in a closeout Game 6). Pierce told NBA.com’s Ian Thomsen he watched that collapse closely, because he knew at the time he would either be playing for L.A. or D.C. next season.
"No way — if I was in that locker room — I would have allowed that to happen,'' Pierce said. "You picture yourself being that voice or being that guy on the court that can help in those situations. I think I fill a pretty big need for them.''
The Clippers have never even reached a conference final, let alone the NBA Finals. But with Paul, Griffin, Jordan, J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford, Lance Stephenson and L.A.’s other role players, Pierce thinks his new team has all the pieces it needs.
"There are five or six teams that can win it all,” Pierce said, “and it boils down to how you come together and whoever is the healthiest.''
— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.
When the clock strikes midnight and June turns to July, NBA free agent season officially begins.
With the 2015 draft out of the way, teams can begin attempting to plug the last — or many — holes on their rosters by offering millions of dollars to the players whose previous contracts just expired.
While national attention turns to the rumors and meetings surrounding LaMarcus Aldridge, Kevin Loves and other marquee names, the coming days and weeks will determine the professional futures of some former Kansas stars, too.
Here is a look at seven Jayhawks in play as free agency begins.
Paul Pierce | Washington | F | age: 37
Pierce might be on his fourth team in four seasons by the time the summer signing frenzy finishes. Now a 17-year league veteran, the former Boston Celtic and one-year Brooklyn Net surprised many last summer by signing on with Washington.
Though the Wizards, who made it to the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs as Pierce averaged 14.6 points and 4.2 rebounds this past spring, didn’t expect him to opt out of his deal this summer, the veteran forward decided to give himself some options as he nears retirement.
While D.C. remains a legit candidate to re-sign him, the Los Angeles Clippers and Boston both are reportedly interested in adding the 2008 NBA Finals MVP, who won a title with the Celtics, while playing for now-Clippers coach Doc Rivers.
In a piece from The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg, Wizards coach Randy Wittman remained positive about keeping Pierce in the fold.
“End-of-the-year meetings, talking to him here after the season, I think he was really pleased with the situation that he walked into here, what he was able to help with this team, the future of this team and where we’re headed,” the coach said. “I think those are all great positives. I feel very positive that we’re going to be able to have him back in the fold next year.”
Yahoo’s Kelly Dwyer, however, thinks Pierce will chase another title with Rivers, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the Clippers.
Thomas Robinson | Philadelphia | PF | age: 24
Three years removed from Sacramento taking him with the fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Robinson likely will join his fifth NBA franchise this summer. The athletic, raw 24-year-old post player experienced a crazy couple days in February, when Portland traded him to Denver, the Nuggets promptly waived him, Brooklyn planned to sign him and Philadelphia snagged him off waivers before he could become an in-season free agent.
The New York Post’s Tim Bontemps reported Brooklyn, who planned to sign Robinson if he cleared waivers, will target him in free agency.
“He could provide energy and rebounding as a low-cost reserve big, an area where the Nets could use help,” Bontemps wrote.
The decision is all Robinson’s, though. Other suitors could emerge, and he’ll likely take the deal that is best for his financial future.
Upon landing with the 76ers, Robinson averaged 8.8 points and 7.7 rebounds in 18.5 minutes a game.
Cole Aldrich | New York | C | age: 26
While the Knicks figure to actively recruit some bigger available names, Newsday reports Aldrich is one of the Knicks’ own free agents who is likely to return.
Aldrich told the Journal-World a couple weeks ago he didn’t yet know what kind of deals would come his way.
“It’s just nice to get out there again,” he said. “It’s another summer to get better, and that’s all that matters.”
As a young, inexpensive big man coming off a career year (5.5 points and 5.5 rebounds), Aldrich shouldn’t have any trouble finding steady work.
Darrell Arthur | Denver | PF | age: 27
A 6-foot-9 backup big man, Arthur won’t create a lot of buzz, but The Washington Post’s Neil Greenberg put the former KU standout on his list of “sleeper” free agents. Some advanced stats, cited by The Post, reveal Arthur’s worth:
“The Denver Nuggets were 9.6 points per 100 possessions better defensively this season with Arthur in the lineup,” Greenberg wrote, “ and he held opponents to 0.9 points per play when he was called on to defend in the post.”
CBSSports.com’s Matt Moore ranked Arthur as the 37th-best available free agent, ahead of Pierce (40th).
Drew Gooden | Washington | PF | age: 33
Gooden has stuck around the league for 13 seasons, so he must be doing something right. The veteran big man reinvented his game to remain relevant and served Washington this past season as a stretch power forward.
Gooden averaged 6.8 points and 5.5 rebounds in the Wizards’ playoff run. According to The Washington Post’s Jorge Castillo, Gooden had a “we’ll see what happens” approach to his free agency.
“I feel like I was a component to help get to where we at right now,” Gooden said. “… Whether I am here or somewhere else, I will continue to get better and fill this role I have taken with the Wizards. I would love for it to be here but if it is not, this is a business and I can swallow that pill, too.”
Jeff Withey | New Orleans | C | age: 25
The Pelicans haven’t used Withey much (9.9 career minutes per game) in his two seasons of service, but that doesn’t mean they want to dump him in the offseason.
The Advocate reported New Orleans would extend a one-year, qualifying offer to Withey, a restricted free agent. If Withey doesn’t find an offer from another franchise for more money, the Pelicans will keep him for next season and he’ll become a true free agent — unrestricted — in 2016. They can retain him for $1.1 million next season in that scenario, or match any offer another team comes up with for the seldom used backup center (2.6 points and 1.7 rebounds in 7.0 minutes this past season).
Xavier Henry | L.A. Lakers | G/F | age: 24
Actually, Henry has been a free agent since last December. After a breakout fourth season in 2013-14 (10 points per game), the young swingman ruptured left achilles this past November, cutting his fifth season short. The Lakers then cut Henry in order to sign another former KU player, Tarik Black.
Henry’s history of injury problems might scare away some organizations, and no one will sign him until he’s back healthy and cleared by a team’s medical personnel. If he can get back healthy, though, and recapture the kind of play he displayed almost two years ago, Henry could emerge as a wild card addition that no one is mentioning at this juncture. Considering all the variables, the offseason uncertainty figures to stretch on for months for Henry.
— Keep up with the production of all the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.