Tag:Zach Randolph
Posted on: March 31, 2011 11:47 am
Edited on: March 31, 2011 11:54 am
 

Lakers wary of Grizzlies, Blazers in playoffs

An informal poll of the Lakers shows they're concerned about the Grizzlies and Blazers. As much as they're going to be concerned about anyone. 
Posted by Matt Moore




Asking NBA players who they want to see in the first round is pointless. Why would you possibly say you want to see one team, giving them material to mount an incomparable emotional challenge based off the oldest of athlete emotions: pride? Why would you possibly indicate that you don't want to see a team in the first round, giving them a mental edge when they recognize that you're "afraid" of them? There's nothing to be won or negotiated with that question. It's better to deflect or give the standard array of non-answers everyone gives. 

But the Lakers, when presented with the opportunity to give an informal poll, their answers unattributed to their name? They bit. 

From the Los Angeles Times
Based on the four players who were willing to trade their honesty in exchange for anonymity, three of them equally expressed concern about Portland and Memphis, while one other believed the Grizzlies would be the toughest opponent. Meanwhile, Lakers executive Magic Johnson spoke pretty frankly before the Lakers' 102-84 victory Sunday over New Orleans about which potential first-round opponent would give the Lakers the most trouble: Portland, because of the "hate factor," he said.

"They don't like us and we don't like them," Johnson said Sunday, walking in a corridor underneath Staples Center. "That would be a very physical and tough series, even though we would win and we're better overall. But they really know how to play us; they're well-coached and they're tenacious."
via Lakers informal poll reveals their belief Portland and Memphis would give them biggest challenge in first round | Lakers Blog | Los Angeles Times.

It's surprising that the Lakers chose to answer the question. It's more surprising that they were honest. It's even more surprising that they were correct. 

The Lakers are rarely if ever beasts in the first round. It takes them a few games to hit the playoff gear. But they're still good enough to overcome obstacles. Still, if you're going to upset L.A., it's going to have to be in that first round. From then on out, they're in that mode they have that that, you know, wins championships. And the only thing they hate more than getting their playoff effort in gear is having to do so against a scrappy, high-effort team, like the Blazers or Grizzlies. 

The Blazers, despite a much longer rivalry and a superior record, actually suffers more in the matchup. Despite LaMarcus Aldridge's superb and All-Star-worthy season, it's Zach Randolph's gritty, ugly, "how did he do that" work down low that is particularly effective against L.A.'s enormous size and length advantage. Marc Gasol is outplayed by his brother in the stats department because Pau Gasol is very good. But it's Marc's bulk and toughness that gives the Lakers issues, along with his ability to pass from the post and high pinch post. Mike Conley slices and dices Derek Fisher, one of the few guards in the league who can't torch Conley on perimeter drives. And the Grizzlies have enough wings to throw at Kobe Bryant to at least have a puncher's chance at slowing him down.

The Blazers on the other hand have Camby and Aldridge, but struggle defensively against the Lakers in matchups, as has been evident this year. But there's no matchup that accounts for the Blazers' ability to rise to the occasion, which they've illustrated time and time again during Nate McMillan's tenure. Either team is simply going to be a major headache that could turn into a legitimate challenge for the Lakers if a few things go their opponents' way. 

But then, the Lakers also know that if they play their best, execute, and focus, they're going to roll. That's what good teams do in the first round, it's really what great teams do in the first round, and it's definitely what championships do in the first round. This doesn't mean that the Lakers are afraid of the Blazers or Grizzlies, just that they recognize the dangers those teams represent. 

Which of course means that the Lakers are not afraid of the New Orleans Hornets. Who they could very well see in the first round. Chances are the Hornets use that as some motivation should the two meet in the first round. 

This is why you don't answer the question.
Posted on: March 21, 2011 7:43 am
Edited on: March 21, 2011 7:48 am
 

Report: Memphis close to Zach Randolph extension

The Memphis Grizzlies are reportedly close to signing forward Zach Randolph to a multi-year contract extension. Posted by Ben Golliver. zach-randolph-grizzlies

The Memphis Grizzlies are on the cusp of making the playoffs for the first time since 2005-2006, and they are reportedly close to inking one of their centerpiece players to a long-term extension too.

