Entries from blogs tagged with “NBA”

Undrafted Cliff Alexander signs with Portland

Brooklyn Nets’ Cliff Alexander goes up for a shot against New Orleans Pelicans’ Victor Rudd during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game Monday, July 13, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Brooklyn Nets’ Cliff Alexander goes up for a shot against New Orleans Pelicans’ Victor Rudd during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game Monday, July 13, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Passed on 60 times during the 2015 NBA Draft, one-and-done Kansas big man Cliff Alexander had to make the most of his opportunity in the NBA’s summer leagues to keep his professional dream alive.

Though the 6-foot-9 power forward didn’t dominate as a temporary member of the Brooklyn Nets, Alexander did enough to impress the Portland Trail Blazers, who signed the undrafted post player to a contract Friday afternoon.

Alexander was the first to announce the move, via Twitter: “God has still found ways to bless me through the struggle,” he wrote.

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Projected by some to go late in the first round of the draft or early in the second, Alexander watched the made-for-TV event play out without hearing his name called. He later told NBA.com’s Scott Howard-Cooper the entire experience shook him.

"I was thinking I'm not good enough," he said during his stint with the Nets. "Can I play this level? Was it a mistake for me to leave college? I had a lot of doubts. But I'm back confident now. I'm good."

The boost in morale, Alexander shared, arrived when Brooklyn gave him a chance to play on its summer league team in both Orlando and Las Vegas. Just getting back to basketball made all the difference for his psyche.

In five Orlando outings, the raw 19-year-old from Chicago, who missed his final eight games with the Jayhawks due to an NCAA investigation, averaged 6.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 0.8 blocks, while only converting 38.9% of his shot attempts.

Alexander continued to struggle with his field-goal percentage (37.7%) in six Las Vegas games, but increased his other numbers: 8.5 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.

In a bit of a rebuilding mode after all-star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge left Portland this summer to join San Antonio, the Blazers needed another post player on which they could take a gamble. But reaching a deal doesn’t necessarily mean playing time for Alexander. Portland has six other front court players currently under contract who are 6-9 or taller and have NBA experience: Chris Kaman, Mason Plumlee, Meyers Leonard, Maurice Harkless, Ed Davis and Al-Farouq Aminu. Coach Terry Stotts figures to play each of them ahead of Alexander until the rookie gives him reasons to do otherwise.

Terms of Alexander’s agreement with Portland have yet to be disclosed.

Between not living up to his No. 4 (Class of 204) national recruiting ranking from Rivals.com once he arrived at KU and averaged 7.1 points and 17.6 minutes, to the allegations of his family receiving improper benefits, to seeing his draft stock free fall, the past year hasn’t been easy for Alexander.

Still, as he told NBA.com prior to signing a contract, the youngster remains optimistic about the next phase of his basketball journey.

"I'm going to show people," Alexander said. "I just have to redeem myself. I've been here before. I've started from the bottom before. I've been the underdog before. I know what it takes to get back on top."


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


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Paul Pierce, Cole Aldrich join L.A. Clippers to chase a championship

Los Angeles Clipper, head coach Doc Rivers, center, poses team players, from left, Branden Dawson, 22, DeAndre Jordan, 6, Austin Rivers, 25, Josh Smith, 5, Cole Aldrich, 45, Paul Pierce, 34, and Wesley Johnson, 33, far right, at at a news conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 21, 2015. The Clippers managed to keep DeAndre Jordan after he changed his mind about his verbal commitment to Dallas Mavericks. They offered everything he wanted, including a fresh start and a bigger offensive role. When Jordan thought about it a little more, the craziest free-agent recruitment story in recent NBA history ended with him back on the Los Angeles Clippers. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

Los Angeles Clipper, head coach Doc Rivers, center, poses team players, from left, Branden Dawson, 22, DeAndre Jordan, 6, Austin Rivers, 25, Josh Smith, 5, Cole Aldrich, 45, Paul Pierce, 34, and Wesley Johnson, 33, far right, at at a news conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday, July 21, 2015. The Clippers managed to keep DeAndre Jordan after he changed his mind about his verbal commitment to Dallas Mavericks. They offered everything he wanted, including a fresh start and a bigger offensive role. When Jordan thought about it a little more, the craziest free-agent recruitment story in recent NBA history ended with him back on the Los Angeles Clippers. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)

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.”

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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"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.''


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Andrew Wiggins gives downtrodden Timberwolves hope for future

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22) and center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) watch a free-throw during an NBA basketball scrimmage in Minneapolis, Wednesday, July 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Andrew Wiggins (22) and center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) watch a free-throw during an NBA basketball scrimmage in Minneapolis, Wednesday, July 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)

The Minnesota Timberwolves haven’t finished with a winning record in any of the previous 10 seasons, nor reached the NBA Playoffs since 2004.

This summer, however, only optimism — well, that and probably a lot of patience — surrounds a franchise that won just 19.5% of its games in the 2014-15 season.

Hope for the future springs in the Twin Cities, in part, because of reigning Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins’ presence. The promising 20-year-old who spent one college season at Kansas has become the face of the franchise. And in 2015 No. 1 pick Karl Anthony-Towns, out of Kentucky, Wiggins has another high-ceiling running mate to help carry the burden of one serious reclamation project.

During an interview with NBA TV this week in Las Vegas, Wiggins was asked if the Timberwolves are his team, so to speak.

“I feel like I’m a big part of the team. You can put it that way,” the modest 6-foot-8 rising star said.

With youngsters such as Wiggins, Towns, Zach Lavine, Ricky Rubio and Gorgui Dieng expected to carry Minnesota back to relevance— and beyond — in the coming years, the Canadian sensation already finds himself in somewhat of an influential role.

“I think I’m a good leader,” Wiggins said. “I still have a lot to learn.”

Luckily for him, the T’wolves just re-signed sage NBA veteran Kevin Garnett. One of the most competitive players in league history, Garnett can control the locker room and allow his apprentices to pick his brain and gain some wisdom.

“We’ve got to cherish the moments with him,” Wiggins said. “He’s a living legend.”

The Timberwolves would love if KG’s presence accelerates the development of its young troop of talent. In the meantime, Wiggins has spent his first NBA offseason trying to add some muscle onto his roughly 200-pound frame.

“I’ve been working out, trying to get prepared for next season,” he said in an interview posted on the T’wolves’ website. “It’ll be good to gain weight. I’m trying. I got a fast metabolism.”

As Wiggins told the Star-Tribune’s Jerry Zgoda, it’s been a busy summer for him. Last week, Wiggins played a major role in the opening ceremonies for the Pan-Am Games, in his native Canada. He accepted the torch from his mother, Marita Payne-Wiggins, and passed it on to Steve Nash.

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Next month, Wiggins will play for Team Canada at an Olympic-qualifying event in Mexico.

“It’s definitely busy, but I’m prepared for it,” Wiggins said. “I’ve gotten a lot of rest.”

With names like Wiggins and Towns headlining Minnesota’s lineup, people won’t be sleeping on the Timberwolves for long. Wiggins knows it is up to him to keep evolving as a player. Once next season begins, that Rookie of the Year hardware will be old news.

“I think I can make a big improvement,” Wiggins said of his trajectory for Year 2. “I think I can improve in every area, whether it’s defensively or offensively.”

As anyone who has seen Wiggins’ freakish athleticism in person can attest, it is too early to put any limits on what the future holds for the 20-year-old. And that’s very good news for the downtrodden Timberwolves.


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


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Highs and lows of Summer League will help Kelly Oubre Jr.’s development

Washington Wizards' Kelly Oubre Jr. shots over Utah Jazz’s JaJuan Johnson during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game Wednesday, July 15, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Washington Wizards' Kelly Oubre Jr. shots over Utah Jazz’s JaJuan Johnson during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game Wednesday, July 15, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

For an NBA rookie such as Kelly Oubre Jr., the Las Vegas Summer League can serve as a platform to show you belong one night, then humble you the next. It’s a setting full of early lessons about the pro level, and the 19-year-old from Kansas should only benefit from experiencing those peaks and valleys.

The first time Oubre put on a Washington jersey and played in front of a crowd, he looked the part of an NBA-ready player, leading the Wizards in scoring, with 20 points, and registering a double-double, with 10 rebounds.

The 6-foot-7 small forward drove to the paint and finished over longer defenders, threw down a few dunks by crashing the glass and running the floor, and even nailed a step-back 3-pointer. Every time Oubre scored against Phoenix, he looked smooth. And the game looked easy.

Afterward, Oubre credited his immediate prosperity to the NBA having a different style to it than the college game.

“I noticed that the floor was open. You know what I mean, it’s more space,” Oubre said in a video interview posted by Washington’s Monumental Network. “So, sometimes I was indecisive about what I wanted to do… When I got decisive, that’s when I was successful.”

Now that he’s seeing bigger bodies in front of him and stronger competition, Oubre said he wanted to put an emphasis on on getting to the rim, creating and drawing fouls by playing with an assertive mindset.

Always confident, the one-and-done wing from KU shook off any jitters in his summer debut by heeding some advice.

