Entries from blogs tagged with “NBA”

Cole Aldrich goes from DNP’s to key bench producer with Clippers

Los Angeles Clippers' Cole Aldrich, left, dunks past Miami Heat's Justise Winslow during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

Los Angeles Clippers' Cole Aldrich, left, dunks past Miami Heat's Justise Winslow during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

What has gotten into Cole Aldrich?

The sixth-year big man out of Kansas who spent most of November and December not even checking into games for his new team, the Los Angeles Clippers, has turned into a bit of a force off the bench.

The Clippers’ coach and general manager, Doc Rivers, told the Orange County Register the 6-foot-11, 250-pound Aldrich has helped give L.A.’s bench an identity.

“Cole just knows who he is,” Rivers said. “He has this body, and he uses it. He doesn’t try to beat you athletically; he just gets his body in the right positions. He rolls to the right spot.”

Aldrich is doing more than just providing a large, warm body in the paint. The burly 27-year-old center, who has averaged 3.3 points and 3.5 rebounds while playing for five different franchises in his career, has actually been an effective piece of the Clippers’ offense, too.

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Since Rivers began using Aldrich more, in a 1-point loss to Oklahoma City on Dec. 21, the Clippers are 11-2. In January, Aldrich is averaging 9.4 points and 6.1 rebounds, while making 54% of his shots in just 15.7 minutes an outing.

Aldrich’s recent success obviously has been a direct result of more minutes. But injuries to other Clippers played a part in his prolonged opportunity. All-star forward Blake Griffin hasn’t played since Christmas, due to a quad injury, opening up minutes in Rivers’ rotation.

Still, with the way Aldrich has taken advantage of filling in, it’s hard to see Rivers abandoning his newfound option down low. What’s more, L.A. point guard Chris Paul told the L.A. Times the team’s recent run of injuries should make the Clippers better when they’re fully healthy .

"These guys missing games is giving other guys an opportunity to build their confidence," Paul said, "and that way when they come back it just adds that much more depth to our team."

On Saturday in a loss to Sacramento, Aldrich didn’t look so hot to start the game, missing 6 of his first 7 shots. But he showed Rivers and his teammates something by making his final 7 shot attempts, on his way to 19 points and 10 boards.

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“Well, he had to have it,” Rivers said to the Los Angeles Daily News of Aldrich’s strong finish, “because he missed some, as we did as a team, he missed some pretty point-blank looks, and so he’s been pretty persistent.”

Rivers praised Aldrich for his professionalism, and being ready to contribute to the team after not playing at all in 22 games earlier this season.

“Never stopped working,” the coach added of Aldrich, “actually worked himself into better shape in not playing, which is hard to do. So I think that says a lot about his character.”

Aldrich told the L.A. Daily News he knows how to star in his role, by doing the most with his abilities.

“I mean, I know that my role is to set screens, roll hard,” the backup big man said, “if given the opportunity to make some buckets, make them and then just defend the rim.”

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The Clippers’ veterans love Aldrich’s professionalism. Paul said Aldrich shows up and works hard every day.

“I mean, you couldn’t find anybody on our team that could say something bad about Cole,” Paul said.

Then again, when Aldrich lets his goofy side out, all of his teammates don’t mind telling him what an awful dancer he is.

At least Aldrich owns it. Just like he does his backup role.

None by Cole Aldrich


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Mario Chalmers hits wild game-winner for Memphis

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mario Chalmers reacts after making the winning basket against the Detroit Pistons in the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in Memphis, Tenn. The Grizzlies defeated the Pistons 103-101. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mario Chalmers reacts after making the winning basket against the Detroit Pistons in the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in Memphis, Tenn. The Grizzlies defeated the Pistons 103-101. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)

The more Mario Chalmers plays for the Memphis Grizzlies, the more it seems getting traded from Miami might be the best thing that’s happened to his career since LeBron James showed up in South Beach.

Currently a starter for Memphis — in place of injured Mike Conley the past four games — all the former Kansas star did Thursday night was turn out game-highs in minutes (42), points (25), assists (8) and steals (4).

Oh, yeah. And Chalmers hit the game-winning shot against Detroit.

After another ’Hawk in the NBA, the Pistons’ Marcus Morris, had the ball stripped on the opposite end of the floor, it ended up in Chalmers’ hands with the fourth-quarter clock quickly making its way toward 0:00 with the game tied at 101, in Memphis.

Morris and Pistons guard Brandon Jennings nearly swiped the ball from Chalmers at the top of the key before the Grizzlies guard retrieved it off the floor and, in the same continuous motion, got off an awkward jumper that beat the buzzer and gave Memphis a wild, last-second win over the visiting Pistons.

None by Memphis Grizzlies

“I just seen it, and I was able to get to it and get to my good spot and release it on time,” Chalmers told FOX Sports Southeast after hitting the improbable shot.

Chalmers embraced his new role with Memphis, as a score-first backup guard, which helped him get over the Heat trading him away, and has carried that over into his temporary starting role, while Conley rests a sore left achilles tendon.

In his past 5 games, Chalmers has played 30-plus minutes an outing and averaged 17.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 6.8 assists and 2.2 steals, while shooting 41.2% from the floor and 10-for-28 from 3-point range (35.7%).

The Grizzlies are 3-1 with Chalmers in the starting lineup, with wins over Detroit, Boston and Denver, and a loss to Houston. Memphis (22-19) currently has the 6th-best record in the Western Conference.


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Christmas Day viewers’ guide for KU hoops fans

As the NBA showcases five Christmas Day games, Kansas basketball fans looking to mix in some Jayhawks with their holiday festivities will have a chance to catch a glimpse of as many as seven former KU players.

Here’s a rundown of ’Hawks in the NBA taking the court while most of the country takes the day off.

Chicago at Oklahoma City — featuring Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison

If you love veteran role players and stars from Roy Williams’ last years at KU, well, you better send the NBA a thank-you note for this present. Both Kirk Hinrich and Nick Collison will get some national air-time Christmas afternoon (1:30, ABC) when Hinrich’s Bulls play at Collison’s Thunder (though most promos for the game probably feature Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook).

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich adjusts his goggles in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers, Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, in Indianapolis. Indiana won 104-92. (AP Photo/R Brent Smith)

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich adjusts his goggles in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers, Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, in Indianapolis. Indiana won 104-92. (AP Photo/R Brent Smith)

Now 34 years old, Hinrich plays a backup role for Chicago (15-11) and averages just 16.2 minutes a game. But this is his 11th season playing for the Bulls, the team that drafted him seventh overall in 2003. As pointed out recently by SI.com, the veteran 6-foot-4 guard now leads the franchise in career 3-pointers (1,040) and ranks third all-time in games played (730). The only Bulls who have played more games for Chicago are Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

Hinrich also sits third all-time in steals (853) and assists (3,779) for Chicago — again, behind Jordan and Pippen — and eighth in points (8,486).

“The young guys, they’re joking all the time, ‘Did you play with Bill Cartwright?’” Hinrich told SI.com.

More of a facilitator and defender these days, Hinrich’s best game of the season so far came in November, when Rose was injured and he played 34 minutes. Hinrich scored 17 points and helped limit reigning MVP Steph Curry to 3-for-11 shooting.

“He’s a guy that goes out and does the little things,” first-year Chicago coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He organizes everything on both ends of the floor.”

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, left, and forward Nick Collison, right, try to take the ball away from Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (17) in the third quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. Toronto won 103-98. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, left, and forward Nick Collison, right, try to take the ball away from Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (17) in the third quarter of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. Toronto won 103-98. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Hinrich’s old running mate at KU, Collison also plays a limited role (13.6 minutes) as a 35-year-old substitute big man for one of the NBA’s premier teams. And like Hinrich, the 6-10 forward ranks pretty high on some of Oklahoma City’s all-time lists.

