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Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

BBNBA: John Wall has a big opening night, Wizards fall short

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Recap:

  • John Wall started the season with an impressive showing, as his speed and athleticism were put on display throughout the game. Wall led his team in points with 26, assists with 9, blocks with 3, and in plus/minus at +6. He was clearly the best player on the floor for the Wizards; however, much like in year’s past, his efforts were not enough. Heat forward and Wizard killer Kelly Olynk had a game winning put back to give Miami the W. It appears that Washington’s strategy of perennially making no attempt to bring in help for Wall and Bradley Beal is not a smart strategy.
  • On the flip side of the Wizards vs Heat game, Bam Adebayo had a quiet night for Miami. He played 17 minutes, scoring 4 points and pulling down an impressive 9 boards.
  • Update: LeBron James is still good at basketball, even on the West Coast. Last night was the beginning of the Lebron Era in Los Angeles and he was making highlights early and often. Unfortunately for Laker fans, they’ll have to wait for their first win as the Trail Blazers spoiled opening night in LA. Former Cat Rajon Rondo got the start over Lonzo “I’m scared of De’Aaron Fox” Ball in the season opener, finishing with a points-assists double double.
  • Tyler Ulis checked in for the final 49.7 seconds of the Chicago Bulls’ first game of the year and did not accumulate any stats. Hopefully, over time, Ulis can become a contributor on the second line for the Bulls.

Stats:

PlayerResult PointsFG (3FG)Reb.Ast.StealsBlocksTOs+/-Mins.
John Wall (WASH)113-112 loss to Heat269-16 (1-6)39133+636
Bam Adebayo (MIAMI)113-112 win over Wizards41-4 (0-0)90003+417
Rajon Rondo (LAL)128-119 loss to Trail Blazers136-13 (1-2)411103+932
Tyler Ulis (CHI)127-108 loss to 76ers00-0 (0-0)00000+01

 

Highlights:

 

Schedule:

  • Charlotte Hornets (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Malik Monk) at Orlando Magic, 7pm ET
  • New York Knicks (Enes Kanter, Kevin Knox) at Brooklyn Nets, 7:30pm ET
  • Boston Celtics at Toronto Raptors, 8pm ET
  • Cleveland Cavaliers at Minnesota Timberwolves (Karl-Anthony Towns), 8pm ET
  • Atlanta Hawks (Alex Poythress) at Memphis Grizzlies (Andrew Harrison), 8pm ET
  • Sacramento Kings (Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, De’Aaron Fox)  at New Orleans Pelicans (Anthony Davis, Julius Randle, Darius Miller), 8pm ET
  • Indiana Pacers at Milwaukee Bucks (Eric Bledsoe), 8:30pm ET
  • Golden State Warriors (DeMarcus Cousins) at Utah Jazz, 10:30pm ET
  • Oklahoma City Thunder (Patrick Patterson, Nerlens Noel, Hamidou Diallo) at Los Angeles Clippers (Shai Gilgeous-Alexander), 10:30pm ET

@BrettBibbinsKSR


(Photo via Bill Baptist/NBA Getty Images)

BBNBA: Kentucky Headlines Night Two of the New Season

(Photo via Bill Baptist/NBA Getty Images)

Recap

The second night of the NBA was a beautiful mess. 11 games were played Wednesday night and former Kentucky players formed more than their fair share of headlines. 12 players scored in double figures and five scored at least 20. Let’s go over some of the talking points from each game.

