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Cats in the NBA

Former Kentucky Players in the NBA

Enes Kanter returns to Utah

 

Enes Kanter returned to Salt Lake City for the first time since being traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Kanter demanded a trade this season after he saw his minutes decreasing in Utah. Kanter was very public about his dislike for his old team and the fact that he is very happy where he is now.

“I think the difference is, I like playing basketball there,” Kanter said. “I think that’s the most important thing. I never liked playing basketball before in my NBA career, and this is the first time I felt like playing basketball there, for my team, for the fans, for my teammates for my coaches, for everybody. So, that’s the first time.”

So upon his return to Utah, Kanter was booed when taking the floor, but he happily embraced them.

“I didn’t really care. I like pressure, the boos didn’t mean nothing to me,” Kanter said. “It was just a regular game. I never felt like I was a part of this thing, so it was just a regular game. We came and we leave and that is it”.

This comment by Kanter before the game probably fueled some of the boos.

In the Utah Jazz’s 94-89 win over the Oklahoma Thunder, Kanter scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds earning eighth consecutive game double-double.

 


Big night for former Cats in the NBA last night

The NBA Cats must have felt inspired from the performance of their young brothers against West Virginia Thursday, because they went off in each of their games last night. Look at this break down of the NBA Cats last night:

 

Go Cats!

@Sealey_KSR


Terrence Jones out for a week with a partially collapsed lung

It’s been a rough year for Terrence Jones. The Houston Rocket missed 41 games earlier this year with a nerve injury, and just as he was getting back in to a groove, he injured his ribs last night vs. the Denver Nuggets. Jones was hospitalized overnight for a partially collapsed lung and will have to sit out a week.

Before suffering the injury, Jones had 10 points in eight minutes, and this season, is averaging 12.4 points and 7.3 rebounds in 25 games.

Get well soon, T. Jones.


John Wall landed in the fourth row while attempting to save the ball

@Ballislife

John Wall put his body on the line while diving for a loose ball in the Wizards’ win last night. Notice the score and time on the clock when Wall goes flying into the crowd: up seven with 40 seconds remaining. That’s unnecessary hustle.

Watch as he somehow manages to avoid two children and several others before landing safely in the fourth row.


Nerlens and Boogie Meet in NBA Matchup

Matt Slocum | AP Photo

Before we head into the live blog for today’s game, just wanted to highlight some of Kentucky’s representatives in the NBA. DeMarcus Cousins faced-off against Nerlens Noel for the first time last night, and boy did Boogie have a huge game.  Cousins’ Kings defeated Noel’s 76ers 114-107 in Sacramento.

Cousins finished the game with a season high 39 points and 24 rebounds.   Noel ended up with 16 points and 12 rebounds on the other side.  For a rookie, Nerlens did well against one of the leagues best centers.  Following the game, Noel mentioned that DeMarcus was the biggest challenge for him so far this season.

“He’s a big, big boy,” Noel said. “I’ll just go eat a couple Big Macs and think about that. … It was definitely a challenge tonight, and I’ll definitely learn from it.”

Another former Wildcat, Enes Kanter, had a huge game last night as well.  The UnderKanter helped his OKC Thunder defeat the Timberwolves by scoring 23 points and grabbing 15 rebounds.  It was his 15th double-double so far this season.


Anthony Davis had a nice little night

The former Wildcat tied his career-high in points with 43 on an unreal 17-for-23 clip from the field in Milwaukee. Davis made it a double-double with 10 rebounds and he threw in six assists, two blocks and a steal to top it all off.

Here’s two of his 43…


The Top NBA Cats: Week 19

With just over a month remaining until the start of the 2015 playoffs the NBA Cats are making a push to keep their season going. Guys like John Wall and Patrick Patterson battle for seeding while Bledsoe, Knight, and Prince could be on the outside looking in. Which players have been getting the job done so far in March? Let’s take a look:

5. DeMarcus Cousins

Big Cuz continues to fill the stat sheets every night he is on the floor. In March he’s posted and average of 18 points, 8 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 1.6 assists, and 1.4 steals. That average includes the game against Portland that Boogie didn’t even play in. DeMarcus is stuck in Sactown for now but his stellar play could fetch a large ransom this coming offseason. Hopefully, we get to see the big fella on a contender  in the next few years.

4. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

Two Cats Square Off

Charlotte, Miami, Indiana, Boston, and Brooklyn are all battling it out for the 7th and 8th seeds in the Eastern Conference but it’s MKG who looks primed to lead his team to the promised land. The Hornets have won 5 in a row in March with the Kidd averaging 10 points and 10 rebounds while playing lockdown defense. MKG is in action tonight as Charlotte hosts John Wall and the Wizards.

3. Nerlens Noel

It took some time for Nerlens to adjust to the NBA but the big man appears to have found his groove. Noel is averaging 10 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game since February but his numbers are growing with each game. Last month against the Pacers he recorded a ridiculous 9 blocks to fall jut short of a triple double. Saturday against the Hawks he nabbed 17 rebounds. If not for Andrew Wiggins, Noel would be making a very good case for rookie of the year. Why didn’t Cleveland pick him over Anthony Bennett, why?? Its a question people will debate for eons.

2. Terrence Jones

With Dwight Howard out for the entire month of February and beyond it’s been up to T-Jones to teach the Rockets about scoring in the post. Over the past 8 games Jones has averaged 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks and give Houston another option outside of Harden. Dwight made his return to drills this weekend so look for the Rockets to be poised for a playoff run with Terrence being a major focus on both sides of the ball. Jones i back in action this Wednesday against Portland.

1. Anthony Davis

A banged-up shoulder did nothing to slow down Anthony Davis and his historic season. Since returning last week Ant has averaged 30 points, 12 rebounds, and 5 blocks to lead the Pelicans to a 2-1 record. New Orleans is just one game back of the Thunder and a playoff spot this season. At 5 games above .500, Davis has the Pelicans way ahead of schedule. Look for them to pick up another win tonight as they travel to Milwaukee to take on the Bucks.

 

Go Cats!

 


Nerlens Noel: Defensive ROTY?

Bill Streicher | USA TODAY Sports

Since the all-star break, one former Wildcat has been making headlines in the NBA.  No, I’m not talking about Anthony Davis or John Wall.  Those guys have been making headlines all year.  Now, it’s Nerlens Noel that has everyone talking.  

First, let’s take a look at Noel’s stats following the NBA’s all-star weekend.  Since Feb. 16th, Nerlens has averaged 12.1 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.0 steals, and 3.5 blocks.  Adding to that, he’s shooting 46.4% from the field and 75.0% from the free throw line.  Before the break, Noel was shooting 44.5% and 56.1% respectively.  That’s a big improvement, especially from the charity stripe.

Coming off of his ACL injury, everyone excepted a slow start from Noel.  He missed the entire NBA season last year, so technically this year qualifies as his rookie season.  Everyone has all but given Andrew Wiggins the Rookie of the Year award, but Noel is slowing catching up.  Overall, Nerlens leads all rookies in rebounds, steals, and of course blocks.  He only trails Wiggins in scoring, who averages almost 16 points per game.  Noel currently averages 8.8 points.  Normally, the ROTY award goes to the highest scorer, but Nerlens is earning serious consideration.

For comparison, I want to share Anthony Davis’ first year stats.   AD averaged 13.5 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, and 1.2 steals as a rookie.

Fast forward, and we see that Noel is averaging more blocks (1.8 bpg) and steals (1.6 spg) as a rookie. He only trails Davis in rebounds by less than one (7.4 rpg) in his first year.

