Posts tagged with Sacramento Kings

Ben McLemore shows improvement in Year 2, and stands out in community

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, left, stuffs as Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce, right, looks on during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Sunday, March 22, 2015. The Kings won 109-86. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, left, stuffs as Washington Wizards forward Paul Pierce, right, looks on during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Sunday, March 22, 2015. The Kings won 109-86. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

It can’t be easy playing for the Sacramento Kings right now.

An afterthought of an NBA franchise since the early 2000’s and the glory days of Chris Webber and Mike Bibby, the Kings haven’t reached the playoffs since 2006. They went through another lackluster season (29-53) in 2014-15, marred by an organization-inflicted coaching carousel that forced the players to take the floor under three different leaders: Mike Malone (fired), interim Tyrone Corbin and late-season hire George Karl.

Amid all that, somehow, second-year shooting guard Ben McLemore found ways to improve.

The Kansas product mostly struggled through his rookie campaign, but looked more comfortable in Year 2. McLemore again played in all 82 games for the Kings, but unlike the previous season, when his role changed a few times, the 22-year-old high-flyer started every game.

Accordingly, the 6-foot-5 guard showed improvements in his shooting percentages and scoring.

Ben McLemore
statistical comparison
G GS Mins. Pts FG% 3% FT% Rebs. Asts. Stls. TOs
Rookie (2013-14) 82 55 26.7 8.8 37.6% 32% 80.4% 2.9 1.0 0.5 1.2
Sophomore (2014-15) 82 82 32.6 12.1 43.7% 35.8% 81.3% 2.9 1.7 0.9 1.7

Perhaps the best news for McLemore? He finished the season in impressive fashion.

His April included 20-point performances against Utah, Oklahoma City and Denver, and he put up 24 points in Sacramento’s season finale, vs. the Los Angeles Lakers.

In his final nine games of the season — under the team’s presumably longterm coach, Karl — McLemore trended upward, averaging 16.2 points, 3.6 boards, 3.1 assists, 2.2 turnovers and 1.8 steals in 33.5 minutes. In April, he made 49.1% of his field goal attempts and 35.4% of his 3-pointers.

Karl has gone on record as saying no one on the team is untradeable, but if McLemore keeps showing new wrinkles, progress and improves defensively, he could be the kind of piece the Kings want to keep around for the long haul.

Just as impressive as his improvement on the court, though, have been his contributions to the people of Sacramento. The Kings named him the winner of their Oscar Robertson Triple-Double Award, given to the player who “exemplifies excellence on the court and in the community.”

Since joining the ranks of the best basketball players on the planet, McLemore has helped out not only in his NBA city, but also in his hometown of Wellston, Missouri.

“When I was growing up, my family didn’t have much, so it’s always been extremely important for me to give back and help wherever and whenever I can,” McLemore told the Kings’ website. “I cherish the opportunity to be a role model for young kids and to give back to Sacramento and the community in which I grew up in Missouri. I’m honored to receive this recognition named for an NBA legend and great humanitarian.”

McLemore also became one of the finalists for the league-wide Community Assist Award.

His nonprofit organization, All 4 Kids, provides meals for underserved and low-income youth and families in Wellston and surrounding communities.

Things weren’t easy for McLemore growing up, and it’s obvious he hasn’t forgotten that.

“Now it’s our time to provide for those who dream bold, too,” the young guard said.


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


Reply

Thomas Robinson subject of trade rumor with deadline approaching; and would Kings move Ben McLemore?

Portland Trail Blazers forward Thomas Robinson (41) grabs a rebound from the Oklahoma City Thunder during the fourth quarter of a NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014. Portland won 115-111. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

Portland Trail Blazers forward Thomas Robinson (41) grabs a rebound from the Oklahoma City Thunder during the fourth quarter of a NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014. Portland won 115-111. (AP Photo/Alonzo Adams)

Believe it or not, sometimes life in the NBA isn’t easy. Especially if you’re a valuable asset when the league’s trade deadline approaches.

Just ask Washington’s journeyman power forward, Drew Gooden. Actually, BleacherReport.com did, given that the former Grizzly/Magic/Cavalier/Bull/King/Spur/Maverick/Clipper/Buck has played for 10 franchises and been traded on six separate occasions.

“I would say, where I’m at in my career, after numerous times going through a trade or the time or the window before a trade, I’m kind of numb to the feeling,” Gooden told Bleacher Report. “I know it’s a business, and I learned it early in my career. I wasn’t a guy who got drafted and stayed with his team for five, six, seven years and then got traded. I was a guy who played half a season in Memphis and got traded 50 games into the season.”

In his third go-round as a pro, Thomas Robinson hasn’t experienced all that Gooden has, but he can certainly relate. Drafted by Sacramento, traded to Houston as a rookie, then moved again to Portland before the start of his second year, Robinson could once again be on the move.

Robinson has turned in some positive moments in a Trail Blazers uniform this season, including a double-double in his first career start. For the most part, though, he has not been a factor or become a significant part of the rotation on a talented roster — Portland entered the All-Star break with a 36-17 record, good enough to tie Houston for the third-best mark in the volatile Western Conference.

