Blazers to keep Oden, extend one-year, $8.8 million offer

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The Portland Trail Blazers are not willing to give up on Greg Oden quite yet.

The team offered the oft-injured center a one-year, $8.8 million qualifying offer for next season, reports Marc Spears of Yahoo, on twitter. Oden can sign the offer (and well may), but just by offering it the Blazers reserve the right to match any offer for him. (While the rules may change in a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, with this transition class they will almost certainly still have matching rights.)

Basically, think of this as step one of the process. The Blazers can also offer other contracts along with the qualifying offer (hypothetically, say three years $12 million, so less per year to the team but more money overall to Oden, and if he does recover they would have him locked up).

When he’s healthy, Oden has played well and shown flashes of why he was drafted No. 1 overall. But due to knee injuries he has played just 82 games total in four years.

He’s injured again currently and while he is doing rehab he may well not be back on the court until January.

The Blazers had hinted before this offer was coming, that they were invested and were willing to pay again to see if he can get healthy, if he can get right. It’s not a terrible risk, if you’re willing to spend the money. Apparently the Blazers are.

Oden needs to be fully right before he steps back on the court. This comeback, this chance could well be the last one. But he’s going to get paid one more time.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
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Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

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The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

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Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

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In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.