“I missed a lot of my teammates on some of my pick-and-pops or sometimes I would draw two men and try to force it,” Oubre said. “But once coach settled me down and just told me that ‘You’ve really got to look at these things, these things are open. You should facilitate the ball and your shots will come,’ that’s when I started to become successful.”

The rookie carried the momentum of his sensational introduction into his next game, too, going for 18 points and eight rebounds against the D-League Select team.

Oubre again attacked the paint, which helped him draw fouls, and he converted eight of his 10 free-throw attempts. The lean swingman said he doesn’t mind if and when a game turns physical.

“I have a light frame. Everybody knows that, everybody can see that,” the No. 15 pick in the NBA Draft said. “But I’m not weak. I can bang.”

Those who try to bump him around, the 203-pound Oubre warned, will be surprised to learn how strong he is.

Neither offense nor rebounding came as easily in Oubre’s next two games, though. He had 11 points and six rebounds in Washington’s first Vegas victory, over Dallas, then had 12 points and three rebounds in the Wizards’ tournament win against Utah.

Shooting from 3-point range has proven problematic for Washington’s first-round pick. Even when put up more points in his first two outings, he wasn’t helping himself from long range.

Heading into Thursday night’s bracket game against New Orleans, Oubre is averaging 15.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 1.3 assists. But he’s only shooting 33.9% from the floor (20 of 59). His numbers from behind the arc are far worse: 3-for-22 (13.6%).

After missing all five of his 3-pointers against the D-League Select team, a reporter asked Oubre if he was having trouble adjusting to the NBA 3-point line (23 feet, 9 inches, as opposed to the 20-9 distance of the NCAA). He shot down that theory with a series of no’s, and said he had forced shots, rushed things and/or not used his fundamentals.

“It’s so wide-open when we get our shots sometimes, it’s like, ‘Oh, snap.’ But we’ll be fine,” Oubre said. “I know I can shoot. I have 100 percent confidence in my shot. I just have to get over the hump.”

Wizards star point guard John Wall agrees, and gave Oubre a vote of confidence during an NBA TV interview.

“I think he’s gonna be good. He can shoot the ball very well. He just hasn’t been making shots so far,” Wall said. “But I talked to him… and told him it ain’t all about trying to prove you can make jump shots right now. It’s about doing what your strengths are: attacking the basket, playing defense and doing the little things.”

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Unsatisfied with his individual showings a few nights, Oubre hit UNLV’s practice gym to work on his flaws. In the future, he said he’ll need to stay poised and remember his fundamentals to reach his full potential.

“Sometimes when I get fatigued it can get away from me,” Oubre said.

It’s all part of the learning process. The more Oubre discovers about his shortcomings and the challenges of the NBA, the better. The rough patches will only bolster the rookie going forward.


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Cole Aldrich leaves woeful Knicks for contending Clippers

New York Knicks center Cole Aldrich (45) pulls down a rebound as Milwaukee Bucks center Zaza Pachulia (27) defends with New York Knicks forward Quincy Acy (4) getting in on the action in the first half of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York, Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

New York Knicks center Cole Aldrich (45) pulls down a rebound as Milwaukee Bucks center Zaza Pachulia (27) defends with New York Knicks forward Quincy Acy (4) getting in on the action in the first half of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden in New York, Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Just a few weeks ago, before NBA free agency began, former Kansas standout Cole Aldrich really had no idea which team he might play for in the 2015-16 season.

At the time, re-signing with New York, which finished with the worst record in the Eastern Conference (17-65), seemed like a legitimate possibility.

The open market, however, led the 6-foot-11 Aldrich to a much better situation. On Monday, the five-year veteran officially joined his fifth NBA team and signed with the Los Angeles Clippers. The new contract moves Aldrich from one of the worst teams in the league to a franchise that earned the No. 3 seed in the loaded Western Conference.

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The Los Angeles Times’ Ben Bolch reported Aldrich’s two-year contract has a player option for the second year, meaning he can opt out and test free agency next summer if he so desires. The center signed for the veteran’s minimum, and will earn $1.1 million this coming season.

After achieving new career-highs of 5.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 16.6 minutes last season with the woeful Knicks, Aldrich figures to become the Clippers’ backup center, playing behind DeAndre Jordan. L.A. just re-signed Jordan to a max contract after nearly losing him to Dallas in free agency, and the SportsCenter Top-10 regular is one of the faces of the franchise, along with point guard Chris Paul and power forward Blake Griffin.

Even as a substitute, though, Aldrich will get playing time the Clippers. Coach Doc Rivers often is forced to sub out his star center, because Jordan is an atrocious free-throw shooter (41.7% for his career, 39.7% last season). Aldrich made 78.1% of his free throws in 2014-15, which is right at his career mark of 78%. So Rivers won’t have to worry about Aldrich costing the team easy points at the foul line.

Between regular reserve minutes in the rotation and helping L.A. avoid Hack-a-DeAndre situations, Aldrich will get a chance to contribute to one of the West’s top teams, as the Clippers try to contend for an NBA title, along with Golden State, San Antonio, Houston, Memphis and Oklahoma City.

Aldrich became the second Jayhawk to sign with the Clippers this offseason, joining 17-year veteran Paul Pierce.

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The move westward also teams the former KU center with a fellow member of the 2008-09 All-Big 12 Team, Griffin — Oklahoma’s conference player of the year that season.

All-Big 12 first-teamer Cole Aldrich, right, walks off the court with Big 12 Player of the Year Blake Griffin of Oklahoma.

All-Big 12 first-teamer Cole Aldrich, right, walks off the court with Big 12 Player of the Year Blake Griffin of Oklahoma. by Nick Krug

Aldrich’s time at KU made him a lottery pick in 2011. He failed to catch on as a valued contributor with Oklahoma City, Houston or Sacramento in his first three seasons in the league. His past two years with the Knicks — last season in particular — set him up for what will be the most interesting stretch of his career to date.

The 26-year-old Bloomington, Minnesota native took to Twitter to thank the Knicks organization and its supporters for his time there.

“Always have love for you guys,” he wrote.

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Even so, chasing a championship with the Clippers should increase his on-the-court enjoyment by an incalculable amount.


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Report: Joel Embiid to have another foot surgery, could miss 2015-16 season

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid chats up Kansas assistant coach Kurtis Townsend on the way to the locker room following the Jayhawks' 74-64 win over Baylor on Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid chats up Kansas assistant coach Kurtis Townsend on the way to the locker room following the Jayhawks' 74-64 win over Baylor on Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

Joel Embiid’s injury-riddled, still-young basketball career just suffered another blow.

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey reported Saturday the 7-footer from Kansas, who just sat out what would have been his rookie season with the 76ers, will have a second surgery on his right foot after suffering a setback in his healing process.

What’s more, a source tole The Inquirer a “great possibility” exists that Embiid won’t begin his NBA career in the coming 2015-16 season, either. Philadelphia could opt to once again have him sit out.

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Pompey reported the Sixers, who just took big man Jahlil Okafor out of Duke with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 NBA draft a year after selecting Embiid, are planning as if their 2014 lottery pick from Cameroon won’t play in what should have been his second season.

Another source said the organization wonders whether this latest recovery obstacle could be career-threatening.

Expected by many to be taken No. 1 overall in the 2014 draft, Embiid suffered a stress fracture in the navicular bone in his right foot weeks before the draft. Cleveland and Milwaukee passed on the injury-prone post player, who also missed time at KU with a stress fracture in his back. The Sixers took a gamble on him, and appear once again prepared to not rush him back from this latest blow.

According to The Inquirer, the Sixers are expected to release a statement about Embiid’s immediate future in the coming days.

Embiid hasn’t spoken publicly on the matter, but posted a message on his Instagram account before the news broke:

“My time is coming… Too blessed to be stressed.”


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Forget Phoenix: Marcus Morris ready for expanded role with Detroit

Vacationing with his twin brother and teammate Markieff Morris last week, Marcus Morris abruptly learned Phoenix had traded him to Detroit.

Caught off guard by the news then, Marcus appeared over the transaction that split up the Suns’ twin tandem when the Pistons introduced their newest player at a Friday afternoon press conference.

“At the same time it’s a business,” said Marcus, joining the third organization of his four-year NBA career. “Forget Phoenix. I’m here in Detroit and I’m ready to get started. I have high expectations of myself and I’m just ready to get to work. You’ll see.”

The Morris twins, of course, starred together at Kansas before leaving school one year early to enter the 2011 NBA Draft. The Suns took Markieff 13th overall, and Marcus went next in the first round, to Houston.

During his first appearance as a member of the Pistons, Marcus admitted he never settled in with the Rockets, because he always thought he would end up in Phoenix, with his brother. He was right. The Suns reunited the Morrii in 2013 via a trade. Marcus assumed he and Markieff would remain teammates for the foreseeable future.

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Wearing a Detroit Bad Boys cap, Marcus reflected on the business move that sent him away from his brother.

“I mean, things change, situations change,” he said. “I’m a basketball player, I’m a man, so nobody’s gonna feel sorry for me — me going different places. So I just have to adjust and, you know, do my job.”