The Memphis Commercial-Appeal reports that the Grizzlies and power forward Zach Randolph are in "serious" talks about a four-year contract extension and that Randolph's agent, Raymond Brothers, is "optimistic" that a deal will get done.
The Griz initiated and held serious contract negotiations with Randolph over the past week, and both sides continue to discuss the framework of a four-year deal that could be finalized soon.
"I think they're serious," Brothers said of the Grizzlies' intent to sign Randolph. "I'm optimistic we'll get something done."
Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace confirmed the discussions.
"They know our sincerity to get something done with Zach," Wallace said. "They know how much we value him. We've had good and numerous discussions. There's never been a stalemate. (Negotiations) just moved at it's own pace. I'm very confident we'll get something done."
Randolph is Memphis's leading scorer and rebounder, a certified stats machine averaging 20.1 points and 12.6 rebounds in 36.7 minutes per game. At 29, a four year deal isn't outrageous. If the Grizzlies can secure a team option on the final year, it would actually be pretty much ideal.

The Grizzlies have already committed long-term to forward Rudy Gay and point guard Mike Conley. Center Marc Gasol is a restricted free agent this summer, but surely Memphis will do whatever it takes to keep him. Randolph was the wildcard, a player who will certainly come at a high price but who would have left a gigantic void if he walked during free agency.

The Grizzlies incarnation of Randolph has been by far the most fun and entertaining. He's matured, mellowed out and kept on trucking through some off-court drama. Should the Grizzlies anticipate some slippage in his production over the duration of a new deal? Absolutely. But should they feel relatively happy with a Randolph/Gay/Conley/Gasol core heading forward into the future. Absolutely. That group has a nice solid mix of age and experience, fairly complementary skillsets and good size and length. 

No one should confuse these guys with the Oklahoma City Thunder, but that Memphis quartet has the look of a perennial playoff contender, something the Grizzlies haven't been ... well ... ever.
Posted on: March 10, 2011 7:08 pm
 

Memphis has a Zach Randolph situation

Zach Randolph wants his money. Is Memphis in a position to provide him his next contract, and more importantly, should they?
Posted by Matt Moore

It's not like Memphis didn't see this coming. When they gave Rudy Gay a max deal worth $80 million, then followed it up four months later with a $40 million deal for Mike Conley (which looks like a steal right now compared to the garbage assessment I gave it), they knew they were going to be setting themselves up to not get back the core. The starting five from last season of Conley, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol was something management and ownership had both asserted needed to be kept together. They continually spoke to keeping that core together to let it develop. But for that to happen, with a combination of talented young players on the rise and veterans looking for substantial investments, people were going to have to take paycuts. Two of the five took about as much as they were going to get on the open market. Something's got to give. 

Mayo is gone, even if he's not gone. That fact is a combination of decisions from both Mayo and the Grizzlies. Mayo struggled to take over more ball-handling duties over the summer, then wilted under criticism from his coach resulting in a prolonged shooting slump, then go into a fight with teammate Tony Allen on the team plane, during which he was KO'd, then was busted for a performance enhancing drug due to a supplement he claims was in a gas stations refreshment. Mayo's had his hand in this. But the Grizzlies committed a cardinal sin of management, be it a corporate office, a movie rental store (when those existed), or a basketball team. They set Mayo up for failure. They pushed him to be something he's not, a point guard, and when he struggled in a handful of games in Summer League, publicly criticized him for it. They gave Conley the money when he had contributed less to the team than Mayo at that point, moved him to the bench (even if they did need bench scoring, they knew the effect it would have on his confidence), and continuously told him they weren't moving him, then shopped him on the trade market. The final straw was the failed deal with the Pacers that nearly moved him at the deadline. That's not a situation that can be repaired. Be it this summer or worst-case scenario in restricted free agency in the summer of 2012, Mayo's gone. 

Which leaves Gasol and Randolph. One is going to have as many suitors as he can shake his beard at, the other has not been quiet about making it clear he wants his final payday. Alan Hahn of Newday reported Thursday on both Gasol and Randolph's free agency situations. Specifically, just about every New York media outlet has spun that the Knicks are intent on landing Gasol to be their center of the future, which they badly need. Gasol, true to the form he's held throughout the conversations about his upcoming restricted free agency, said he's not concerned with it, not worried about it. He's said the same to every outlet, but there's one differential. Gasol went to high school in Memphis. He's been there off and on for close to a decade. Whatever problems his brother had with management probably do affect his thinking, but this is also restricted free agency. If the Grizzlies are willing to match, which there is every indication they are, Gasol won't make it hard on them, or buck at the idea of staying in Memphis through another contract. Odds are very strong that Gasol will be in Memphis for the future. 