The 6-foot-10 power forward from Kansas only has played in 32 of 53 games and averages 3.6 points (a career low) and 4.2 rebounds while hitting 51.6% of his shots in 12.2 minutes a game this season. He has DNP’s in three of the last five games.

Portland elected even before the season began to let him become a free agent this coming summer. So, as we wrote about before the season began, another Robinson trade long has been in play.

Now, with Thursday afternoon’s trade deadline getting closer by the second, the rumor mill churns away at a fevered pace, and Robinson’s name has emerged. Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports the Trail Blazers offered the athletic backup big to Denver in an attempt to land Wilson Chandler.

“Portland has shown a stronger desire to make a deal with Denver for Wilson Chandler than Arron Afflalo,” Wojnarowski wrote, “partly because Chandler is under contract next season. The Blazers have made Will Barton and Thomas Robinson, as well as a future first-rounder, available in talks for wing players, but clearly would be more motivated to sweeten a package for Chandler than Afflalo, league sources said.”

Whether Robinson ends up in Denver or elsewhere, don’t be too surprised if he has a new NBA home by Thursday night.

Keep in mind: just because some other deal hasn't been rumored doesn't mean there isn't one, and some other trade package could materialize in the next few hours. You never know.

As a free-agent-to-be, another uniform change could be just around the corner for Robinson anyway.

Would the Kings move McLemore?

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, left, goes up for a dunk over Golden State Warriors forward David Lee during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015. The Warriors won 121-96. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, left, goes up for a dunk over Golden State Warriors forward David Lee during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015. The Warriors won 121-96. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Speaking of young KU products with crazy bounce, Ben McLemore, in his second season with Sacramento, is averaging 11.7 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists, and making 44.4% of his field goals, 36.2% of his 3-pointers and 83.7% of his free throws.

The Kings — one of the league’s worst teams, at 18-34 — wouldn’t possibly consider moving a a 22-year-old shooting guard with upside would they?

ESPN insider Chad Ford conducted an online chat Wednesday and came up with a scenario that could entice the Sacramento brass.

The name Goran Dragic swirls prominently in the trade winds these days, and the Phoenix point guard has made it plenty clear he wants out. Dragic reportedly wants to play for the Lakers, Knicks or Heat, presumably because he’d like to sign with one of those teams as a free agent this summer. But Ford could see Phoenix moving him within the Pacific Division for the right pieces in return:

“The Kings are the team I like best as far as fit goes. And if the Suns could get Ben McLemore or Nik Stauskas and a future No. 1 ... I think that would be a great deal for both sides,” Ford wrote.

This doesn’t even really qualify as a rumor, just speculation. However, Wojnarowski thinks Sacramento could be a serious contender to land Dragic. So stay tuned.

None by Adrian Wojnarowski

A McLemore trade would be devastating news for the Kings’ television analyst, who would no longer be able to offer up such gems as:

“Ben McLemore. How ‘bout Ben SplashLemore right there?”

The most interesting part of a McLemore-to-Phoenix move, of course, would be the Suns having him and the Morris twins.

According to veteran trade piece Gooden, it’s best to keep your phone handy near the deadline.

None by NBA Bulletin

“Usually it’s a phone call from the GM. It’s a phone call from the agent. It’s a phone call from someone in our organization,” Gooden told Bleacher Report.

“I’ve been hearing some horror stories—which, thank God, never happened to me—about guys being in the airport, and they look at the ticker at the bottom of the screen and they see their name in a trade. There’s never a right way to tell somebody that they’ve been traded. Every place that I was at, I wanted to be there.”


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


Reply

Time for Ben McLemore to shine

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, center, drives to the basket between Toronto Raptors Amir Johnson, left, and Jonas Valanciunas, of Lithuania, during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014. The Raptors won 117-109. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, center, drives to the basket between Toronto Raptors Amir Johnson, left, and Jonas Valanciunas, of Lithuania, during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014. The Raptors won 117-109. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Rarely does the NBA spotlight shine toward small-market Sacramento. Right now, it’s pointed to the home of the Kings for all the wrong reasons.

What better time for second-year shooting guard Ben McLemore to help turn a negative into a positive?

Sacramento’s front office has been pummeled with scrutiny the past couple of days, and rightfully so. The Kings (11-13) fired their head coach, Michael Malone, Sunday night, with the team having lost seven of nine games. Keep in mind, Sacramento’s franchise player, center DeMarcus Cousins, missed each one of those with viral meningitis.

It’s a raw deal for Malone, for sure, and multiple reports indicate the move was more about a difference in philosophies between the coach and the front office, which used the skid as an excuse to give the coach the axe.

The Kings will play their first game since the dismissal Tuesday night against Oklahoma City — 9:30 Central tip, on ESPN. So McLemore and his teammates have a chance to shift the focus toward the promise this team has going forward under interim coach Tyrone Corbin, with Cousins reportedly returning later this week.

The franchise’s decision-makers might act a tad wacky from time to time (Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported owner Vivek Ranadive wants to employ a cherry-picking strategy). But the decision-makers at least have shown patience with McLemore, who didn’t assimilate too quickly his rookie season.

The former Kansas standout has made strides as a sophomore, thus far avoiding any serious slump, with the most promising evidence for improvement showing up in his shooting percentages.