Nerlens may not overtake Wiggins for Rookie of the Year, but it isn’t for lack of effort.  The 76ers are terrible, and good scoring chances are rare.  Nonetheless, Noel continues to improve both offensively and defensively during his first NBA season.  Last night, he had a tremendous game earning yet another double-double.  Nerlens helped Philly defeat Atlanta with 11 points, 17 rebounds, 5 steals, and 2 blocks.  I would love to see him turn into the star that Davis has become in New Orleans.  When Noel was at UK, he couldn’t escape the comparison, but it’s hard not to compare their similar styles of play.  Both are defensive beasts underneath the basket.

Keep it up, Nerlens!  The NBA doesn’t give out a defensive ROTY award, but if they did, Noel would be a shoo-in.  That still doesn’t mean he won’t earn consideration over Wiggins in the weeks to come.

 


Anthony Davis returns from injury in monster fashion

Photo by Nola.com

Last night was Anthony Davis’ first game back since injuring his shoulder and it looks like he hasn’t missed a step. Davis had 39 points, 13 rebounds, eight blocks and three steals in the Pelicans’ win over the Detroit Pistons.

Davis missed five games with a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder and the Pelicans only decided to play him 90 minutes before game time, but he returned in dominating fashion, coming four points shy of his career high and setting the Pelicans’ record for career blocks with 437…in only his third season. Monster.

Watch the highlights:


Did you see Patrick Patterson wearing mittens last night?

No one is entirely sure why Patrick Patterson wore oven mitts on the Toronto bench last night, but it’s a thing that happened in the Raptors’ game in Philadelphia.

The only logical explanation is he wanted to keep his hands warm, because that’s what gloves do, but even that is a little bizarre. Maybe he has a new endorsement deal with Rachel Ray.

 


CelticsBlog.com says bench James Young

CelticsBlog.com believes Brad Stevens needs to cut back on James Young’s minutes if Stevens has any intention of making the playoffs. With reasons like “Young is getting hosed defensively” and “Young sticks out like a sore thumb on film,” and numbers to back it all up, writer Kevin O’Connor makes a very strong case for sending the former Cat to the bench. Or back to Maine.

It’s not all because of Young’s defensive struggles, either; he is having problems with what he normally does well, too:

Young has the potential to be a knockdown three-point shooter, but the product of Kentucky has hit just 11 of his 48 three-point attempts this season, and is just 15.4 percent from downtown in the last six games. Young is not producing in the area he supposedly excels the most, and he isn’t making up for it elsewhere.

Boston is still in contention for a playoff spot in the East so, like O’Connor writes, now is not the time to be experimenting with an underachieving rookie. We love James and want the best for him, but it’s just not his time. Not yet.

For lots more on Young’s rookie season in Boston, including stats and film, check out the entire piece here.


Who’s Up Next for Rupp’s Rafters? I Say Tayshaun!

prince

For Cats fans, any Game Day in Rupp Arena is a special, even spiritual, experience.  Some contests — rivalry games, tough conference matchups — can be especially exceptional: the crowd is unusually animated; the cathedral’s congregation united in one voice.

And then, there are the truly otherworldly experiences.  When the play just seems preposterous; when the fan volume overwhelms and uplifts; when the stranger sitting next to you feels like family, everyone captured by the magic of the moment.

December 8, 2001 may have topped them all.

The day was particularly special to me:  My dad, who had been battling cancer, felt strong enough to join me for the first time that season.  Like so many other fathers and sons, Kentucky basketball was an unshakable bond between us: Even through the awkward teen years, when I was too embarrassed to hug or say “I love you,” we always had the Cats in common — Goose and Macy and Bowie and Dirk and Sky and on and on.  In 2001, by now in my thirties, I still was a little chagrined that he wore his baby-blue V-neck cashmere sweater — the hue was far too close to University of North Carolina Blue, that game’s opponents.

Apparently, though, the sweater was a lucky charm.  Two minutes into regulation, the unranked visitors had scored the game’s first four points.  But then, sophomore guard Gerald Fitch found senior Tayshaun Prince at the top of the key, and the lanky but graceful forward stroked his signature southpaw three-point shot.  The Tar Heels scored another basket, and Prince topped it with another three from just beyond the center of the arc.  Two more UNC twos were answered with two more Tayshaun threes, this time from closer to the right corner.

And then…Fitch stole the ball in the Carolina front court, handed it to Prince, who ambled down the court. And then — suddenly — his foot grazing the “U” of the center-court logo — he threw up a forty-plus foot jumper…

Nothing but net.

Words simply fail. Watch the whole series yourself:

It turned out to be the last game my dad would attend — a fitting fashion to retire his baby-blue sweater.

But for Tayshaun, it was merely the capstone of a spectacular four-year career in blue and white — a record of triumph that places Prince among the greatest of Wildcat greats.  That’s why I hope that the next time we see the long-limbed lefty strolling toward center court in Lexington, it will be to witness his jersey being retired in Rupp Arena’s rafters.

===

For a team with THE GREATEST TRADITION IN THE HISTORY OF COLLEGE BASKETBALL, it’s perhaps the most special tradition of all.

Last week, during halftime of the Auburn blowout, superstar guard Tony Delk entered the pantheon of Kentucky basketball majesty, as the drapes were raised on a larger-than-life replica of his 00 jersey, just caddy corner in the nosebleeds of Rupp to the 1996 championship banner he helped to bring to Lexington.  In the century-plus history of the elite of elite college hoops programs, Delk is only the 38th player so honored, with three coaches (Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall, and Rick Pitino) and two street-clothed icons (broadcaster Cawood Ledford and equipment manager Bill Keightley) rounding out the remarkable array.

The ritual was born early in the Rupp era, when the legendary coach presented his 1940 captain, Mickey Rouse, with his uniform at the team’s annual banquet.  Nine years later, Rupp retired the jerseys of the “Fabulous Five” — Alex Groza, Cliff Barker, Ralph Beard, Kenny Rollins and Wah Wah Jones — who won two national championships and Olympic Gold in 1948.  Two other team groupings later received a similar honor: seven members of the undefeated 1954 squad (Cliff Hagan, Frank Ramsey, Lou Tsioropoulous, Bill Evans, Gayle Rose, Jerry Bird and Phil Grawemeyer); and, lest we forget, the Unforgettables (Richie Farmer, Deron Feldhaus, John Pelphrey and Sean Woods), who helped restore a scandal-plagued program on the road back to glory.

But for the remainder of the honorees, the jersey symbolizes individual achievement, both on and off the Cat court. For decades, this highly subjective selection was approached on an ad hoc basis, with the head coach often dictating the rules and standards.

That all changed when Mitch Barnhart was named UK’s Athletic Director. According to Tony Neely, UK’s Assistant Athletic Director, Barnhart was committed to standardizing and formalizing the way the school’s athletic heroes were honored.

Accordingly, in 2005, the UK Athletics Hall of Fame was inaugurated, and its charter class included 88 athletes from baseball, football and men’s and women’s basketball who had previously seen their jerseys retired.  By 2006, a Hall of Fame Committee was established — consisting of alumni, campus reps, coaches, administrators, the media, and previous Hall of Famers — and was charged with selecting for induction six athletes each year from the school’s 22 sports teams.  As with many such honorific institutions, the standards are amorphously subjective: The only objective requirement is that the athlete must have left UK at least five years previously.

These newer classes of Hall of Famers provide the pool for jersey retirement candidates.  As Neely explains, a new subcommittee was established in 2014, consisting of eight members, to specifically select the elite athletes who will have their uniforms memorialized.  To qualify, an athlete must have been inducted into the Hall of Fame at least five years prior, and must qualify as “the best of the best.”  Subcommittee members can vote for up to ten people in the pool each year, and only those athletes who win at least seven out of the eight votes will witness their uni up in the bright lights.  Delk was the first men’s cager to qualify under the new Barnhart protocol.

When the jersey subcommittee meets in 2016, it will, for the first time, be able to consider the UK Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2010. (OK, math wizards — Neely tells me that there’s a one year lag before the five year clock starts ticking.) The 2010 HOFers include golfer Steve Flesch, rifle woman Nancy Napolski Johnson, track star Valerie McGovern Young, and hoopsters Mike Casey, Billy Ray Lickert, and…you guessed it…Tayshaun Prince.