Randolph, on the other hand, is a stickier situation. From Newsday
Former Knick Zach Randolph will also be looking for a new contract this offseason as an unrestricted free agent and he sounded annoyed that the Grizzlies decided not to sign him to an extension. "I thought it shouldve been done," he said. "But its a business, nothing personal. Ive just got to come out and do my job every day and let everything else take care of itself."
via Gasol would fit in nicely with Knicks- Newsday.

Randolph's been pretty annoyed this entire time he hasn't gotten the extension. Randolph turns 30 this summer, and this is likely his last really lucrative NBA contract. He's got something good in Memphis, and wants to be rewarded for it. But Randolph has learned that this is a business (having been traded multiple times, largely on account of his off-court behavior and leadership issues, both of which have vanished in Memphis), and will pursue whatever angle he can to get the best deal he can. 

And that's where things get bothersome for the Grizzlies. How do you put the right price on Randolph? He's going to be 30. He doesn't have a history of winning. His defense is not great. (He's not a sieve or anything, but put him up against a long athletic guy who's as relentless as he is and he gets overmatched, quickly, and his weakside rotation leaves a lot to be desired.) He succeeds mostly by being savvier, more gifted, and working harder than the other guy. But isn't that who you want on your team? The leadership mentioned earlier could not have been better in Memphis. Randolph is the first guy to help Gasol up, and Randolph told me over Christmas that he just loves playing next to the big Spaniard, despite what should be a culture gap. He's the first to applaud a teammate, first to stand up for him in a tussle, first to help Darrel Arthur learn what he needs to be doing. And all of that is before you factor he was the Grizzlies first All-Star since Pau Gasol, he leads the team in scoring, is a double-double machine, and is arguably their best overall player. How do you not reward a player for doing everything you've asked of him and more? 

The trick is going to be for the two sides to find a compromise. If Randolph's looking for the standard deal with considerable increases as the contract progresses, the Grizzlies will balk. Randolph at 34 isn't going to be nearly the same player he is now. Front-loading the contract is the best-case scenario, but relies more on Randolph's ability to manage his money. The real issue in all this is the CBA. The Grizzlies are probably looking to see how the new cap situation shakes out before evaluating how much fair market value is for Randolph in the new universe being created in the boardrooms. Would it have been right for the Grizzlies to cave and give Randolph is fair share this season? Sure. But that's not how you build for the future. You do it carefully, and shrewdly, and emotions aren't part of the process. 

Just ask Danny Ainge. 

So the Grizzlies try to push for the playoffs, a must with the kind of improvements they've made, and hope for the best. If they fall short (check their schedule for the rest of the month, it's a gauntlet wrapped in barbed wire on fire), ownership could hit the roof and pull the plug on everything but what they've committed to. Which also might spell the end of professional basketball in Memphis. 

As is the case seemingly everywhere this season, there's a lot going on in Memphis on and off the court. 
Posted on: March 7, 2011 5:52 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2011 5:53 pm
 

Eye on the MVP: Who's still in the running?

Posted by Royce Young



We've all been talking about the MVP, well, since before the season even started. We're fascinated by it. Winning the award is something that places you with the legends.

And with two-time winner LeBron James taking his talents south to join forces with Dwyane Wade, most felt like for the first time in a few years, the trophy has opened up to the field.

There's a little more than a month to go before the NBA regular season closes its doors and while teams are battling for playoff position (or ping-pong balls), there's also a pretty good skirmish going on for the MVP. Most would agree it's kind of narrowing down to a three-man race, but I see it as five that still have a shot at winning the award. Here's what each needs to do to maybe get his name etched on the Maurice Podoloff Trophy.

Derrick Rose:
He's already jumped the biggest hurdle. He has everyone buzzing about his candidacy. National talking heads bring his name up first in most every discussion and he's near the top of every list. Rose asked before the season why he couldn't be the MVP and it appears that he's answering his own question: He can be.