  • The Charlotte Hornets coaching staff stayed true to their word and gave Malik Monk 33 minutes of clock, which he turned into 18 points on 4-8 shooting from deep. The Hornets honored their 1988-89 team as the franchise celebrates its 30th season this year and who was a member of that fan-favorite squad and one of the players recognized? None other than Rex Chapman. Eric Bledsoe added 17 points for the Milwaukee Bucks in a win over the Hornets.
  • Dwane Casey began his tenure as the Detroit Pistons head coach by beating the Brooklyn Nets 103-100.
  • Andrew Harrison was one of the feature players for the Memphis Grizzlies last season and was expected to fill the backup role this year, however, the season hasn’t started off that way. Lexington native Shelvin Mack won the role and played 29 minutes behind Mike Conley, but scored only three points.
  • Bam Adebayo shot a three! He missed.. But he shot a three! He also settled an early debate about who will finish games at center for the Miami Heat, as Adebayo played the final three and a half minutes of the game down the stretch with Hassan Whiteside on the bench. Adebayo played only 21 minutes compared to Whiteside’s 33, but closing games is when playing time really matters and Adebayo got the first run to start the season.
  • Kevin Knox Struggled from the field in his debut, shooting 4-16 and finishing with 10 points. Enes Kanter dropped in a 16 point, 11 rebound double-double. Want an idea of how the New York Knicks season is going already? During a timeout, a fan hit a halfcourt shot to win $10,000. At that point, the Knicks hadn’t hit a shot yet and were 0-9.
  • Anthony Davis put up a monster stat line that nearly knotted him a triple-double (32/16/8) as he begins his MVP campaign. His eight assists were also a new career-high. Interestingly enough, the New Orleans Pelicans first game of the season came against the reigning MVP James Harden (and they beat the brakes off them), who was presented with the award before the game, something Davis noticed. ”When it was sitting there before the game, I glanced at it, and then I had to lock back in for the game,” Davis said. ”That stuff will take care of itself. As long as we keep doing what we’re doing as a team, the rest will come on its own.”
  • For Julius Randle’s Pellies debut, he looked more comfortable than ever. Pulling up for non-hesitation threes (he went 2-4 from deep!) and pouring in 25 points in only 23 minutes. His plus/minus of +23 was the highest amongst any former Wildcat. For now, the talk of “can the Pelicans frontcourt trio work together?” has been silenced.
  • The dumpster fire in Minnesota didn’t get any better in game 1. Karl-Anthony Towns played only 22 minutes before fouling out with a mere eight points as the Timberwolves lost to the hobbling San Antonio Spurs. Please, Minny, for the love of everything that is holy, just trade Jimmy Butler.
  • Wenyen Gabriel and Skal Labissiere were DNPs in the season opener, but Willie Cauley-Stein and De’Aaron Fox filled the void. WCS was impressive, scoring 23 points and slamming down a ferocious dunk over the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert. Fox added 21 points and seven assists.
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s rookie debut was beautiful. He scored 11 points on 5-6 shooting and showcased his uniquely smooth style of play that perplexed college defenders. It’s only one game, but SGA is going to be good, folks. On the other side of the court, Jamal Murray did not get off to a hot start, shooting 3-12 for only seven points. Trey Lyles added in 10 points off the bench in 18 minutes. Side note: Los Angeles Clippers 7-foot-3 center Boban Marjonovic dunked the ball with such force in the fourth quarter that they had to stop play and realign the goal.
  • Finally, Devin Booker went absolutely nuts against the Dallas Mavericks. Scoring 19 of his 35 points in the final seven minutes as the Mavericks tried to crawl their way back into the game, Booker buried them into the ground with unguardable jump shots. At one point, he hit his fourth three of the quarter straight in the eye of the defender and even he couldn’t help but laugh the entire trot back down the court. The All-Star campaign has officially begun for Book.

Statistics

PlayerResult PointsFG (3FG)Reb.Ast.StealsBlocksTOs+/-Mins.
Devin Booker (PHX)121-100 W vs. DAL3512-19 (6-10)47003+2233
Anthony Davis (NOP)131-112 W @ HOU3213-21 (0-0)168331+2339
Julius Randle (NOP)131-112 W @ HOU259-15 (2-4)83000+523`
Willie Cauley-Stein (SAC)117-123 L vs. UTA2310-15 (0-0)74120+1738
De'Aaron Fox (SAC)117-123 L vs. UTA218-16 (0-2)47303+1937
Malik Monk (CHA)112-113 L vs. MIL187-16 (4-8)42120+533
Eric Bledsoe (MIL)113-112 W @ CHA177-13 (3-5)43012+433
Enes Kanter (NYK)126-107 W vs. ATL165-9 (0-0)113111+727
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (LAC)98-107 L vs. DEN115-6 (0-0)24113023
Kevin Knox (NYK)126-107 W vs. ATL104-16 (1-5)00212+123
Trey Lyles (DEN)107-98 W @ LAC103-6 (0-1)70101-1018
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (CHA)112-113 L vs. MIL103-6 (0-0)61011+321
Alex Poythress (ATL)107-126 L @ NYK94-8 (1-3)20103-2120
Bam Adebayo (MIA)101-104 L @ ORL94-9 (0-1)82101-621
Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN)108-112 L @ SAS82-6 (1-2)93003-422
Jamal Murray (DEN)107-98 W @ LAC73-12 (1-4)53101+1831
Darius Miller (NOP)131-112 W @ HOU00-2 (0-1)01102+519
Wenyen Gabriel (SAC)117-123 L vs. UTADNP-CD----------------
Isaiah Briscoe (ORL)101-104 L @ ORLDNP-CD----------------
Skal Labissiere (SAC)117-123 L vs. UTADNP-CD----------------
Andrew Harrison (MEM)83-111 L @ INDDNP-CD----------------
Jarred Vanderbilt (DEN)107-98 W @ LACDNP-Foot----------------
Brandon Knight (HOU)112-131 L vs. NOPDNP-Knee----------------

