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Cats in the NBA

Former Kentucky Players in the NBA

Familiar face picked to be rookie fan favorite in the NBA this season

Familiar face picked to be rookie fan favorite in the NBA this season

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In the Calipari Era, few players have connected with the UK fanbase like Tyler Ulis. During his two years in Lexington, the pint-sized point guard became a fan favorite, constantly proving his haters wrong and making believers not just out of the Big Blue Nation, but college basketball fans in general. That’s why it’s no surprise that Ulis is one of five rookies The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor predicts will be fan favorites in the league this season.

“Ulis is an underdog. For all his positive traits, his size is the reason why he wasn’t selected until 34th. If he had Kris Dunn’s body, he would’ve been the no. 1 pick in most drafts. But he’s doesn’t. Ulis is 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds; not a lot of guys make it far at that size,” O’Connor writes. “All this is to say that Ulis will be an easy player to root for to find success. He’s a winner, a leader, and it’s contagious.”

O’Connor predicts that Ulis will start out his rookie season in the D-League because of Phoenix’s plethora of guards, but may not be there for long.

“Even as a rookie, he could make an impact with his presence. But he could eventually get playing time, too, despite the logjam at guard,” O’Connor said. “Eventually, Ulis will vault into a consistent role.”

As he’s taught us time and time again, never bet against Ulis.

[The Ringer: Meet the New NBA Rookie Local Heroes]


Alex Poythress officially signs training camp deal with the Indiana Pacers

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Good news for one of our favorites: Alex Poythress is officially a member of the Indiana Pacers. For now, at least. We first heard of Alex’s partially guaranteed deal via The Vertical a few weeks back, but this morning, the Pacers made the news official, announcing that Poythress and former UTEP guard Julyan Stone will join the team for training camp.

The Pacers are already over the 15-man roster max, meaning that Poythress will have to beat out the likes of Georges Niang, Shayne Whittington, and Jeremy Evans to make the final roster, or spend the season with the Pacers’ D-League affiliate, the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the more likely scenario.

For now, Alex is just enjoying being #blessed:

Go get ’em, Alex.


Team Towns Beats Team Calipari in the Coach Cal Celebrity Softball Classic

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After some pretty heavy rain pushed back the start of the Coach Cal Celebrity Softball Classic, the skies cleared and opened up for a fun night for a great cause. Team Karl Towns, including Matt Jones, beat Team John Calipari, including Ryan Lemond, by the score of 18-12.

The game was an awesome event to get some former Cats from several sports together with celebrities from all over the country to raise money for an extremely deserving cause.

The Kentucky Men’s Basketball social media accounts made sure everyone remembered what this night was all about.

Team Towns takes down Team Calipari in the inaugural Coach Cal Celebrity Softball Classic.

A photo posted by Kentucky Men's Basketball (@kentuckymbb) on

I really don’t think I ever feel more pride in being both a UK fan and a UK alum than when events like this take place. Coach Cal and company, bravo.

Added bonus to tonight’s game, it gave Matt the chance to get some solid face-time with ESPN reporter Kaylee Hartung. Good for you Matt! Thanks for capturing the romance in the air Ryan!

 


Karl-Anthony Towns is your Home Run Derby Champ

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If you thought that maybe Karl-Anthony Towns was a one-sport athlete, you were 100% wrong. KAT was far and away the most impressive  in the Coach Cal Celebrity Softball Classic Home Run Derby. Towns won the home run derby with a walk-off in sudden death followed by an epic bat flip.

Check out this video brought to us from CN2’s KSTV:

 

 

As if the BBN could love Karl any more than it already does, he just keeps surprising everyone. Doesn’t hurt that he eats, drinks and breathes Kentucky Wildcats in everything that he does, but still, the guy is like the perfect former Cat.

And it wasn’t just the home derby, Towns carried those skills to the actual game as well:

 


DeAndre Liggins Wins 3-on-3 National Championship

@usabasketball

Congrats to DeAndre Liggins and his team, “3ball Premier”, for winning USA Basketball’s 3×3 National Championship. Along with winning the gold, Liggins’ team has earned the right to represent USA Basketball at the 2016 FIBA 3×3 World Championship in October.

His team “3ball Premier” went undefeated throughout the tournament, and consisted of players all from Chicago. Playing with Liggins were Stefhon Hannah (Missouri), Myke Henry (DePaul), and Alfonzo McKinnie (Wisconsin-Green Bay).

The four of them have a trip to China in the near future. The FIBA 3×3 World Championships will consists of 40 teams from 30 different countries. Team USA has never medaled in the previous 2 tournaments.

For DeAndre Liggins, this adds to an amazing summer for him. Just a few weeks ago, Liggins signed a multi-year deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers, following a promising performance during the NBA’s Summer League.