BEN McLEMORE —
YEAR 1 VS YEAR 2
minutes
per game
fg
%
3-pt
%
FT
%
rebounds
per game
points
per game
2013-14 (82 games) 26.7 .376 .32 .804 2.9 8.8
2014-15 (through 24 games) 32.7 .468 .412 .821 3.1

Bleacher Report’s Sim Risso detailed McLemore’s development in a feature, and the 21-year-old said much of it has to do with confidence.

"I’ve just continued to believe in my shot and believe in my game. My teammates are doing a good job with that. My coaches have been running early plays for me and getting me going early."

As Risso points out, McLemore’s usage percentage has gone up with Cousins out of the lineup. The athletic second-year guard with the smooth shooting touch (42-of-102 from 3-point range) said Cousins did a good job of finding him for open looks, and Rudy Gay and Darren Collison continue to do the same.

McLemore is averaging 13 points a game in December, and scored 21 against Houston on TNT last week.

The Kings looked like a surprising playoff contender in the treacherous Western Conference before Cousins’ illness. We’ll see if McLemore and his teammates can rally around this shakeup and get back in the mix.

They enter Tuesday’s game tied for 10th place in the West with their opponent, OKC.

On a much lighter note, McLemore had a productive day off Monday. He took a group of Sacramento kids out shopping for holiday presents.

None by Ben McLemore

None by Ben McLemore

None by Ben McLemore

There’s proof: Not everything is negative in Sacramento.


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


Reply

2014-15 season outlook: Ben McLemore

Hunker down, get hydrated and tell your loved ones you will see them next spring.

Hopefully that’s not your mindset, but people should be warned: The at times seemingly never-ending NBA regular season is at hand.

The first handful of games tip off Tuesday, marking the start of the 82-game grind.

Thankfully for us, all we have to do is sit back, watch and enjoy. To make sure you’re fully prepared for the 2014-15 campaign, we’ll be rolling out a season outlook for each former Kansas University player who currently calls The Association home.

Ben McLemore — Sacramento Kings

6-foot-5 Shooting guard | Second season

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, right, drives to the basket against Toronto Raptors forward Tyler Hansbrough, left, during the fourth quarter of an NBA preseason basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014. The Kings won 113-106. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, right, drives to the basket against Toronto Raptors forward Tyler Hansbrough, left, during the fourth quarter of an NBA preseason basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014. The Kings won 113-106. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

2013-14 numbers: 82 games | 26.7 minutes | 8.8 points | 2.9 rebounds | 37.6 FG% | 32 3-pt% | 80.4 FT%

Coming off a rookie season that had both memorable moments (see: a Western Conference Rookie of the Month Award; dunking over Shaquille O’Neal at All-Star Weekend) and forgettable ones (exhibit A: shooting slumps; exhibit B: temporarily losing his starting spot), Ben McLemore enters Year 2 of his career riding some positive momentum.

• (For whatever it’s worth) The young 2-guard helped Sacramento win the Las Vegas Sumer League tournament.

• He shed the No. 16 Kings jersey he wore during his first year for the more familiar No. 23.

None by Ben McLemore

• The Kings picked up their team option on his contract for the 2015-16 season.

• McLemore got to travel to China with his team for bonding and shenanigans.

None by Ben McLemore

• He provided at least one example of his improved shot, nailing 3-of-4 from downtown and scoring a preseason-high 22 points versus Brooklyn on Oct. 15.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fC5t2h2OFYY

• For the love of all things holy, the guy had a street named after him.

None by Ben McLemore

So, yeah, McLemore is happy about all of those things, and earning a spot as Sacramento’s starting shooting guard — even if that means he’ll have to battle rookie Nik Stauskas for those minutes.

Really, the worst thing he has endured lately was a brutal head-to-head collision with Wayne Ellington in a preseason game a few days ago.

None by Silver Screen & Roll

But he has been cleared to lay in Sacramento’s season opener Wednesday against Golden State.

Now the youngster known for his crazy hops and sweet-looking (if not yet totally effective) stroke can make more plays off the dribble, and he has freedom and confidence to shoot at will when he’s open.

“This summer I worked really hard on the different aspects of my game,” McLemore recently told reporters.

If McLemore has indeed made the kind of jump from freshman to sophomore year Sacramento envisions, he should be the team’s best guard — or at least the Kings' top scoring option in the backcourt, where he teams with Darren Collison, Stauskas, Ramon Sessions and Ray McCallum.

With small forward Rudy Gay and big man DeMarcus Cousins in the frontcourt, the Kings have talented pieces. But… They play in the Western Conference. Last season the Kings (28-54) finished with a better record than just the L.A. Lakers and Utah out West.

Even if the team improves on the court, it might be difficult to claw out of that cellar. The West is just loaded. And a Sactown playoffs appearance sounds like fan fiction.

So what do we expect out of McLemore for the 2014-15 season?

Cameos in the nightly highlight reels with explosive dunks and some hot shooting nights. More importantly, McLemore figures to develop and become more well rounded and effective at the pro level.

While Sacramento should again struggle, this season could go a long way toward determining just how well the rest of McLemore’s career goes.