Drafted by Seattle before the franchise relocated to OKC, Collison is third in games played (841), behind Fred Brown and Gary Payton. He ranks third in offensive rebounds (1,709) and total rebounds (4,566), behind Jack Sikma and Shawn Kemp. Collison also is third in field-goal percentage (.534), sixth in blocks (459) and ninth in minutes played (18,042).

As much of a mentor as a statistical contributor, Collison helps the Thunder (20-9) on and off the floor. He leads by example by defending, rebounding and taking charges.

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And he’s helped 22-year-old protégé Steven Adams develop the Thunder’s pick-and-roll into a legitimate weapon.

“The teams that are really hard to guard in this league are the ones where you have a big threat rolling down the middle and you’re really put in a bind,” Collison told Oklahoma City’s website. “We’re trying to get in those situations on the offensive end as much as possible.”

Cleveland at Golden State — featuring Sasha Kaun and Brandon Rush

An NBA Finals rematch? How about the first ever professional meeting between Cleveland’s Sasha Kaun and Golden State’s Brandon Rush (4 p.m., ABC) — teammates on KU’s 2008 national championship team.

Milwaukee Bucks' Michael Carter-Williams drives against Golden State Warriors' Brandon Rush during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, in Milwaukee. The Bucks won 108-95. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

Milwaukee Bucks' Michael Carter-Williams drives against Golden State Warriors' Brandon Rush during the second half of an NBA basketball game Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, in Milwaukee. The Bucks won 108-95. (AP Photo/Aaron Gash)

A member of the nearly unbeatable defending champion Warriors (27-1), Rush has played more this year (14.9 minutes, 5.2 points) than he has since the 2011-12 season. Golden State made the 30-year-old forward a starter when Harrison Barnes injured his ankle and became unavailable.

“I’ve been waiting for this opportunity to show that I can still shoot the ball and can still play at a high level,” Rush told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I feel so much better than I did last year — with my shot and just being able to move around the court.”

Rush’s best game to date came against Sacramento, when he nailed 4 of 5 from 3-point range and scored 16 points. In December, he is averaging 6.8 points and hitting 50 percent of his 3-pointers (14 of 28).

A major knee injury in 2012 derailed Rush’s career a bit, but now he finally appears to be back on track.

“It’s been up and down, especially these past two or three years,” Rush told the San Francisco Chronicle. “But now, everything is looking up. Things can’t get any better. I’m shooting the ball well, we’re the best team in the league, and we’re on the verge of trying to get another championship. I’m definitely in a great place right now.”

Memphis Grizzlies' Brandan Wright, left, shoots over Cleveland Cavaliers' Sasha Kaun, of Russia, during the third quarter of a preseason NBA basketball game Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in Columbus, Ohio. The Grizzlies beat the Cavaliers 91-81. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Memphis Grizzlies' Brandan Wright, left, shoots over Cleveland Cavaliers' Sasha Kaun, of Russia, during the third quarter of a preseason NBA basketball game Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in Columbus, Ohio. The Grizzlies beat the Cavaliers 91-81. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

Kaun landed in a pretty good situation to start his NBA career. Cleveland, home of superstar LeBron James, is 19-7 and the prohibitive favorite in the Eastern Conference to return to the NBA Finals.

The Cavs don’t exactly need Kaun, a 30-year-old, 6-11 center that much, though. After spending most of his professional career overseas, Kaun has played in just seven games in his rookie season, with eight total points in those cameos (4.4 minutes).

"But, you know, his game is very simplistic,” Cavs coach David Blatt told Northeast Ohio Media Group before the season began, “so it's not like he has to do a lot of things that would require him to adjust. He just has to get used to the size and the length of the guys and the speed of the game."

L.A. Clippers at L.A. Lakers — featuring Paul Pierce, Cole Aldrich and Tarik Black

This NBA nightcap in Los Angeles (9:30 p.m., ESPN) seems like it would provide the most bang for a KU fan’s buck, with three Jayhawks in the mix.

Los Angeles Clippers' Paul Pierce, left, dribble against Milwaukee Bucks' Jabari Parker during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

Los Angeles Clippers' Paul Pierce, left, dribble against Milwaukee Bucks' Jabari Parker during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

But even longtime NBA star Paul Pierce isn’t expected to participate all that much. The 38-year-old forward sat out the Clippers’ previous game to rest his sore back, and coach Doc Rivers said his veteran forward will be limited in the battle of Los Angeles.

Pierce has played less for his new team of late, averaging only 10.8 minutes and 3.0 points in December (16.3 minutes, 4.1 points on the season).

On the other hand, another Jayhawk this week suddenly found himself in a more active role.

Los Angeles Clippers' Cole Aldrich, left, defends Oklahoma City Thunder's Serge Ibaka during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Los Angeles Clippers' Cole Aldrich, left, defends Oklahoma City Thunder's Serge Ibaka during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Reserve center Cole Aldrich, after not registering a single minute in 11 straight games, has played in each of the Clippers’ last two games and even played in the fourth quarter of a one-point loss to Oklahoma City earlier this week. Aldrich finished with five points, four rebounds and two blocks in 14 minutes.

"I think that was a prime example of being a star in your role and not trying to reach outside of that," Blake Griffin told the Los Angeles Times. “(Aldrich) just did what we need him to do and that's huge."

Rivers told the L.A. Times he turned to Aldrich to give the Clippers (16-13) an energetic boost. That’s what the 27-year-old did, playing in just his seventh game of the season (1.7 points, 2.1 rebounds in 5.3 minutes).

"If we play this way the rest of the year, we're going to win a lot of games," Aldrich told the L.A. Times. "We played with a lot of heart and a lot of enthusiasm and it was fun out there."

Los Angeles Lakers center Tarik Black (28) goes to the basket past Orlando Magic forward Channing Frye during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Los Angeles Lakers center Tarik Black (28) goes to the basket past Orlando Magic forward Channing Frye during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

Meanwhile, the struggling Lakers (5-24) could use a similar spark from second-year big man Tarik Black. The 6-foot-9 center hasn’t played for the purple and gold since Nov. 24, but just got called back up from the team’s D-League affiliate on Wednesday.

Black put up 25 points and 14 rebounds in his final appearance with the D-Fenders. The 24-year-old big averaged 18.5 points and 11.8 rebounds in a four-game D-League stint, coming off an ankle injury.

Lakers coach Bryron Scott didn’t play Black Wednesday, while utilizing three other big men off the bench in a 35-point loss to the Thunder. So there is no guarantee Black will see the floor versus the Clippers.


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Disgruntled Markieff Morris tosses towel at Suns coach, earns 2-game suspension

Phoenix Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek, right, talks with Markieff Morris, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Phoenix Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek, right, talks with Markieff Morris, left, during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

It doesn’t look like Markieff Morris and Phoenix coach Jeff Hornacek will be exchanging Christmas cards this year.

Upset Wednesday night when his coach subbed him out of the game in the fourth quarter of what would become another Suns loss, Morris threw a towel toward Hornacek while yelling at him, according to the Arizona Republic’s Paul Coro. Hornacek then picked up the towel and threw it back in the direction of Morris with a counter of “his own upset words.”

A former star at Kansas, Morris has fallen out of favor with Phoenix’s coach of late, playing far fewer minted than expected after a breakthrough season a year ago (career highs of 15.3 points per game, 6.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 31.5 minutes, 82 starts).

Morris logged just 12 minutes in the loss to Denver that now may mark the tipping point in what already had become a soured relationship between the 6-foot-10 forward and the organization that drafted him.

“He’s mad about not playing,” Hornacek said in Coro’s report. “I look at the stat sheet. He’s a minus-13 in 12 minutes. So there, I took him out. … He thinks he’s better than that. Show me.”

Morris first became disgruntled with the Suns organization this past summer, when the team traded his twin brother Marcus to Detroit unexpectedly. He publicly said he wanted Phoenix to trade him, too, as a result and the more the season goes on the more inevitable that endgame seems.

After starting 16 games for the Suns this season, Morris since has lost his starting job and now finds himself behind Jon Leuer and Mirza Teletovic in Hornacek’s rotation.