Rose has the leg up on the competition because he plays in an extremely visible market for a traditional power that's winning. He's carried a wounded Bulls team to Eastern contention and has put up sexy stats to go with it. He's missing a couple signature moments though, as the Bulls tend to win close games more on the defensive end than by Rose taking over. For instance, against Miami, while he had some big buckets in the fourth, he almost gave the game away with a bad backcourt turnover and an airball. The Bulls won anyway, so we forgot about it. But Rose needs a moment or two.

In the end though, I think he'll win this award if the Bulls just keep winning. If they can push all the way to 60 wins, the award is entirely Rose's. But if they can at least overtake the Heat, it'll be hard to rule against him.

Dwight Howard:
You can't deny Howard's numbers. They are, well, insane . Look at the path of destruction he left in February: 27 points and 14 rebounds per game on almost 70 percent shooting. And he's picked right up from there so far in March.

But playing a position where it's tough to win, plus the increasing issue of his technical problem, Howard isn't going to win this award unless the Magic make a run. He's picking up steam and people are taking notice of what he's meant to a jumbled Magic roster. But finishing fourth or fifth in the East probably isn't going to get it done when Rose's Bulls are pushing for the top seed.

The Magic need to finish really well behind the strength of Howard. If that happens and Orlando gets to third in the East, he could absolutely sneak in and steal the MVP. But Howard's not winning unless his Magic overtake Rose's Bulls.

LeBron James: All we are thinking about right now with LeBron is failure. We're thinking about the shots he's missed in crunch time, how he's come up short in big moments so far for the Heat. His numbers are pretty much as good as ever and with the way the Cavaliers have tanked without him, his perceived value is pretty much at an all-time high.

But if he's going to take a third straight MVP, he's got to come up with some big plays over the next month. The Heat are going to finish with a nice record and their share of wins. LeBron will have eye-popping stats as always. But to separate himself in terms of value, he has to become The Guy That Wins Games. Right now, people associate him with missing big shots or with coming up short.

His team isn't beating the good teams and he's accepted responsibility for that. He can still win this thing because he's freaking LeBron James (don't forget that, but in order to do it, he's going to have to win back a lot of doubters.

Dirk Nowitzki: In terms of pure resume, nobody has a better one. He's been awesome this year. His team has been awesome. Without him, they lost, a lot. I think with those three things, Dirk meets the incredibly vague MVP criteria as good as anyone.

Dirk has one MVP to his name so it's not like he's some long shot, unsexy pick here. He's one of the league's elite scorers and leaders. He means as much to that Mavericks team as anyone else on any roster. He's not a highlight factory. He doesn't finish above the rim. His defense doesn't catch your eye. But he hits big shots, comes up in big moments and his team just wins, with him at the center of it.

It doesn't feel like Dirk is going to win this thing because the buzz doesn't appear to be there, but don't ignore him. He needs some big time box scores and some big moments to grab attention because just winning and playing well doesn't seem to be doing it.

Kevin Durant:
The preseason favorite and as a result, he was cursed by high expectations. Everyone loved him to win this award and while he definitely had the needed hype, he also had the burden of expectation. People figured he would just build on last season's awesome campaign by following up with an even better 2010-11. The reality is, his team is better, they're going to win their division, probably finish fourth in the West (or higher) and he has pretty similar numbers to last year, where he finished as the runner-up to LeBron.

It's not Durant's fault that you penciled him in for 35 points per game this year. He's still having a terrific year and is going to win his second straight scoring title, all while his team improved and is a real contender in the incredibly tough Western Conference.

If he's going to get his name to the top of the list though, he has to finish strong. He needs a couple massive efforts, some late game heroics and for good measure, it'd be nice if the Thunder could get on a roll and take over third in the West. Durant's a big of a long shot right now, but he definitely has the chops to get there.

FOUR DARKHORSES

These four won't win, but they deserve a mention:

LaMarcus Aldridge: A player that elevates his game when the franchise player goes down for an extended period and therefore, his team wins more? I think that qualifies someone for MVP consideration. After Brandon Roy had his knees scoped, Aldridge cranked his game to another level. If the Blazers could rip of a good streak and get into the top four of the West, I'd be inclined to give him my imaginary vote.

Manu Ginobili: He's having one of his very best seasons for the best team in the league. When you look at the Spurs roster, it's hard to locate an MVP because nobody's numbers pop out. But Ginobili has been awesome for them.

Zach Randolph:
The Grizzlies are rising, and this is without Rudy Gay. The reason? Zach Randolph has been spectacular. He's averaging 20.3 points and 13.0 rebounds per game. If his name was Blake Griffin and he jumped over compact cars, we'd all be freaking out about everything he did. Don't short Randolph just because of his market and because of his style.

Russell Westbrook: Look at his numbers compared to Derrick Rose. Westbrook's are actually a bit better. Yes, he plays with Durant, but LeBron plays with Wade and that's not hurting things. Hey, I'm just sayin'.
Posted on: February 9, 2011 2:03 am
Edited on: February 9, 2011 2:09 am
 

Game Changer: Pacers choke against Heat

The Miami Heat get an easy one thanks to a late-game meltdown by the Indiana Pacers, LeBron James gets way up, Blake Griffin throws down the Alley Oop and Chauncey Billups looks cold. Plus, plenty more. Posted by Ben Golliver.

Each game is made up of elements that help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the previous night's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what led to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.  

THE BIG ONE: PACERS CHOKE AGAINST HEAT

The Indiana Pacers and their new teenage-looking coach Frank Vogel are hard to root against, as the sacking of Jim O'Brien immediately produced a four-game winning streak for a team that had only won four games in the month prior to his dismissal. 

The winning came to an end -- and Vogel's undefeated head coaching record was finally tarnished -- on Tuesday night as the Pacers lost to the mighty Miami Heat on the road, 117-112. 
  The ending to this one was not only bizarre, it was fairly rare. Allow me set the scene.

With 8.9 seconds left, the Pacers have the ball on a side inbounds play in the frontcourt, trailing by three points, 115-112. The Pacers stacked four players in the middle of the court with guard Dahntay Jones inbounding the ball. Even without strong initial pressure on the ball, Jones couldn't find anyone, and he watched as Pacers forward Mike Dunleavy Jr. fired across the top of the key, as point guard Darren Collison shot into the near corner and as forward Danny Granger came directly to the ball. The only non-shooter on the court for Indiana, big man Jeff Foster, just stood stunned in the paint watching this car wreck unfold. 

With all three possible options exhausted, Jones finally threw a bounce pass in to Granger, only to have the referee blow his whistle, signalling for a five second violation.

Man alive. How often do you see a five second violation on a potential game-winning, last second play? Not often. 

Credit goes to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who had a small-ball defensive lineup in with guards Mario Chalmers, Dwyane Wade and a trio of forwards: LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Mike Miller to defend against the obvious three-point attempt. Chalmers didn't initially pressure the ball that hard, but as the clock started ticking he does move up, obscuring Jones' vision. Miller and James simply did their jobs, shadowing their men and not getting hung up on screens. Dwyane Wade probably had the largest role in causing the violation, sticking to Granger like glue, forcing Jones' delay and indecision because he was worried about a Wade steal from behind.

But we shouldn't go overboard in praising Miami. This wasn't a difficult to time catch-and-shoot situation. This was a standard late-game entry pass that the Pacers simply couldn't execute. Get. The. Ball. In. Bounds. They couldn't do it.

Miami cashed in on the mistake as the Pacers were forced to foul immediately and that was the ball game. Take a look at the play. Admire the meltdown.


GO-GO-GADGET LINES OF THE NIGHT:

LeBron James:  41 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists on 15-of-23 shooting in 42 minutes in a Miami Heat home win over the Indiana Pacers.

Dwight Howard:  22 points, 20 rebounds, two assists, two steals, one block, +30 (!) on 7-of-13 shooting in 37 minutes in an Orlando Magic home win over the Los Angeles Clippers.

Zach Randolph:   31 points, 13 rebounds, four assists on 11-of-19 shooting in 47 minutes in a Memphis Grizzlies road win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

DON'T MISS:

SNAPSHOT:

Blake Griffin might put more people on posters, but nobody dunks in more photographic fashion than LeBron James. Watch out, below. My goodness. Two of his 41 points. 

lebron-dunk

HIGHLIGHT REEL:

This is just a Blake Griffin dunk every single day, you know how I do it. Here Griffin catches the alley oop lob pass and dunks over Orlando Magic forward Ryan Anderson, much like he dunked over Kyle Korver recently. Griffin struggled on the night, scoring just 10 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in 35 minutes of action in a 101-85 loss to Orlando.