’Hawks in the NBA 2014-15 season outlooks:

• Cole Aldrich — Knicks

Darrell Arthur — Nuggets

Tarik Black — Rockets

Mario Chalmers — Heat

Nick Collison — Thunder

Joel Embiid — 76ers

Drew Gooden — Wizards

Xavier Henry — Lakers

Kirk Hinrich — Bulls


Follow @BentonASmith on Twitter

Reply

‘Boogie’ backs Ben McLemore, expects progress

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (16) drives the the basket against Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio (9) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., on Sunday, April 13, 2014. The Kings won 106-103.(AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (16) drives the the basket against Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio (9) during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., on Sunday, April 13, 2014. The Kings won 106-103.(AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

No NBA rookie comes into the league and figures everything out in the span of 82 games. But some assimilate faster than others.

Kansas University lottery picks Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid will find that out soon enough. For proof, they could just examine the still young career of another Jayhawk.

Sacramento shooting guard Ben McLemore — coming off a somewhat disappointing debut season (8.8 points, 37.6-percent shooting) — hopes the Las Vegas Summer League will serve as his springboard to Year 2.

A look at McLemore's shot chart from his rookie season reveals there were really only a handful of spots the Kings would want him shooting from — either corner for three-pointers and inside the arc on the left wing.

Ben McLemore's shot performance from his rookie season with Sacramento. Green = FG% above league average; yellow = comparable to league average; red = below league average. (Via NBA.com/stats)

Ben McLemore's shot performance from his rookie season with Sacramento. Green = FG% above league average; yellow = comparable to league average; red = below league average. (Via NBA.com/stats)

Just about every other spot on the floor yielded little returns for the first-year guard out of KU.

After two games in Las Vegas, though, McLemore had converted just six of his 18 shots.

In the Kings' third Vegas game, Monday against the D-League Select team, McLemore finally found his stroke. The athletic young guard went 7-for-10 from the floor, 3-for-4 from the foul line, made one of his two three-pointers and finished with 18 points and six rebounds.

"My first two games, I was just too anxious," McLemore said in a video interview posted by News10, in Sacramento. "You know, not letting the game try to come to me and not playing my game."

His next time out? Even better.

None by Jason Jones

McLemore led the Kings with 22 points Thursday in a win against Minnesota, knocking down 7 of 11 shots — including 2 of 4 from three-point land — while converting all six of his free throws, dishing four assists and grabbing six boards.

He knows the kinks need to be addressed now if he wants to help keep Sacramento afloat in the highly competitive Western Conference during the regular season.

The Kings' star forward, DeMarcus "Boogie" Cousins, told ESPN's Bill Simmons he has faith in the 21-year-old shooting guard.

On an episode of his podcast, the B.S. Report, Simmons asked Cousins about "what's up" with McLemore after his "typical rookie" season. Cousins quickly spoke up for his teammate.

"He's gonna be an incredible player. He's just gotta keep growing," Cousins said.

Simmons suggested there weren't a lot of shots to go around in Sacramento last season for role players such as McLemore — what with Boogie, Rudy Gay and Isaiah Thomas all averaging 20-plus points on the season — and Cousins agreed. But the Kings let point guard Thomas sign with Phoenix this summer and replaced him by picking up Darren Collison. So McLemore could have more opportunities in his second year — if rookie Nik Stauskas, from Michigan, doesn't beat him out for a spot in the starting lineup.

"That's like my little brother," Cousins said of the incumbent. "One thing about Ben, he works his tail off. With that alone, he's gonna be fine. I believe he'll have a better season this year."

The Sacramento big man predicted the Kings (28-54 in 2013-14) would break through and make the playoffs next season.

Simmons' response?

"You need your little brother, McLemore, to step up."


— Follow @BentonASmith on Twitter.

Reply

Collison’s decade of dirty work makes him indispensable in OKC

All the NBA talk around Lawrence the past few days has centered on Kansas University freshmen and their decisions — Andrew Wiggins is officially entering the draft, and everyone is waiting to hear if Joel Embiid will do the same.

This time next year, we might be debating whether Wiggins or Embiid deserve to win the NBA's Rookie of the Year.

But for now, with the 2013-14 NBA season winding down, we'll check in with a couple of veterans and a current rookie.


Mr. Reliable

Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol fights for a loose ball against Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Nick Collison during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, March 9, 2014. The Lakers won 114-110. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol fights for a loose ball against Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Nick Collison during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Sunday, March 9, 2014. The Lakers won 114-110. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

When your career averages are 6.6 points and 5.7 rebounds, you have to be doing something right to stick around in the NBA for a decade.

For 10th-year power forward Nick Collison — selected 12th overall by the Seattle Supersonics in the loaded 2003 draft —becoming the ultimate role player enticed the franchise that picked him (Seattle relocated to Oklahoma City and changed its name to the Thunder following the 2007-08 season) to keep him around.

As Darnell Mayberry points out in his profile on Collison for The Oklahoman, the veteran out of Kansas is one of those rare NBA players who have spent the past 10 seasons with the same franchise.

FYI, some of those other names are: Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade.

Collison told Mayberry:

“I know it’s really rare for somebody to be able to stick that long. And now, to be successful at the end part of it, too, to build up to being a really good team at the end, that’s how I would want it to go.”