Asked during the press conference about playing on a different team than Markieff, Marcus simply responded: “Life goes on.”

Shortly after the Q and A, though, Perry A. Farrell of the Detroit Free Press got Marcus to open up more on the matter.

“Everybody knew how bad I wanted to play with my brother. Phoenix knew,” Marcus told the Free Press. “For them to trade me without consent or telling me was like a slap in the face, because of the contract I took from those guys and the money I took from them. I'm happy to be here. I'm a Piston. I'm a Bad Boy. I'm ready to get started.''

Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy had a lot to do with Marcus feeling better about going to Detroit, where he’ll wear No. 13.

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“We said coming into the summer that our biggest priority was to get a starting small forward, and with this deal we think we’ve done that,” Van Gundy said.

In Phoenix this past season, Marcus started in 35 of his 81 appearances, but butted heads with coach Jeff Hornacek and only played 25.2 minutes a game — averaging 10.4 points and 4.8 rebounds while making 35.8% of his 3-pointers.

Upon welcoming Marcus to Detroit, Van Gundy told the 25-year-old forward the organization had significantly different plans for him.

“We were really, really happy that this (trade) was available,” the Pistons coach said. “We think Marcus is at a point in his career where he’s already established himself as a very good player, but now with an increased opportunity we think he’s got a chance to really blossom into even more than we’ve seen so far.”

Not only does Van Gundy want Marcus to mentor incoming lottery pick Stanley Johnson, of Arizona, but he expects the 6-foot-9 forward to play a large role in the offense, with big man Andre Drummond and point guard Reggie Jackson.

“I’ll probably have more opportunities than I had in Phoenix, so I’m definitely looking forward to that part,” Marcus said.

In Detroit, he might be able to catch up with the production of twin brother Markieff, who averaged 17.5 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.4 steals for the Suns while starting all 82 games in the 2014-15 season.

But it sounds as if the twins aren’t expecting Markieff to stick around in Phoenix much longer, either — which could stem from the brothers’ alleged involvement in an aggravated assault, a charge to which they pleaded not guilty.

“I hope he does well wherever he’s at,” Marcus said, “if it’s Phoenix or wherever.”


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Kelly Oubre Jr. learns quickly, changes his brash approach

Washington Wizards' Kelly Oubre Jr. speaks during an NBA basketball news conference, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Washington. Washington moved up four spots in the first round to get the Kansas freshman in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks, who selected Oubre with the 15th overall pick in the NBA draft the night before.. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Wizards' Kelly Oubre Jr. speaks during an NBA basketball news conference, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Washington. Washington moved up four spots in the first round to get the Kansas freshman in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks, who selected Oubre with the 15th overall pick in the NBA draft the night before.. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Kelly Oubre Jr. has yet to play even a Summer League game in the NBA, but it appears he is learning quickly. After making some brash statements about how he compared to other 2015 draft picks in his initial Washington D.C. media appearances, the rookie from Kansas turned down his bravado in his most recent round of interviews.

The most noteworthy player representing the Wizards at the Las Vegas Summer League, Oubre didn’t speak of the “kill-or-be-killed” nature of the NBA when conversing with reporters after a mini-camp session this week. Instead, the small forward used words like “blessing” and “privilege” when describing what it’s like to represent Washington.

“I’m ready to earn everything that’s gonna be given,” Oubre said.

Although he has only participated in mini-camp practices with D.C., Oubre admitted to already noticing the NBA game is faster.

“The quicker you adjust to it… the slower it gets,” he said. “It’s my job to make sure I stay on top of my game, make sure I watch film, to make sure that I’m up to speed, because it’s a new level — bigger players, better players — so, I’m ready for it.”

Obviously, we don’t yet have any evidence this more humble version of Oubre translates to on-the-court improvement, as well. He’ll get his first crack at impressing Washington and its fan base Saturday, when the Wizards face Phoenix in Vegas. Asked what he expects out of the exhibitions, Oubre briefly relapsed to a more cocky tone.

“I’m just expecting to show out. Show out within the confines of my team, the offense and everything, and make sure, most importantly, we win.”

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Since arriving in D.C., Oubre has made sure to pick up on what more experienced players offer up in conversation. Reading between the lines, that likely explains why his statements now seem less boastful.

“A lot of the older guys give me a lot of great input, you know, and I put that into my mental,” Oubre said. “It prevents me from making mistakes. I definitely need to listen to every single thing everybody tells me.”

Since the draft, when Atlanta took him 15th overall, then traded him to Washington, Oubre has gone “non-stop” with basketball, first in Los Angles, then in D.C., because that’s his job now. He said improvement is a must. That’s the approach any rookie with his head screwed on straight would take.

Oubre said he looks forward to facing some other members of his draft class in Las Vegas. Kentucky’s Devin Booker plays for the Suns, who took Booker 13th overall, passing on Oubre in the process.

“Whoever’s in front of me, it’s my job to pretty much destroy, you know what I mean? I’m gonna try to go hard,” Oubre began, before catching immodesty mid-statement. “And they’re gonna do the same, because they’re competitors.”

During a radio interview with ESPN 980 on Wednesday, Oubre spoke more about setting the tone for his new career at the Summer League, saying he can make shots and defend.

“The thing I want to really emphasize is being the best playmaker that I can be,” the 6-foot-7 swingman added, “getting into the paint, not necessarily always shooting when I’m in the lane, but kicking out to the open guy or just making the necessary plays.”

Oubre is no dolt. He also spoke fondly of Washington coach Randy Wittman, going as far as to say he loves him.

“He’s a perfectionist. He doesn’t let you get away with anything, and that’s what I need,” the suddenly self-aware rookie out of KU said. “He’s definitely a guy that I can definitely learn from and continue to get better. I look forward to my long career here and I’m definitely blessed to be a Washington Wizard.”

The radio platform even allowed Oubre to back off of the bizarre statement he recently made about not being enamored with Kevin Durant, the NBA’s 2013-14 MVP who prior to the draft had wished Oubre luck via an Instagram post.

“We’re just competitors,” Oubre clarified of his relationship with Durant, a free agent next summer and widely expected to be targeted by Washington. “He realized I wasn’t going to back down from him even though he’s KD, so he has a level of respect for me and I have the same for him. It’s a relationship that we see each other, I hit him up, or we’ll do some stuff. It’s hard work. He wants to be great. He’s on his way to being great, very close. And I definitely want to be where he’s at one day, so he’s like a big bro. … It’s definitely a great relationship we have.”

It’s refreshing to hear Oubre’s adapted, less arrogant tone. The way he’s talking now mirrors the approach he took while dealing with media in his one season at Kansas. Whomever convinced him to lead with the hotshot persona before the draft appears to have been drowned out by more sensible voices.

None of this means Oubre will assimilate perfectly to the next level or make an immediate positive impact to the Wizards’ on-the-court product. At least it’s a head-start down a better path than he seemed routed toward a couple weeks ago.

His answer to a question about the kind of feedback he has received from Wizards coaches provides a perfect example of the earliest lesson of his NBA career.

“Apparently they like me. They drafted me,” a smiling Oubre said. “It’s my job to put a smile on their face, and put money in their pocket, too.”


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Tarik Black enters Summer League prepared to prove himself to Lakers all over again

Los Angeles Lakers forward Tarik Black, right, shoots as Minnesota Timberwolves forward Adreian Payne defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, April 10, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Lakers forward Tarik Black, right, shoots as Minnesota Timberwolves forward Adreian Payne defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, April 10, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

In the NBA, you constantly have to prove yourself, especially if you’re an un-drafted player on a non-guaranteed contract. Such is the life of Tarik Black.

You wouldn’t know it by listening to the former Kansas big man speak, but Black might not have nearly as large a role with the Los Angeles Lakers in his second season as he did as a rookie.

Listed at 6-foot-11 (but actually 6-9 in sneakers), Black started 27 games for the Lakers after being waived by Houston. The undersized center contributed 7.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and made 59.8% of his shot attempts in 21.1 minutes a game for an underwhelming L.A. team that finished the season 21-61.

As one of the NBA’s marquee franchises, the Lakers weren’t about to run it back with the same roster. And although they whiffed on big-name big men free agents such as LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Monroe, they made less headline-grabbing moves by trading for center Roy Hibbert and signing power forward Brandon Bass. Throw in the return of power forward Julius Randle, who broke a leg in his NBA debut last season, and you’re looking at three guys likely to get minutes ahead of Black.

So why is Black so positive about his role with the franchise entering Summer League play? The gregarious big man said in an interview posted on the Lakers’ website he felt like a part of the team within a couple of weeks of arriving in L.A. — like he was supposed to be there.

The Lakers begin playing in the Las Vegas Summer League on Friday, where Black enters the showcase with a list of personal targets in terms of improvements.

“A lot of things last season with me was moving too fast,” Black said. “I have a lot of tools, a lot of things I can utilize there on the floor, but I was moving so fast and just so anxious that I was maybe throwing the ball away or making a move and I had a shot and I didn’t recognize it, because my head’s down and I’m just moving. So now I’m just trying to slow myself down.”

