How much did Kansas loss hurt Aldrich and Collins' draft stock?

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Yesterday was not a banner day for the University of Kansas basketball team. They fell from being the prohibitive favorite to win the title to being the victim of what many are calling the biggest upset in NCAA history. Their star, Sharron Collins leaves shrouded in failure after winning the title in 2008, but failing to capitalize on the most talented KU team in years. Bill Self can comfort himself with that championship, but also faces early exits thanks to Bradley and now, University of Northern Iowa.

But you knew all that already. What about the NBA prospects of the kids headed back to Lawrence early?

Sherron Collins was thought by some to be the best point guard in the country. Granted, that meant completely overlooking John Wall, but still, the sentiment was out there. Collins enters the NBA as guard with a championship and a starter for a national powerhouse. But if ever there was a game to reveal the weakness in his game, yesterday was it. He was turnover prone, and all the nifty shots that led him to greatness not only weren’t falling, but looked like poor decisions.

Collins excelled at the college level thanks to his penchant for creating and hitting tough shots, particularly after making contact. While the contact piece is good, his lean-away move won’t work in the NBA, where he’ll be swallowed up by the length of NBA defenders. He’s not particularly fast, is shorter than most guards, and doesn’t possess terrific vision. Unlike Ty Lawson and Darren Collison, guards who excelled at major national programs and then lit their respective teams aflame in their rookie seasons, Collins doesn’t possess the same kind of athleticism.

A team will likely reach out and take Collins at some point, but don’t be surprised if yesterday scares him off into the second round.

Cole Aldrich is a much more interesting case. Aldrich is currently at six on the board according to DraftExpress. But last night’s game could have an impact on where he ends up. Aldrich had a tough game, though as opposed to most upsets, he wasn’t facing a smaller lineup. The Panthers trotted out several bigs to keep Aldrich occupied. Then Aldrich turned his ankle in the second half and that also slowed him down.

Aldrich has a tremendous skillset for a big man, offensively. He’s not the fastest or most versatile in terms of offense, but what he does, he does well. The question will be in his passing, which is good not great, and his rebounding. Though he racked up 10 boards and the Jayhawks outrebounded the Panthers yesterday, there were still several times where Aldrich was either beaten to a crucial rebound or unable to effectively tap out the ball to reset the offense.

Aldrich is still a top-ten pick, but after being seen as high as #3 overall at one point this season, yesterday probably dinged up his stock a bit.

Xavier Henry was a big winner yesterday for the Jayhawks, with 8 points and 8 rebounds, and two steals as well. His athleticism was on display, and was evident as KU scrambled to get back into the game. But Henry’s season in full may warrant another year under Bill Self alongside the Morris twins if he wants to assure himself a top 15 pick. Henry struggled early in the system before coming on late. Another season would likely boost him to high lottery status.

Justin Anderson cuts under basket, reaches back for putback dunk (video)

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One player dunking on another is always fantastic.

But some of the best jams come when the dunker artfully dodges defenders in the first place.

Mavericks forward Justin Anderson did that with this putback slam against the Pacers last night.

Wednesday featured a ridiculous number of players getting dunked on (videos)

PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 26:  Willie Cauley-Stein #00 of the Sacramento Kings slam dunks the ball over Marquese Chriss #0 of the Phoenix Suns during the first half of the preseason NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena on October 26, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Twenty NBA teams started their seasons last night, providing a glorious onslaught of basketball unlike anything we’ve seen in months.

One of the best parts? It seems players forgot they were supposed to duck out of the way, rather than defend, dunks.

That led to some fantastic slams

Gerald Henderson on Domantas Sabonis:

Lance Stephenson on Kenneth Faried:

Jonas Valanciunas on Boban Marjanovic:

Willie-Cauley Stein on Marquese Chriss:

‘Our 49 Pulse angels’: Orlando Magic honor those killed in nightclub

A banner printed with the names of the Pulse nightclub shooting victims and 49, the number of people who died in the shooting, is unveiled in the Amway Center during a tribute prior to an NBA basketball game between the Orlando Magic and the Miami Heat, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — There’s nothing that can give Mayra Alvear back what she lost, or ease her pain, or calm her anger.

With one gesture, she at least felt some joy again.