The reliable backup big man averages just 4.2 points and 3.7 rebounds in 17.0 minutes a game for OKC (54-19), but general manager Sam Presti calls him a "founding member" of the Thunder, along with superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

“He represents the type of player that we want to ultimately have our organization embody,” Presti told Mayberry.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGS-0iCOxfo

Between charges, screens, hustle plays, easy second-chance buckets, and defensive stops, you can see why the Thunder have kept Collison around.

And why he has become a fan favorite. Here's what Collison said to Mayberry on that subject:

“I feel like they really appreciate what I do, and I know that’s rare for a player like me. A role player like me who averages four (points) and four (rebounds) or whatever it is, no one really thinks twice about him. But I know that I have kind of a special place here. So I really appreciate that.”

The Thunder currently hold the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference and are one of the favorites to win the 2014 NBA title.


Finishing strong

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (16) shoots between Oklahoma City Thunder guard Derek Fisher (6) and guard Jeremy Lamb (11) during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Friday, March 28, 2014. Oklahoma City won 94-81. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (16) shoots between Oklahoma City Thunder guard Derek Fisher (6) and guard Jeremy Lamb (11) during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Friday, March 28, 2014. Oklahoma City won 94-81. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

It would be a stretch to say Ben McLemore's rookie season in Sacramento has been a complete success.

Even though the Kings have shown their commitment to the young guard, he hasn't separated himself as one of the league's very best first-year players.

Still, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee wrote that the youngster out of Kansas is settling in to his position as the Kings' starting shooting guard.

Sacramento spent the opening months of the season bringing the rookie along slowly, but McLemore told Jones his confidence began to grow after the franchise dealt starter Marcus Thornton, opening a spot in the starting rotation for the former Jayhawk.

“It’s an opportunity for me. Why not take it? That’s what I did, and I just want to keep doing that. I’m not finished. I just want to keep working and finish this season out strong and in the offseason work on my weaknesses.”

The best news for McLemore and Sacramento? He is starting to take his game to another level in the closing weeks of the season.

In his previous 10 games, the rook with huge upside averaged 11.8 points, while hitting 40.9% of his shots and 33.3% of his 3-pointers. Those numbers get even better in his past five outings: 14.6 points, 41.3% field goals and 42.9% 3-pointers. Compare those numbers to his season averages of 8.2 points, 37.3% shooting and 32% from 3-point range.

Monday night at New Orleans, McLemore scored 14 points and grabbed five rebounds (he has only averaged 2.8 boards on the year).

In Jones' feature on the developing shooting guard, Kings coach Michael Malone said McLemore knows these late-season games with Sacramento (26-48) are his chance to shine.

“He’s just kind of relaxing, stopped putting so much pressure on himself where he feels he has to make every shot, and he’s just going out there and playing,. And he’s taking the shot and shooting it with great confidence.”


Hungry for minutes?

Utah Jazz guard Brandon Rush (25) shoots against San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 109-105. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

Utah Jazz guard Brandon Rush (25) shoots against San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 109-105. (AP Photo/Darren Abate)

When you're an NBA veteran at the end of a team's bench, often picking up the dreaded DNP in the box score, it has to get under your skin.

Utah shooting guard Brandon Rush is living out that reality. He has played in 38 games, and averaged a minuscule 2.1 points and 1.2 rebounds in 11.0 minutes a game — far below his career averages of 8.3 points and 3.3 rebounds in 24.9 minutes.

So Rush will have to forgive Desert News reporter Jody Genessy if he truly misinterpreted this tweet from the sixth-year pro following another DNP against Memphis last week.

None by Brandon Rush

Genessy asked Rush about the meaning of his four-word declaration a few days later. Rush told the reporter he was communicating with a cousin in that particular message.

But Rush admitted to Genessy that this season with Utah (23-52) has been "a little frustrating."

“It’s been up and down. It’s not what I expected. But I just fight through it and continue to try to get better, try to get this knee right for summertime. It happens.”

As noted by Genessy, Rush missed basically all of 2012-13 due to an ACL injury.

He'll be a free agent at the end of this season. And you don't have to read into Rush's tweets to figure out he won't be in Utah's training camp next fall.


'Hawks in the NBA standings

Only a couple of weeks remain in the regular season, so here's a look at where all of the NBA's Jayhawks stand in the hunt for the playoffs.

We'll rank the Kansas products according to their franchise's record.

No. 1 — Nick Collison/Oklahoma City (54-19)

  • Currently No. 2 seed in West

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 2 — Mario Chalmers/Miami (51-22)

  • Currently No. 1 seed in East

  • Clinched Southeast Division title/playoff berth

No. 3 — Thomas Robinson/Portland (48-27)

  • Currently No. 5 seed in West

No. 4 — Markieff Morris & Marcus Morris/Phoenix (44-30)

  • Currently 9th in West, with the same record as No. 8 Memphis

No. 5 — Kirk Hinrich/Chicago (42-32)

  • Currently No. 4 seed in East

  • Clinched playoff berth

No. 6 — Paul Pierce/Brooklyn (39-33)

  • Currently No. 5 seed in East

No. 7 — Drew Gooden/Washington (38-36)

  • Currently No. 6 seed in East

No. 8 — Darrell Arthur/Denver (32-42)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 9 — Jeff Withey/New Orleans (32-42)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 10 — Cole Aldrich/New York (32-43)

  • Currently 9th in East, 1 game back of No. 8 Atlanta

No. 11 — Ben McLemore/Sacramento (26-48)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 12 — Xavier Henry/L.A. Lakers (25-48)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

No. 13 — Brandon Rush/Utah (23-52)

  • Eliminated from playoff contention in West

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

Reply

They’re not booing in D.C., they’re saying ‘Drew’

Now that March Madness — and Stanford — brought a premature end to Kansas University's basketball season, all Jayhawks fans can do is sit around watching their Twitter feeds to see whether Joel Embiid will announce his intentions for next season, as in: Will he play at KU or in the NBA?

