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Cats in the NBA

Former Kentucky Players in the NBA

(Photo via Dave Eggen)

Miami Heat Waive DeAndre Liggins

(Photo via Dave Eggen)

After being signed to the Miami Heat on Oct. 7DeAndre Liggins was waived this past Thursday.

The former Kentucky guard played in one preseason game for the Heat, scoring 10 points and recording two assists in a win against the New Orleans Pelicans – the team he last played an NBA regular season game for.

The deadline for NBA teams to cut down their roster to 15 guaranteed contract players is Monday at 2 p.m. (does not include two-way players) and the Heat had to make some moves in order to meet the limit.

Liggins, along with former Dayton guard Charles Cooke, will be waived but will have their chance to work their way back onto the roster through the G League.

The signing and waiving of Liggins appears planned from the jump, as they can now use him in partnership with their G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce (along with former Kentucky forward Marcus Lee, who was also recently waived by the Heat and is expected to play for the Skyforce).

This type of maneuvering will allow Liggins to receive a $50,000 bonus if he stays with the Skyforce for at least two months in addition to the $35,000 G League salary.

This will be Liggins third total stint with the Skyforce as he was a member back in the 2013-14 season – where he was named a D-League All-Star and later the D-League Defensive Player of the Year – and again in the 2015-16 season – where he was once again a D-League All-Star and named to the All-Defensive First Team.


(Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

BBNBA: Top 10 Preseason Highlights

(Photo by Issac Baldizon/NBAE via Getty Images)

The NBA preseason finished up on Friday which means the regular season tips off this coming Tuesday.

I’ve stated my disinterest in the Summer League/preseason before and how the stats that are a result of it shouldn’t be taken too seriously. That being said, the dunks and highlights are still wildly exciting and easily the best thing about the exhibitions that lead up to the regular season.

With the regular season only days away, I went back and shuffled through what felt like hundreds of highlights from the 30-plus former Kentucky Wildcats who participated. I’m sure there will be highlights I missed, but there were a ton to choose from.

I could make a top-10 list just off Bam Adebayo being a ridiculous superhuman freak or off Willie Cauley-Stein alley-oops, but I spread the love and came up with this top-10 list. If you didn’t already know just how athletically gifted some of these guys are, you will soon.

Starting with the always entertaining Malik Monk.

#10 – Malik Monk crosses over DeAndre Jordan


#9 – Tyler Ulis steal/layup on De’Aaron Fox

#8 – De’Aaron Fox shakes Tyler Ulis

*Note: Fox executed this deadly crossover the play immediately following Ulis’ bucket.*

#7 – Hamidou Diallo blocks Donte DiVincenzo

#6 – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist chase down block

#5 – Malik Monk 3/4 court shot

#4 John Wall nutmegs Briante Weber

#3 Isaiah Briscoe sauces the defender

#2 Bam Adebayo double bounce pass

Uhhhhh. What?

#1 Alex Poythress blocks Bam Adebayo

UHHHHH… WHAT?!?!


(Via Getty Images)

The Chicago Bulls have claimed Tyler Ulis off waivers

(Via Getty Images)

Former Kentucky guard Tyler Ulis didn’t have to wait around too long for a new home.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Ulis has been claimed off waivers by the Chicago Bulls, and will likely be on the team’s opening-day roster.

It’ll be a chance for Ulis, who played at Chicago’s Marian Catholic and lived in the area throughout high school, to play in front of friends and family at the United Center.

On Friday, Ulis was waived in the final cuts by the Golden State Warriors just a few weeks after being signed to an Exhibit 10 contract.

Ulis was released by the Phoenix Suns earlier this summer, and it took quite a while before a team was willing to take a chance on the 5-foot-9 point guard. The Warriors brought him on for training camp and the preseason to see how he’d develop behind Steph Curry, but felt he would be better suited for the G-League.

Though he likely won’t win a ring out of it, Ulis will have an opportunity for solid minutes with the Bulls on the main roster. They have Kris Dunn and Murray State’s Cameron Payne at point guard, but he could eventually work his way above the former Racer on the depth chart.

The Athletic reports Ulis will sign a two-way deal with the Bulls, meaning will be able to spend 45 days on the active roster this season, unless the team decides to convert him to a full roster player. The NBA changed the rules on two-way players this offseason to where travel days won’t count toward the 45-day allotment, meaning Ulis can play 45 games with the team this season.

In four preseason games with the Warriors, Ulis averaged 3.0 points, 1.5 assists, and 1.5 rebounds in 10.2 minutes per game.