Following Morris’ run-in with the head coach — incidentally, Hornacek also got in a shouting match with Marcus Morris nearly a year ago — Markieff was suspended two games by the Suns on Christmas Eve, according to Yahoo.

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As for Morris’ response Wednesday night regarding the tossed towel?

“That’s between me and ‘H’ (Hornaceck),” Morris told the Arizona Republic. “It’s not for media. It’s something between me and him that happened. We’ll talk about it.”

After not playing a single minute in 7 of the previous 9 games, Morris has played sparingly in Phoenix’s last 4 outings. The fifth-year forward logged 17 minutes in his return to action, a win at New Orleans (one of the teams rumored to be interested in trading for him), and scored 13 points. He scored 8 points in 15 minutes versus Milwaukee, 4 points in 21 minutes at Utah and 6 points in 12 minutes vs. Denver.

Morris’ name already was one of the biggest swirling in NBA trade rumors. Now his departure from Phoenix (12-19) seems inevitable.


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Joel Embiid easing into another season of basketball rehab

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid shoots during warmups before his team plays the New York Knicks, Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, in Philadelphia. (Yong Kim/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid shoots during warmups before his team plays the New York Knicks, Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, in Philadelphia. (Yong Kim/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP) by Yong Kim | The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP

Not much basketball joy exists in the realm of Philadelphia 76ers fans these days. And who could blame them? The Sixers have won exactly one game in 30 tries — the worst start to a season in NBA history — as the franchise trudges on through a self-imposed rebuilding process driven by (the hope of) cashing in on high lottery picks.

Of course, that business model might be a little less laughable right now if former Kansas big man Joel Embiid had actually, you know, been able to play in games for Philadelphia during last season or this one.

Since entering the 2014 draft, the 7-foot Embiid has undergone two surgeries on his right foot — most recently this past August, involving a graft on the same navicular bone he first fractured before Philadelphia picked him No. 3 overall.

But Sixers fans can at least feel a little bit better about the future, just in time for the holidays, as Embiid, who is again expected to miss an entire season, has started to go through very basic basketball drills in the early stages of another rehab process.

Philadelphia coach Brett Brown told reporters, including Keith Pompey of Philly.com, the 76ers love seeing the gregarious big man getting in some light work.

"This just happens to be one of these times were he can get rehab in and be a part of us. But it's good to see him."

Embiid, who per NBA rules doesn’t have to speak with reporters until he is an active participant in 5-on-5 drills, appears to be taking a different approach to getting healthy this season, according to his coach.

"I just know what I see, just a committed, hopeful athlete," Brown said. "He sees that he's doing the right thing. He feels like he's doing the right thing. He is doing the right thing. So I just see somebody that's got the edge where he wants to get going again. I think mentally it's night and day from talking to him this time in December last year."

As you can tell from an Embiid Instagram post that gained a lot of traction, the big man looks to be in the best physical shape of his life (foot injury not included).

Coming along nicely #TrustTheProcess #shirleytemple

A photo posted by Joel Hans Embiid (@joelembiid) on Dec 11, 2015 at 6:49pm PST

Still, that bum foot means he can’t make real basketball moves for now — because if he tried he likely would suffer yet another setback. There is some video evidence of how little Embiid is allowed to take on. Earlier this week, Pompey tweeted out videos of the 21-year-old rookie-in-waiting remaining flat-footed during drills that incorporated shooting, passing and ball handling.

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None by Keith Pompey

None by Keith Pompey

It’s all part of Embiid’s long journey toward playing next year (the Sixers hope).

Embiid won’t ever get to face his basketball idol, Kobe Bryant, who is retiring at the end of this season.

But maybe a more focused Embiid has emerged from the past year-plus of disappointment. And just maybe he’ll be the player who begins to turn the 76ers franchise around.

Embiid is skilled enough to be that guy if his body will ever give him a chance to show it. But we’ll have to wait until 2016-17 to find out how his feet and back cooperate in that process.


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Undermanned Wizards starting rookie Kelly Oubre Jr.

Washington Wizards forward Kelly Oubre Jr. (12), handles the ball against Charlotte Hornets forward P.J. Hairston (19), in the first half of an NBA basketball game at the Verizon Center in Washington on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015. This was Oubre's first game as a starter. The Wizards won 109-101. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Washington Wizards forward Kelly Oubre Jr. (12), handles the ball against Charlotte Hornets forward P.J. Hairston (19), in the first half of an NBA basketball game at the Verizon Center in Washington on Saturday, Dec. 19, 2015. This was Oubre's first game as a starter. The Wizards won 109-101. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Twenty-year-old rookie Kelly Oubre Jr. didn’t figure into Washington’s plans when the season began. The Wizards hoped to bring the 6-foot-7 forward out of Kansas along slowly and develop him away from the spotlight of actual NBA games.

That idea got altered — at least temporarily — when the Wizards lost their starting small forward to an injury last week, and Oubre earned an unexpected shot to try and prove he belongs ahead of schedule.

Averaging just 9.3 minutes and 4.0 points on the season (with 7 DNP-CD’s), Oubre played more than 20 minutes in each of Washington’s past two games and started for the first time in his career due to Otto Porter’s left thigh bruise.

Against Charlotte on Saturday, Oubre made both of his 3-pointers, shot 3-for-5 overall, scored 8 points and had 5 rebounds in his first outing as an NBA starter. He played just 22 minutes after picking up his second foul a little more than 6 minutes in.

Afterward, Oubre told The Washington Post he tried to ease into his new role.

“I was just trying to play within the confines of the offense, the flow,” Oubre said. “Letting it come to me, not forcing anything.”

“I kind of know the standard of what I need to do to be successful in the NBA game,” Oubre added. “I watched film off that and continue to build off that. So I feel like it’s something that I can continue to grow up upon.”

Oubre scored a career-high 18 points in Washington’s previous game, a blowout loss at San Antonio.

According to CSN Mid-Atlantic, Oubre is expected to get start No. 2 Monday night against Sacramento.

Referencing his 4 fouls in his first start, Oubre said:

"I'm the rookie. Guys know certain tricks to get foul calls.”

In the meantime, the rookie, who earlier this season learned a valuable lesson about NBA decorum when the league fined him $15,000 for an obscene gesture he made on the bench, will continue to try and pick and choose his spots and figure out how he can impact the game for the disappointing Wizards (11-14).

"Until I'm established and I know what it is I'm giving every night, then I'll try to do more," Oubre said. "I'm just trying to play within the confines of the offense, trying to do what I need to do to stay on the court."


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Mario Chalmers receives hero’s welcome in return to Miami

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mario Chalmers (6) looks for an open teammate past Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015, in Miami. Chalmers, playing against Miami as an opponent for the first time since being traded to Memphis last month, finished with 12 for the Grizzlies as the Heat defeated the Grizzlies 100-97. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mario Chalmers (6) looks for an open teammate past Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2015, in Miami. Chalmers, playing against Miami as an opponent for the first time since being traded to Memphis last month, finished with 12 for the Grizzlies as the Heat defeated the Grizzlies 100-97. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Mario Chalmers returned to Miami Sunday, marking his first time playing at his former home arena since the Heat shipped him to Memphis in early November.

The way his former organization treated Chalmers, who had played every game of his career with Miami before the deal, one would think the guard who famously hit a late 3-pointer to propel Kansas past Memphis in the 2008 NCAA championship game also single-handedly took the Heat to four straight NBA Finals and back-to-back titles in 2012 and 2013.

Obviously LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh had a whole lot to do with Miami’s success during that run, but Miami still acknowledged Chalmers with a hero’s welcome in the form of a tribute video.

Maybe Miami felt bad about shipping away its former guard. Bosh had a long list of attributes when asked by the Miami Herald what the Heat misses now that Chalmers plays with the Grizzlies.

“His length. His defensive capability. His offensive capability. His outside shooting. Being able to spread the floor. His knack for passing and getting guys involved in offense. Getting easy baskets. He’s a very talented player,” Bosh said.

