Posted on: February 18, 2012 9:23 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver
Portland Trail Blazers All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge is set to return on Saturday night after missing two games with a sprained left ankle.
Aldridge suffered the sprain during the first quarter of a Tuesday night loss to the Washington Wizards at the Rose Garden. He missed a Wednesday night win over the Golden State Warriors in Oracle Arena and a Thursday night loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at the Rose Garden. The Blazers host the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday night.
Aldridge, 26, was named to his first All-Star game last week and is in the midst of a career year. He is averaging 22.6 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game this season. Prior to spraining his ankle, Aldridge had missed just six games due to injury since the beginning of the 2008-2009 season.
Portland enters Saturday night with a record of 16-15.
Posted on: February 15, 2012 2:48 am
Posted by Ben Golliver
Portland Trail Blazers All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge suffered a left ankle sprain during the first quarter of a Tuesday night loss to the Washington Wizards at the Rose Garden and will miss an undetermined amount of time.
The team announced that X-rays of the ankle were negative but that he will not travel with the team to Oakland for its Wednesday night game against the Golden State Warriors. His availability after that is not known. Blazers coach Nate McMillan said only that Aldridge told him at halftime of the game that the ankle was "pretty sore."
Aldridge was injured less than two minutes into the game when he came down on the foot of Wizards forward Trevor Booker after attempting a jump shot. Aldridge immediately went to the court in pain and was able to walk off the court under his own power. Without their No. 1 scorer and captain, the Blazers went on to lose to the Wizards, 124-109.
Aldridge, 26, was named to his first All-Star game last week and is in the midst of a career year. He is averaging 23.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game this season and had appeared in every game for Portland this season. He has missed just six games due to injury since the beginning of the 2008-2009 season.
The timing of the injury couldn't be worse for Portland. The Blazers have lost four of their last five games and are in the midst of a back-to-back-to-back against the Wizards, Warriors and the Los Angeles Clippers. Portland will also face the Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs in advance of the All-Star break next week.
Here's a video replay of the injury.
Posted on: February 7, 2012 4:45 pm
Edited on: February 7, 2012 4:58 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver
Oops, we did it again.
The NBA has publicly admitted once again that one of its officials made an incorrect call on a game-deciding possession.
In a statement posted to NBA.com/official on Tuesday, the NBA acknowledged that referee Scott Foster made an "incorrect call" when he whistled Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge for a goaltending violation with six seconds remaining in regulation of a Monday night game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Rose Garden. Aldridge, who was defending Thunder All-Star forward Kevin Durant, blocked the shot into the backboard, but was still whistled for a violation, as Foster apparently thought he had pinned the ball on the glass.
Here's the league's statement.
The basket pulled Oklahoma City even in regulation and the Thunder went on to win in overtime, 111-107.
Following the game, Blazers coach Nate McMillan disputed the call and told the media that he would send video of the play to the league office for review.
Aldridge disputed the call and was upset that the referees did not offer him an explanation.
"They act kind of sensitive sometimes," Aldridge said when asked if the referees had given him any explanation of their call. "He just told me the call was done and walked away... I timed it perfect, I put it on the glass, it didn't hit the glass first. I figured it was a clean block. The ref who called it was the furthest one from the basket so that's pretty interesting."
Back on Jan. 21, the NBA admitted its referees blew a no-call on a fourth-quarter kick ball by Pacers guard George Hill, which helped push Indiana to a late win. The NBA also admitted this season that their referees blew a late no-call on a traveling violation by Miami Heat All-Star forward LeBron James.
Here's a video replay of the blown goaltending call during a game between the Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder.
Posted on: February 2, 2012 5:47 pm
Edited on: February 2, 2012 6:57 pm
By Matt Moore
How good is Blake Griffin? How good can he be?
Is Kevin Love one of those guys you're going to look back and remember when he had trouble getting on the floor in Minnesota and laugh? (Wait, he already is that guy. OK, more so?)
Why is it LaMarcus Aldridge has never been an All-Star, but Chris Kaman has?
Are these guys you can win a championship with? Are these guys legends? What is it we're witnessing, here?
All right, we're 75 words in and already miles ahead of ourselves. Let's back up and start where any discussion of the greatness of current NBA power forwards should start. With point guards.
We're in the NBA's golden age of point guards. There have been amazing point guards before, and certainly great point guard eras. Jason Kidd, Kevin Johnson, Gary Payton, Isiah Thomas, and of course Magic Johnson, just to name a small handful. But the era we're currently in may top any before for overall talent. You have to go searching long and hard for a team without a quality starting point guard (as long as you're not starting with the Lakers). So it's easy to get caught up in debates over which is the best, in either conference.