Highlights

And here’s a video of DeMarcus Cousins that makes me laugh every time.

Tonight in the NBA

Only three games tonight but a couple of important debuts, including that LeBron James dude.

8:00 (TNT): Bulls (Ulis) @ 76ers

8:00: Heat (Adebayo) @ Wizards (Wall)

10:30 (TNT): Lakers (Rondo) @ Blazers

Player to watch

It has to be John Wall. There’s been a lot of talk surrounding the Washington Wizards this offseason – and most of it rather pessimistic – but now it’s time to either prove them right or prove them wrong. This could end up being a make or break season for the Wizards if they don’t pull together a moderately successful playoff run. Wall is going to have the mismatch in the backcourt against the Miami Heat. It should be an exciting opener for the Wiz.

Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan


Hamidou Diallo Signs Deal With Under Armour

© Brian Losness | USATSI

In the hours leading up to his impressive NBA debut, Oklahoma City Thunder rookie Hamidou Diallo signed a multi-year shoe deal with Under Armour, according to Nick DePaula of ESPN.


Diallo scored four points during eight minutes of actions against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night, nailing a pull-up jumper and making a tough basket after being fouled near the rim while displaying tremendous amounts of hustle throughout his time on the court. With Russell Westbrook expected to miss a small amount of time and Andre Roberson expected to be out much longer, Diallo did a great job of establishing himself in game 1 and proving he deserves to soak up those extra minutes to start the season.

With the new shoe deal for Diallo, that brings the number of former Wildcats who have signed shoe deals this summer to, like, 700. DeMarcus Cousins (Puma), Kevin Knox (Puma), and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (Nike) all signed shoe deals over the past couple months and now we can add Diallo to that list.

Tuesday sure was a hell of a day for Diallo.


(Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports)

BBNBA: Baby, We’re Back

(Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports)

Recap

The NBA season is officially here. Which means it’s time to bring back the ole daily BBNBA recaps. Opening night featured two games – although, they were some high-profile matchups – and *only* three former Kentucky players, all of them on the same team.

The first game in Boston was more or less what we saw in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last season between the 76ers and Celtics. Boston won 105-87 and was in control the entire second half. Aside from Ben Simmons looking like a real-life globetrotter as he galloped down the court with exceptional grace, the Sixers displayed the same issues that plagued them in this very matchup a few months ago.

The night game was much more exciting. Despite missing Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson – the two backcourt starters for Oklahoma City – the Thunder were still able to keep things close against the defending champion Golden State Warriors. The Warriors took the game in the end 108-100. Steph Curry was unguardable all game while Paul George was set ablaze during the third quarter. It was a perfect way to jump back into the season. Although, both games could have resulted in major blowouts and I still would have been smiling the whole time. The NBA is back, so let’s talk about the Cats.

Patrick Patterson was inserted into the Oklahoma City Thunder for only the fourth time during his tenure with the franchise. At least to start the season, Thunder coach Billy Donovan is going with Patterson to begin games, but he likely won’t finish much of them. Fellow Thunder forward Jerami Grant finished with 29 minutes compared to Patterson’s 19 (Patterson played at least 19 minutes in only 16 games last season) and is the more likely – and impactful – player to end games. Grant is younger, more athletic, and better suited for the modern NBA, but after watching Patterson play last night, it’s obvious he’s still going to have a significant role. He did everything that I thought he needed to do to establish himself in the rotation. Spot up, rotate well on defense, and make an impact on the boards. The Thunder have a real advantage of being able to play Patterson next to their big man Steven Adams without sacrificing space against smaller lineups. Mix Grant into the equation and an impressive debut from Nerlens Noel and that is frontcourt rotation that can hang with the best of them.