After having conversations with coach Byron Scott on the matter, Black thinks improving offensively will come by pacing himself, as well as investing some off-the-court time in watching video.

“To see yourself on film, I think it’s an underplayed thing nowadays in the game,” Black said. “We watch film on teams when we travel, but watching yourself is huge.”

Of course, Black didn’t mean watching his own highlights. Examining areas where he came up short in his first tour through the league will do him far more good. All the while, he plans on expanding his “bread and butter” plays, too, and constantly finding ways to improve his greatest skills.

“That’s gonna keep me at this level: my rebounding, my hustle plays, playing defense, things like that,” Black pointed out.

One facet that needs a lot of improvement, Black admitted, is his jump shot. Primarily an interior force his entire basketball life, he has spent a lot of time since the end of the season taking jumpers.

At the college and high school levels, Black always played center and never had a coach ask him to take jumpers, let alone work on them. Accordingly, he is happy to put in the time to become a more complete NBA player.

An overview of Tarik Black's rookie-year shot chart, via NBA.com/stats.

An overview of Tarik Black's rookie-year shot chart, via NBA.com/stats.

Honest with reporters about not just his development, but also adjusting to all that comes with professional basketball, Black said he had trouble at first determining the ideal approach to his offseason routine. After all, this is his first summer as an NBA player. A little over a year ago, he had pre-draft workouts through June. Before that, as Black put it, college players stayed on campus in the summer months, because coaches didn’t want them to leave and “you don’t have money to leave, so it’s a little bit different routine.”

Black, who has one season left on his contract for $845,059, understands he’ll have to maneuver through this offseason properly to make sure he enters training camp prepared for the 82-game grind. He said he returned to KU “like two days later,” after the Lakers’ season ended and went in the opposite direction of immediate rest.

“I was playing five-on-five as soon as I touched down off the plane,” Black said.

However, he kept hearing the same advice from people who know the league: get some rest. So Black tried to take about a month off to get rejuvenated.

“I want some longevity in my career,” Black explained. “And I know what you do now definitely affects you down the road, even though you might not feel it as much.”

For someone who has played all of 63 games in the NBA, Black sure talks like a veteran. It’s smart of him, too, to neither address the diminished role he may occupy next season, nor waste time worrying about it at this point. As he told reporters, the Lakers have “so much talent” it’s difficult to predict what they’ll ask of him or how much they’ll utilize him, particularly on offense.

“I’m not really tripping about that,” Black said. “Because I know I’m getting better. I’m working on it every day. When you get the chance to show it, that’s when the opportunity opens up.”

Once free agent agreements and trades from the past week become official, the Lakers’ frontcourt will feature Black, Hibbert, Bass, Randle, Ryan Kelly, Robert Sacre and rookie Larry Nance Jr. That’s a lot of big men. But the group could get less crowded, according to the L.A. Times, which reported the Lakers could trade Kelly or Sacre to make sure they have enough room under the salary cap to accommodate their offseason acquisitions.

Given Black’s cheap contract (by NBA standards, of course) and his attitude, it’s hard to imagine the Lakers getting rid of him. But anything could happen in the weeks and months to come.

Beginning this weekend at the Summer League, Black will just keep working, trying to prove that he can be trusted inside, even on offense.

“I’m gonna keep on playing my age and show that I’m getting better,” Black said.

It’s that approach that got him to the NBA, via the 2014 Summer League, to begin with, and it’s that mindset that will keep him around the league.


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Thomas Robinson finds ‘right opportunity’ with Brooklyn Nets

Philadelphia 76ers' Thomas Robinson, left, dunks past Los Angeles Lakers' Robert Sacre during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, March 30, 2015, in Philadelphia. Los Angeles won 113-111 in overtime. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Philadelphia 76ers' Thomas Robinson, left, dunks past Los Angeles Lakers' Robert Sacre during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, March 30, 2015, in Philadelphia. Los Angeles won 113-111 in overtime. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Thomas Robinson didn’t have to wait long to find his new NBA home for the 2015-16 season.

On the second day of free agency, the former Sacramento King, Houston Rocket, Portland Trail Blazer and Philadelphia 76er (who was waived by the Denver Nuggets without playing a game for them) agreed to a contract with the Brooklyn Nets.

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Rather than waiting to see which teams misfired on their home-run pitches to the big-name free agents, Robinson on Thursday went ahead and decided to stick with the franchise that already had shown interest in him. The Nets planned to sign Robinson once he cleared waivers in February, but Philadelphia claimed him before that became an option.

Considering how the first three seasons of his professional career have gone — never playing more than 15.1 minutes a game over the course of one of them — its easy to see why Robinson would jump at the chance to join an organization who has shown an inkling of belief in him.

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The New York Post’s Tim Bontemps reported the addition of Robinson helps Brooklyn meet one of its offseason goals: to add younger, more athletic players. The Nets will sign the 24-year-old power forward to a two-year contract for the league minimum, and he has a player option to become a free agent again next summer.

There are months to go before the season actually begins, but at this point it appears Robinson will be a regular rotation player — likely even the first big off the bench to replace either Brook Lopez or Thaddeus Young.

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Perhaps the most important development in all of this, though, is the nature of the contract. Brooklyn could have only been interested in a short-term deal, but that’s best for Robinson, too. This way, he can bet on himself.

In his eyes, he hasn’t yet received a legitimate shot to prove he belongs in the NBA. If he finally gains relevancy with the Nets, he can opt out of his deal next July and get more money from Brooklyn or another team.

Robinson took a step in the right direction during his short, 22-game stay with Philadelphia, averaging 8.8 points and 7.7 rebounds (2.8 offensive) in 18.5 minutes.

Some advanced stats from basketball-reference.com tell even more of the story. Robinson had a player efficiency rating of 19.3 with the Sixers, which was more than 4 points higher than he had posted with any other team. For a reference point, Miami’s Dwyane Wade had a PER of 21.4 for the season, which ranked 20th overall in the NBA.

While wearing a 76ers uniform, Robinson also set new personal marks in offensive rebound percentage (15.8%) and defensive rebound percentage (30.2%). Had either of those come over the course of the entire season, Robinson would have ranked third in ORB%, behind Andre Drummond (18.3%) and DeAndre Jordan (16.2%), and third in DRB%, behind Jordan (32.4%) and DeMarcus Cousins (30.6%).

The No. 5 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Robinson knows he has yet to live up to the expectations that come with that status. Next season in Brooklyn could change all of that, as long as he maintains that high-energy approach and keeps crashing the glass like a maniac.

As he tweeted out upon coming to terms with the Nets, Robinson thinks he’s finally on his way to earning respect around the league.

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Phoenix splits up Morris twins, trades Marcus to Detroit

Phoenix Suns' Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris look to the bench during an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

Phoenix Suns' Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris look to the bench during an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

Twin brothers Marcus and Markieff Morris might have played their final NBA game as teammates.

Although Phoenix did the former Kansas stars a favor by trading for Marcus in 2013 and signing both of them to extensions prior to the 2014-15 season, with free agency in full swing, the Suns reportedly decided to split the twins up in order to chase the top available player.

Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who breaks almost every NBA story out there, reported Thursday afternoon Phoenix agreed to move Marcus and two other Suns to Detroit for — of all things — a second-round draft pick in 2020. Obviously, that wasn’t the organization’s end game. Wojnarowski reported Phoenix agreed on the deal to clear cap space as it tries to sign power forward LaMarcus Aldridge.

None by Adrian Wojnarowski

Breaking up the Morris brothers likely has nothing to do with Marcus’s caught-on-TV shouting match with Suns coach Jeff Hornacek, but the twins’ alleged involvement in a felony aggravated assault case in Phoenix probably didn’t inspire the franchise to remain invested in the young forwards, who are 25 years old headed into their fifth season in the NBA.

Obviously, this move won’t sit well with the Morris twins (or the Morrii, if you prefer), and we’ll certainly hear more on that front once all the summer movement settles. In the meantime, Markieff expressed his shock via Twitter.

None by Keef Morris

If he isn’t happy with Phoenix’s management, he may not have to worry about any awkward exchanges in the near future. Wojnarowski also reported the Suns could be working on another trade involving their leftover Morris.

None by Adrian Wojnarowski

So try to keep up with the mayhem that is free agency season, and remain on the lookout for more Woj-bombs. Markieff could be moved to Dallas in the time it takes to type 140 characters.

Markieff, the ideal stretch-4 for the NBA, has experienced more success in the league than Marcus to date. But Marcus, who played both small forward and power forward with the Suns, has played in all but one game over the past two seasons, started 35 this past year and averaged 10.4 points and 4.8 rebounds in 25.2 minutes in what proved to be his final campaign with the Suns.

As of Thursday afternoon, the Pistons have Marcus, Danny Granger, lottery pick Stanley Johnson, Quincy Miller, Ersan Ilyasova and Anthony Tolliver as their forwards. So starting at the 3 or 4 spot wouldn’t be out of the question for Marcus in Detroit. Or he could become a valuable sixth man.