But hidden behind that is a debate that began a year ago, has continued for the past 360 days, and which will be set aflame Thursday night as the starters for the 2012 NBA All-Star Game are announced.
Blake Griffin will be announced as the starter. He's certainly worthy of it.
Kevin Love fans will be outraged. They're going to have a point.
LaMarcus Aldridge will barely make the conversation. And that's a crime.
All three players have emerged as the best power forwards in the West and probably in the league. Blake Griffin is the reason the Clippers landed Chris Paul, the reason they are contenders for the first time. Kevin Love may be dealing with Rubio Mania, but he's still the man in Minnesota and the biggest reason the Wolves are within striking distance of a playoffs berth. And Aldridge, who was always passed over by fans for Brandon Roy and then twice for Greg Oden, is the rock holding Portland steady.
It's entirely possible one of them does not check in on Sunday, Feb. 26th, and that's more than a little bit insane.
But moving beyond the ridiculousness of the All-Star Game, the questions about each player and their long-term futures are more relevant. Aldridge is 26, entering his prime. At the moment, he's a better, more complete player than either Love or Griffin. But their ceilings are considerably higher, and even the question of which is better becomes complicated and sticky.
But are any of them legitimately "great" all-time players? Do any of them have the potential to be Hall of Fame guys? Where are they in that pursuit?
We're jumping the gun here, and we're well aware of it. Griffin is only 22 games into his second season. Love was only truly freed from captivity last season. Aldridge is just now entering his prime. There's no way to tell if they'll live up to potential, if they've peaked, if this is the best they'll ever be. We're exploring the question to give credence to the fact we have legitimately great players at this position, and to examine how great they really are.
For starters, let's look at some numbers. Let's start with this season's results for the three in question, plus Paul Millsap who is truly the dark horse candidate this season, and is only really held back by the number of touches he shares (Millsap has the lowest usage rate. I wanted to compare them to some truly great players that played in the same era so I took Dirk Nowitzki's best season -- the 2007 season which was simply incredible regardless of how it ended -- and had to basically pull one of Duncan's 2002-2006 seasons out of a hat.)
In short, Kevin Love looks pretty phenomenal and like he's on track for that. The stunner is that LaMarcus Aldridge would probably be right there if he were just rebounding a bit more. Aldridge is having his most efficient season ever, but his rebounds per game, minutes, and rate just don't add up. Without doing anything else of note, Aldrige suffers here.
But Love is really what shines in this comparison. His rebound totals are clearly boosting him along, but he's become such a terrific versatile scorer. And for a guy whose knock has always been defense, Love is in the 71st percentile in overall points per possession allowed according to Synergy Sports, and 81st percentile in post-up defense.
Griffin's numbers struggle, there's no question there. But how much of it is just youth? He's roughly 100 games into his career. Where does his start match up with the others on this list?
Now that is surprising. Griffin is top-two in points, rebounds, and assists per 36 minutes, and PER, true rebound rate, and assist percentage (those figures factor percentage of rebounds/assists of total possessions while on the floor) in those players' second years, and first in field goal percentage. Not bad, even when you consider the strange career arc of Nowitzki.
But numbers obviously don't tell the entire story.
There is a question when watching these players play if they're truly at that level. Blake Griffin is criticized for his lack of a mid-range jumper. Kevin Love isn't considered the kind of player you can simply get the ball to and ask him to get you a bucket, and his post offense is still a work in progress. They're obviously still forming their games, but the gap between those aspects and what people expect is enough to cause the question of if they will ever get to elite status.
Is Griffin simply a product of his dunks? There's no question that things like, say, Rest in Perkins this week put him on a different level from a cultural perspective. He's the most prolific dunker in recent memory, and Dwight Howard put on a cape with music. The problem comes when we start to fall for an overreaction to that from a critical perspective.
"He's just dunks."
That's a pretty significant fallacy.
Griffin's leaping ability to collect and put back offensive rebounds is something that cannot be denied. He's a solid passer. His post-game shows glimpses of what is likely to be an incredible array of moves along with the kind of natural touch that you need for a player down low. There's nothing physically wrong with his jumper that isn't correctable, and he's got range to the perimeter, even if he's going to it too much this season.