“When you miss those things, you notice. He created so many turnovers for this team. He had a knack for getting his hand on the ball, which was great for this team.”

Or perhaps Miami regretted moving Chalmers without giving him proper notice. The 6-foot-2 role player who gave 525 games of his career to the Heat told NBCSports.com he found out about the trade via Twitter.

“For me being there so long, and nobody had the respect to tell me that I was about to get traded, that’s how it went down,” Chalmers said.

His new role with the Grizzlies certainly has helped him move on, though. Chalmers said Memphis coach Dave Joerger told him before he arrived that the Grizzlies needed him to score.

Against his former team, Chalmers scored 12 points on 4-for-7 shooting, marking the 10th time he has scored in double digits off the bench for the Grizzlies, who are 10-6 with their new backup guard in the lineup.

The Heat won, 100-97, but Chalmers got to enjoy his return, thanks to his former team showing him some love.

None by Will Manso

None by Mario Chalmers

As for the real reason the Heat wanted to welcome Chalmers back? Well, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald detailed, the role player accomplished quite a bit in his time in South Beach:

Chalmers ranks second in Heat history in steals, third in assists, fourth in games played and three-pointers, sixth in games started and minutes, 11th in points, 13th in field goals and free throws and 15th in rebounds.

He holds the Heat single-game record for steals (nine) and shares the single-game record for three-pointers (10).

Now 29 and in his eighth NBA season, Chalmers is averaging 11.2 points for Memphis — a number that would top his career high of 10.2 ppg, set last season, when he was playing 29.6 minutes for Miami. The Grizzlies, using him as a bench scorer, are getting great returns while only playing Chalmers 19.2 minutes.

And it’s not as if he’s a liability on defense, either, like some substitute scoring specialists. Joerger described Chalmers as feisty and told NBCSports.com about what he expects from his new bench weapon going forward.

“I think the best of Mario Chalmers is yet to come for our team,” Joerger said.


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Markieff Morris’ days with Phoenix might be numbered

Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris (11) shoots over Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, in Phoenix. The Warriors won 135-116. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Phoenix Suns forward Markieff Morris (11) shoots over Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Nov. 27, 2015, in Phoenix. The Warriors won 135-116. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Unlike his brother Marcus, thriving on a new team this season, it seems doubtful Markieff Morris is too thrilled with his situation in Phoenix right now.

Then again, his basketball troubles could only be temporary. Morris’ days as a member of the Suns might be numbered.

Although the 6-foot-10 power forward has played for Phoenix since he left Kansas in 2011, Morris, angered the team abruptly traded his brother, publicly postured for a trade this summer. He changed his tune upon reporting to preseason camp, but as the season progresses, it appears Morris never has completely gotten over it.

Way back during the first week of the regular season, Marcus Morris told mlive.com he couldn’t believe Markieff was still with Phoenix. What’s more, the new member of the Pistons said his twin brother didn’t “look happy.”

"He just don't look comfortable," Marcus Morris added. "He don't look too excited."

Marcus said he knew Markieff well enough to sense his demeanor had changed, and he didn’t understand why the Suns hadn’t traded him, too.

“You're in the league, a player says he doesn't want to play somewhere, and everybody's asking him about it. I haven't really seen too many places that kept the player who doesn't want to be there," Marcus said at the time.

While many around the NBA assumed Markieff’s name would come up in trade talks sooner or later this season, that line of thinking picked up heat this past week with ESPN’s Marc Stein reporting Houston might be looking into a deal for the disgruntled forward. From there, it didn’t take too long for other potential destinations, such as New Orleans, to pop up on the rumor-obsessed Internet.

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Fueling the speculation, Morris hasn’t played a single minute in three of Phoenix’s past five games. AZcentral.com reported Markieff chose to sit out a Dec. 2 game against Marcus and the Pistons with a bruised knee. Suns coach Jeff Hornacek then declined to play his team’s lone Morris twin at Memphis. Reportedly, Morris missed Wednesday’s game against Orlando due to illness. Two days earlier, he only played 7 minutes (off the bench) against Chicago.

Of late, Phoenix big men Jon Leuer and Mirza Teletovic have supplanted Morris in Hornacek’s rotation.

On the season, Morris’ numbers have dropped off from a year ago, when he enjoyed his best campaign in the NBA. He’s only scoring 11.4 points and shooting what would be career-lows from the field (38.6%) and from 3-point range (27.9%), despite some good games here and there in November.

The more you read the writing on the wall, the more likely it seems Phoenix will part ways with the player it drafted 13th overall in 2011.

For what it’s worth Suns general manager Ryan McDonough, as reported at ArizonaSports.com, went on a local radio show and had good things to say about Morris.

McDonough praised Morris for his attitude and pointed to his cheering reaction from the bench when Teletovic scored a game-winning basket.

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“Are we shopping him? I wouldn’t necessarily say that, but we’re looking at whatever we can do to upgrade our team,” Phoenix’s GM said. “The trade deadline is in late February. Despite our struggles, I think as we sit here today we’re one game out of the eight spot in the West, and I think we just went through the toughest part of our schedule and we were able to keep our head above water, so to speak.”

McDonough went on to say the Suns don’t have a player they’re “just trying to get rid of.”

“We don’t really look to make moves that would have us take a step back, or I guess be considered lateral moves. If there’s a trade that makes our team a whole lot better in the short and long-term, we’ll do it. But short of that we’ll ride with the group we have.”

All of that might be true, but if the Suns have privately decided to use Leuer and Teletovic as their power forwards, instead of Morris, other teams are going to inquire about a trade.

Even if Morris has slumped this season, his size and ability to stretch the floor are obviously coveted (see: Houston and New Orleans rumors). If the right trade offer comes along, Phoenix would move him. The Suns’ GM essentially said so himself.


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Pistons trust Marcus Morris, who is having breakout season

Detroit Pistons' Marcus Morris (13) drives past Milwaukee Bucks' Michael Carter-Williams (5) during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Detroit Pistons' Marcus Morris (13) drives past Milwaukee Bucks' Michael Carter-Williams (5) during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Saturday, Oct. 10, 2015, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

It’s safe to say Marcus Morris has recovered from the initial disappointment of getting traded from Phoenix and leaving behind his twin brother, Markieff.

Through 22 games with his new team, the Detroit Pistons, Marcus Morris is well on his way to the best season of his career, since leaving Kansas for the NBA in 2011.

For starters, well, Morris is solidified as a starter for Detroit. In the 6-foot-9 forward’s previous four seasons in the NBA, he only started 69 times. Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy has wanted Morris out on the floor for tip-off every game this season.

And rarely does Van Gundy ask his versatile forward to take a rest. Roughly a quarter of the way through the regular season, Morris is averaging 36.4 minutes a game. That’s the sixth-highest mark in the league right now and far beyond his previous career-best 25.2 minutes per game last season in Phoenix.

With that newfound responsibility, Morris is averaging what would be career highs in points (14.3), rebounds (6.0), assists (2.1) and steals (1.2). Though Morris’ shooting numbers — 39.9% from the floor, 28.8% from 3-point range — have dropped below his career averages (42.6% overall, 35.7% on 3-pointers), obviously Van Gundy thinks enough of him to keep him on the court.

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Morris told The Detroit News he’s happy to be with the Pistons (12-10 and in the hunt for the playoffs in the surprisingly competitive Eastern Conference). The new Piston tries to remain aggressive even when shots aren’t falling. Morris said he also wants to take an assertive approach to getting teammates involved and making the right play.

“That comes with time and with getting adjusted to a role. It’s the first time I really got to play this many minutes and be able to make mistakes and play through it,” Morris said. “It’s definitely a major help for me.”

Van Gundy uses Morris at both forward spots, depending on who else is on the floor at the time, and the coach told The Detroit News he wants to see even more production from the man he traded for this past summer.

“Marcus can do a lot of things, and I have to create more and more things for him,” Van Gundy said. “He’s a damn-good passer, too. We’re really fortunate to have him. We thought he was good when we got him, and he’s better than I thought he was.”