No doubt Marcus hates this business move right now, but it could actually benefit his career down the road if he makes the most of it. He’ll just have to find a new roommate.


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Free agent Thomas Robinson searching for right fit, respect in NBA

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) against Philadelphia 76ers forward Thomas Robinson (41) during an NBA basketball game Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah (13) against Philadelphia 76ers forward Thomas Robinson (41) during an NBA basketball game Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton)

There are far bigger, landscape-changing names on the NBA’s open market this summer than Thomas Robinson. But it’s hard to come up with many free agents as desperate to find the right fit. Robinson needs to find a franchise where he belongs.

After leading Kansas to the 2012 national title game, Robinson entered the league as the No. 5 overall pick. Three years later, the 6-foot-10 forward has been traded three times and waived. Now, for the first time since picking KU, he gets to choose his next team.

An energetic big man who is only 24, Robinson performed rather well in limited minutes once Philadelphia claimed him off waivers late this past season: 8.8 points, 7.7 rebounds (2.8 offensive) in 18.5 minutes over 22 games.

Beginning with Sacramento, which drafted him, and continuing in Houston and Portland, Robinson either hasn’t impressed teams enough or got caught playing behind more effective veterans.

As he tries to find a franchise that both wants him and will use him effectively, Robinson told Grantland’s Jonathan Abrams he’s letting all the doubt about his potential fuel him.

“I can’t stand the politics of it,” Robinson said in the Grantland feature. “I lost all respect for why I thought I wanted to come to the NBA. I’m not here for the same things I had in mind when I got drafted or when I was a kid. My mind-set has completely changed.

“Outside a few handful of players in this league, other than that, you’re up for grabs. Anybody. So right now, I’m not playing for money no more. I’m not playing for love. I’m playing because I want my respect back. That’s pretty much my mind-set until I’m done.”

The Grantland piece provides much more insight from Robinson on the business side of the NBA and his ongoing struggle to establish himself as an important player, and goes into his relationship with his former KU teammates, Marcus and Markieff Morris, their mother’s role in Robinson’s life and much more.

With free agency just under way, Philadelphia has plenty of available money, but its three projected best players, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid, all play inside. So the 76ers seem unlikely to re-sign Robinson. The prevalent rumor is that Brooklyn wants to add him to its frontcourt.

None by NetsDaily.com

However, the Nets reportedly agreed to big deals with their own free agent bigs, Brook Lopez and Thad Young. So if they want to pick up Robinson, too, they don’t have much money to offer him without making some other moves.

If that’s OK with Robinson, and Brooklyn promises him playing time, he could decide to sign on for a one-year deal, showcase his abilities and become a free agent again next summer.

Then again, if Robinson wants the added security of a longer deal and more money, there could be plenty of other intriguing opportunities out there.

CBSSports.com’s Zach Harper compiled a definitive list of salary cap situations and team needs for the entire NBA this summer. Using that as a jumping off point, here are some other organizations that could use Robinson and afford to throw some bigger pay days his direction.

Boston has plenty of cap space and had only three noteworthy post players — Jared Sullinger, Tyler Zeller and Kelly Olynyk — under contract before reportedly reaching an agreement with Amir Johnson. Still, Danny Ainge always seems to be chasing down trades, so there is no guarantee Sullinger, Zeller or Olynyk will remain on the roster.

Detroit also has ample room to stay under the salary cap. The Pistons are expected to let Greg Monroe sign elsewhere, leaving them with Andre Drummond in the pivot and Ersan Ilyasova and Anthony Tolliver as their power forwards.

New York needs starting big men and backup big men. At this moment, No. 4 overall pick Kristaps Porzingis is the only post player set to be under contract next season. The Knicks are rumored to have interest in Monroe, David West and LaMarcus Aldridge. But if they strike out on a couple (or all three) of those guys, why not fill a need and inject some energy with Robinson?

Dallas has money to burn with Mark Cuban calling the shots, and the Mavericks desperately need some interior players, too. Cuban will chase all the marquee names available in free agency or via trade. Even if Dallas lands another post player, aging Dirk Nowitzki could use all the help he can get inside defensively and on the glass.

The Los Angeles Lakers hope they can lure Aldridge or make a deal for DeMarcus Cousins. If those ventures fail, they’ll need depth inside to go with Julius Randle and Tarik Black (Robert Sacre has a non-guaranteed deal).

Phoenix might be the most alluring destination for Robinson if the Suns are interested in him. No doubt, he would love reuniting with his #FOE brothers, the Morrii. But Phoenix reportedly reached a deal with Tyson Chandler and also has dreams of adding Aldridge. With Markieff, Alex Len and Chandler all in line for plenty of minutes, Robinson likely would need assurances of playing time to head to the desert.

Whether all — or any — of those teams want to add Robinson remains to be seen. Plus, new deals are popping up by the minute this time of year, so situations with every franchise remain in flux.

In the young power forward’s mind, he still expects to live up to his top-five-pick status and become an All-Star. One might say he considers himself a diamond in the rough.

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“If it happens the wrong way, I know it’s my fault,” Robinson told Grantland. “I’m betting on myself right now.”


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Paul Pierce, Thomas Robinson, other Jayhawks hit free agent market

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

Washington Wizards' Paul Pierce, walks away after a confrontation with Atlanta Hawks' DeMarre Carroll, not pictured, in the third quarter of Game 5 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs Wednesday, May 13, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Washington Wizards' Paul Pierce, walks away after a confrontation with Atlanta Hawks' DeMarre Carroll, not pictured, in the third quarter of Game 5 of the second round of the NBA basketball playoffs Wednesday, May 13, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

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.

None by Adrian Wojnarowski

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

Philadelphia 76ers' Thomas Robinson in action during an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Monday, March 30, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Philadelphia 76ers' Thomas Robinson in action during an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Monday, March 30, 2015, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

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

New York Knicks center Cole Aldrich (45) dunks the ball in front of Orlando Magic's Elfrid Payton (4) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Orlando, Fla. New York won 80-79. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

New York Knicks center Cole Aldrich (45) dunks the ball in front of Orlando Magic's Elfrid Payton (4) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Orlando, Fla. New York won 80-79. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

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

Denver Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur, left, is stopped as he tries to drive to the basket for a shot by Toronto Raptors guards Greivis Vasquez, center, of Venezuela, and Terrence Ross in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Denver Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur, left, is stopped as he tries to drive to the basket for a shot by Toronto Raptors guards Greivis Vasquez, center, of Venezuela, and Terrence Ross in the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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

Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden (90) reacts after a play in the first half of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal NBA basketball playoff series against the Toronto Raptors, Sunday, April 26, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Washington Wizards forward Drew Gooden (90) reacts after a play in the first half of Game 4 of the Eastern Conference semifinal NBA basketball playoff series against the Toronto Raptors, Sunday, April 26, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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

Miami Heat forward James Ennis (32) goes to the basket as New Orleans Pelicans center Jeff Withey (5) defends in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Miami, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015. The Pelicans won 105-91. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

Miami Heat forward James Ennis (32) goes to the basket as New Orleans Pelicans center Jeff Withey (5) defends in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Miami, Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015. The Pelicans won 105-91. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

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

Los Angeles Lakers forward Xavier Henry, center, puts up a shot as Golden State Warriors center Ognjen Kuzmic, left, of Bosnia, and center Festus Ezeli, of Nigeria, defend during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, in Los Angeles. The Warriors won 136-115. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Lakers forward Xavier Henry, center, puts up a shot as Golden State Warriors center Ognjen Kuzmic, left, of Bosnia, and center Festus Ezeli, of Nigeria, defend during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014, in Los Angeles. The Warriors won 136-115. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

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.


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Kelly Oubre Jr. talking a big game before his NBA career even begins

Washington Wizards' Kelly Oubre Jr. spins the ball on his finger during a portrait session for team photographer Stephen Gosling after an NBA basketball news conference, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Washington. Washington moved up four spots in the first round to get the Kansas freshman in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks, who selected Oubre with the 15th overall pick in the NBA draft the night before.. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Washington Wizards' Kelly Oubre Jr. spins the ball on his finger during a portrait session for team photographer Stephen Gosling after an NBA basketball news conference, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Washington. Washington moved up four spots in the first round to get the Kansas freshman in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks, who selected Oubre with the 15th overall pick in the NBA draft the night before.. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon

The newest Kansas basketball player to join the ranks of the NBA, Kelly Oubre Jr. doesn’t appear to care about making any friends before his first season.

The Washington Wizards acquired the one-and-done small forward on draft night from Atlanta, and since describing himself as a jewel during ESPN’s live coverage, the brash 19-year-old hasn’t let up.

Fourteen different organizations passed on Oubre before Atlanta took him for Washington at No. 15. According to the 6-foot-7 wing (who didn’t call any of his fellow draftees out by name), he is a better player than No. 1 pick Karl-Anthony Towns, No. 2 pick D’Angleo Russell, No. 3 pick Jahlil Okafor and so on, and so on.