Boogie wants another shot at gold

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It wasn’t always pretty, but Team USA went 8-0 in Rio during the 2016 Olympics and came home with the coveted gold medal.

The Olympics weren’t particular kind to former Wildcat and Sacramento Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins, but despite the highs and lows during those eight games in Rio, Boogie said he’s up for the Tokyo games in 2020.

Boogie spent two weeks struggling to adjust to a different style of basketball, often, failing to get the benefit of a whistle from referees and fouling out fairly quickly.

Cousins even lost his starting slot in favor of DeAndre Jordan, who adjusted better to the international game. However, when the win was on the line during the gold medal game against Serbia – Boogie came to play; racking up 13 points and 15 rebounds – his most productive game of the tournament.

Team USA would go on to squash Serbia in an impressive 96-66 win. Now, Cousins, who turned 26 during the 2016 games said he wants another shot to represent USA again.

“I’m open to (coming back to Tokyo in 2020). I’ll be older then, so it depends on how my body feels. As of right now, where I’m at, absolutely, I’m open to it,” he told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe yesterday. “I think people don’t understand how hard this winning is). They see the guys on the roster and they think automatically, they’re supposed to win. This (international game) isn’t our game. This isn’t the way we play. This is an adjustment for every guy on the roster.”

Cousins said, despite some difficult games, his experience in Rio was extremely positive and pushed him to adapt and grow as a player and teammate.

“It’s all worth it at the end of the day,” Cousins told the Globe. “All the B.S., everything we went through. Everybody went through their own little type of adversity. This is the best feeling ever, honestly. This is the best feeling ever.”

Plagued by foul trouble throughout the Olympics, Boogie finished the games with and average 9.1 points and 5.8 rebounds in just 14.6 minutes per game versus his 2015-2016 NBA season average of 34.6 minutes, 26.9 points and 11.5 rebounds.

In true Boogie fashion, when asked if his time as an Olympian and his gold-medal run improved his image and perception, Cousins quipped:

“I’m not worried about it, man. I am who I am. You can either love it or hate it. I’m comfortable in my skin.”

Gold medal or not, Boogie gonna do Boogie.

 


Karl Towns and MKG made it to the Craft Center

@UKCoachCalipari

While the campers take a lunch break, the players are putting in work.  Michael Kidd-Gilchrist put up some shots with Cal in his ear.

After knocking down some shots, the Kidd grabbed a seat on the bench while Karl helped split up teams for some pickup.  It’s just some pickup, but it’s still pretty freaking awesome.  As much as I want to break the rules and give you video from the game, rules are rules.


Cats Hang Out With Cards

@DevinBook

Some former Wildcats spent some time tonight with Cardinals, of the Arizona variety.  Tyson Chandler joined Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis for a night at the Arizona Cardinals’ training camp.

They got the chance to rub elbows with former American Idol winner, Jordin Sparks, and Cardinals’ legend Larry Fitzgerald.

@Suns


The Ringer calls Trey Lyles the “secret weapon” in Utah

Bill Simmons’ new website, The Ringer, has a great profile on Trey Lyles and how Lyles is the “secret weapon” for Utah’s success in the NBA.

The author, Jonathan Tjarks, opens the piece by saying Lyles should be a household name, but fell victim to the Eric Bledsoe Predicament of playing next to a superstar (John Wall/Karl-Anthony Towns) at Kentucky, then playing a small role as a backup early on in the league.

Here’s an excerpt on Lyles’ potential:

He hasn’t had the chance to put up big stats yet, but the skills are there. The NBA is all about creating mismatches, and with his unique build and inside-out ability, Lyles can score over the top of smaller defenders and get around bigger ones. In the rare opportunities he got to play big minutes as a rookie, he looked like a player who could help the Jazz figure out who they are as a playoff team.

Tjarks then gets deep with an examination of three games in which Lyles played at least 33 minutes, and analyzed each one. It just so happens he was matched up against a fellow former Wildcat in all three of those contests — Towns, Terrence Jones and Julius Randle.

If you don’t have anything better to do right now, take a moment or two to read about the Wildcat who went under-appreciated in Lexington but has a bright future in the league.

He’ll be a household name soon enough.

[The Ringer: Trey Lyles Is Utah’s Secret Weapon Hidden Behind the Towers]


Boogie Undercover: Life as a Referee

Boogie Undercover: Life as a Referee

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DeMarcus Cousins’ has a lot of experience with referees.  More times than not, they’re negative.  Last year he was tied for second in the league with 17 technicals, only four behind the league leader, Draymond Green.

In order to help understand the plight of the referee, DraftKings sent Cousins undercover to learn the life of a ref.  He started by learning how calls are supposed to be made.  While practicing his form for the block call he asked, “Am I trying to impress the shorty in the stands?”

The video only gets better from there, featuring plenty of whistles and plenty of T’s.

(more…)


John Wall and Bradley Beal “Have a tendency to dislike each other on the court”

@USAToday

John Wall sat down for an interview with CSN Mid-Atlantic yesterday, and what he revealed was not the usually flattering summer “We’ve been working really hard,” “Eyes on the prize,” positive media hooplah.

Nope, he straight up said that he and shooting guard/max contract Bradley Beal don’t like each other. Now, he clarified that it was “on the court,” but the comments have sparked concern among Wizards’ faithful, and rightfully so—Wall and the Florida product are supposed to be the franchise centerpieces.

Here’s a full sampling of what Wall had to say:

“I think a lot of times we have a tendency to dislike each other on the court. … We got to be able to put that to the side. If you miss somebody on one play or don’t have something go right … as long as you come to each other and talk. If I starting arguing with somebody I’m cool. I’m just playing basketball,”

“Now that you have your money you got to go out there and improve your game. I want you to be an All-Star just as much as I’m an All-Star.  If we were playing well as a tandem like the other two superstars that play together as a backcourt, play as a tandem, one night it’s going to be his night, one night it’s going to be mine, some nights it might be both of us. Those are nights it’s going to be tough to beat us.”

On the surface, Wall’s comments seem a little crass. Saying that you and a teammate, especially the teams’ two stars who are signed to play with each other through 2019, have a mutual dislike of one another doesn’t bode well. But, I understand where Wall is coming from. It seems like he wants to get these issues out front, and make Beal aware of how he feels about their roles on the team.

That said, this is the kind of comment that probably deserves to stay between the two players who share the Washington backcourt. Later in the interview he even likened Beal to the “Robin” to his “Batman.” Even if Wall is a little better, which I believe he is, no player of Beal’s caliber wants to hear that, and I can assure you he doesn’t want to read about it on the internet.

Wall went on to compare his current situation to the one he had with the Cats during the 2009-10 season.

“It kind of goes back to when I was in college,” Wall said. “Me and DeMarcus, E-Bled, they all knew I was getting all the media attention but every time I win I brought those guys along with me. I didn’t leave them behind. That’s because we hung out so much. We built a bond together. When you build that bond it’s kind of hard to break.”

The Wizards didn’t make the playoffs last year going 41-41, and with the loss of a few key role players, Wall will need to fix he and Beal’s broken chemistry if they want to get the franchise back on the trajectory it appeared to be going in 2015 (If you recall, the Wizards were a fractured wrist/hand away from reaching the conference finals). When healthy, Beal has proven himself to be an extremely capable 2-guard, and Wall will need him to be on the same page if he wants to make the team better and campaign for a fourth-straight All-Star appearance.

Maybe this is the first step for Wall and Beal to get over their shared dislike, but if I were Beal, I’d dislike what Wall said.


Tayshaun Prince is back on campus

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There are a lot of new faces on Kentucky’s campus this week, but there’s one very familiar one hanging around the Joe Craft Center: Tayshaun Prince. Prince, now an unrestricted free agent, is in Lexington this week. After a year with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Prince enters his fourteenth year in the league, and has no plans to retire. He averaged only 2.9 points and 1.9 rebounds last year, but judging by this video from @KentuckyMBB, he’s still got it:

Looks familiar, doesn’t it?

Never gets old. Welcome back, Tayshaun.


Julius Randle has a little one on the way

Julius Randle has a little one on the way

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It has been a big summer for Julius Randle and his girlfriend, Kendra, who he met at Kentucky. The two got engaged in Greece back in June and last night they announced their first baby is on the way.

Baby Randle is a boy and he will probably receive a phone call from Coach Cal moments after he is born. A scholarship offer will soon follow.

Congrats to Julius and Kendra.


DeMarcus Cousins came home to a surprise party

DeMarcus Cousins came home to a surprise party

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KSR’s sources inside the DeMarcus Cousins home sent me pictures and videos from his return to Sacramento from Rio.

Cousins walked in to a loud surprise from some of his closest friends and a gold medal cake that read “Congratulations DeMarcus.”

Welcome home, Boogie!

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Three Kentucky players in the new NBA 2K17 “Friction” trailer

Three Kentucky players in the new NBA 2K17 “Friction” trailer

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I’m not sure when we got to the point that video games need movie-style trailers, but here we are. NBA 2K17 comes out on September 16, and this morning, the trailer for the game dropped, and surprise, it features not one, not two, but three former Kentucky Wildcats. As you can see above, NBA Rookie of the Year Karl Towns made the cut, showing off his signature flex move:

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And we get our first “glimpse” of Rajon Rondo in a Chicago Bulls uniform:

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And Boogie goes for the tip vs. Boston’s Al Horford:

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It’s insane (and kind of creepy) how realistic video games have gotten in recent years. It’s enough to make you long for the days of “NBA Jam” on SNES:

I can hear it now: “LOOK AT KARL TOWNS, HE’S ON FIRE!!!!!!!”