Best of luck to Ulis in the Windy City this season.

(KSR’s Zack Geoghegan also contributed to this report)


Wenyen Gabriel Makes Sacramento Kings Roster

(via NBA.com/Kings)

A gigantic round of applause is in order for former Kentucky forward Wenyen Gabriel, who made the final cut for the Sacramento Kings’ opening day roster.


Gabriel was undrafted after playing only two seasons at Kentucky and received his fair share of criticism for deciding to leave school early in favor of the NBA.  It was assumed by many – myself included – that, while Gabriel clearly has NBA potential, it might be a couple years before he could make the jump and truly establish himself in this league.

Well, he wasn’t having any of that. The Kings cut their roster down to 15 (the minimum) and one two-way player, Gabriel.

Gabriel won’t be an impactful role player to start and might find himself with the King’s G League affiliate, the Stockton Kings, more often than not. But on a Sacramento team expected to be one of the worst in the entire league, there will be no shortage of opportunities for the 21-year old.

In five preseason games for the Kings, Gabriel averaged just under nine minutes per game to go along with 3.8 points and 3.4 rebounds per game while shooting 41 percent from the field.


Dakari Johnson officially signs deal to remain in China

Dakari Johnson’s wild offseason seems to have finally settled down.

After multiple trades in the NBA, getting waived, and going back and forth on a deal overseas, the former Kentucky center has officially decided to sign with the Qingdao DoubleStar Eagles in China.

Back in July, Johnson was traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Orlando Magic. Just three days later, he was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies, where he (temporarily) joined his former Kentucky teammate Andrew Harrison.

A little over a month later, the Grizzlies waived Johnson, leaving him without a job for training camp. With limited NBA opportunities, the 7-foot center agreed to a deal with Qingdao in September, only to back out last week.

According to Sportando, however, the former Wildcat big man will now officially remain with Qingdao this season.

In 31 games with the Thunder last season, Johnson averaged 1.8 points and 1.1 rebounds in just over five minutes per contest. He scored a career-high nine points in his first career start against the Los Angeles Clippers last November.

Best of luck to Johnson in China this year.


Jimmy Butler goes after Karl-Anthony Towns’ toughness in practice

(David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Jimmy Butler saga in Minnesota is reaching epic proportions, and a great deal of it is centered around former Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns.

To give you the Cliff Notes version of the situation, Butler demanded a trade from the Timberwolves three weeks ago, but the franchise has been trying to smooth things over with the star shooting guard before settling on a trade. Butler believes his passion to win and overall work ethic far exceeds both Towns and former Kansas forward Andrew Wiggins, and he wants to be placed in an environment where players’ mindsets align with his. Oh, and he wants money. Lots and lots of money.

After sitting out the first several weeks of training camp and preseason play, Butler begrudgingly returned to practice this afternoon with one goal in mind: make the Timberwolves understand his value to the team. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports Butler showed up late, subbed himself in with the third-string, and went out of his way to single-handedly defeat the starters. More specifically, he wanted to go out and attack Towns and Wiggins.

According to Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports, Butler taunted both Towns and Wiggins in practice, screaming expletives directed at each of them at the top of his lungs.

“Butler uttered taunts at his teammates, including “They ain’t [expletive]!” and “They soft!”, said Haynes, via league sources.

As for Towns specifically, Haynes reports Butler called the former Wildcat out when the two were matched up in the post.

“At one point, Butler found himself guarding Towns in the post,” said Haynes. “After Towns received the entry pass, Butler yelled, “He can’t do [expletive] against me!” Towns ended up passing the ball out, sources said.”

In an interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, Butler said Towns actually came at him with the trash talk first. He just responded with that same fire.

Butler elaborated on his situation with Towns, saying he understands the fourth-year center is the most talented player on the team, but he wants him to match his intensity.

“It depends on how you look at it,” Butler said. “Am I being tough on him? Yeah. Yeah. That’s who I am. I’m not the most talented player on the team. Who’s the most talented player on the team? KAT. Who’s the most god-gifted player on the team? (Wiggins). (Wiggins) got the longest arms, biggest hands, can jump the highest, can run the fastest. But like, who plays the hardest? Me. I play hard. I play really hard. I put my body on the line every day in practice. Every day in the games.”

And according to Wojnarowski, he let Minnesota’s general manager know just how hard he works and what he means to the team in practice.

“At one point, the All-Star guard turned to GM Scott Layden and screamed, “You (bleeping) need me. You can’t win without me,” he said.