“I have confidence in myself, so I believed that I was a top-10 pick from the get-go,” Oubre said in a piece from The Washington Post’s Scott Allen. “I don’t think that there’s 15 guys, or however many guys, that are better than me.”

Added the newest Wizard:

“A lot of guys that went in front of me, I know I’m better than.”

According to The Post, Oubre at least said in a Monday radio interview that he has respect for some specific players selected before him: Minnesota’s Towns, Philadelphia’s Okafor and Detroit’s No. 8 pick, Stanley Johnson.

Then he went right back to talking a big game:

“It’s a kill or be killed world, and I feel like I can do a lot of killing in this world.”

Oubre couldn’t resist himself on Washington’s 106.7 The Fan.

“I’m a competitor. I’m not going to say another guy’s better than me, because I don’t feel that way,” he continued. “I’m not going to say something I don’t feel. They’re great players, don’t get me wrong.”

Keep in mind all of this came a few days after he said the following when asked about his relationship with Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, the 2013-14 NBA MVP:

“We’re competitors,” he said. “I’m not enamored with who he is. That’s Kevin Durant, but I’m Kelly Oubre.”

None by Jorge Castillo

It seems the more Oubre talks, the less his peers — and ample pool of superiors — will find themselves enamored with him. He could’ve entered the league quiet, humble and hungry. At some point in the past few months, he decided to take another route.

Talking himself up to this extent wouldn’t even go over well if Oubre left college as a can’t-miss prospect. He’s far from that.

In his one season with the Jayhawks, Oubre averaged 9.3 points and 5.0 rebounds in 36 games, while making 44.4 percent of his shot attempts and 35.8% of his 3-pointers (34-for-95). A bad season? No. But he wasn’t exactly impressing decision-makers at the next level, either.

Oubre’s time at KU and how his game translates to the NBA both came up in a post-draft Grantland podcast from ESPN’s Ryen Russillo and Chad Ford. According to draft insider Ford, some scouts came away from watching Oubre at Kansas and asked, “What exactly does he do well again?”

One NBA general manager, after seeing how much the svelte perimeter player with the 7-foot-2 wingspan got by on raw athletic ability and instincts, went so far as to describe Oubre to Ford as a “basketball illiterate.”

However, Ford travelled out to Santa Barbara, California, before the draft to see Oubre and other top prospects as they trained at the popular P3 facility. Ford left impressed with Oubre’s dedication to improvement, which included three-a-day training sessions and basketball video breakdowns at night.

While Ford predicted a “rocky start” for Oubre as a rookie, he thinks his future could look a lot brighter — if he continues to put in the requisite work.

“If he develops,” Ford said, “the Wizards got an absolute steal at 15.”

On Monday, Oubre responded to the “basketball illiterate” comment during his radio appearance on The Sports Junkies.

“That’s people’s opinion. People don’t know me. People don’t know the things that I do,” the rookie-to-be said. “I’ve been a basketball player for a very long time and I’ve always watched the game. … I love the game of basketball, and I study the game of basketball, so I’m definitely a gym rat.”

If Oubre wants to one day live up to all of his own propaganda, the gym would be a great place to start, because each of the 14 players drafted ahead of him — and any veteran who finds him a little too cocky — will go out of his way to remind the Wizards rookie of how far he has to go.


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


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Stock watch: NBA Draft Eve edition

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

By the end of Thursday night, Kansas one-and-done prospects Kelly Oubre Jr. and Cliff Alexander will know which NBA city they will call home. For now, they have one more long day of anticipation ahead of them.

A possible lottery pick, Oubre received an invitation to the NBA Draft’s green room for Thursday night’s festivities in Brooklyn, New York. He has his duds picked out and is ready to go after spending much of the last month-plus working out for numerous franchises.

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Alexander, a projected lottery pick before he arrived at KU, likely won’t hear his name called until the second round. That doesn’t mean he’s any less excited.

None by Cliff Alexander

Now that NBA Draft Eve has arrived, let’s take one last look at where Oubre and Alexander might end up, as they embark on their professional careers.

MOCK
DRAFTS
Kelly Oubre Jr.
projections
Cliff Alexander
projections
NBADraft.net 23rd 39th
MyNBADraft.com 16th 41st
DraftExpress.com 15th 34th
DraftSite.com 22nd 37th
Chad Ford, ESPN.com 16th N/A
SheridanHoops.com 15th N/A
BleacherReport.com 14th N/A
FOXSports.com 17th N/A
Sam Vecenie, CBSSports.com 13th 52nd
Gary Parrish, CBSSports.com 14th 34th
Zach Harper, CBSSports.com 10th 29th

Kelly Oubre Jr.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre, Jr. (12) puts down a dunk in the first half of the Jayhawks game against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre, Jr. (12) puts down a dunk in the first half of the Jayhawks game against the West Virginia Mountaineers Tuesday, March 4, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

— SF, 6-foot-7, 200 pounds, 19 years old, from Richmond, Texas —

Average mock draft position: 16th

Current high: 10th — Miami (Zach Harper, CBSSports.com)

Current low: 23rd — Portland (NBADraft.net)

Stock assessment: Slipping. Just a couple weeks ago, Oubre’s average position fell in the late lottery, around No. 13. Since then, the small forward’s name is appearing later and later on mock drafts and big boards.

Of course, positives and negatives come with this development. There is the matter of money: the later Oubre gets picked, the less he’ll get on his rookie deal. However, because he isn’t going early in the draft, the young swingman has a chance to land on a decent-to-very-good team.

Take a look at the organizations predicted to take Oubre. Even the ones that reside in the lottery are great situations: Oklahoma City (14th), Miami (10th) and Phoenix (13th).

If Oubre remains sitting in the green room after the first 14 picks, that means he’s headed to a playoff team: maybe Portland (23rd), Boston (16th), Atlanta (15th), Milwaukee (17th) or even Chicago (22nd).

Really, the better the team that takes Oubre the better it will be for his NBA career, short-term and longterm. If the 19-year-old lands with an organization such as Oklahoma City or Chicago, he’ll find himself immediately on a championship-caliber roster. He might not factor into the rotation right off the bat with the Thunder or Bulls. But if those teams are healthy all season and routinely blowing out lesser opponents, Oubre will get his chances to play as a rookie. More importantly, he’ll learn in a winning environment, and practice with some of the league’s stars and key difference-makers, which could prove far more valuable than playing 30 minutes a night for a lousy team.

Atlanta could be the best of both worlds for Oubre. The Hawks had the best record in the Eastern Conference this past season, but they’re not loaded with depth at small forward — especially if DeMarre Carroll signs elsewhere as a free agent. Atlanta coach Mike Budenholzer learned from one of the best in the business, San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich. The Spurs are renowned for getting the most out of their role players and developing them to meet their full potential. “Coach Bud” could do just that with Oubre, and bring him along slowly in a winning culture.

Cliff Alexander

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) dunks off a pass from Frank Mason III, in the second half of the Jayhawks 73-51 win over Texas Tech Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015 at United Supermarkets Arena.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) dunks off a pass from Frank Mason III, in the second half of the Jayhawks 73-51 win over Texas Tech Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015 at United Supermarkets Arena.

— PF/C, 6-foot-9, 250 pounds, 19 years old, from Chicago —

Average mock draft position: 38th

Current high: 29th — Brooklyn (Zach Harper, CBSSports.com)

Current low: 52nd — Dallas (Sam Vecenie, CBSSports.com)

Stock assessment: Holding steady. Not all of the mock drafts floating around out there go as in-depth as others. But those that include Round 2 projections most often feature Alexander’s name in that range.

After a less than remarkable season at KU, Alexander looks like a project, for sure. But second-round picks don’t get guaranteed contracts, so teams don’t mind rolling the dice on players who have yet to prove they have any chance of sticking around in the NBA.

Longtime NBA writer Chris Sheridan said Alexander will be off the board within the first 10 picks of the second round.

None by Chris Sheridan

If that’s true, it would mean Alexander ends up with one of the following franchises: Minnesota (31st and 36th picks), Houston (32nd), Boston (33rd), the L.A. Lakers (34th), Philadelphia (35th and 37th), Detroit (38th), Charlotte (39th) or Miami (40th).

With two early second-round picks for both the Timberwolves and the Sixers, Alexander could find himself on the same team as one of his KU one-and-done predecessors, Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid.

Wherever Alexander goes, the organization won’t put any added pressure on him to produce immediately. It will be up to him to make a case for the team to keep him around.

If he’s lucky enough to land in Minnesota, the 19-year-old big man could could join the T’Wolves’ youth movement, in which Wiggins and likely No. 1 pick Karl-Anthony Towns will play the starring roles.

That scenario also would allow Alexander to learn from someone he would respect — even while getting showered with criticism. Kevin Garnett, who figures either to retire and join the Timberwolves in some off-the-court capacity or return for one more season, could build the youngster up by breaking him down. Alexander responded well to such tactics from Bill Self while at KU. And no offense to Self, but KG probably has way more street cred with a young power forward trying to find his way in the NBA.