Speaking of Noel… After finally settling onto a team where both sides are actually happy with their situation, Noel had an excellent debut in OKC. He recorded only three points in 12 minutes but tacked on seven rebounds, one block, one steal, and an assist, plus two or three hustle plays. The blocks and rebounds are what the Thunder brought him here to do. The hustle plays are going to be what gets him paid.

And the last of our Oklahoma City Wildcats trio is the rookie, Hamidou Diallo, whose NBA debut was everything that we wanted. He started the second quarter and hit a smooth pull up jumper but the coaches had him glued to four-time All-Star Klay Thompson, something he understandably was not ready for as Thompson pranced around the perimeter for about four minutes, getting any look he wanted before Diallo had to be taken off the court. His second stint of playing time was much more impressive. Similar to Noel, Diallo is going to earn a bulk of his playing time just by trying harder than the next guy and that was evident with how active he was on the court Tuesday night.

Patterson and Diallo were the only two Thunder players who finished with a positive plus/minus.

Statistics

PlayerResult PointsFG (3FG)Reb.Ast.StealsBlocksTOs+/-Mins.
Patrick Patterson (OKC)100-108 L @ GSW72-9 (1-4)50111+318
Hamidou Diallo (OKC)100-108 L @ GSW42-4 (0-0)11100+58
Nerlens Noel (OKC)100-108 L @ GSW31-2 (0-0)71110-212

Highlights

Tonight in the NBA

7:00: Bucks (Bledsoe, Meeks) @ Hornets (Monk, Kidd-Gilchrist)

7:00: Nets @ Pistons

7:00: Grizzlies (An. Harrison) @ Pacers

7:00: Heat (Adebayo) @ Magic (Briscoe)

7:30: Hawks (Poythress) @ Knicks (Kanter, Knox)

7:30: Cavaliers @ Raptors

8:00 (ESPN): Pelicans (Davis, Miller, Randle) @ Rockets (Knight)

8:30: Timberwolves (Towns) @ Spurs

10:00: Jazz @ Kings (Cauley-Stein, Fox, Gabriel, Labissiere)

10:30: Nuggets (Murray, Lyles, Vanderbilt) @ Clippers (Gilgeous-Alexander)

10:30 (ESPN): Mavericks @ Suns (Booker)

Player to watch

All of ’em. Tonight is the first night to truly immerse yourself in the return of the NBA. The Pelicans have a primetime slot on ESPN, which will give us our first look at the addition of Julius Randle to New Orleans alongside Anthony Davis and Darius Miller. The Pellies will go head-to-head with the Houston Rockets and recently acquired Brandon Knight. The second ESPN game will showcase Devin Booker – who is expected to play despite recent hand surgery – as the Phoenix Suns primary ball handler. The Suns will face the revamped Dallas Mavericks and their prized rookie Luka Doncic.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is who I’ll be watching the closest as he makes his NBA debut against Jamal Murray, Trey Lyles, and the Denver Nuggets. There are 11 games tonight and all but two of them will have at least one Kentucky payer on their roster. If you have League Pass, belly up to the bar. If you’re limited to cable, you’ve got two potentially great nationally televised games.

Basketball is back.

Follow me on Twitter: @ZackGeoghegan


BBNBA 2018-19 Season Preview

(Getty Images)

Welcome, to the BBNBA 2018-19 season preview.

The NBA season officially kicks off on Tuesday night starting at 8 p.m. (TNT) with the Philadelphia 76ers visiting the Boston Celtics – a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals – and will be followed by the defending champion Golden State Warriors hosting the Oklahoma City Thunder at 10:30 p.m. (TNT).

We know the major headlines already. Anthony Davis’ MVP odds. The Warriors going for their third straight NBA title. LeBron James’ debut in LA and Kawhi Leonard’s debut in Toronto.

But that’s been discussed ten times over, let’s discuss a few of the thousands of inevitably compelling storylines that will consume us basketball fans for the next nine months, starting with the Miami Heat’s frontcourt.

How the Miami Heat will deal with the Whiteside/Adebayo situation

This is a non-story that has been made into a story due to one player being much much better than previously thought.

Miami’s two centers – Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo – are going to be splitting playing time throughout the season, although it is expected that Whiteside will start to begin the season.

There are no bad feelings being directed from one to the other (at least none that have been reported), but there is definitely going to be a constant on-court battle to prove who should receive the bulk of the playing time.