But it's the drives that will continue to be his bread and butter. He works in the pick and roll, but face-up, you need help to guard him. You just do. You had better bring a few friends. Griffin's explosiveness is largely unheard of, and that's the hidden secret to all those dunks. He's not capitalizing off of blown coverages. He's whipping around, over, through defenders to get to the rim. There will come a point where the hammering Griffin endures will take its toll. It's at that point he'll have to adapt, and whether that loss of explosiveness as he ages changes his game will factor heavily into his legacy.
But you cannot watch games like the two-game tilt for the Clippers against the Thunder and Jazz and not be aware of how he can take a game over. There are only a handful of players like that in the league, and it's that special, immeasurable quantity that really reveals why you have to consider Griffin not just one of the league's best players right now, but a legend in the making.
Kevin Love can get 30 points and 30 rebounds in a game. He's done it. This should not be overlooked. Being able to produce like Moses Malone is not something you find, even once in a generation. Love's game is a stat-magician's dream. But when you watch him, it's not the numbers that should impress you. It's his ability to make all the right plays.
Love isn't just a perimeter shooter or a guy who nabs the rebound from his own teammate (to be clear, he does a lot of that, too). He's able to measure whether to take the mid-range or drive. When to pass. His outlet pass remains a thing of absolute beauty. His understanding of the floor is something that sets great players apart from their peers. There's a reason Ricky Rubio manages to find Love in huge moments uncovered. It's because Love is crafty enough and able to understand the defense well enough to slip in that possession, catch, and shoot before the defense can react. He's got the range, to be sure. But he's also got the work ethic to improve and the mind to manage basketball. Does this make him among the all-time greats? No, but his rare combination of instincts and efficiency is going to get him there in a hurry.
And then there's LaMarcus Aldridge.
Neither Love nor Griffin have won a playoff game. They haven't been the man on their teams for a playoff team. They haven't endured the kind of misfortune the Blazers have suffered and navigated their way through it. Aldridge is a poor man's Duncan in a lot of ways. Consistent. Quiet. Rarely emotional, largely unnoticed and brutally efficient.
Aldridge doesn't light you on fire like Love or break you into a million pieces like Griffin. Instead he simply hammers you into submission, with mid-range jumper and post move after post move. It's his curse to have a more refined game, but it's also to his benefit. Maybe neither of the younger guns can fit so easily into a coach's gameplan. Neither is as dependable, and neither know how to confound a defense as well in big moments. They may get there, but to ignore Aldridge's excellence at this point in time is criminal.
And so it is, that while the debate over the best point guard alive continues (it's Chris Paul by the way; calling Derrick Rose a point guard is like calling an alien from Mars a citizen of Austin, Texas, they're both weird but that doesn't make it the same thing), the West is slammed with power forwards of past greatness and future legacy. But it's important to capture this moment, where we see the signs of both generations merging. Duncan and Dirk riding out the end, with Garnett fading out in the East, as Griffin sets the world aflame with a highlight reel and Kevin Love leaves you shaking your head.
But in the end, it may be Aldridge, underrated, largely forgotten, less dynamic and dominant and more proficient and capable, who goes the furthest this season of all.
Closing note: You realize this list excludes Pau Gasol (admittedly having a terrible season), glosses over Millsap who would be right there in this conversation if he wasn't sharing touches with 50 other bigs in Utah, and the wide array of superb small forwards in the West? Let's face it, the league is stacked right now.
Posted on: January 10, 2012 5:57 pm
Edited on: January 10, 2012 6:01 pm
Posted by Ben Golliver.
A recent report indicated that USA Basketball is set to announce its preliminary roster for the 2012 London Olympics. The roster reportedly will include members of the 2008 Beijing Olympics team and the 2010 Turkey World Championships team.
Initially, the report indicated that the preliminary roster would be made up of 18 players, however SheridanHoops.com reports that the roster is now 19 players deep with the addition of Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Here's how the reported roster shakes out by position.
Point Guards: Chauncey Billups, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook, Deron Williams
Shooting Guards: Kobe Bryant, Eric Gordon, Dwyane Wade
Small Forwards: Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala, LeBron James, Lamar Odom
Power Forwards: LaMarcus Aldridge, Chris Bosh, Blake Griffin, Kevin Love
Centers: Tyson Chandler, Dwight Howard
A few interesting things to note from this roster.
First, veteran point guard Billups is included rather than the younger and more talented Rajon Rondo, who withdrew from the 2010 team after it became clear he was going to be left off of the final roster. Billups is 35 and figures to be one of the seven players cut from what will be the final 12-man roster. What does Rondo's exclusion mean for his Team USA future?
Second, positional versatility and two-way play was clearly valued in this selection process. The inclusion of both Iguodala and Odom over Rudy Gay is a mild surprise but both players complement the likes of James, Durant and Anthony a bit better. Both will also have a tough time squeezing into the final 12. The only way Iguodala gets there is if someone else is injured; Odom, a standout for the 2010 team, could be one of the toughest cuts.
Third, the reported addition of Aldridge creates an intriguing frontcourt logjam, akin to the dilemma that faces Western Conference All-Star team voters. Aldridge, Griffin, Love, Odom and Chandler figure to be in competition for the final two roster spots, with the top-10 seemingly secure. Griffin would seem to be the odds-on favorite for one of those two spots given his combination of on-court skills and immense international marketing potential. If so, the battle for the final spot between the other four talented big men will be heated.
Aldridge can swing between the four and five better than any of the other candidates, but he also has the least Team USA experience, having backed out on the 2010 World Championships team. Aldridge's coach with the Blazers, Nate McMillan, happens to be a Team USA assistant, so that could help.
Love is the best rebounder of the group but his athleticism, even though it's much improved, is not on the same level as the rest of Team USA. Chandler boasts a championship pedigree with the Dallas Mavericks and is the pure defender and long, active big men that could be the centerpiece of an aggressive defensive unit. Odom's versatility and perimeter game creates mismatch opportunities but the wings are likely too crowded on this team to properly utilize his capabilities.
Spain, the reigning European champs, bring both Pau and Marc Gasol to the table. Howard plus any of Team USA's starting power forwards should still have an interior advantage, but choosing the reserve big men will be critical in the event of foul trouble.
Posted on: January 3, 2012 11:25 pm
Edited on: January 4, 2012 1:02 am
A+ Andrew Bynum
The performance of Tuesday night came from Lakers forward Andrew Bynum, who continues the tear he's been on since returning from a 4-game suspension. Bynum notched 21 points, 22 rebounds and 3 blocks in a 108-99 victory over the Houston Rockets and finished with a game-high +17. Bynum again did work on both ends -- six offensive rebounds -- and was a monster around the hoop. Houston's bigs offered little resistance. The game marked the first 20/20 night of Bynum's career.
A Portland Trail BlazersThe Blazers flew by the Thunder in the second half. Their team defense on Kevin Durant was crucial, particularly in keeping him off the line. The Thunder live at the stripe and the Blazers managed to force Durant into an inefficient night while not letting him get to the line. Throw in their usual great team defense and a huge win on the road.
Kendrick Perkins all night. And he worked him over. 30 points and 8 rebounds for Aldridge, who repeatedly torched him in the post and face-up. Perkins got under his skin, as you can see.
But Aldridge won the game, and repeatedly bodied Perkins out of the way to score at the bucket. Perkins only managed to get to LMA after he'd done his damage.
B Memphis GrizzliesThe Grizzlies needed to get a win to stop their bleeding. Say hello to the Kings. It's a weak opponent but the Grizzlies needed a dominant performance and they got it from Rudy Gay with 23 points and 8 rebounds on 10-16 shooting. Without Zach Randolph but with Mike Conley returning, maybe the Grizzles can right the ship as the schedule evens out.
Bobcats' loss to the Cavs you were impressed with the way he could impact plays like a giant tarantula covering the rim, but he also wound up -14 on the night.
D Sacramento KingsWill someone get some water? Because Paul Westphal's chair has caught fire.
F Chicago Bulls' first-half offenseThe Bulls scored 24 points... in a half. They had an efficiency rating of 54 in the first half against Atlanta, with a standard efficiency mark at any time during the game between 90 (poor) and 110 (vey good). So 54 is the lowest I've ever seen. They were beyond horrific. Only to be topped by...
F Atlanta Hawks' fourth-quarter executionThe Hawks were outscored 34-18 in the final frame, and did everything wrong. Took mid-range jumpers. Fouled Luol Deng 100 times. Didn't help enough on Derrick Rose, especially on the game winning layup. And the free throws. The Hawks clanged free throw after free throw when they had a chance to win, particularly Jeff Teague with seven seconds left which would have made it a three-point game. The Bulls did enough to get the win, but you have to say the Hawks lost this game more than the Bulls won it.
Posted on: December 28, 2011 2:00 am
Edited on: December 28, 2011 2:12 pm
By Matt Moore
The Lakers get off the schneid, the Heat win by the hair on their chinny-chin-chin, and the Blazers look better than last year. All this and more in Tuesday night's report card.