I’ll let others debate the merits of the rest of the 2010’ers, or the value of retiring in 2015 the jerseys of hardcourt (and broadcasting) legends Mike Pratt and Larry Conley, who entered the Hall in earlier classes.

But well beyond that enchanted December day, Tayshaun Prince earned his spot among the arena ceiling’s crossbars. While he never won a cherished NCAA title — neither did most of the men whose jerseys we honor — the kid straight outta Compton was the premiere player in the Tubby Smith Era.  As a junior, he was named SEC player of the year, and twice earned consensus second-team all-American status. With 1775 points, he’s 8th on the all-time scoring list: Every one above him, with the exception of the not-yet-eligible Keith Bogans, hangs in the rafters.  Prince is, by all accounts, a prince of a man: a quiet leader, a generous supporter of children’s charities, and a prototypical ambassador of the Big Blue Nation.  After leaving, his career sparkled beyond anyone’s expectations:  winning an Olympic Gold Medal and an NBA Championship, and executing the most spectacular, gravity-defying blocked shot in NBA playoff history.

I can’t wait to stand up and cheer when Tayshaun Prince’s jersey is presented to him at the site of his most spectacular college moment.  And if you’re looking for me that day, I’ll be the guy in the hand-me-down, baby blue V-neck cashmere sweater — with the big smile and the watery eyes.


It was a mostly quiet Saturday for former UK players in the NBA

Photo © Derick Hingle

Photo © Derick Hingle

The Washington Wizards picked up an important win on Saturday night, defeating the Pistons 99-95. John Wall had a big game, leading the Wizards with 22 points and 6 assists. He also hit two key late free throws to secure the win.

Rajon Rondo returned for the Mavericks after his one-game suspension for the yelling match with Rick Carlisle. He had a fairly quiet night statistically, but did provide a lovely assist for Monta Ellis’ “play of the night” 360 layup.

Brandon Knight and Eric Bledsoe started together in the backcourt for the Phoenix Suns, but the Spurs were simply too much for Phoenix. Bledsoe finished with 12 points and 6 assists, while Knight managed just a single point and 2 assist in just under 18 minutes. Archie Goodwin had five points off the bench.

Toronto lost their fifth straight game to the Knicks. Patrick Patterson played just under 28 minutes, scoring 10 points and pulling down 5 rebounds.


(H/T @Excats)

Some NBA Cats Played Out of Their Minds Last Night

(H/T @Excats)

(H/T @Excats)

A little aside from all the Arkansas talk today. Nerlens Noel and Terrence Jones both had pretty good games last night.

Nerlens led the Sixers to a 89-81 victory over the Washington Wizards last night with 14 points and 13 rebounds, accented by an insane volleyball spike block.

 

T. Jones also taught ‘em bout Kentucky last night (sorry guys, I had to). Terrence tallied 26 points and 12 rebounds in Houston’s 102-98 win over the Nets.

It’s so good to see Terrence healthy again.
We see you guys, keep representing the Cats well.

@JC_KSR


Last night’s Suns/Thunder game was a La familia fest

Barry Gossage, Suns.com

While the internet was preoccupied with the dress debate last night, there was a hell of a game going down in Phoenix. The Suns, the BBN’s new favorite pro team, beat the Oklahoma City Thunder by four in overtime, and three Cats put in impressive performances.

For the Suns, Eric Bledsoe had a banner night, coming one assist shy of a triple double with 28 points, 13 rebounds, 9 assists, and 4 blocks, while Brandon Knight had 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists. In one of his first games with the Thunder, Enes Kanter chipped in 18 points and 6 rebounds. Since leaving Utah, Enes is averaging 15.8 points per game, compared to his 13.8 points per game for the Jazz.

Bledsoe’s battle with the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook stole the show: