Cole Aldrich was drafted out of Kansas last June as a physical, workman-like center on to a team with an already deep frontcourt. Oklahoma City already had Nenad Krstic starting at the five and Nick Collison backing him up, while at the four Jeff Green starts and Serge Ibaka brings the blocks off the bench.
Aldrich was going to have a hard time finding minutes… but the preseason gods have smiled on him (if not others). Krstic had finger surgery and will miss most of camp, while Collison has a bone bruise on his knee and is resting.
Now Aldrich — who was brought in as a long-term project not a guy expected to get a lot of run this season — is getting a chance to carve out his spot, as coach Scott Brooks to the Oklahoman.
“I don’t know the impact he will make,” Brooks said, “but I like what he’s about. And he plays. He bangs.”
Okay… maybe not a ringing endorsement there. Maybe we don’t put Aldrich on our fantasy teams this year.
He was never brought in to score anyway. The Thunder needed something every team needs — a big body who can defend the rim and rebound. Notice that the two teams in the finals last year had one of those guys (Andrew Bynum and Kendrick Perkins). With guards able to penetrate without being touched on the perimeter now, every team needs a presence in the paint to stop the parade of layups.
Aldrich may be that guy in Oklahoma City. Or more accurately, maybe he can develop into that guy. But starting now he’s getting the chance to earn some minutes when the games matter. Ibaka is starting at center this preseason but Aldrich will get plenty of run. We’ll see what he can do with it.
The Spurs’ 94-87 win over the Mavericks on Wednesday didn’t produce the Gregg Popovich fireworks that followed San Antonio’s last win over Dallas.
But Wednesday’s game still featured a very strange moment, when a cameraman ran onto the floor during play.
I’m not so bothered by the cameraman. He clearly thought a timeout had been called, potentially getting confused by the shot-clock buzzer sounding. It’s not ideal, but mistakes happen.
But why did the officials allow play to continue? That was absurd (though, thankfully, irrelevant).
(hat tip: reddit user Pontus_Pilates)
Before the season, Nerlens Noel called the 76ers’ center situation – with himself, Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor – “silly.”
Philadelphia general manager Bryan Colangelo advised Noel to stay in his place. 76ers coach Brett Brown told Noel focusing on his strengths would yield a big payday. Noel has mostly been away from the team while rehabbing from surgery.
Has any of that changed Noel’s perspective?
Noel, via Jessica Camerato of CSN Philly:
“I don’t think the roster’s changed,” Noel said Thursday. “So, I don’t think the roster’s changed.”
Noel didn’t seem concerned that he wouldn’t fit back in with the team after being away for the start of the season. He envisions his role as simply “being Nerlens Noel.” What exactly that will entail will unfold this season.
“I put myself in a different place with all these things,” Noel said. “Do what you can control. That’s what I give power to, is what I can really control. I think right now I’m in a good place mentally, I think my body feels great and I just want to get back to playing basketball and let things take care of themselves.”
This sounds like someone who still wants out.
In fact, the 76ers have only gotten bigger, trading combo forward Jerami Grant to the Thunder for power forward Ersan Ilyasova. Ilyasova will limit Philadelphia’s opportunities to play two-center lineups – not that those appear fruitful. Plus, Embiid will get more minutes.
A defense-first interior player, Noel faces a tough fit. The 76ers just don’t have a roster that complements his skills after years of asset accumulation and tanking – which also likely grinds on him.
Noel said he’ll focus on what he can control, and I believe he’ll try. But it’s hard when the situation around him is so counter to his best interests.
A new Collective Bargaining Agreement is expected to be finished soon, but with months until the current deal expires, both the owners and players can afford to take their time and get the details right.
Both sides reportedly agreed to keep the age minimum – which requires players to be 19 and one year removed from their high school class’ graduation – in place.
David Aldridge of NBA.com:
Other issues, like the age limit for players entering the league, are still on the table. The league has long sought to increase the age limit from its current 19, and at least one year removed from one’s high school class, to at least 20 years of age. The union has talked about a “zero and two” setup, similar to that used by baseball — players can enter the Draft out of high school, but if they choose to go to college, they have to stay in college at least two years (in baseball, it’s three years) before declaring for the Draft.
The union wants to lower the age minimum. Adam Silver wants to raise it.
Most likely, the current one-and-done rule remains in place.
But a zero-or-two setup could be an interesting compromise. That would allow players certain they’re ready for the pros out of high school to declare for the NBA draft. In all other cases, Silver would get his wish.
Again, the status quo likely remains in tact. But it’s good both sides are discussing the issue to see whether there’s a better solution.
Take comfort, chairs and staffers.
The 76ers have raised Joel Embiid‘s minute limit from 24 to 28.
Jessica Camerato of CSN Philly:
This was never a hard limit. Embiid played more than 24 minutes in five of his 12 games with a high of 27 in an overtime contest. Presumably, the new “limit” will also allow for Embiid to sometimes it.
Embiid’s numbers per 36 minutes are eye-popping: 28.6 points, 12.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 3.8 blocks and 6.4 turnovers. A small workload likely factors into his per-minute dominance, and he’s still a long way from typical starter minutes. But I’m interested to see how his production translates over a larger sample.
The 76ers, in their mission to be less bad this season, will also appreciate a few more minutes of Embiid. They defend like the NBA’s second-best defense with him on the floor and the league’s second-worst defense without him. They also score a little better with him. Overall, they get outscored by just 2.2 points per 100 possessions with him and a whopping 14.2 points per 100 possessions without him.
This could give Philadelphia a couple extra wins over the rest of the season. At minimum, it’ll make the 76ers more enjoyable to watch for a few more minutes each game.