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Sixers slowing down Joel Embiid’s recovery process

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid of Cameroon shoots the ball prior to the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014, in Philadelphia. The Nets won 99-91. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid of Cameroon shoots the ball prior to the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014, in Philadelphia. The Nets won 99-91. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Almost a year ago, coveted 7-foot NBA prospect Joel Embiid fractured a bone in his right foot. Proceeding with caution, Philadelphia elected to bring the promising young Cameroonian along slowly in the rehab process, ultimately deciding to keep him out for the entirety of what would have been his rookie season.

Over the weekend, the franchise that took a chance on the young center out of Kansas with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft revealed that foot hasn’t healed as much as anticipated.

As bad as that bit of news sounded for Embiid and the 76ers, it got worse Monday when The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey reported the injured big man might not be available when the season begins in a little more than four months. What’s more, “a legitimate chance” exists that he could miss the entire 2015-16 season.

None by Keith Pompey

The upcoming NBA Summer League figured to mark Embiid’s unofficial professional debut, but now he isn’t expected to participate in any of the July exhibitions. The Sixers, Pompey reported, still are trying to figure out Embiid’s next step, and nothing — including surgery — has been ruled out.

The future didn’t seem so dire, though, in one third-hand account of the center’s situation. On Monday afternoon, Bill Self told reporters KU assistant coach Norm Roberts spoke with Embiid on the phone this past weekend and the injury-plagued big told his former college assistant “he hasn’t re-injured anything.”

“Basically, he’s been working out and everything, and the doctor told him — based on doing the MRIs or X-rays or whatever they do… even though it feels better, it doesn’t look like it’s made the progress they would hope at this stage, so they were gonna slow him down,” Self related. “But by no means, from what Jo has told us, 'slow down' does not mean major setback. It means they’re gonna give it a little bit more time to heal before they put him in stressful situations.”

The Inquirer reported Embiid hadn’t quite reached the portion of his rehab that allowed him to play five-on-five, but the Sixers had claimed his rehab process was moving along on schedule before the unexpected news release about his recovery this past weekend.

It appears the organization is prepared to keep Embiid out as long as necessary. General manager Sam Hinkie knew when he drafted the 7-footer, despite the pivot’s arsenal of skills, risks could accompany Embiid to the NBA. The GM doesn’t want to wreck his investment just to get him in a Philadelphia uniform more quickly.

"Our priority remains providing Joel with every opportunity to ensure he has a long and successful NBA career," Hinkie said Saturday.

An unnamed Eastern Conference executive told Pompey Embiid is the centerpiece of Philadelphia’s ongoing rebuilding process.

"They were hoping he was a franchise player. If he's not a franchise player, their whole plan is gone,” the source told The Inquirer. “If Embiid can't play or if he can't reach a superstar level, their plan is really in trouble."

Late in another losing-filled season (the Sixers finished 18-64 and secured the No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft), Philadelphia slowly began building the hype for Embiid’s debut, but now no one is sure when exactly that day will come.

None by Philadelphia 76ers

Oozing with potential but handcuffed by injuries, Embiid hasn’t played in a game since March 1, 2014, when he re-injured his back in a road loss at Oklahoma State. Whatever the timetable for his return turns out to be, the 21-year-old big man (who, as of Monday afternoon, had maintained social media silence on the matter) has to be looking forward to feeling like a basketball player again.


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Kansas only program to produce three different NBA Finals MVPs

Boston's Paul Pierce hoists the Larry O'Brien Trophy. The Celtics crushed the Lakers in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday in Boston, and Pierce was named MVP after the game. Pierce played at Kansas University from 1995 to 1998.

Boston's Paul Pierce hoists the Larry O'Brien Trophy. The Celtics crushed the Lakers in Game 6 of the NBA Finals on Tuesday in Boston, and Pierce was named MVP after the game. Pierce played at Kansas University from 1995 to 1998.

In the annals of momentous NBA feats, nothing stands out quite like winning The Finals. Hoisting that Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy sets the all-time greats apart from their contemporaries, many of those who came before them and even players in the future.

Few professional basketball players can call themselves NBA champions, and fewer still can claim the title of Finals MVP. Michael Jordan earned that label six times in the 1990s to give him the most all-time (the award didn’t become official until 1969 — sorry, Bill Russell).

But did you know no college basketball program has produced more Finals MVPs than Kansas?

The NBA’s history account tweeted out that nugget Friday morning.

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Many on Twitter guessed North Carolina or UCLA were the only program to turn out three different Finals MVPs. (Check out the replies on the above Tweet for some entertaining answers.)

None by NBA History

However, Jayhawks Wilt Chamberlain (1972, Los Angeles Lakers), Jo Jo White (1976, Boston Celtics) and Paul Pierce (2008, Boston Celtics) made KU the winner of this category.

Wilt Chamberlain, named the most valuable player in the NBA playoffs, goes up to tap in a basket for the Los Angeles Lakers against the New York Knicks, May 8, 1972 in the Forum. At left is Dave DeBusschere of the Knicks and in foreground are Pat Riley and Leroy Ellis, right, of the Lakers. Los Angeles won, 114-100, to capture the first championship since the team moved to Los Angeles from Minneapolis 12 years ago. (AP Photo/David Smith)

Wilt Chamberlain, named the most valuable player in the NBA playoffs, goes up to tap in a basket for the Los Angeles Lakers against the New York Knicks, May 8, 1972 in the Forum. At left is Dave DeBusschere of the Knicks and in foreground are Pat Riley and Leroy Ellis, right, of the Lakers. Los Angeles won, 114-100, to capture the first championship since the team moved to Los Angeles from Minneapolis 12 years ago. (AP Photo/David Smith)

“Wilt the Stilt” won his second NBA championship in 1972, having led the Philadelphia 76ers to the promised land in 1967, before the Finals MVP award existed.

The 7-foot-2 legend averaged 14.7 points and 21.0 rebounds in the ’72 playoffs for the Lakers. Against the Knicks in the championship round, he had 12 points in a Game 1 loss before L.A. took the next four and he put up 23, 26, 12 and 24 to close it out.

Boston Celtics' Jo Jo White lays up a shot over Golden State Warriors' Rick Barry, in their National Basketball Association game at the Boston Garden, Feb. 29, 1976. Boston won the game 119 to 101. (AP Photo/J. Walter Green)

Boston Celtics' Jo Jo White lays up a shot over Golden State Warriors' Rick Barry, in their National Basketball Association game at the Boston Garden, Feb. 29, 1976. Boston won the game 119 to 101. (AP Photo/J. Walter Green)

White, a two-time NBA champion with Boston, picked up his Finals MVP honor in his second title run.

A 6-foot-3 guard from KU, White averaged 22.7 points and 5.4 assists in the 1976 playoffs. In a six-game Finals against Phoenix, White scored 33 in a two-point Game 5 victory and averaged 21.7 points for the series.

Boston's Kevin Garnett, left, Ray Allen, center, and Paul Pierce celebrate in the locker room. The Celtics clinched their 17th NBA title Tuesday in Boston.

Boston's Kevin Garnett, left, Ray Allen, center, and Paul Pierce celebrate in the locker room. The Celtics clinched their 17th NBA title Tuesday in Boston.

Teaming with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in Boston for the first time that season, Pierce won his only championship to date in 2008.

The 6-foot-7 small forward averaged 19.7 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.1 steals during the Celtics’ 2008 playoff run. Boston beat the Lakers in six games to win it all, capped by a 17-point/10-assist outing from Pierce that sealed it for the Celtics. “The Truth” averaged 21.8 points in those Finals, made 11 of 28 3-pointers and proved to be a critical play-maker, too, dishing out 6.3 assists per game.

If Pierce decides against retiring this offseason and returns for 2015-16, he could get back to The Finals for the first time since 2010.

But will Kansas be able to add to its list of Finals MVP-winners any time soon? Probably not. If any current Jayhawks in the NBA have a shot at one way down the road, it would be either Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid.

You can safely rule out Brandon Rush in these 2015 NBA Finals, as he’s yet to suit up against the Cavs.

None by Brandon Rush


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Hornets bring in Kelly Oubre Jr. for individual workout

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. smiles after some hustle on the defensive end turned the ball over to the Jayhawks during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. smiles after some hustle on the defensive end turned the ball over to the Jayhawks during the first half, Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. by Nick Krug

The Charlotte Hornets — owners of the No. 9 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft — had Kelly Oubre Jr. in for an individual workout Thursday. It marked the first such session for the one-and-done small forward from Kansas, who got to show off his athleticism, wingspan and potential for a team’s coaches without other potential draftees sharing the coveted spotlight.

Afterward, the lottery hopeful told Charlotte-area media he showed the Hornets everything he can do as a player.

“Hopefully they’re pleased. You know, I believe they are,” the ever-confident Oubre said in an interview posted on the Hornets’ website. “This is an organization I could see myself thriving in, as well. I can come in immediately and make an impact — whether just pushing my teammates, my future teammates, or being an impact on the court immediately. I’m just trying to maximize all my opportunities and be the best player I can be.”

Previously, Oubre worked out with other draftees-to-be for the Pacers and Suns, for example. The 6-foot-7, 200-pound wing thought he performed well under pressure, and told The Charlotte Observer’s Rick Bonnell he didn’t request to have a solo workout.

“I was informed I was going to be the only one on the court, and I didn’t argue,” Oubre said. “All eyes (were) on me. That felt good; I got to show out a little bit.”

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Oubre considers himself mature for his age (19), and said his “supporting cast” — his parents, Kelly Oubre Sr. and Tonya Coleman Oubre — was behind him 100 percent when he decided to leave KU after one season of college basketball. As he has alluded to previously, Oubre said he thinks he can thrive in the NBA with his length (7-2 wingspan) and the ability to play more in open space at the next level.

“I have a lot of learning to do, and I’m willing to focus on basketball solely and dedicate myself to the game,” Oubre said. “I don’t have any other distractions. The game of basketball is everything to me now, and I’m committing the time to be the best player that I can be.”

The Hornets also posted video highlights from portions of Oubre’s workout on their team site.

Oubre showcased his:

• cross-over and pull-up jumper

None by Charlotte Hornets

• perimeter spin move en route to the lane

• fade-away, Dirk Nowitzki-esque jumper off one foot

• 3-point shooting from the left corner, left wing and top of the key

• ability to move from block to block in repetition, pick up a basketball on each side of the paint and jam it home

• conditioning (again), by running from sideline to sideline and finishing alley-oops in between

Oubre told reporters in Charlotte he also has workouts scheduled with Denver (7th pick), Detroit (8th pick) and Utah (12th pick). Plus, he’s trying to finalize a workout with Miami (10th pick).

On Chad Ford’s list of top 100 draft prospects at ESPN.com, Oubre currently sits at No. 12.

The Hornets played shooting guard Gerald Henderson and small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist the most minutes per game at the wing positions this past season, and Kidd-Gilchrist and Jeff Taylor are the only two players on the current roster listed as small forwards. So if Oubre really did impress Charlotte — and the organization’s decision-makers think he can become a consistent 3-point shooting threat (the Hornets shot a league-worst 31.8% from downtown in 2014-15) — Oubre at No. 9 makes some sense.

Charlotte desperately needs some scoring/shooting, though, to compliment the interior scoring of Al Jefferson. Lance Stephenson didn’t make nearly the impact anticipated after the Hornets signed the former Pacer last summer. Oubre didn’t look like much of a go-to scorer or shooter at Kansas — 9.3 points, 34-for-95 from 3-point range. The Hornets will have to agree with the youngster about his ability to thrive in The Association to take an unproven scorer with a top-10 pick.


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


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Ben McLemore venturing into rap

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (23) drives against Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood (5) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 8, 2015, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore (23) drives against Utah Jazz guard Rodney Hood (5) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 8, 2015, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

When you hear the name Ben McLemore and the word mixtape used together, you might assume a YouTube highlight reel awaits: 3-pointers, drives to the rim and dunks in transition.

However, SB Nation site Sactown Royalty reports McLemore has plans for a different type of mixtape this summer. The former Kansas shooting guard wants to release a mixtape of rap tracks.

Sacramento’s starting 2-guard already has two songs posted on YouTube — listen to them at SactownRoyalty.com (as long as you don’t mind lyrics that would come with a PARENTAL ADVISORY label).

McLemore told SB Nation’s Blake Ellington he began rapping while attending KU, in Lawrence, and he just considers it a hobby.

"I want people to hear my music to see what they think about it," McLemore said. "I've got some nice feedback."

The 6-foot-5 22-year-old certainly realizes basketball will take him farther than the rap game. He showed improvements in his second year in the league while also standing out as someone who gives back to the community.


So don’t wrongly assume his passion for hip-hop means he’s putting hoops on the back burner.

"This upcoming year, I want to make another leap," McLemore told SB Nation. "I'm going to work hard this summer, it's just the type of player I am."

McLemore, who began playing for new Kings coach George Karl late in this past season, also said he’s excited about what will be his third year in Sacramento.

"I think my skill set and his system collapse together. It fits perfect in what he's trying to do with this program,” he told SB Nation.


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Stock watch: Draft night just a couple weeks away for Kelly Oubre Jr. and Cliff Alexander

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

KUsports.com graphic by Janella Williams

Both Kelly Oubre Jr. and Cliff Alexander have spent the past few weeks traveling to various NBA cities, meeting coaches and team executives and going through workouts and interviews — all in the name of proving themselves worthy of a rookie contract.

Nothing comes easy on the road to the league, even during this pre-draft stage. Alexander found that out last week, when he suffered a mild MCL sprain while working out for the Los Angeles Lakers. The big man’s draft stock steadily fell throughout his one season at Kansas, and even the most minor setbacks won’t help his chances of sneaking into the first round.

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Oubre, meanwhile, finds himself in a different sort of competition, as he and other potential lottery picks try to climb up the big boards in draft war rooms around The Association.

None by Scott Horner

The two one-and-done products from Kansas have just more than two weeks remaining to show off their skills, impress the right people and maximize their initial earning potential.

Here’s a look at where the two Jayhawks stand in various mock drafts around the web:

MOCK
DRAFTS
Kelly Oubre Jr.
projections
Cliff Alexander
projections
NBADraft.net 19th 45th
MyNBADraft.com 9th 38th
DraftExpress.com 13th 42nd
DraftSite.com 20th 41st
Chad Ford, ESPN.com 14th N/A
SheridanHoops.com 11th N/A
BleacherReport.com 9th N/A
Sam Vecenie, CBSSports.com 12th 37th
Gary Parrish, CBSSports.com 11th 35th
Zach Harper, CBSSports.com 10th 29th

Kelly Oubre Jr.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) pulls up for a shot against Kansas State forward Stephen Hurt (41) during the first half, Monday, Feb. 23, 2015 at Bramlage Coliseum.

Kansas guard Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) pulls up for a shot against Kansas State forward Stephen Hurt (41) during the first half, Monday, Feb. 23, 2015 at Bramlage Coliseum. by Nick Krug

— SF, 6-foot-7, 200 pounds, 19 years old, from Richmond, Texas —

Average mock draft position: 13th

Current high: 9th, Charlotte (MyNBADraft.com, BleacherReport.com)

Current low: 20th, Toronto (DraftSite.com)

Stock assessment: Slightly improving. Nothing is guaranteed at this juncture, but it appears Oubre won’t slip out of the top 14 picks at the June 25 draft. Eight of the 10 forecasts have him getting picked in the lottery, in the range of 9th to 14th. Potential landing spots for the athletic young small forward include Charlotte, Indiana, Utah, Miami, Phoenix and Oklahoma City. Other predictions had Washington and Toronto picking him up later in the first round.

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For those of us who don’t have access to NBA workouts and draft preparation databases, NBA.com’s player metrics pages offer a cool alternative. The special feature profiles numerous soon-to-be rookies and includes vital measurements and information on each prospect.

Oubre has a 3-foot-1 vertical leap, a 7-2 wingspan, 6% body fat and his hands are 9 inches long and 9 inches wide.

As a handy comparison — which you can access on the page — Oubre has a better vertical (by 5 inches) and longer wingspan (5 inches) than Golden State’s Klay Thompson.

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The prospect analysis section of the profile offers even more insight. Oubre’s weaknesses are listed as:

• “has to gain size and strength”

• and “needs to keep working on consistency”

Here’s what one Western Conference scout had to say about the 19-year-old wing’s game:

“You get him in space and let him go, and you can't guard him. But when the game slows down, he can get in trouble. Now, can he get better? Yeah. Can he improve his shot? Yeah."

Cliff Alexander

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) takes some contact from Oklahoma State forward/center Anthony Allen Jr. (32) as he elevates for a dunk during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Cliff Alexander (2) takes some contact from Oklahoma State forward/center Anthony Allen Jr. (32) as he elevates for a dunk during the first half, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse. by Nick Krug

— PF/C, 6-foot-9, 250 pounds, 19 years old, from Chicago —

Average mock draft position: 38th

Current high: 29th, Brooklyn (Zach Harper, CBSSports.com)

Current low: 45th, Boston (NBADraft.net)

Stock assessment: Slightly slipping. Only one draft prognosticator still thinks a team will use a first-round pick on Alexander, who appears to be a longterm project as an NBA big man.

Obviously, any number of teams could take him in the second round, but according to the mock drafts that include second-round predictions, potential suitors include Boston, Detroit, Utah, Brooklyn and Philadelphia.

Alexander’s player metrics file lists his wingspan at 7-4, his body fat at 6% and his hand length/width at 10 inches.

As a likely second-round pick, the 19-year-old big still has plenty of holes in his overall game. His weaknesses include:

• “at 6-9 in shoes, doesn’t have great NBA PF size”

• “has to continue to work on post moves”

• “needs to develop consistent face-up game”

• and “can he score over NBA bigs?”

Despite those areas of concern, some team will take a chance on Alexander because of that 7-4 wingspan and his potential as a rebounder. NBA teams always need depth in the frontcourt and that could give him a shot at sticking around in the league.


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


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