The Pistons aren’t exactly the deepest team around, and Morris has found ways to make his minutes valuable and compliment Detroit’s emerging star, big man Andre Drummond.

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Morris told the Pistons’ website he thinks he arrived for pre-season training camp in the best shape of his career, as requested by Van Gundy. The coach also told his new player ahead of time that he planned to use Morris as a stretch-4 at times, so he should be ready to shoot 3-pointers.

“A coach can say anything,” Morris said, “but if you come and you’re not that player they thought you were, it’s easy to take it back. ‘Oh, he’s not really as good a scorer as I thought he was’ or ‘He’s not a great defender or the greatest shooter.’ We kept in contact a lot this summer and he told me exactly what he wanted and that’s what I based my summer around.”

It appears Morris and Van Gundy have been on the same page form Day 1, and that has made Morris’ move to Detroit great for all involved.

“I just feel comfortable and I think when any player gets to feeling comfortable, your game goes to another level,” Morris said. “But I’m not taking anything for granted. I’m going to continue to work. I’m not blowing that off. I’m happy. I’m going to continue to be one of the leaders of this team, one of the vocal leaders of this team. I’m just grateful and blessed to be in a situation where I can finally play basketball to my capabilities.”


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Year No. 3 off to troubling start for Ben McLemore

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, left, drives to the basket against Los Angeles Lakers forward Ryan Kelly, right, during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, Oct. 30, 2015. The Kings won 132-114.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Sacramento Kings guard Ben McLemore, left, drives to the basket against Los Angeles Lakers forward Ryan Kelly, right, during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Sacramento, Calif., Friday, Oct. 30, 2015. The Kings won 132-114.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Sure, the 82-game grind that is the NBA season barely has begun. But so far, there are some signs that third-year shooting guard Ben McLemore could be in for a disappointing season.

Really, issues began to emerge in the preseason, when the 2013 one-and-done lottery pick out of Kansas only hit 27 percent of his shots for Sacramento. That led to Kings coach George Karl saying in a post from Sactown Royalty that he wished McLemore would have played better.

“But he's a young guy that I think it's the first time he has a competitive situation for minutes. In the end, it will make him a much better player," Karl said. "He might not enjoy it as much if he doesn't play. I mean, he played 2,600 minutes last year. I don't think Ben is going to play 2,600 minutes on this team."

When the man in charge of minutes predicts a decrease in minutes, that’s kind of a red flag.

Sacramento improved its depth in the offseason, and with Marco Belinelli an option at shooting guard, it’s clear Karl won’t stick with McLemore just to see how it goes.

Karl also said before the season started McLemore could turn out to be an important part of the rotation. But the coach then basically said the 6-foot-5 shooting guard hasn’t picked up on all of the offensive concepts Sacramento uses.

"I think our style is to play random, equal opportunity, flow basketball and so maybe the veteran guys or the guys that have what I call savvy, knowing how to get open, when to get open, when to cut, when not to cut. I think Ben might be below the curve of that," Karl said. "But that's a young player searching for the betterment of his skills."

McLemore, who averaged 12.1 points, made 35.8% of his 3-pointers and shot 43.7% from the floor in 32.6 minutes a game last season, is off to a slow start in the 2015-16 campaign. While starting all four games at shooting guard, the 22-year-old has only made 2 of 7 (28.6%) from 3-point range and 6 of 21 (28.6%) from the field overall.

As a result, he’s averaging 4.3 points in 19.0 minutes a game.

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In Sacramento’s most recent loss Tuesday night, versus Memphis, McLemore’s stat line looked like this:

  • 2 points, 1/5 FGs, 0/2 3s, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 fouls, 2 turnovers, 20 minutes

A report Wednesday from KFBK radio cited sources around the team and said McLemore wouldn’t start the Kings’ next game.

There is plenty of season left, and more than enough time for McLemore to break out of his slump and get acclimated with Karl’s offense. But Karl wasn’t around when Sacramento drafted McLemore and has no incentive to play him more if he deems doing so is harming the Kings’ chances of winning.

This is a situation McLemore fans will want to keep their eyes on.


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‘Old guy’ Kirk Hinrich’s love for game keeps him plugging away

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich (12) looks to pass the ball against the Denver Nuggets in the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Chicago Bulls guard Kirk Hinrich (12) looks to pass the ball against the Denver Nuggets in the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The NBA is a young man’s world. Kirk Hinrich just happens to still live and operate in it.

As the former standout guard at Kansas begins Year No. 13 in the league, Hinrich’s minutes and production are almost certain to slip in the months ahead, as he plays a reserve role for what could be one of the NBA’s top teams, the Chicago Bulls.

Hinrich’s new head coach, former Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, will need far more out of his star backcourt of Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler than he will out of Hinrich.

The 34-year-old veteran understands that, though, and looks forward to contributing to the Bulls’ success however and whenever he can. Hinrich shared his thoughts on this season, as well as what’s left of his playing career, with the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Kuc.

“It seems like yesterday I was a young player and now all these players call me ‘The Old Guy.’ I’m going to cherish it and not take anything for granted. I realize I’m at the tail end of my career (but) I feel like I can play longer.”

Hinrich’s legs should stay as fresh as legs in their mid-30s (with more than 800 regular-season games of mileage on them) can throughout the year if Butler and Rose stay healthy. Plus, backups Aaron Brooks and E’Twaun Moore appear to be ahead of Hinrich in the rotation for Chicago, considered the only legitimate threat to finish ahead of Cleveland in the Eastern Conference.

Even though Hinrich never had to take off his warmups in the Bulls’ season-opening victory over LeBron James’ Cavaliers and only played 5 minutes the next night at Brooklyn, Hoiberg appreciates the kind of contributions he can get out of his oldest guard.

“Kirk is just so rock-solid. He’s always in the right spot. Defensively, he’s very smart. He can get us into an offense. He does a lot of things that don’t show up in a box score. That’s a tough role to have, but Kirk has played it well his entire career.”

Even in a reduced role (Hinrich has never played fewer than the 24.4 minutes he averaged last season), Hinrich told the Tribune his love for the game keeps him wanting more.

“But when you get back to it you realize how much you really love it and want to do it as long as you can. I love the competition of it. I love the camaraderie with my teammates, the sense of coming together as a team and trying to accomplish something.”

Under contract just through the end of this season with Chicago, Hinrich indicated he doesn’t see retirement in his near future.

“I hope that I will know when it’s time go to. Mentally and physically it can be challenging at times, but I’m up for it.”

And he hopes this season Chicago can accomplish something great.


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Drew Gooden says Wizards better than nation realizes

Washington Wizards' Drew Gooden III, right, reacts during a NBA basketball media day, Monday, Sept. 28, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Washington Wizards' Drew Gooden III, right, reacts during a NBA basketball media day, Monday, Sept. 28, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

A 13-year veteran of the NBA, power forward Drew Gooden knows a good situation when he sees it. And the former Kansas star is watching one play out around him, in Washington D.C. — even if the rest of the country isn’t as interested as it should be in the Wizards.

Playing in the lesser Eastern Conference is one reason, Washington, which has advanced to the second round of the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, isn’t exactly the talk of the nation.

The star power of the East’s other top teams — LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers, Derrick Rose’s/Jimmy Butler’s Chicago Bulls, Dwyane Wade’s/Chris Bosh’s Miami Heat — also contributes to the lack of attention on the Wizards.

Gooden, a backup big man, explained to The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg why some are over-looking the Wizards, who went 46-36 last season.

“I think we have less [national] games this year than we had last year,” noted Gooden. “People want to see the Heat play, people want to see the Knicks play, people definitely want to see the Bulls play, people want to see the Cavaliers play. So where do we fall out in the East as far as prime-time teams? And that’s what they look at.”

At 34, Gooden is Washington’s oldest player, and young stars John Wall and Bradley Beal make the team an upper-echelon squad in the East. But The Washington Post’s Jorge Castillo reports D.C. will look for more than just rebounding and put-backs from its bearded, 6-foot-10 journeyman.

Washington found success in last year’s playoffs by going small, and using former KU star Paul Pierce (who signed with the L.A. Clippers this summer) as a stretch power forward. Gooden played that role off the bench and is expected to do the same this season, while occasionally playing center, too.

While Gooden (5.4 points, 4.4 rebounds last season) is a 26.9% career 3-point shooter and only has attempted more than 50 3’s in a season twice in his career — he made 23 of 59 in the 2014-15 regular season before making 12 of 26 in the 2015 playoffs — Gooden led D.C. in 3-pointers made (11) and taken (28) during the preseason.

The Wizards will play small, take 3-pointers and, according to Gooden, be more entertaining than people realize.

“We want to play that up-and-down game, and it is fun to watch,” Gooden said. “We’ll open some eyes up. People will recognize sooner than later.”

Don’t be surprised if by the end of the season Washington finishes as the No. 3 or 4 seed in the East.


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One of these years, maybe Joel Embiid will play for the 76ers

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

Hey, remember Joel Embiid?

The 7-foot phenom used to play basketball at Kansas. Until a stress fracture in his back forced Embiid to miss the end of his freshman year with the Jayhawks. Then he left for the NBA, where he presumably would soon play the part of the league’s next great big man. But a stress fracture in his right foot wiped out his entire rookie season.

Don’t worry. You’ll finally get to see Embiid play in the NBA in 2015-16 for the Philadelphia 76ers. Actually, here’s the thing: the big man with so much upside reportedly re-broke that same foot, and the organization that drafted Embiid thinking he would become a star, now has concerns his injury history might threaten his career. The 76ers don’t even expect their potential franchise player to suit up one time in the coming season.

It really is a sad tale, because a healthy Embiid could be doing beautiful things on the basketball court — maybe even reminding NBA fans of a young Hakeem Olajuwon.

In photo at left, the Houston Rockets’ Hakeem Olajuwon shoots over Utah’s Greg Ostertag (00) on May 29, 1997, in Houston. In right photo, Kansas big man Joel Embiid puts up a similar shot over Kansas State’s Thomas Gipson on Jan. 1 at Allen Fieldhouse.

In photo at left, the Houston Rockets’ Hakeem Olajuwon shoots over Utah’s Greg Ostertag (00) on May 29, 1997, in Houston. In right photo, Kansas big man Joel Embiid puts up a similar shot over Kansas State’s Thomas Gipson on Jan. 1 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Instead, all the buzz around Embiid of late has been discouraging. Brian Geltzeiler recently released a scathing report for SI.com on the state of the Sixers, which prominently featured some rumored issues surrounding Embiid.

According to Geltzeiler, during the past year, Embiid:

  • threatened a 76ers strength coach on a road trip

  • often refused to answer questions from the organization’s training staff about rehab for his broken foot during his would-be rookie season

  • on multiple occasions didn’t wear the walking boot designed to help his foot heal, leading some in the organization to wonder if a second surgery this past summer could’ve been avoided

  • ignored a mandate to wear the walking boot ahead of his second surgery, delaying when that could take place

  • exhibited poor dietary habits, leading Philadelphia’s training staff to stock his refrigerator with healthy food — which typically went uneaten

  • had room service bills featuring junk food and “his signature beverage, a pitcher of Shirley Temples”

If all or most of that is true? … Yikes.

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For what it’s worth, Philadelphia head coach Brett Brown denied portions of the SI.com report and went as far as to say he has witnessed changes in Embiid.

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“I’m proud of Joel Embiid,” Brown said. “He’s had a rough few years of not playing and he will get there.”

Let’s just hope his NBA debut doesn’t get pushed back again in the 2016-17 season.


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Nick Collison major contributor to OKC culture

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) passes around Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, left, during an NBA basketball preseason game between the Denver Nuggets and the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Oklahoma City won 111-98.(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Nick Collison (4) passes around Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, left, during an NBA basketball preseason game between the Denver Nuggets and the Oklahoma City Thunder in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Oct. 20, 2015. Oklahoma City won 111-98.(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

With 11 seasons of NBA experience behind him, veteran power forward Nick Collison isn’t the type of player a coach turns to to go score a crucial, last-second basket or to stop the opposing team’s best post player. But Collison just might be more important to the culture of the Oklahoma City Thunder than any other member of the franchise.

Collison, who averaged 4.1 points (career low), 3.8 rebounds (second-lowest average) and 1.4 assists for OKC in 16.7 minutes per game (tied a career low) last season, has reached a point in his basketball life when he knows younger guys are going to play ahead of him. Whether that’s an all-star caliber big man such as Serge Ibaka or an up-and-comer such as Steven Adams, Enes Kanter or Mitch McGary, that’s all right with Collison.

The former Kansas star, who just turned 35 on Monday, has been with the Thunder since the franchise relocated to Oklahoma from Seattle.

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Even the face of the organization, Kevin Durant, has called Collison “Mr. Thunder.”

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So, no, new coach Billy Donovan won’t be drawing up a lot of plays for his aging reserve big man. But, yes, Donovan trusts Collison to turn all these young post players with OKC into better professionals.

Collison doesn’t deliver exciting highlight plays the way OKC’s young stars Durant and Russell Westbrook do, but it seems like all the players love the old guy. Just look at how much they enjoyed his epic Halloween/birthday party this weekend.

What’s more, Collison is the type of guy the organization can lean on to set the tone as a player and member of the local community. He was one of the many members of the Thunder who visited Monday with victims of the Oklahoma State homecoming crash at the OU Children’s Hospital and OU Medical Center.

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Collison’s worth never gets lost on OKC general manager Sam Presti, who locked up the veteran big man through 2016-17. Presti described Collison as a flag-carrying member of the team who mentors the young guys coming through the program. The Thunder GM said he went this summer to visit Collison in Seattle and Adams was there working out with him.

“… Steven is like 23,” Presti marveled at the odd offseason partnership. “They're not watching the same movies, OK. But Collison is taking an intentional and active role. When I say building the organization, he's helping that guy. I think he's really invested in Steven and his success.”

The Thunder are considered one of the premier challengers for reigning NBA champion Golden State in the loaded Western Conference. And while outsiders don’t think of Collison when they think of Oklahoma City, everyone in that organization is grateful for what the old-timer brings.


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Mario Chalmers adjusts to new role as backup PG

Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers (15) looks to pass in the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015, in Atlanta. The Heat won the game 101-92. (AP Photo/Todd Kirkland)

Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers (15) looks to pass in the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game against the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday, Oct. 18, 2015, in Atlanta. The Heat won the game 101-92. (AP Photo/Todd Kirkland)

For the first time in his seven-year NBA career, Mario Chalmers spent this past spring watching the playoffs from afar, instead of playing on the national stage. LeBron James’ departure from the Miami Heat and some key injuries meant Chalmers had to adjust from his perceived norm.

Year No. 8 will bring another significant modification for the former Kansas standout. A starter in 74% of his 519 career games with the only organization he has ever played for, Chalmers now finds himself as a designated bench player in Miami.

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It wasn’t that long ago that Chalmers started at point guard in four straight NBA Finals appearances for the Heat. During the summer months of 2015, though, he became the subject of trade rumors. Now that Miami has starting point guard Goran Dragic signed long-term, the Heat just don’t need to rely on Chalmers as much.

Chalmers told the Palm Beach Post he’s handling his new role for the upcoming season just fine.

“That’s just me,” Chalmers said. “I’m the type of guy who’s willing to do whatever it takes for the team. I’ve always been thrown into different situations and been able to handle it.”

Likely easing his transition is the fact that Miami’s bench could turn out to be one of the best, most offensively effective second units in The Association. Chalmers’ cast of backups includes Amar’e Stoudemire, Josh McRoberts, rookie Justise Winslow and Gerald Green.

“We’ve got ball movers on our second unit and right now we’re really putting it together,” Chalmers told the Palm Beach Post. “Gerald’s our gunner, so we expect him to take those shots. Me and J-Mac are the ball movers and spot-up shooters, then you’ve got Justise as a slasher and you’ve got S.T.A.T. who can do the post work. We’ve got good balance.”

Add that group to a starting five of Dragic, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng and Hassan Whiteside, and most around the NBA expect Miami to not only get back to the playoffs in 2016, but finish near the top of the Eastern Conference, with James’ Cleveland Cavaliers.

When talks of a trade out of Miami began to stress Chalmers out at times in the offseason, he told the Miami Herald he reached out to his former teammate and current savior of Cleveland, James.

“Bron, big brother, he told me, ‘Don’t worry — it’s a business.’ ”

Now over all of that and headed into the regular season knowing his role, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told the Miami Herald this season should be easier for Chalmers than last year, when the Heat experimented with using him in different capacities.

In 2014-15, Chalmers averaged a career-best 10.2 points per game, but made just 40.3% of his shots (worst in four seasons) and 29.4% of his 3-pointers (career low).

“Clarity always breeds confidence. Hopefully, Rio will wrap his mind and arms around the clarity,” Spoelstra said. “I care about Rio. We’ve been through so much as a rookie player, a rookie head coach to now we’re both veterans. I’m excited about him embracing this new role. I’m open to changing for more, better, wherever it could possibly go.”

So while his minutes (29.6 last year) and raw per game averages should take a dip, Chalmers could still have a real impact for one of the stronger teams in the East, by running the show and keeping the Heat competitive when Miami needs to give its starters a rest.

“Having this second group is a luxury,” Bosh told the Palm Beach Post. “Thank God for them.”


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Coach says it’s time for Tarik Black to get mean

Portland Trail Blazers' Noah Vonleh, left, and Los Angeles Lakers' Tarik Black fight for position during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game, Monday, Oct. 19, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Portland Trail Blazers' Noah Vonleh, left, and Los Angeles Lakers' Tarik Black fight for position during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game, Monday, Oct. 19, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Still a young NBA post player with plenty to learn, Tarik Black is a lot of things.

A hard worker. A load to deal with on the glass. Genuine. Easy to talk to.

But as the 6-foot-9 center enters his second season with the Los Angeles Lakers, coach Byron Scott has made it known Black needs to be something else, too: mean.

As Scott recently revealed in the L.A. Daily News, he wants the 250-pound Black to become a bruiser who runs all over the court hitting people and rebounding.

“The biggest thing I told him last year was he’s too nice. He has to get some type of mean streak in him,” Scott said. “Then he can be a monster.”

Black told the L.A. Daily News he understands when his coach says something like that, he needs to figure out a way to make it happen.

“He’s the captain of the ship. So if he has thoughts about how we should grow, get better and play in his system, I’ll abide by it. We’ve talked about it, but we need to keep talking about it,” Black said. “As I find out more of what he wants out of me, I’ll have to mold to that.”

The Lakers, who were awful last season (21-61), appear to at least have more depth in the front court for 2015-16. And Black’s smart. He knows he better do everything within his power to make his coach happy. Otherwise, his minutes will dwindle, with the Lakers able to play Roy Hibbert, Julius Randle and Brandon Bass inside, too.

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Black thinks highly of Randle, who basically missed his entire rookie season last year after literally breaking a leg in his NBA debut.

“Throughout the summer, me and him have matched up against each other a lot and he’s really made me a believer,” Black told LakersNation.com. “He’s got the potential to really explode in the NBA.”

In 38 games for the Lakers last year, Black actually started 27 games and averaged 21.1 minutes an outing. With that opportunity, he made 58.9% of his shots, and averaged 7.2 points and 6.3 rebounds.

If 7-foot-2 veteran Hibbert remains healthy all season, and Randle does the same, there is no way Black will see nearly as much playing time for L.A. this year. With a reduced role and a strong work ethic, though, perhaps Black will become a little meaner after all.


2015-16 ’Hawks in the NBA Season Previews


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Darrell Arthur provides ‘D’ — and maybe 3’s? — for Denver

Darrell Arthur poses during Denver Nuggets media day Monday, Sept. 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Darrell Arthur poses during Denver Nuggets media day Monday, Sept. 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

Although injuries kept him out of 22 games last season, the Denver Nuggets didn’t mind bringing back a trustworthy backup big man in Darrell Arthur.

The former Kansas power forward re-signed with the Nuggets this past summer and now figures to play a significant role for new head coach Mike Malone.

Never one to blow away fans with his stats — Arthur averaged 6.6 points, 2.9 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 0.4 blocks, and made 40.4% of his field goals in 2014-15 — the 6-foot-9 post player is known for playing sound defense on the perimeter and interior. Arthur wins over coaches with footwork and effort, not blocks and steals. He is long and knows how to defend the pick-and-roll, which makes him valuable on any roster.

A backup to Denver’s starting power forward, Kenneth Faried, Arthur spoke with the Denver Post about how the Nuggets will change their approach, under Malone, known to be defensive-minded.

“This is the way I was taught to play. I'm pretty sure this is the right way to play basketball,” Arthur said. “He's doing a great job of teaching everyone, not just the young guys. He's refreshing the older guys on positioning on defense. Offense too. But defense leads to great offense, and we've been doing a (heck of a) job during the preseason so far.”

A bruised right knee kept Arthur out of Malone’s lineup most of the preseason, but he was able to play 20 minutes in the Nuggets’ final tuneup. He spoke on media day (before that minor setback) about his frustrations with last season and getting banged up.

"I really can't control the injury thing,” he said. “I’ve been in the gym working on the strength of my legs.”

A role player who understands what he can and can’t bring to an NBA court, Arthur said he will play whatever front court position Malone wants to use him at and revealed he spent the summer trying to become a better 3-point shooter from the corners. A wise move, as the game seems to demand more and more of its big men stretch the floor.

Arthur hit 2 of 5 form 3-point range in his preseason finale. Last season, he only made 23.6% of his attempts from deep (26 of 110, both career highs). In his six previous seasons, he has made just 55 of 201 (27.4%), but he also rarely took 3’s in his first three seasons (0-for-9).

If Arthur can add that 3-point wrinkle to his overall repertoire, maybe he’ll play even more of a factor for the rebuilding Nuggets (30-52 last year).


2015-16 ’Hawks in the NBA Season Previews


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Cliff Alexander misses entire preseason

Portland Trail Blazers' Cliff Alexander poses for a photo during an NBA basketball media day in Portland, Ore., Monday Sept., 28, 2015. (AP Photo/ Greg Wahl-Stephens)

Portland Trail Blazers' Cliff Alexander poses for a photo during an NBA basketball media day in Portland, Ore., Monday Sept., 28, 2015. (AP Photo/ Greg Wahl-Stephens)

Un-drafted in June, then a summer league player for Brooklyn, rookie Cliff Alexander needed the NBA preseason to prove himself to the Portland Trail Blazers, the organization that signed him to a non-guaranteed contract in late July.

However, 2015 continued to be a brutal year for the 19-year-old power forward, whose one-and-done stint with Kansas was marred by an NCAA investigation that kept him off the court at the end of the season.

Alexander missed Portland’s entire seven-game preseason schedule due to a bone bruise on his left knee. So when it comes time for the Trail Blazers to cut their roster to 15 players, they won’t have any game production from Alexander to help his cause. To stay with the team, the 6-foot-8, 240-pound big man better have impressed the coaches and front office in workouts and training camp.

And that might actually be the case. When Portland coach Terry Stotts announced the injury a few weeks back, he told reporters Alexander had been playing well.

His new teammate, veteran big man Chris Kaman, told The Oregonian he couldn’t believe the entire league passed on the rookie from KU during the draft.

"He should have been drafted in the first round, if you ask me,’’ Kaman said. "He is an animal. Getting him as an un-drafted player is unbelievable.''

With the regular season starting next week, we should find out soon just what Portland thinks about Alexander’s abilities and whether he’ll have any longevity in The Association. While the Trail Blazers don’t have any big names in their front court, they do have a number of veterans who have proven they can play in the NBA and make an impact in one way or another, as well as a prospect from the 2014 lottery.