There are signs that point to Whiteside having somewhat of a “breakout” year in the midst of his $98 million contract, but even more signs that point to Adebayo being the perfect mold for the modern day NBA center.

Adebayo’s versatility, before playing one game as an NBA sophomore, is already one that can hardly be matched. He’s a 6-foot-10, 240-plus behemoth that plays like a 6-foot-6 super-athletic wingman. Passing, driving, defending all five positions, inside scoring, rim protection, high awareness on both ends, the only thing missing is the outside shot. Whiteside, at 29 years old, has reached the peak of his potential unless he quickly develops the elusive outside jumper.

On the surface, Whiteside is still the more “complete” player. He has the experience and the defensive accolades that justify him as the early season starter.

Whiteside could have a great start to the season that might be null and void if Adebayo swiftly establishes himself and shines with the glittery potential of last season. If Adebayo is diving for loose balls, attacking defenders one-on-one, and switching everything on defense to success, it might not matter how well Whiteside is playing before he finds himself on the bench more often than not.

If that does happen, the most interesting part of this will become Whiteside’s reaction. He has a track record of losing himself and getting in his own head, sometimes leading to media outbursts. If he’s put that behind them, then a frontcourt pairing of Adebayo and Whiteside could be incredibly dangerous and relentless for an entire 48-minute game. If Whiteside proves to be the same person since he entered the league, there could be some bad blood. It’s going to be up to people such as head coach Erik Spoelstra, Dwyane Wade, and especially executive Pat Riley to keep things in order.

Miami has playoff aspirations. Having two starting-caliber centers is never going to be a *bad* thing.

How many realistic Most Improved Player candidates are there?

Realistically, the only viable candidate and one that is expected to finish in the top three or so is Denver Nuggets guard Jamal Murray.

There are few players expected to take the type of leap that Murray is capable of. He exploded last season, making gigantic strides from his rookie season to year two. This season, expectations are high of not only him, but his Nuggets team in general. He settled into his role as a point guard last season and another offseason of preparing for that role will prove to be critical if they intend to make a deep playoff run.

While Murray is the obvious choice, there are other options that might sneak up on us throughout the season. Second-year players such as De’Aaron Fox or even Adebayo will have a fighting chance if they display obvious improvement, but second-year players hardly win the award as their development as lottery picks is expected year-by-year.

Julius Randle, Devin Booker, and Willie Cauley-Stein will all have opportunities to make a run for the award.

Randle would have been a realistic candidate last season if it weren’t for the first half of the year, where he was held on the bench until late December despite quite clearly being the Los Angeles Lakers best player at the time. In New Orleans, Randle will be splitting frontcourt duties with Anthony Davis and Nikola Mirotic, which will hurt his overall ability to produce on the stat sheet. However, playing alongside a sharpshooter in Mirotic and superstar in Davis should help mask some of Randle’s deficiencies, which were constantly being pointed to last season despite carrying the load offensively.

The Phoenix Suns are showing no clear signs of committing another season to tanking, which means we are going to get the best version of Devin Booker to date. A version of Booker surrounded by a front office that finally wants to see what they can squeeze out of their young core. They have no point guard, so Booker will see more responsibility as the lead guard than ever before. The team will still be awful, don’t get it twisted. The front office might be turning the direction towards winning, but that roster is far from a winner, especially in the West. For Booker to truly establish himself as one of the future All-Stars of his generation, becoming a reliable playmaker is a fantastic start and he’s in perfect position to do so.

Willie Cauley-Stein is more of a darkhorse candidate. He’s one of those guys who can play one month as the team’s best player, then the next like a bench player. But that month on top is what teases us. We know there’s a starting caliber center somewhere underneath those braids of his. If he can put everything together for an entire season, his trophy case and bank account are going to be the ones who benefit the most. The Kings have loaded up their frontcourt this season and WCS will split time with Duke products Harry Giles and Marvin Bagley along with Skal Labissiere – who is hoping to take a leap of his own. Cauley-Stein needs to separate himself from the pack early if he wants to seriously be considered as an option for this award.

How will Karl-Anthony Towns respond to the Jimmy Butler situation?

This is one to keep an eye on early and often. By now you’ve probably heard of the fiasco in Minnesota centered around Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler, who had reportedly requested a trade as early as the beginning of the summer (here’s a link to a quick timeline breakdown). Those requests went unsolved and later led to the situation we are in with Butler reportedly preparing to play in the regular season.