WHIMSY:

Per Denver Nuggets team policy, Chauncey Billups does not charge baggage handling fees. Boy, he looks cold.
chauncey-billups-snow

FINAL THOUGHT:

I, for one, am glad that Kevin Durant made the three-point contest even if he is the only one of the contestants to shoot below league-average from deep.  Given his competitive desire, overall talent level and ability to rise to the occasion, Durant not only makes a great candidate, he serves as an excellent foil for the field. He gets to take on a Larry Bird role here, the intimidating all-NBA gunner who the specialists can try to take down. I love it. What better script is there for a three-point contest?
Posted on: February 3, 2011 7:44 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2011 7:49 pm
 

NBA All-Star Game snubs: No love for Love

Who were the biggest snubs for the All-Star game, after the reserves were announced ?
Posted by Royce Young and Matt Moore




As it is every year, some worthy candidates were left out of the All-Star game reserves list. But this year, those left out had more legitimate complaints than usual. Here then are three snubs from the Eastern and Western Conference. 

Eastern Conference

Honestly, the Eastern coaches got it all right. It's hard to really say there's a true snub in the East. Going through though, there certainly are a couple players that have a case. Especially since the whole team is made up of the Celtics and Heat

Josh Smith : Probably the biggest snub has to be Josh Smith. Problem is, who do you remove? Smith though is having probably his best season, averaging 16. 2 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. His defense is well documented but what he's shown off his is versatility this season. Because of injuries, Smith has played small forward, power forward and even some center.

As a key cog in the Hawks machine, Smith has figured out how to play perfectly next to Al Horford and Joe Johnson. There's always a lot of talk about other big threes throughout the league, but there's no reason not to include the trio in Atlanta. Smith has cut down on the dumb shots, is playing well inside and in transition, is maybe the most dynamic finisher out there. Plus, having him in the All-Star Game would be a treat. Can you picture a fast break of Smith, Derrick Rose and LeBron James? I can and it's pretty awesome. 

Andrew Bogut:  Seeing that the East only has one real center on the roster, Bogut makes a lot of sense. It's tough to move off Horford, but you certainly can make a case for Bogut replacing Paul Pierce or even Ray Allen, since the East is stacked with wings.

Bogut has been injured all season as he hasn't totally recovered from elbow surgery, but he's still averaging a double-double and is one of the best defenders in the league. Plus, Bogut deserves a ton of credit for fighting the way he has. Despite suffering a brutal injury last season, Bogut has battled inside and is putting up comparable numbers to last year even though he can't totally use his right arm entirely. That's impressive.

The Bucks record hurts (19-28) which is probably the biggest reason Bogut was snubbed. If the Bucks are a contender or even a current playoff team in the East, it's almost impossible to keep him off this roster. 

Raymond Felton: A month ago, Felton had a really good case to be on this team. But the last few weeks, he just hasn't played well. And that sort of things hurts because that's the period where coaches were casting their ballots.

However, it's hard to ignore the impact Felton has had on the New York offense. He's still averaging almost 18 points and nine assists a game, which is up there in point guard ranks. He's shooting the 3-ball really well and runs the pick-and-roll as beautifully as anyone. Having Amar'e Stoudemire obviously helps, but still, Felton has executed.

The West is carrying three point guards and the East only has two. So it makes sense to add Felton and take over Pierce or Allen, but it's a tough call to make just because of Felton's position. Fact is though, he's been a huge part in the Knicks first half resurgence which scores extra points with me.

Honorable Outrage Mention:
 Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, Thaddeus Young

Western Conference

LaMarcus Aldridge:  Aldridge has the most legitimate gripe, yes, even more than Kevin Love. Aldridge has had the most team success, and averaged 25 points and 10 rebounds in January . He just dropped 40 on the team with the best record. Aldridge has played masterfully and hasn't had the questions about his defense like Griffin or Love have had. 

Aldridge has become the leader of the Blazers and has arguably the best combination of both size and skill (mid-range, post, perimeter) of any Western forward not named Dirk or Pau this season. He doesn't have the flashy dunks of Griffin, but he's got the wins, which I'm pretty sure the Blakeshow would trade for. And with the Blazers, somehow, someway, still in the playoffs, to exempt Aldridge is to cast a doubt as to whether team performance is only relevant if the player is a known name. 

Kevin Love:  A shocker that he didn't make it.  The NBA's leading rebounder is also averaging 21 points per game to go along with those 15.5 rebounds per game. 15.5. Which is just kind of ridiculous. 

The fact that Love's surrounded by a terrible team assembled by questionable management should not have kept him out. There has been some discussion that Love's stat-hounding ways have turned off coaches and scouts, which may have led to his exclusion. 

Similarly, the Wolves aren't just bad. They're terrible. But if you look at Love's contributions, you have to wonder how much more terrible they would be were he not there. Love can never be accused of taking a night off, and has the first 30 rebound night since Moses Malone. That's quite a long time. Either way, Love has to wonder what more he could have done to wound up on the All-Star squad. 

Zach Randolph: Randolph is the middle of the debate between Aldridge and Love. He averages 20 points and 13 rebounds, which are pretty ridiculous, especially when you factor for pace (23.3% Total Rebound Rate for Love, 21.4% for Randolph). Randolph's team has had more success than Love, though, and recently has surged above .500, closing in on the 8th spot in the West held by Aldridge, thanks mostly to Randolph's performance.

So he has both the rebounding eye-popping numbers of Love and the team success of Aldridge. Throw in the fact that he's a respected veteran who made it last year with similar numbers and it's hard to argue for his exclusion, even with greats like Duncan and phenoms like Griffin in play.

Honorable Outrage Mention: Lamar Odom, Monta Ellis, Steve Nash, Tony Parker
Posted on: January 11, 2011 10:38 am
Edited on: January 11, 2011 6:47 pm
 

Report: Knicks to chase Marc Gasol this summer?

The New York Knicks reportedly covet Memphis Grizzlies big man Marc Gasol. Posted by Ben Golliver. marc-gasol

The New Jersey Nets continue to dominate the Carmelo Anthony trade discussions, leaving the New York Knicks on the periphery, and one can help but wonder what New York's backup plans are, should the Nets finally succeed in landing Anthony. 

The Knicks will have plenty of cap room this summer, with less than $42 million in committed salary for 2011-2012. Given the desirability of the New York market, the team's success this season, coach Mike D'Antoni's up-tempo style and a solid, improving core surrounding 2010 free agent acquisition Amar'e Stoudemire, the Knicks are shaping up to be this year's standout free agent destination.

So, who are the Knicks eying, assuming Anthony isn't available?  
The New York Post reports it could be a big man to play alongside Stoudemire, rather than an elite scorer.
If the Nets pull off the blockbuster multi-team trade and Anthony accepts a contract extension, the Knicks are expected to change the focus of this offseason to restricted free agent 7-foot-1 center Marc Gasol. The younger brother of the Lakers' Pau, Gasol is the type of burly big man the roster lacks and team president Donnie Walsh covets.
The Knicks currently have a makeshift post group, with Ronny Turiaf and Timofey Mozgov getting burn in the middle, when they aren't opting to play small ball. Gasol is a dream target for the Knicks, not only because of his skillset but also because of his fit alongside Stoudemire, as he's shown the ability to be productive alongside a premier scoring power forward in Zach Randolph.

Gasol, a restricted free agent following this season, is averaging 11.4 points and 7.2 rebounds this season, down slightly from his career highs of 14.6 points and 9.3 rebounds last year. At 26, he's just entering the prime of his career, he's an efficient shooter and a solid rebounder, and he doesn't need an exorbitant number of touches to contribute on offense. Defensively, he's big, active and long, and much quicker than he was a few years ago, thanks to a sizable loss of weight. Even better, Gasol is a talented passer, able to make plays for his teammates from the block or further from the hoop. 

The question here is obviously one of availability. The Grizzlies have shown hesitancy in offering a contract extension to Randolph, and should he be traded or sign elsewhere the Grizzlies will have plenty of salary cap room and dollars to funnel to Gasol. The Grizzlies can't afford to see both Randolph and Gasol walk, as their only true remaining big man would be project center Hasheem Thabeet. In other words, Memphis will be extremely motivated to keep Gasol.

Gasol, however, has yet to make the playoffs and has watched his brother, Paul Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers, make multiple runs at a title. Forcing his way out of Memphis for a bigger market and a better team would surely appeal to a player in his situation, but he's yet to show any indication that he'll take that approach. 

Whatever Gasol decides between now and this summer, one thing is for sure: he is set to get paid in a big-time way. 
Posted on: January 5, 2011 12:56 pm
 

The Game Changer: Knicks outgun the Spurs

Posted by Royce Young

Each game is made up of elements which help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the night before's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what lead to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.

THE BIG ONE: SAN ANTONIO CAN'T RUN WITH NEW YORK

The Knicks have had quite a turnaround early in this season. However, the major qualm is that they're beating up on average and bad teams, but aren't good enough to actually beat a good team.

Well, you can cross that one off now.

The Knicks completely outran the league's best team with a 128-115 win over the Spurs at Madison Square Garden. The Knicks shot nearly 55 percent from the field and got 31 points from Wilson Chandler, 28 from Amar'e Stoudemire and 28 from Raymond Felton as they pulled away late.

The Spurs have ramped up pace and tempo this season, playing faster than ever. And it's been a large part of their success. But it didn't work against the team that actually lives by running. The Spurs just couldn't keep up and after the game got into an up-and-down flow, they couldn't slow it down and get it into a style they liked. San Antonio tried to grind it out in the fourth, but the Knicks were still running.

One curious move was Gregg Popovich sitting his starters down with three minutes left, only down 10. With a game tonight against the Celtics, I'm sure Coach Pop wanted a little extra rest for his guys and with the way the Knicks were running, his team of veterans were probably gassed. Still a bit curious though, especially considering the 3-point shooters San Antonio has. A 3, a stop and a bucket and it's a five-point game with lots of time left.

Regardless of that, this is New York's biggest win of the season and finally something the Knicks can point to and say, "See! We're good!" Not that they need that validation because their quality record says enough, but any time you beat the league's best team, it helps in every way.

GO-GO-GADGET LINES

Zach Randolph put up a monster double-double, going for 31 points and 16 rebounds against the Thunder.

Marcus Camby had 10 points and 20 rebounds in a loss to Dallas.

Jamal Crawford notched a season-high 31 points and added seven assists in Atlanta's win over Sacramento.

Wilson Chandler deserves a mention with his season-high 31 points against San Antonio.

MIAMI ROLLS AGAIN

I feel like it the season started in December, then yeah, we probably could've started talking about 72 wins for the Heat. Because they are rolling right now.

With their win over the Bucks, that makes 19 of 20 for Miami and most of those have come in impressive fashion. Dwyane Wade notched another big night, dropping 34 as LeBron dished out nine assists. Really, everything is working according to plan right now. Miami has scoring when it needs it. The Heat have defense all the time. And playmakers are all over the floor.

Sometimes, it's honestly a little tough to see how someone can beat them. But the thing about the Heat is that they make themselves vulnerable at times. They lapse, get selfish and don't play defense. It's the reason they've lost nine times.

But lately, everything has been working according to plan. To win 19 of 20 is pretty good, especially because that meant beating some solid teams.

Tony Allen: GOOD AT PUNCHING, BAD AT LAYUPS

The next time O.J. Mayo and Tony Allen get into it, Mayo's got some ammunition to at least make fun of him with. On a solo fast break, Allen streaked toward the rim with his tongue hanging out like he was going to finish big. Instead, he blew the layup. This was actually one of four layups Allen missed on the night. He did finish with 19 points though and hit two crucial 3s.


Lakers VENT A LITTLE, THIS TIME AGAINST THE COMPETITION

Instead of yelling at each other, the Lakers started doing it to their opponent, beating down the Pistons 108-83. It was a blowout so that stats are a bit skewed, but Kobe Bryant only attempted 18 shots as Pau Gasol went for 21 points and Lamar Odom added 16. That's the Laker formula we've seen work this season.

Kobe went just 6-18 from the floor, but had eight assists and grabbed seven rebounds. So maybe there was something to Phil Jackson's critique of his recent play and Bryant came out looking to be more unselfish. He set teammates up and looked a bit passive at times. He didn't have his shot going again, so he let his cast of very talented characters bring him through.

PARTING THOUGHT

In Oklahoma City's 110-105 loss to Memphis, Jeff Green registered zero rebounds in 42 minutes of play. That's only the third time since 1986 a power forward has had that happen. The other two were Cliff Robinson and Pat Garrity. Not exactly wonderful company to be in.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com