Underneath a softly swaying banner displaying the number 49 – commemorating the number of lives lost – and as first responders unfurled and held a massive American flag for the national anthem, the Orlando Magic paid tribute Wednesday night to the victims and survivors of the Pulse gay nightclub massacre with an emotional ceremony immediately before the team’s season-opener against the Miami Heat.

“We felt the recognition needed to be significant,” Magic president Alex Martins said. “We think part of the healing process for our community is making sure we don’t forget. And we felt it was most appropriate that we do it on opening night, so it receives the proper recognition and exposure – but also gave the greatest number of our fans the opportunity to recognize and remember.”

Some survivors were present, as were some relatives of those who were killed on June 12 in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The gunman, Omar Mateen, was killed after a three-hour standoff during an exchange of fire with SWAT team members.

“What the Orlando Magic are doing is amazing, is beautiful. I’m honored and grateful,” said Alvear, the mother of Pulse victim Amanda Alvear. “That they are lifting the number 49 out of respect, a symbol for our 49 Pulse angels, it has a deep meaning – demonstration of love and that they care, that all of them will be remembered.”

The nightclub remains fenced off, yet is still attracting a daily stream of mourners. Banners on the fence are dotted with thousands of handwritten messages from visitors, with some flowers and candles on the ground.

Martins was the chair of OneOrlando, a fund that collected $29.5 million in donations that’s being distributed to 299 claimants. At the time of the shooting, the Magic were just a few weeks removed from the hiring of Frank Vogel as their new coach, and less than three weeks away from a free-agent period where the roster would be greatly revamped.

But Martins quickly volunteered anyway, helping oversee the massive task.

“One of the ways that I felt I could help, that I could assist, was to help with the administration of the fund,” Martins said. “So I raised my hand immediately.”

The tribute coming before a Magic-Heat game was fitting, given how many of those affected by the events of that night were from South Florida.

It was particularly poignant to one survivor.

Heat employee Laura Vargas was shot twice that night. She can recall every detail – the strobe lights, the Heineken in her hand, how she was putting away her ID as she heard the first shots. She remembers watching Mateen reload a weapon, the blood pouring from her wounds, even the look on the police officer’s face when she was rescued.

Her best friend, Luis Vielma, who Vargas said was straight, was one of the victims.

“It’s not even just about me,” Vargas said. “It’s coping that he’s not there anymore. It’s a lot to carry around.”

Vargas isn’t able yet to resume work. She was at the arena the Heat call home last week for an event called “Loud And Proud” that celebrated the LGBTQ community, but couldn’t shake the feeling Mateen was there. Her flashbacks and nightmares are terrifying – she said she had “a total breakdown” recently at Disney when a fireworks show sounded like gunfire.

Nights like Wednesday, she said, make it all a bit easier.

“The love that’s come out of this is not fading,” Vargas said. “It brings me comfort to know that my best friend is one of the reasons why this world is a little bit less crappy, that his life isn’t just forgotten. No. He made a difference. And he would be happy to know that even with the chaos, the horror, he made a change.”

This was not a one-night commitment for the Magic, who have contributed both money and staff resources to the ongoing healing process and plan to continue. In addition to the banner, the team aired a video in tribute and invited singer Brandon Parsons – who composed a song called “Forty-Nine Times” – to perform pregame.

Parsons’ song included this phrase: “Takes more than just a gun, more than you to tear us down, so let your colors fly free.”

“It’s been so impactful since the day of that event,” said Otto Drozd, the Fire Chief for Orange County Fire Rescue. “This is part of the healing process. We continue to remember the 49 that lost their lives and those that were injured that night, and really, we do that because we don’t want to relive it.”

Joel Embiid hits shots, blocks Westbrook, looks good in debut


And somewhere, Sam Hinkie weeps.

After two seasons on the sidelines with foot injuries, Joel Embiid played his first NBA game Wednesday night — and he looked good — 20 points, seven rebounds, and a couple of blocked shots. The Philadelphia crowd loved him — when he opened the game with a nice move and free-throw line jumper, followed by a block of Russell Westbrook, the arena nearly exploded. He was later serenaded with “trust the process” chants as he shot free throws.

He’s still a work in progress — he tried to do too much rather than let the game come to him. That led to 7-of-17 shooting and him chasing blocks on defense and getting out of position. He played like an over-amped rookie. Which he was. (Apparently, some Philly fans were a little over-amped, too.)

But one with a world of talent. The Sixers have something here.