🏀 Jayhawks Aplenty as NBA Returns

LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas basketball is well represented among the 22 teams as the NBA restart 2020 gets underway July 30 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. Nine Jayhawks are “in the bubble” with eight players and one head coach. The Jayhawk players consist of Cheick Diallo (Phoenix Suns), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers), Josh Jackson (Memphis Grizzlies), Frank Mason III (Milwaukee Bucks), Ben McLemore (Houston Rockets), Marcus Morris (Los Angeles Clippers), Markieff Morris (Los Angeles Lakers) and Kelly Oubre Jr. (Phoenix Suns). Former standout KU guard Jacque Vaughn is the head coach of the Brooklyn Nets.

Players arrived in Orlando in early July and have had extensive tests for the coronavirus while training in Disney World. The season restarts with eight “seeding games” that begin July 30 and run through August 14. The 22 teams consist of the eight teams in each conference with the highest winning percentages and the six teams that are within six games of the eighth seed in either conference as of March 11, 2020. There are nine teams in the Eastern Conference and 13 in the Western Conference. The playoffs are scheduled to begin August 17 with the eight seeding games determining the playoff matchups. There could be a potential play-in series for the No. 8 seed in each conference.

Kansas Jayhawks

NBA Jayhawks “In the Bubble” 

Cheick Diallo Phoenix Suns
Joel Embiid Philadelphia 76ers
Josh Jackson Memphis Grizzlies
Frank Mason III Milwaukee Bucks
Ben McLemore Houston Rockets
Marcus Morris Los Angeles Clippers
Markieff Morris Los Angeles Lakers
Kelly Oubre Jr. (Injured) Phoenix Suns
Jacque Vaughn (Head Coach) Brooklyn Nets

Two Jayhawks entered the NBA restart 2020 in first place in their respective conferences with Mason on the Milwaukee squad for the Eastern Conference and Markieff Morris with the L.A. Lakers in the Western Conference.

Mason was named the 2019-20 NBA G League Most Valuable Player in a vote by the league’s 28 head coaches and general managers. Mason averaged 26.4 points, 5.0 assists and 3.4 rebounds for the Wisconsin Herd prior to the pandemic cancellation in March. The Petersburg, Va., guard is in a two-way contract with Milwaukee and played in six games with the team before the stoppage. Mason played at KU from 2014-17 and was the consensus national player of the year in 2017. He is in his third season in the NBA and spent his first two with the Sacramento Kings. For the NBA Restart 2020, Milwaukee is first in the Eastern Conference with a 53-12 record and had a 6.5-game lead on No. 2 Toronto (46-18).

Markieff Morris joined the Lakers in a trade from the Detroit Pistons on Feb. 23, 2020. In 2019-20 he played 44 games for Detroit and eight with the Lakers averaging 10.1 points for the season in 52 contests. A Philadelphia native, Markieff Morris was the No. 13 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft and is in his ninth season in the league. He has played 631 games in that span. Markieff Morris played three seasons at Kansas from 2009-11 and was an All-Big 12 Second Team honoree in 2011. Prior to the pandemic stoppage, the Lakers led the Western Conference with a 49-14 record and were 5.5 games ahead of the second-place L.A. Clippers.

The third overall selection of the 2014 NBA Draft, Embiid is a three-time NBA All-Star who averaged 23.4 point, 11.8 rebounds 3.1 assists and 1.3 blocked shots in 44 games prior to the pandemic stoppage. The Yaounde, Cameroon center is in his fourth season of action in the NBA and he played one season at Kansas where he set the KU freshman record for blocked shots with 72 in 2013-14. Philadelphia is the Eastern Conference sixth seed though the 76ers tied Indiana for the fifth with a 39-26 record, 14 games behind Milwaukee and two behind No. 4 seed Miami.

McLemore averaged 22.8 minutes and 9.8 points in 63 games played for Houston prior to the stop in play. The St. Louis native was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft and is in his seventh season in the league, first with Houston. McLemore was a redshirt at KU in 2011-12 and earned All-America and all-conference honors in 2012-13. He is second on the KU freshman scoring list with 589 points in 2013-14. Houston is the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference though the Rockets are tied with Oklahoma City for fifth with a 40-24 record.

Marcus Morris averaged 17.4 points and 5.1 rebounds in 55 games played in 2019-20 with 43 contests for the New York Knicks and 12 with his current team, the Clippers. Marcus Morris had his KU jersey retired on Feb. 17, 2020. The 2011 Big 12 Player of the Year and All-America selection from Philadelphia, Marcus Morris was the No. 14 overall selection in the 2011 NBA Draft, one pick after his twin brother Markieff. Marcus Morris is in his ninth season in the league and has played 600 career games. The Clippers went 44-20 prior to the pandemic stoppage and are the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference.

In his third season in the NBA, Jackson averaged 10.4 points and 3.2 rebounds in 18 games played for Memphis. A Detroit native, Jackson’s first two seasons in the league were in Phoenix as he played at KU in the 2016-17 season earning freshman All-America and All-Big 12 honors. Memphis is the eighth seed in the Western Conference and was 32-33 prior to the pandemic stoppage.

Oubre and Diallo are the lone KU teammates in the NBA Restart 2020 for the Suns. Oubre, who averages 18.7 points and 6.4 rebounds in 2019-20, is in Orlando but is rehabbing an injury suffered prior to the stoppage of play and is not expected to compete in the restart. Oubre, from New Orleans, was the No. 15 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft and played one season at KU in 2014-15. He is in his fifth season in the NBA. Diallo, from Kayes, Mali, is in his fourth season in the NBA and his first with Phoenix. He is averaging 10.6 minutes, 4.8 points and 2.9 rebound in 44 games played in 2019-20. After his one season at KU in 2015-16, Diallo was the No. 33 overall selection in the 2016 NBA Draft, played his first three years in the NBA in New Orleans. Phoenix went 26-39 prior to the stoppage and is the No. 13 seed in the Western Conference.

Vaughn played 12 seasons (1997-2009) in the NBA and has been a coach, either assistant or head, in the league since 2010. He played at KU from 1994-97 and had his Jayhawk jersey retired in December 2002. A Los Angeles native, Vaughn was the 1997 Academic All-American of the Year, two-time All-Big Eight and the 1996 Big Eight Player of the Year. Brooklyn is the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference and went 30-34 before the stoppage. The Nets were 22.5 games out of first and 8.5 behind No. 5 seeds Indiana and Philadelphia.