A: Portland Trail Blazers: On the second night of a back-to-back, the Blazers trounced the Kings in dominant fashion, including holding them to just 14 points in the fourth quarter. There's a lot to like about this Blazers team along with the usual suspects, LaMarcus Aldridge, Marcus Camby, Nicolas Batum, and Wesley Matthews. Mostly, the defense, lead by Gerald Wallace. Wallace was an absolute demon Tuesday night, covering wall-to-wall and making every play you can imagine. The Blazers blocked three shots on one possession at one point, and wound up with eight blocks and six steals. A dominant showing on a night when their guards struggled. Blazers look good early.
A: Los Angeles Lakers: The Lakers played so well I'm handing out two A-grades. On the third night of a back-to-back, the Lakers came out at home and put away any talk of their losing streak stretching to 0-3 in the first quarter. The Utah Jazz looked like the worst team in the league Tuesday night, but the Lakers' dominance was great enough to overcome the challenge of a terrible opponent bending the curve. Defense was the key here. Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace were everywhere. Gasol played extremetly strong both at the rim and in space against Al Jefferson. The Jazz were a wreck, but the Lakers steered them there. Great first win for Mike Brown and company.
B: Norris Cole: The Heat rookie was the fourth quarter closer the Big 3 could not, would not be. 20 points for the rook who was aggressive at every turn. Cole not only took the game by the horns and drove the Celtics into the ground to bring back for supper when they made a furious fourth quarter run behind a zone defense, he was pivotal on defense and made good decision making. He would nail a big shot, then fist pump his way to the bench without turning around for Dwyane Wade or LeBron James' approval. So why the B? He was a bit too aggresive at times and still struggles with finishing like all rookies do. Wouldn't want the kid to get too big a head on his shoulders. The kid simply stepped up, did his job, and helped get the win for the Heat when they needed someone to step up and hit the shots. And now everyone gets to ask, "They have MORE talent?"
C: Boston's comeback: Great adjustment by Boston coach Doc Rivers to go to the zone, which the Heat will now be seeing in every game for the remainder of the season. That, combined with some great shooting, particularly from Keyon Dooling, helped the Celtics bring the Heat to the knife's edge before Cole turned it around on them. The Celtics made the push they needed to, and showed why they are still dangerous. So why the C? They lost, are 0-2, with two losses to teams they are likely to encounter in the playoffs. It was a good comeback effort, but ultimeately, it wasn't enough, and you have to wonder if it would have been that close had it not gotten so out of hand in the third so as for Erik Spoelstra to start screwing with lineups. The Celtics get a D, but the comeback is a C.
D: Heat's composure: How many times is this team going to melt down in the fourth? They had to turn to a rookie to save them late in a key game against arguably their biggest rival. It should never have gotten that close. Oh, and Paul Pierce didn't play. The Heat won, and they played incredibly well in the third, but man alive, they need to learn to close better.
F: Utah Jazz: So, you know, this draft class, it looks great...
Other Notable Grades:
Withdraw: Heat as invulnerable: Best team in the league right now? No question. But after looking like a flying death machine in the third, the Celtics drew blood on Heat before falling to their own mortality.
E For Effort: Kevin Love: 31 points, 20 boards in a three-point loss to the Bucks. Love was a monster and gave it his all in a badly coached game by Terry Porter with Rick Adelman absent due to a death in the family. One complaint? His final shot was either badly drawn up or executed, a pull-up 35-footer a la Kevin Durant in last year's playoffs vs. the Mavericks. But that stat line is part of what we missed during the lockout.
Gold stars: Pau Gasol (5 blocks). LaMarcus Aldridge. Brandon Jennings. Jon Leuer. Chris Bosh. MarShon Brooks. Vlad Radmanovic.
Posted on: December 15, 2011 4:08 pm
By Matt Moore
Brandon Roy's NBA career is over. And now, so is his cap hold on the Trail Blazers. The Blazers informed Roy's agent Thursday that they will be exercising the amnesty clause on Roy, waiving him and removing his remaining $68 million from their books.
Roy announced his retirement last week due to his ongoing issues with knee injuries. The amnesty clause means Roy will still be paid his contract amount, unless otherwise negotiated with the Blazers under the terms of his retirement. The release of Roy makes room on the cap for the Blazers to sign Jamal Crawford to add to their backcourt.
LaMarcus Aldridge actively recruited Crawford, who's from the Northwest, all summer during the lockout.
Roy ends his career with career averages of 19 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists.