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Cats in the NBA

Former Kentucky Players in the NBA

BBNBA: Western Conference Semifinals Game 7 edition

(Photo via Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)

It came down to the very end, but the Portland Trail Blazers found a way to win over the Denver Nuggets, 100-96. It didn’t come easily – the Nuggets were up by 12 at the end of the first quarter, and extended that lead to 17 points in the second. But the Trail Blazers just wouldn’t go away, and a momentum-changing run at the end of the half brought the deficit back to single digits.

CJ McCollum was the star of the show for the Blazers, scoring a game-high 37 points while adding nine rebounds. Enes Kanter finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Remember, Kanter is currently fasting for Ramadan, which means he can’t eat or drink from sunrise to sunset. To get ready for the matchup, he woke up at 3:25 a.m. to get a meal in before game 7. He refrained from drinking any water, even during timeouts.

Denver’s Nikola Jokic closed out his sensational first postseason with 29 points and 13 rebounds, while Jamal Murray added 17 points, six rebounds and five assists.

Fellow Cats Skal Labissiere (Trail Blazers), Jarred Vanderbilt and Trey Lyles (Nuggets) did not enter the game.

After posting an emotional Mother’s Day message this morning, Kanter switched gears just in time for some trash talk following the end of the game.

The No. 3 Trail Blazers will now face the No. 1 Golden State Warriors in the conference finals. It’ll be Portland’s first trip to the conference finals since 2000.


Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Jamal Murray’s pick-and-roll is creating something special in Denver

Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Jamal Murray has emerged as one of the NBA’s brightest young stars. Consequently, he’s the subject of a new feature on ESPN.com – this one, about his pick-and-roll skills with the Denver Nuggets’ center, Nikola Jokic.

The story, written by Jackie MacMullan, details both players’ skill set and background, including their unique qualities. Jokic grew up in Sombor, Serbia, crying on his way to basketball practice as a young boy. He idolized Tim Duncan because “he wasn’t flashy,” and grew impressed by the ease of his pick-and-roll talents, alongside teammate Manu Ginobili.

Halfway around the world, in Ontario, Jamal Murray was watching history unfold between Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.

Years later, Murray and Jokic are now competing on the same roster, impersonating their childhood idols while making the pick-and-roll their own in an ever-evolving league. The article describes the new-age NBA as a place where “double-teams are scarce and switching is the norm, where 3-point shots are rampant and midrange jumpers are decried.” And yet, Murray and Jokic, a point guard and a big man, make the pick-and-roll work in their favor.

During the regular season, the Nuggets ran 171 plays with Murray as the screener and Jokic as the ball handler. That combination averaged 1.30 points per direct pick, per ESPN Stats & Information, tied for the best in the NBA. Last year, the Nuggets averaged 15 turnovers per game (23rd in the league), while giving their opponents 18.7 points per game off those turnovers (placing them at the bottom of the league). This season, Denver drastically improved those numbers: 13.7 turnovers per game, while only allowing their opponents 15 points off those mistakes. That’s good for sixth-best in the league.

Individually, they’ve earned plenty of praise along the way. Nuggets head coach Mike Malone compliments Murray in the article, mentioning “the underrated fact that Jamal Murray is our best screener.” They’ve also earned comparisons to some of the best pick-and-roll duos in the history of the game. But, don’t feel the need to force the similarities.

“What we’re doing is nothing like we’ve seen before. Of course, there will always be Stockton and Malone, and Nash and Stoudemire, but what we’re doing is different – unique,” Murray told ESPN. “Maybe they’ll be talking about Murray and the Joker someday.”


The Nuggets are currently playing against the Portland Trail Blazers in game seven of the second-round NBA playoffs. The game can be seen on ABC.

[ESPN]


Washington, Johnson, Herro fluctuate in recent NBA Mock Drafts

With the NBA Draft just over a month away, the mock drafts are beginning to become more and more active and possibly even somewhat accurate. Kentucky is expected to have three players drafted anywhere from the lower lottery to the back end of the first round. A dark horse candidate would be on the outside chance that EJ Montgomery would stay in the draft and a late second round team would take him surely on potential.

The common thread that I see when going through Mock Drafts this year is that there really is no common thread for where the former Cats will go. It is pretty much set in stone that the top three picks will be Zion, Barrett and Morant with the remainder of the first round having a lot of fluidity.

PJ Washington Tyler Herro Keldon Johnson
CBS Sports 15. Detroit 16. Orlando 22. Boston
NBADraft.net 27. Brooklyn 21. Oklahoma City 14. Boston
Yahoo Sports 11. LA Lakers 28. Golden State 23. Utah
ESPN 12. Charlotte 16. Orlando 22. Boston

As you can see, Johnson is tied to the Celtics three times and Herro is tied to Orlando twice, but other than that, you can see a lot of differences in these drafts.

The most notable question mark for me is why NBADraft.net has Washington following all the way to the #27 pick while the other three have him in the Lottery? I don’t like to guarantee anything, but I can almost guarantee that, barring something happening between today and the draft, PJ Washington will not be available come pick #27.


Enes Kanter delivers powerful Mother’s Day message

(Photo via Bruce Ely / Trail Blazers)

Just hours before his team tips off Game Seven against the Denver Nuggets, Enes Kanter delivered a powerful Mother’s Day message on Twitter.

For those that have not followed Kanter closely since he left Lexington, the Turkish born player has been at odds with his home country over the past few years. In 2016, Kanter referred to the president of Turkey as the, “Hitler of our century.” This comment forced his family to publicly disown him for fear of their own safety.

Nearly two years ago, the Turkish government canceled Kanter’s passport which at the time temporarily stranded him Romania, but he was able to fly to London before making it back to the United States. Later on in 2017, the government issued an arrest warrant for the NBA player and recommends a possible jail time sentence of four years.

This has forced Kanter to remain in the US and not travel to Turkey to see his family. This season, he also did not travel to games played in London or Toronto for fear that he would not be safe.

Many of us do take our loved ones for granted and do not realize the struggle that some, like Kanter, have to deal with on a daily basis. The Turkish government has made it to where natives of the country can watch any NBA game except ones that Kanter plays in, because of how he has spoken out against the country.

Here is to hoping that his message can find his mom in Turkey, because every mom deserves to hear their son/daughter say Happy Mother’s Day.


DeMarcus Cousins is creating his OWN team for TBT in Lexington

DeMarcus Cousins is the latest former Wildcat to say he’ll be spending some time in Lexington this summer for The Basketball Tournament. However, unlike The Bluegrass Boys, Boogie will be creating his own team, rather than joining the former Wildcats’ squad.

“I’m excited to be putting together my own team for the TBT tournament,” Cousins said. “Coming in with a win attitude, and I plan on winning the whole entire tournament. Stay tuned.”

His team, somewhat ironically, will be named Loyalty is Love. According to the TBT twitter account, Cousins will be returning to Lexington for the action, which means he’ll be competing against “The Bluegrass Boys” – Dominique Hawkins, Marcus Lee, Josh Harrellson and Ramon Harris.

TBT is a 64-team, single-elimination basketball tournament that started in 2014. It’s a chance for former players to reunite and compete – the roster can include anyone without a guaranteed NBA contract.

This year, Lexington will serve as the host team for the Lexington Region. Games will take place July 19-21 at Frederick Douglass High School and will air live on the ESPN networks. The winners of each region will meet for the semifinals and $2 million championship game in Chicago August 1-6.

DeMarcus Cousins v. the Bluegrass Boys… Who ya got?