If Portland does decide to keep Alexander, the following front court players figure to be well ahead of him on the depth chart: Al-Farouq Aminu, Ed Davis, Kaman, Meyers Leonard, Mason Plumlee and Noah Vonleh.

That’s a lot of ground to make up for an un-drafted rookie who didn’t play in the preseason.

But, you never know. If Alexander gets cut, some other team could decide to take a chance on him in the days — or months — ahead.


2015-16 ’Hawks in the NBA Season Previews

- Cole Aldrich, L.A. Clippers


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Cole Aldrich — 2015-16 season preview

Cole Aldrich of Los Angeles Clippers, second right, shoots over Jeremy Lamb, right, Spencer Hawes, second left, and Marvin Williams, left, of Charlotte Hornets during the NBA Global Games at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai, China, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Cole Aldrich of Los Angeles Clippers, second right, shoots over Jeremy Lamb, right, Spencer Hawes, second left, and Marvin Williams, left, of Charlotte Hornets during the NBA Global Games at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai, China, Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

Hey, is that Cole Aldrich not wearing a New York Knicks uniform?

Why, yes. Yes it is.

The basketball gods smiled upon the former Kansas center this summer — or maybe it was just that Aldrich became a free agent and made a wise decision. Either way, the 6-foot-11 center now can proudly call himself a member of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Built around all-stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, the Clippers went 56-26 in 2014-15 and had the third-best record in the stacked Western Conference.

Squad! #LACmediaday

A photo posted by LA Clippers (@laclippers) on

Squad! #LACmediaday by laclippers

Aldrich isn’t exactly a big name on a roster that includes fellow ’Hawk in the NBA Paul Pierce, Jamal Crawford, J.J. Redick, Griffin, Josh Smith, Lance Stephenson, DeAndre Jordan and Paul in its projected rotation.

But it’s easy to see 26-year-old Aldrich, an old-school pivot, having some kind of impact for coach Doc Rivers’ team in a backup capacity. Aldrich is one of only three players on the entire roster taller than 6-foot-10 — the others being stars Griffin (listed at 6-10) and Jordan (6-11).

With the NBA trending toward smaller, less traditional lineups, Rivers doesn’t have to play Aldrich a lot — and he most likely won’t. But when the Clippers need a center or rim-protector type on the floor and Jordan is hurt or in foul trouble or, you know, missing too many free throws (he shot 39.7% at the foul line last season), Aldrich figures to be the Clippers’ guy.

Aldrich only averaged 16.0 minutes a game in New York a season ago, and contributed 5.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.1 blocks. Even if his minutes with L.A. are similar, it wouldn’t be surprising to see an uptick in Aldrich’s production. He’ll be the last player on the floor opponents will worry about, with the talent on the Clippers’ roster. The Knicks’ only star was Carmelo Anthony, and he missed most of last season due to injury.

And with the kind of shots Aldrich takes — almost exclusively of the high-percentage variety — he should be able to cash in when defenses help away, to focus on the more talented Clippers on the floor.

Look at that shot chart (note LA = league average). Almost 83% of the center’s field goal attempts came right around the basket, in the paint, in 2014-15. On the rare occasions he’s on the floor at the same time as point guard Paul, he’ll find scoring will come even easier in the paint.

We don’t yet know exactly how much Rivers will use Aldrich on what looks to be one of the league’s top teams. A mild left ankle injury has limited the big man’s availability in the preseason.

One thing is for sure, though. Aldrich will get to enjoy playing for a winning team, capable of making a deep playoff run. He sure didn’t get to experience that in New York.


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


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‘Hawks in the NBA Media Days highlights

Los Angeles Clippers' Paul Pierce speaks during the team's NBA basketball media day, Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Clippers' Paul Pierce speaks during the team's NBA basketball media day, Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

During the past few days, players for the NBA’s 30 franchises posed for photos, answered questions and took in media day festivities with varying degrees of seriousness.

That means it’s time to get the old ’Hawks in the NBA blog up and firing again. At this moment 19 former Kansas players draw paychecks in The Association, and they all — well, almost all of them — had their moments in the spotlight at media days.

From rookies just getting started, to veterans joining new teams to role players fitting in, here are some of the KU-related social media highlights from around the league.

COLE ALDRICH, L.A. CLIPPERS

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None by Justin Russo

CLIFF ALEXANDER, PORTLAND

None by Tim Brown

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None by Trail Blazers

DARRELL ARTHUR, DENVER

None by Patrick Graham

None by Denver Stiffs

TARIK BLACK, L.A. LAKERS

None by Ryan Ward

None by Eric Pincus

None by Los Angeles Lakers

MARIO CHALMERS, MIAMI

None by Miami HEAT

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In case you were wondering, “Spo” is Miami coach Erik Spoelstra, and Chalmers’ “new role” will be him coming off the bench.

NICK COLLISON, OKLAHOMA CITY

None by The Franchise Sports

None by Curtis Fitzpatrick

JOEL EMBIID, PHILADELPHIA

If you were curious about how Joel Embiid is handling his ongoing injury and rehab process, you’re not alone.

Appropriately enough, the injured-for-another-entire-season Embiid wasn’t a part of the 76ers’ media day, according to The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey.

None by Keith Pompey

Presumably, he’ll attend a media day and play in the NBA one of these years.

Embiid’s last known whereabouts? Going to see the Pope.

DREW GOODEN, WASHINGTON

Before looking for Drew Gooden content, I thought, What’s that maniac up to?

Well, he’s up to this:

None by Washington Wizards

None by Hoop District

None by Hoop District

That dude has to be a blast to cover. Rarely not entertaining.

KIRK HINRICH, CHICAGO

None by Chicago Bulls

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BEN MCLEMORE, SACRAMENTO

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MARCUS MORRIS, DETROIT

None by Detroit Pistons

None by Detroit Pistons

The Pistons’ Twitter account did a tweet Q&A with a number of Detroit players Monday, but apparently Marcus bounced before they could get one rolling with him.

None by Detroit Pistons

As a side note, ESPN’s NBA folks ranked Marcus Morris as the 191st-best player in the league. So there’s that.

MARKIEFF MORRIS, PHOENIX

By far the biggest ’Hawks in the NBA news to come out of media days was presumably disgruntled forward Markieff Morris putting on a happy face and stating he wants to be in Phoenix.

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That’s not what he was saying back in August, when he told The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey: “One thing for sure, I am not going to be there.

At the time at least, Markieff was hot and bothered about Phoenix shipping his twin brother and roommate Marcus off to the Pistons. He still might be a little sour with Suns general manager Ryan McDonough about that transaction.

None by Andrew Joseph

SASHA KAUN, CLEVELAND

Sasha Kaun is Russian. Timofey Mozgov is Russion. Hijinks ensued.

None by fox8news

None by Cleveland Cavaliers

None by Tom Withers

KELLY OUBRE JR., WASHINGTON

None by CSN Wizards

Looks like Kelly Oubre Jr. loosened up and got comfortable at the Wizards’ media day.

None by Monumental Network

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PAUL PIERCE, L.A. CLIPPERS

None by LA Clippers

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None by NBA.com

None by SLAM Magazine

THOMAS ROBINSON, BROOKLYN

None by Brooklyn Nets

None by NetsDaily.com

BRANDON RUSH, GOLDEN STATE

Yes, Brandon Rush won an NBA championship with the Warriors. But, no, there isn’t a lot of media interest in him out in Oakland.

Upon posting this blog, Rush hadn't appeared in any Golden State tweets — or, really, anywhere else in the Twitterverse.

ANDREW WIGGINS, MINNESOTA

None by Steve McPherson

Unlike Marcus Morris, the 2014-15 Rookie of the Year was able to answer a few questions on Twitter.

None by Timberwolves

None by Timberwolves

None by Timberwolves

JEFF WITHEY, UTAH

None by Utah Jazz

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