The Portland Trail Blazers have been in “stockpile assets” mode for a couple of years now. They have managed to accumulate a lot of fine players, and haven’t really made a disastrous move. More importantly, they somehow managed to field a playoff team with two guys who should be their franchise players almost completely hobbled by knee injuries.
Still, the Blazers’ roster is a bit overstuffed and incomplete right now, and coach Nate McMillian wasn’t shy about sharing his feelings on the state of the roster to Mike Barrett, Mike Rice, and Brian Wheeler on Blazers Courtside earlier (hat tip to Ben Golliver of Blazer’s Edge):
“I think there are a lot of questions that we have to answer,” McMillan said. “The first thing is to balance the roster. The combination of the twos that we have — with Wesley [Matthews], Rudy [Fernandez] and Brandon [Roy] — that combination is just… really… there’s no way we can play the three of those guys.
“Now that we’ve brought in Gerald Wallace, Nicolas [Batum]’s contract will be coming up pretty soon. What’s going to happen in that situation?
“Our backup point guard, our guard position. I played Brandon at that spot most of the second half of the season. We’ve got to look at the point guard position.
“And Brandon Roy. How did he come out of the season and what [is] his role going to be?
“There’s a number of things I think we have to address. Backup center. Is Greg [Oden]… when will he be ready to go next season?”
After listing off questions concering both guard positions, the center position and the small forward position, McMillan concluded: “All of those things we will have to look at here before the draft and, if possible, if it is possible to make some moves to improve the team, we’ve certainly got to do that.”
Well, that’s certainly different from the “we’re one or two pieces away” talk you generally hear from teams during the off-season. McMillian appears to want some serious changes to the Blazer roster, and he appears to want them soon. Free agency won’t help much, either — Andre Miller, Greg Oden, and Patty Mills are the only players on the roster without guaranteed deals for next season. The Blazers have been known for wheeling and dealing on draft night in previous years — we’ll see if they start working the phones aggressively after tonight’s draft lottery goes down and every team knows what pick they’re holding.
With time running down in the third quarter, LeBron James went hard to the basket for a layup, and the shot was contested by Jeremy Lamb, who ended up poking LeBron in the eye on the play.
It isn’t intentional, but it looks painful.
That blow could have LeBron sitting out Saturday night when the Cavaliers take on the Washington Wizards in Cleveland. From Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
LeBron James said he suffered a scratched cornea in his right eye in Friday’s 112-105 win over Charlotte after being examined by a Hornets team physician.
James, who scored 32 points in 40 minutes, could not keep his right eye open during his postgame interview session and said his vision was blurry… Summing it all up, James said “if coach decides to give me a game off (Saturday), it’s not because I’m resting. It’s because I’m banged up.”
He was treated by the Hornets’ team doctor who administered eye drops, but the Cavaliers will make the call closer to game time depending on how LeBron is feeling.
The Cavaliers are 0-6 without LeBron this season. They also have just a one-game lead over the Celtics for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. (Boston beat Phoenix on Friday, despite Devin Booker dropping 70, and they have a key game with the Heat on Sunday.) That said, the Cavaliers are two games up in the loss column on the Celtics, which is a decent lead, but the Cavs need to start winning consistently.
And beating a hot Washington team will not be easy even with LeBron.
Devin Booker was the story of the NBA Friday night.
The 20-year-old Suns’ guard — who never scored more than 19 points in a game at Kentucky in college — dropped 70 on the Boston Celtics in a losing effort. He becomes only the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 70 in a game. At the end the Suns were fouling and calling time outs to stop the clock and get the ball back to Booker, but as Phoenix coach Earl Watson said to those who complained, “You got a problem with that? Do something. Simple as that.”
NBA Twitter exploded at what Booker did.
Booker himself responded this way.
There was no hesitation. None was expected.
After UCLA was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 by Kentucky, the Bruin’s Lonzo Ball — who is expected to be a top-three pick — declared for the NBA draft this June.
Ball is expected to go second or third in the upcoming NBA draft. Speaking with people around the league Washington’s Markelle Fultz is a clear No. 1, but after that if the Lakers — the team with the second-worst record in the league — have the No. 2 pick they are expected to snap up Ball. Depending on how the lottery shakes out the top of the draft, Ball could fall a little — there are teams that like Josh Jackson — but not much.
Ball is a 6’6″ point guard who averaged 14.7 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds a game for UCLA last season. He has fantastic passing vision, impressive shooting range (although he can take some questionable shots), and a great sense of floor spacing and how to run an offense, particularly in transition. However, his weaknesses were exposed in his final game some as De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky completely outplayed Ball. Defensive pressure took Ball (and the Bruins) out of rhythm, forced them to play in the half court (where Ball is not as strong), and it’s one of the things Ball is going to have to adapt to at the next level where everyone is more athletic. Also, he’s going to need to get more consistent defensively.
The potential for Ball to be special is there, which is why he will go high in the draft.
And no, the rantings of his father will not change that. Teams see the father as a distraction that can be handled, they aren’t going to let him get in the way of drafting talent.
Kobe Bryant said “Thank you. I learned so much from you as a player.”
Jerry West said he loved him like a son.
Jeanie Buss said “No one celebrates a championship like you, but please no more asking Mark Madsen to dance.”
The Lakers unveiled a new statue for Shaquille O’Neal Friday night, one flying high over a Staples Center entrance, and the stars were on hand for the event. Phil Jackson was there making Snoop Dogg jokes. Shaq and Kobe were sharing laughs. It was a big night for a big man with a big personality. And a big heart.
Check out the highlights above.