Yahoo! Sports reports neither Towns nor Wiggins confronted Butler at any point during practice. In fact, Towns was reportedly “distraught” and “speechless” about the whole situation.

The former Kentucky star then tried to bring his teammates together as practice concluded in an attempt to rekindle the team chemistry. According to Haynes, the message didn’t come across the way Towns hoped.

“Towns then gathered the players in a huddle and gave a message centered on everyone keeping their emotions in check, league sources said. According to some of the players, the message felt empty,” he said.

In his interview with Nichols, Butler just said he wants to play somewhere where the players care about winning a championship just as much as he does, another slight toward Towns, Wiggins, and the Minnesota franchise.

“I want to be happy,” he said. “I want to win. I hate losing. If I don’t win a championship, what’s the point in making the playoffs.”

(Yahoo! Sports)

(ESPN)


Drake wore Devin Booker’s high school jersey during concert

Drake wore Devin Booker’s high school jersey during concert

Drake is currently on tour and repping his favorite Kentucky Wildcats while performing stage.

Last night during his concert in Phoenix, the rapper wore Devin Booker’s Moss Point jersey from Booker’s high school days in Mississippi.

(Twitter/@JoeyA_11)

Last month he wore John Wall’s Word of God high school jersey during his concert in DC:

Before that, he wore DeMarcus Cousins’ LeFlore Rattlers high school throwback jersey in the music video for “In My Feelings.”

Whatever you think of Drake and his loyal to the UK basketball, I think we can all agree this is pretty cool.


Chris Graythen-Getty Images

Why Anthony Davis Will be the 2018-19 NBA MVP

Chris Graythen-Getty Images

Anthony Davis may not be the odds-on favorite to take home this year’s Most Valuable Player in the NBA award (that would be LeBron James), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t his to lose.

Entering his seventh NBA season – all with the New Orleans Pelicans – Davis is poised to expand upon his already profound basketball skill set and reach a level that will cement his stature as an undeniable top-5 NBA megastar.

The stars have aligned for Davis to take home his first – of hopefully several – MVP honors, and the beginning of that alignment dates back to one unfortunate day in late January.

DeMarcus Cousins was the first star to line up. After he tore his Achilles against the Houston Rockets that fateful night, it was thought to be the end of the Pelicans positive start to the season. Sitting with a record of 26-21, the Pelicans were well in the hunt for a playoff race and the team had never looked more fluid and cohesive than it did in the weeks leading up to the injury. The Brow-Boogie connection was finally starting to heat up right before it was dipped into a half-frozen lake.

But we know how that story ended. Davis would go on a historically great run to end the regular season. In the 33 regular season games following Cousins departure, Davis averaged 30.2 points, 11.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 2.0 steals, and 3.2 blocks per game, including 51.4 percent shooting from the field. The list of players who have averaged a stat line of at least 30/11/2/2/3 for an entire season is a blank sheet. In nine playoff games, Davis was equally as remarkable.

It was a tough pill to swallow, but the Pelicans dream of a twin-tower system featuring Cousins and Davis just isn’t what the modern NBA called for. It’s why when the Pellies traded for Nikola Miortic – a floor-spacing big who can snipe any look from the perimeter – the team took their play to another level, most noticeably Davis. Star number two had aligned itself.

Anthony Davis surrounded by four shooters is an unstoppable offensive scheme. He’s built to play in a 5-out offense. Unfortunately, being paired with Cousins – someone who needs the ball just as much as Davis does – detracted from that. The injury to Boogie was tragic, but it unearthed a fast-paced and downright lethal offensive attack as a result.

Read those averages Davis recorded during the second half of the season one more time. That’s an MVP stat line, no arguing that. A repeat of that this year would alone have him in the top two or three for voting, no matter how the Pelicans do as a team.

But there lies another aspect of the award. Players on “bad” teams don’t take home the MVP, even if they are the most deserved of it. Russell Westbrook is the only player in the last 30 seasons to win an MVP award without his respective team finishing as a top-three seed in their conference (the Thunder finished sixth in the West and Westbrook had to average a triple-double for an entire season just to have a shot. And even then the award still should have gone to James Harden).

The Pelicans ended up winning 48 games last year, but that was only good enough for the six-seed in an ultra-competitive Western Conference. Despite that, Davis still finished third in the voting.

Would another three or four victories – breaking that 50-win threshold – be enough for the voters to give Davis the edge? It quite possibly could – especially if it leads to a top three or four seed – but there are also some other variables involved that could work in his favor.