So where does Karl-Anthony Towns factor into all of this? Well, he’s apparently been the reason for some of Butler’s disdain. Towns has been labeled as a future Hall-of-Famer, but one who desperately needs to work on his leadership skills. Amidst this Butler drama, Towns can assert himself as a vocal leader whether or not Butler does, in fact, play with the team.

Towns has been quiet throughout the majority of this ordeal – the smart decision – and eventually, he’s going to have to say something. But he can do all that talking on the court if he chooses.

There are basically two simplified paths here, but both paths have multiple endings. The first path is Butler stays. This puts the Wolves back in playoff contention with something to fight for and the microscope will be on Towns, Butler, and Andrew Wiggins to see how they all interact on the court. Every single word said to the media will be dissected. Towns can either break under the pressure or adapt to the situation and put petty difference asides. The next path is Butler being traded, which is the most obvious and desirable situation for everyone included (well, except for head coach Tom Thibodeau, who would rather die than trade Butler). Towns is back to being the focus of the franchise and while they probably won’t make the playoffs, he can become the leader of the team by default.

All eyes are going to be on Butler and Towns to begin the season. With how things have unfolded over the past month, there is literally no way to predict how this will all end.

Can John Wall finally put it all together?

Entering his ninth NBA season – all with the Washington Wizards – John Wall is going to face his toughest season yet. He’s heard the noise all offseason. He’s responded to his generally low rank amongst the many outlets that have dished out their player rankings. He understands that he’s getting closer and closer to his peak as a player. Time is running out on being able to compete for a championship in his prime. Luckily, he has one the best rosters surrounding him since being drafted in 2010.

While that roster may not be one of the top three or four in the East, they can definitely surprise some people.

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr., Kelly Oubre and the additions of Jeff Green, Austin Rivers, and (gulp) Dwight Howard round out a bonafide playoff roster. But they can only go as far as Wall takes them.

He missed exactly half the regular season last year after missing a total of 12 regular season games the four seasons prior. One of the biggest knocks on Wall has been his health, especially in the knees he relies on so heavily to impact the game. But last season was more of an outlier. Wall has been generally healthy over the last five seasons and the Wizards are going to need another 75-plus game season from him this year.

His outside shot looked the best it ever had last season. Building off that would be step one. Creating a locker room environment that wants to play and win together is step two (although Howard might have something to say about that) and might be the toughest task to accomplish all season.

The backcourt duo of Wall and Beal has few holes. Porter Jr. is an analytic god. Oubre is begging to take a leap. They have pieces that can equate to a winning formula, albeit not one that could beat the Toronto Raptors or Boston Celtics. For Wall and the Wizards, this season should be all about having something to prove. It’s about proving the doubters wrong. I’ll be the first to say I’ve been critical of Wall. He likes to talk the big game but hasn’t produced much to show for it. And I’ll be the first to admit I was wrong if he leads this team to 50 wins.

Under the radar players to watch

We know about the Anthony Davises and KATs and John Walls of the BBNBA world, but what about some of the lesser known players who are expected to be real-time contributors this season? A few that I’m going to pay especially close attention to this season are Malik Monk, Andrew Harrison, and Patrick Patterson.

Malik Monk is going to be one of the focal points of a new run-and-gun style of offense in Charlotte. Something they haven’t employed since, well, probably ever. Hornets first-year head coach James Borrego has said he intends to use Monk and have him push the pace. Monk struggled to get off the bench last season no thanks to his coaching staff but this season should be a complete 180. He’s probably not going to start over Jeremy Lamb, but it feels like the Hornets are going to make it a point to carve out at least 20ish minutes for Monk on a nightly basis. He’s going to shoot a lot. He’s going to run a lot. One of Monk’s best attributes at Kentucky was his ability to put up chunks of points in quick succession. That’s exactly what they’re going to ask of him in Charlotte.

The return of Mike Conley from injury will minimize some of Harrison’s potential, but he’s firmly set as the backup for an unpredictable team. The Memphis Grizzlies have the same odds to win 50 games as they do 30. This team is a completely reshaped version of last year’s version and it’s hard to tell just how well they’ll do with two aging All-Stars and an unproven lottery pick in Jaren Jackson. Harrison played the best basketball of his career last season in Conley’s absence. He wasn’t an All-Star by any means and probably won’t be a starting caliber point guard for a playoff team by the time he reaches his prime, but he’s found a niche. For him, it’s all about continuing to learn how to control an offense. He showed flashes of it last season and being a reliable off the bench guard will be a huge help in getting the Grizz to the playoffs.

Patrick Patterson’s first season in Oklahoma City was nothing like his previous seasons in Toronto. Normally a factor off the bench, Patterson saw his numbers take a dip as the Thunder preferred Carmelo Anthony. With Anthony now gone, Patterson will slide right back into the position he played to perfection in Toronto. He stretches the floor, which allows the Thunder to play him alongside either Steven Adams or Nerlens Noel while still having four possible shooters on the court and maintaining defensive competency. While he’s nowhere near the scorer Anthony is, Patterson’s role with this team will have a monumentally positive impact compared to Melo. He’ll improve the team’s defense, help space the floor, and still bring a veteran presence to a team hoping for much more than just a playoff run.

There are plenty of other storylines that didn’t make the list. Dwane Casey’s first-year coaching a Detroit Pistons team stuck in salary cap hell after being fired from the Toronto Raptors despite winning Coach of the Year. De’Aaron Fox’s improvement in year two. The rookies! (Hamidou Diallo made the Thunder roster. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is my darkhorse Rookie of the Year). Nerlens Noel just in general. All of this will be touched on as we go through the year.

Follow me on Twitter and stay up to date throughout the NBA season: @ZackGeoghegan


31 Kentucky Players are on NBA Opening Night rosters

It’s opening night in the NBA and 31 former Kentucky players are on NBA rosters, the most from any college basketball program in the country (Duke is second with 25):

  • Bam Adebayo – Miami Heat
  • Eric Bledsoe – Milwaukee Bucks
  • Devin Booker – Phoenix Suns
  • Isaiah Briscoe – Orlando Magic
  • Willie Cauley-Stein – Sacramento Kings
  • DeMarcus Cousins – Golden State Warriors
  • Anthony Davis – New Orleans Pelicans
  • Hamidou Diallo – Oklahoma City Thunder
  • De’Aaron Fox – Sacramento Kings
  • Wenyen Gabriel- Sacramento Kings*
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Los Angeles Clippers
  • Andrew Harrison – Memphis Grizzlies
  • Enes Kanter – New York Knicks
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – Charlotte Hornets
  • Brandon Knight – Houston Rockets
  • Kevin Knox – New York Knicks
  • Skal Labissiere – Sacramento Kings
  • Trey Lyles – Denver Nuggets
  • Jodie Meeks – Milwaukee Bucks
  • Darius Miller – New Orleans Pelicans
  • Malik Monk – Charlotte Hornets
  • Jamal Murray – Denver Nuggets
  • Nerlens Noel – Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Patrick Patterson – Oklahoma City Thunder
  • Alex Poythress – Atlanta Hawks*
  • Julius Randle – New Orleans Pelicans
  • Rajon Rondo – Los Angeles Lakers
  • Karl-Anthony Towns – Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Tyler Ulis – Chicago Bulls*
  • Jarred Vanderbilt – Denver Nuggets
  • John Wall – Washington Wizards

* Two-way contract between NBA and G-League

Nineteen of the league’s 30 teams have a Wildcat on the roster, and four teams have three or more: Sacramento (Willie Cauley-Stein, De’Aaron Fox, Wenyen Gabriel and Skal Labissiere), Denver (Trey Lyles, Jamal Murray and Jarred Vanderbilt), New Orleans (Anthony Davis, Darius Miller and Julius Randle), and Oklahoma City (Hamidou Diallo, Nerlens Noel and Patrick Patterson).

According to UK, Calipari-coached players only (which includes Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans but not Jodie Meeks or Rajon Rondo) have amassed nearly $1.9 billion in career NBA contracts ($1.87 billion). In the nine seasons Calipari has been the head coach at Kentucky, his players have totaled more than $1.5 billion in NBA contracts. In just the 2018-19 season alone, UK players are slated to make almost $190 million.

The fun starts tonight at 8 p.m. with the Philadelphia 76ers vs. the Boston Celtics on TNT, followed by the Oklahoma City Thunder (Patrick Patterson, Nerlens Noel, Hamidou Diallo) vs. the Golden State Warriors (DeMarcus Cousins will not play) at 10:30 p.m.

We’ll have a bigger BBNBA preview coming for you in just a bit.


(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)