The good news? You can fill some of your KU hoops void with 'Hawks in the NBA.


Guess who's back

Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden puts up a shot as Los Angeles Lakers forward Jordan Hill defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, March 21, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden puts up a shot as Los Angeles Lakers forward Jordan Hill defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, March 21, 2014, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

It's been about a month since our last 'Hawks entry here at KUsports.com, and probably the biggest news in that span was the return of Drew Gooden to the Association.

The bearded, No. 90-wearing veteran — out of the league since getting cut by Milwaukee last summer — joined the Washington Wizards. Initially, the Wiz signed Gooden to a 10-day contract, but he quickly proved his worth, and is under contract for the remainder of the season.

Washington no longer operates as one of the league's laughing stocks. So you'll get a chance to see Gooden in the playoffs. Entering Friday's games, the Wizards (36-35) held the No. 6 spot in the Eastern Conference, and it would take a significant collapse for them to fall out of the top eight.

Gooden came along slowly, with two scoreless games in very limited minutes to begin his stint in D.C. But when he gets minutes, he puts up points. Now in his 12th — though abbreviated — season, the 6-foot-10 veteran came through with a 21-point, nine-rebound outing in a key conference win over Brooklyn two weeks ago.

He has played in just 13 games, went scoreless in three of them (playing single-digit minutes on each occasion) and still averages 10.2 points and 5.7 rebounds in 17.5 minutes a game.

Gooden did get fined $15,000 for a flagrant foul, but mostly his return has worked out for him and Washington.

In a Sam Amick story for USA Today, the former Jayhawk said getting overlooked by the league when he could've signed with any team before the 2013-14 campaign has fueled his late-season addition in D.C.

"I've got a vendetta right now against all the other teams that overlooked me. I wanted to show them once I got an opportunity that I've got a passion and I love this game, and I wasn't going to go and leave my career like it was left last season in Milwaukee."

In his career, Gooden has played for 10 of the league's 30 franchises: Orlando, Memphis, Cleveland, Chicago, Sacramento, San Antonio, Dallas, the Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee and Washington.


McLemore reflects on highs and lows of rookie year

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, right, drives to the basket against New York Knicks defender Tim Hardaway Jr. left, during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., on Wednesday, March 26, 2014.The Knicks won 107-99.(AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, right, drives to the basket against New York Knicks defender Tim Hardaway Jr. left, during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., on Wednesday, March 26, 2014.The Knicks won 107-99.(AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

Since arriving in Sacramento as the Kings' No. 7 overall pick in the 2013 draft, Ben McLemore hasn't exactly set the NBA on fire. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard out of Kansas has averaged 8.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, made 37.2% of his shots and 31.7% of his 3-pointers.

McLemore sat down with James Ham at the Cowbell Kingdom blog for a Q & A this week. Here are a few of the more interesting comments from the rookie, who is constantly learning and adapting in the league.

The reporter asked McLemore what it was like to see Andrew Wiggins and Embiid playing for KU, knowing he could've played with them as a sophomore if he didn't leave for the NBA:

"You’re right, I could have been out there playing with those guys and just having fun playing Kansas basketball with those guys. But at the same time, I made a great decision to come to the NBA. I definitely don’t regret that. I have a great opportunity right now in a great situation."

McLemore also discussed his life-changing NBA contract, which took him from having very little money to a whole lot.

"I think it’s been great. I really haven’t had a problem. My family – as long as my mom, my sisters and brothers are fine, that’s the people I’m looking out for. I’ve got a lot of family and they know my situation and they understand that I did this and I’ve worked hard to get in this position."

McLemore said he will be back in Kansas this summer, taking classes.

"It’s very important because I want to get my degree. I was the first one out of my family to go to a university and I would be the first to have a degree. To look back and tell my kids that their dad got his degree in college, to tell them that this is important, that school is important. And my mom would be proud. She’d be even more proud if I got my degree."

Read the entire interview at CowbellKingdom.com.

Sacramento (25-46) is out of the playoff hunt in the Western Conference.


Hinrich, Bulls keep plugging away

Chicago Bulls shooting guard Kirk Hinrich (12) shoots past San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker (9) during the second half of an NBA basketball game on Tuesday, March 11, 2014, in Chicago. The San Antonio Spurs defeated The Chicago Bulls 104-96. (AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles)

Chicago Bulls shooting guard Kirk Hinrich (12) shoots past San Antonio Spurs point guard Tony Parker (9) during the second half of an NBA basketball game on Tuesday, March 11, 2014, in Chicago. The San Antonio Spurs defeated The Chicago Bulls 104-96. (AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles)

Even though Chicago lost former league MVP Derrick Rose for the season due to a torn right meniscus, the Bulls have remained one of the top teams in the East.

Eleventh-year NBA veteran Kirk Hinrich has played a key role in Chicago's remarkably steady season, starting 50 of the Bulls' 62 games, and averaging 9.0 points and 3.9 assists.

After Hinrich's 18-point night helped Chicago beat the East's top team, Indiana, earlier this week, Sam Smith of bulls.com wrote that the former Kansas guard reflects the hard work of the Bulls, even though he might get overlooked.

As the article touches on, Hinrich hasn't had a stellar shooting season (39% field goals, 35% 3-pointers). He told Smith:

“The hard thing is when it’s not going in and you are not making it to stay confident and looking for your shot. But I feel I’ve done a better job (the last few months). I feel I’ve turned a corner in that regard.”

Chicago (40-31) currently holds the No. 4 seed in the East.


X, man

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo can not stop Los Angeles Lakers' Xavier Henry from dunking the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 27, 2014, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)

Milwaukee Bucks' Giannis Antetokounmpo can not stop Los Angeles Lakers' Xavier Henry from dunking the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, March 27, 2014, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)

Xavier Henry had to hit the pause button on the best season of his career when he was diagnosed with an abnormality of the lateral meniscus in his right knee.

After missing all of January and February, Henry (10.3 points per game, 42.2% shooting) returned to the Los Angeles Lakers' lineup in March, and has played in 11 of L.A.'s 12 games since then.

He dropped 24 points on San Antonio on March 19 in a loss, and later scored 22 on 8-of-11 shooting in a win against the Knicks earlier this week.

As you can see, the knee is doing just fine.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qq9NIzopEEY

Still, as Mark Medina wrote for the Los Angeles Daily News, teammates both admire and worry about the explosive Henry.

Fearless attacks on the rim have proven to be the norm for Henry, who hurt his left wrist doing so after returning from his knee injury. So the Lakers try to convince him to take it easy.

Here's what Henry told Medina of his teammates' conversations:

“All the time they tell me I’m crazy. They say, ‘What are you doing this for? You have nothing to prove.’ I have something to prove to myself. I’m not quitting. I’m not going to take a step back.”


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

Reply

Expect more McLemore in Sacramento

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, left, and Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan scrambler for the ball during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. The Kings won 109-101.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, left, and Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan scrambler for the ball during the fourth quarter of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014. The Kings won 109-101.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli) by Rich Pedroncelli, AP

If the Sacramento Kings have their way, they will find out before the season ends exactly what rookie shooting guard Ben McLemore can do for their franchise.

Both words and actions from the organization this week displayed Sacramento's interest in keeping the 21-year-old around long enough to see his full potential.

As reported by Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee, the Kings showed their belief in the rookie out of Kansas, not only by openly dispelling trade rumors (a prominent one had McLemore as part of a package to land Boston point guard Rajon Rondo), but also dealing away Marcus Thornton, who had been the team's starting shooting guard.

Thornton's former spot in the lineup is McLemore's now, and clearly management wants to see what he does with it.

The Kings (18-36), last in the Pacific Division out West, aren't going to make the playoffs. So Sacramento coach Michael Malone will be watching closely during the next couple of months:

“My main thing moving forward is Ben McLemore,” Malone said before Wednesday’s game. “And that’s no disrespect to anybody, but we drafted Ben seventh, and it’s been an up-and-down season for him at times. But with these last 29 games, there’s no pressure on this team. I want us to play together, I want us to play the right way. I want us to have fun, and I also want to have a great opportunity to see Ben, Ray (McCallum), Carl (Landry) and Derrick (Williams). Especially to see what they’re able to do with the last 29 games.”

In McLemore's return to the starting lineup Wednesday against Golden State (he started 26 games earlier this season), he found himself in some foul trouble, only played 19 minutes and went 1-for-4 from the floor with four points and four rebounds.

In 54 games, the 6-foot-5 rookie has averaged 23.2 minutes, 7.5 points, 2.8 rebounds and hit 36.5% of his shots, 33.3% of his three-pointers and 78.6% of his free throws.

Blake Ellington at SactownRoyalty.com breaks down some of McLemore's issues on the floor, which have included "disappearing" for long stretches, playing passively and lacking consistency on his jumper.

Also, defense.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WGnNbRspFH0

(Disclaimer: Steph Curry does that to lots of people.)

The rookie's next opportunity to prove he should be part of Sacramento's core for the future comes Saturday night against Boston — the game can be seen on NBATV, at 9 p.m.

For more on McLemore, listen to an interview he did with Fescoe in the Morning, on 610 Sports Radio.

McLemore's interview begins at about the 32-minute mark and he talks about adjusting to the NBA, the slam dunk contest at All-Star Weekend, hearing about trade rumors and taking the next step in his career.

Taylor reportedly done with D-League

In 'Hawks no longer in the NBA news:

Roughly a month after Brooklyn traded him and New Orleans waived him, it appears Tyshawn Taylor is through with the D-League for this season.

Taylor had signed with the Maine Red Claws, and only scored five points in his last outing on Wednesday night.

The next day, news began to pop up on Twitter about Taylor signing with a club in Puerto Rico.

None by Adam Zagoria

In eight D-League games this season, Taylor averaged 9.6 points and 3.4 rebounds.

He averaged 3.9 points and 1.6 assists in 11.7 minutes a game for Brooklyn.


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

— Follow @BentonASmith on Twitter.

Reply

All hail the king of dunk contest theatrics, Ben McLemore

Ben McLemore of the Sacramento Kings dunks the ball as he flies over former NBA player Shaquille O'Neal during the skills competition at the NBA All Star basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Ben McLemore of the Sacramento Kings dunks the ball as he flies over former NBA player Shaquille O'Neal during the skills competition at the NBA All Star basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) by Gerald Herbert

Ben McLemore didn't win the slam dunk contest Saturday night in New Orleans — Dunker of the Night went to Washington's John Wall — but it wasn't due to a lack of theatrics or superb athleticism from the high-flying shooting guard.

The Sacramento Kings rookie, the only former Kansas player involved in the NBA's All-Star Weekend festivities, had the arena and Twitter abuzz when, accompanied by Shaquille O'Neal and wearing a regal robe, he paraded toward the court, where a throne sat conspicuously in the paint.

As Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee put it, "Ben McLemore gave one of the more theatrical performances in Kings history."

Eventually, after the showy intro, McLemore got down to business — or would it be up to business in this case? — by leaping over the throne, occupied by Kings minority investor Shaq, and throwing down an impressive slam.

I don't know if TNT still uses the slogan, "We know drama," but clearly the combo we shall now refer to as Shaq-Lemore were happy to bring a flair for the dramatic to the broadcast.

Whether you love or hate all the spectacle, it was quite a dunk, and as Kenny Smith said during the broadcast, probably actually more difficult than Blake Griffin's dunk over the hood of a car a few years back.

Here is McLemore's crowning moment in epic, super-slow-mo mode:

“I was robbed,” McLemore joked to the Bee's Voisin, laughing. “I dunked over a chair and a 7-footer! That was creative. It was a great dunk.”


Before the main attraction, McLemore and his fellow Western Conference teammates, Golden State's Harrison Barnes and Portland's Damian Lillard, performed a series of jams in the freestyle round.

Prior to the contest, it turns out the man known as "The Human Highlight Reel," Dominique Wilkins, said McLemore was his sleeper pick. And Nique won the event twice, famously battling Michael Jordan on more than one occasion.

“That kid has a lot of bounce,” Wilkins said in a column by Voisin for the Bee. “I like his chances.”

The Kings rookie didn't have to go far for some dunk contest advice, either. Sacramento's player development director is Dee Brown, who won the all-star weekend showcase in 1991.

Voisin wrote that Brown often has worked with McLemore on another part of his game after practices, too. McLemore has "small and slender" hands and often struggles to maintain his grip.

So Brown had more to offer than, "Hey, kid. Just cover your eyes when you dunk."

As you can tell from McLemore's Twitter account, he was stoked to be a part of All-Star Weekend.

None by Ben McLemore

None by Ben McLemore

None by Ben McLemore

None by Ben McLemore

None by Ben McLemore

To wrap things up, here are some pretty cool photos the Kings tweeted out from the competition.

None by Sacramento Kings

None by Sacramento Kings

None by Sacramento Kings

Finally, check out a compilation of McLemore's best in-game dunks from his still young and promising career.


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

Reply

Cleared for takeoff: Ben McLemore to compete in All-Star Weekend dunk contest

Sacramento Kings' Ben McLemore (16) shoots in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, Friday, Dec. 20, 2013, in Miami. The Heat defeated the Kings 122-103. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Sacramento Kings' Ben McLemore (16) shoots in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, Friday, Dec. 20, 2013, in Miami. The Heat defeated the Kings 122-103. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Look. Everybody could see this was coming. All the revealing signs were there:

  • Ben McLemore kept acting flighty.

  • Even worse, frankly, the Sacramento rookie routinely treated his guests rudely, openly humiliating them.

  • Can you believe the gall of this guy? I mean, the things he has done are vulgar.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MtPq-MCa4HU

Well, finally McLemore got what he deserved. The NBA announced on Thursday that the 6-foot-5 rookie shooting guard (who was snubbed for the Rising Stars Challenge) will be a part of All-Star Weekend after all — as one of six participants in the Sprite Slam Dunk contest.

McLemore has some serious competition this year. Sometimes these made-for-TV dunk shows are unwatchable. But that won't be the case on Feb. 15 in New Orleans.

The high-flying former Jayahawk will go up against Paul George of the Indiana Pacers, John Wall of the Washington Wizards, Harrison Barnes of the Golden State Warriors, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers and defending dunk contest champion Terrence Ross of the Toronto Raptors.

Get a glimpse of McLemore's competition here: The Definitive Guide to the 2014 NBA Dunk Contest (courtesy of USA Today's For The Win).

A young and dynamic finisher, and the first KU product to participate in the NBA slam dunk contest, McLemore obviously can't wait for the chance to show off some of his fierce slams with the entire league watching — not exactly the case for most Sacramento games.

None by Ben McLemore

Here are a few more looks at what 20-year-old aerial artist has to offer:


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

Reply

Prev 1 2