Posts tagged with Utah Jazz

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.

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Cold snap strikes the league’s Jayhawks

Welcome to the Debbie Downer edition of 'Hawks in the NBA.

The past three December nights in The Association have been pretty dismal for KU products. On Friday, former Jayhawks combined to make 23 of their 57 shots (40.4 percent), and it only got worse from there.

The NBA's Jays shot 8-for-25 ( 32 percent) on Saturday, and 12-for-33 (36.4 percent) on Sunday.

Xavier Henry's 15-point, four-rebound night on Friday, when his Lakers got smoked by Oklahmoa City, 122-97, was the best offensive outing this past weekend among the league's 'Hawks.

Ready for more? Cue up the sound effects.


Pierce still in bench role

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) drives to the basket between Detroit Pistons guard Kyle Singler (25) and center Greg Monroe (10) during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Brooklyn Nets forward Paul Pierce (34) drives to the basket between Detroit Pistons guard Kyle Singler (25) and center Greg Monroe (10) during the first half of an NBA basketball game on Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, in Auburn Hills, Mich. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Here is the best news we can offer: Paul Pierce is actually playing. It just so happens he is doing so off the bench.

Three games into his return from an injured hand, Pierce remains a reserve for the Brooklyn Nets. That will continue to be his role "for now," Nets coach Jason Kidd said — as documented in an ESPN New York blog entry.

Pierce's production and minutes have increased in each of the three games, so if that trend continues, it's hard to imagine he will remain in the role long term. The Nets are 2-1 since getting the 16-year veteran back on the floor, and he delivered 12 points, four rebounds and four assists in his most recent outing, a loss at Detroit.

Brooklyn point guard Deron Williams, who returned from an injury of his own at the same time as Pierce, said in the ESPN NY blog that he appreciated what The Truth is doing for the team right now:

“[Paul]’s selfless. That shows what kind of person he is. He can be a guy that says, ‘I’m Paul Pierce, I’m a starter in this league,’ you know? Like some guys have done. He’s just worried about winning right now, and he’s trying to get back healthy and get back into a rhythm and I think he’s doing whatever the team needs right now.”



Slumping in Sacramento

Sacramento Kings' Ben McLemore (16) looks to pass over Phoenix Suns' Eric Bledsoe (2) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Sacramento Kings' Ben McLemore (16) looks to pass over Phoenix Suns' Eric Bledsoe (2) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Dec. 13, 2013, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

So much can change in a week. Sacramento Kings rookie Ben McLemore, who recently won the NBA's Western Conference Rookie of the Month award, and seemed to be turning into a reliable double-digit scorer, hasn't lived up to the standard he set for himself of late.

Suddenly, McLemore can't get more than one shot to drop a night. In his last four games, the rookie went 1-for-7, 1-for-8, 1-for-6 and 1-for-4.

As the folks over at the Cowbell Kingdom blog note, Sactown has some issues at shooting guard:

"Ben McLemore is struggling. As is Marcus Thornton. The Kings are searching for answers at shooting guard and after tonight, I’m not sure where (coach Michael) Malone will turn next. Against some teams, we will probably see (newly acquired Rudy) Gay pick up a few minutes and even (Travis) Outlaw again, but these aren’t really long-term solutions. Sacramento needs McLemore and Thornton to get better and to do it quickly."


Can McLemore bust out of his slump? Has he hit a rookie wall? Will he remain a fixture of the re-tooled Kings' rotation. We'll keep you posted.


Rush wants more playing time

Utah Jazz guard/forward Brandon Rush

Utah Jazz guard/forward Brandon Rush

Don't let that media day smile deceive you. Brandon Rush is not happy in Utah.

Aaron Falk, of the Salt Lake Tribune, notes the difficulty the sixth-year pro has had adjusting to not only his return from a torn ACL, but also his limited role with the Jazz this season.

"It’s been really frustrating because I’ve worked hard," Rush said in Falk's story. "I wanted to be able to get some minutes and help the team out."

Falk reported that Rush met with Utah coach Tyrone Corbin this past Wednesday to discuss his lack of minutes, and thought it went well. It seemed to work in Rush's favor, too, because in Utah's next game after the talk, he played 20 minutes and scored nine points — far better than the DNP's he registered in the previous two Jazz games.

"He looked good," Corbin said in the Tribune. "He just played, man. That’s what we were looking for because he can help us. He can make shots. He can defend; he’s long. But we can’t have him be apprehensive about it, when to go or not go, because it throws the rhythm of all the other guys off."

Maybe Corbin forgot about that in Utah's next two games, because Rush only played 10 minutes and 4 minutes, following what seemed to be a positive transitional moment in his season.

Stay tuned.


Keep up with the statistical outputs from the 'Hawks in the NBA daily at KUsports.com.

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