For starters, LeBron James – the odds-on favorite – and Kevin Durant (who has the sixth highest odds) probably aren’t going to win the award, despite being the two best players on the planet and being favored by NBA General Managers. A bonus for Davis and more stars falling into place.

James will take a page out of his 2017-18 playbook and look to save himself for when the games matter most (i.e. the playoffs). His predetermined lack of effort on defense will hurt his chances significantly, although it’s not something that he appears too concerned about at this stage in his career. Durant is simply surrounded by too much star power to take home the award. A significant injury to Steph Curry is the only way he’d have a legitimate chance.

Voters aren’t going to be partial to James Harden, either, after reluctantly giving him the award he should have won the season prior. We still don’t know what version of Kawhi Leonard is going to show up in Toronto (at the minimum, I’d expect an All-NBA second-team type of season).

The MVP award, realistically, isn’t given to the truly most valuable player each season, anyway. If that were the case, there’s an argument that LeBron should have won it the last seven seasons. No one has meant more to their team over the course of the last decade than James (this is particularly true about his most recent season in Cleveland), yet he’s only won the award four times. More often than not, the award is somewhat of a popularity contest. It’s why Derrick Rose won the award in 2011 and Westbrook in 2017 (and Steve Nash in 2005…). You don’t have to be the most valuable player by pure definition, but you do have to be flamboyant in how you lead your team as their best player. Davis is going to need multiple 50-point games. Maybe a couple triple-doubles here and there. If he records a quadruple-double with blocks you might as well go ahead and ship the award straight to his house (He would be the fourth player in NBA history to pull off such a feat. Davis did record 10 blocks in a game against the Utah Jazz last season).

All of this information leaves us with two viable options for this year’s MVP as we look at things right now: Davis and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.

Antetokounmpo will have more than a fighting chance against Davis. The Bucks finally have a competent head coach in Mike Budenholzer who will do everything in his power to run the team’s offense through the Greek Freak with plenty of shooters surrounding him. The Bucks can win 50 games in the Eastern Conference at a much easier pace than the Pelicans can out West.

Antetokounmpo is the likeliest challenger to Davis’ MVP run.

However, the award is still Davis’ to lose.

Davis is still fresh on the minds of voters and without Cousins, if Davis doesn’t win the award, it won’t be because of a lack of opportunities. In all likelihood, it would be because of injuries (although Davis has played 75 regular season games each of the last two seasons).

Davis is going to be the “do-it-all” man for the Pels, on both sides of the ball. But there are some areas he’s going to need to improve/clean up this season in order to truly separate himself from the pack.

The first aspect is more of an observation. How will Davis handle being the overwhelming focus of opposing defenses for an entire season? Teams have had an entire offseason now to prepare for Davis. There isn’t another near seven-foot All-Star by his side. He’s been the main focus in previous seasons, this shouldn’t be something new to him, but he’s never been this good. Teams are going to throw every little trick and tactic they can to do anything they can to trip him up. Luckily, the addition of Julius Randle will give Davis another secondary scoring option alongside him. One that can allow Davis to play inside and outside. The same thing goes for Mirotic, who will open up driving lanes for Davis. And who can forget All-NBA first team defensive player Jrue Holiday, who played like an All-Star in the playoffs (and quite honestly, for most of the regular season, too). Those are three great sidekicks that can alleviate some pressure from Davis. His team may not be as good on paper as it was last season, but this year’s version of the Pellies might be better suited around Davis. The stars are all in place.

No more Boogie means Davis can’t rely on his superstar counterpart as much as he could have and having to do so for an entire season could prove to be exhausting. But no more Boogie also means that Davis is in complete control. He can dictate the offense at all times, everything will flow through him. He has teammates that can cover up any tiny deficiency you might be able to find in his game.

Davis shot 34 percent from three last season on only 2.2 attempts per game, which ranked him in the 36th percentile among just big men, according to Cleaning the Glass. For comparison, Cousins shot 35.4 percent on 6.1 attempts per game. Now Davis shouldn’t take anywhere near six threes a game. The only reason Cousins did so was simply because he often preferred to settle for jumpers instead of attacking off the dribble. Davis isn’t one to settle for a three – although he did tend to settle for mid-range jumpers, something that he needs to ween out of his playbook a bit, but not completely eliminate. Being confident in taking maybe one or two more threes per game is only going to open up the floor even more for him. Keeping defenders honest when guarding him on the perimeter just makes him that more of a threat to attack off the dribble.

He’s so close to becoming a complete player, one that has no glaring weaknesses in his game. This season is the year he cleans everything up and surfaces as a future NBA great. The stars have finally aligned for the long-awaited superstar.