Blazers new coach plans to use Aldridge like Nowitzki

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For the past few years, Terry Stotts was an assistant coach to Rick Carlisle in Dallas. Now, he’s the head coach in Portland. But he’s bringing a little of Texas to the Pacific Northwest.

Specifically, he wants to use LaMarcus Aldridge like Dallas uses Dirk Nowitzki. Something that could mean more minutes and opportunity for rookie big man Meyers Leonard.

Stotts was on Blazers Courtside — on TrailBlazers TV — and talked about how he wants to use Aldridge (transcription courtesy Blazers Edge).

I want to try almost everything that we did with Dirk, with LaMarcus, to get a comfort level. On the left block he’s as good of a block player as there is in the league. A pick-and-pop shooter for a big man, he’s almost on the same level as Dirk with mid-range. Dirk can take it out a little bit further, or at least he has. I’d like to expand his game a little bit. We would isolate Dirk at the free throw line, it’s very difficult for guys to double-team in that area. It creates a problem. That’s one area that we can explore with LaMarcus and expand his game in that way. He’s 27 years old and can improve.

Last year Aldridge got 41.3 percent of his offense from the post (and he shot over 50 percent) but he did a lot less on spot up (8.5 percent of his shots) and isolation (5.7 percent). Nowitizki was in the post a lot (29 percent of his looks) but he got 11.2 percent of his looks in isolation and 19.1 on spot up (catch-and-shoot looks). Aldridge is going to have to expand his game, for example he needs to shoot better than 35.6 percent on isolation sets, but this could be good for him. Aldridge actually shot well in spot up but can he keep that going with more touches? (Stats via My Synergy Sports.)

So if Aldridge is the four, who is the five? Rookie Leonard is going to get a look, Stotts said.

Like I said, I’ve been very impressed with him. I think it’s safe to say that Damian is going to be our starting point guard. That’s pretty much a given. Now, whether it’s because big men take more time or whatever, I don’t want to say today that Meyers is going to come along slowly. If he’s ready to start opening night, he’ll start opening night. To say that he’s going to be the starter opening night, I think that’s too early to say too.

With the Blazers building toward the future, they should give Meyers a lot of run. See if he and Aldridge can build some chemistry. See what you’ve got.

With Damian Lillard getting a lot of minutes at the point and the change in style for Aldridge, it’s going to be an interesting year of growth in Portland. Lots of questions but potentially a very good foundation.

Jazz deny rumored promise to draft D.J. Wilson

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Michigan forward D.J. Wilson said he’d stay in the draft only if he’d go in the first round. Yet, despite not doing any on-court work at the combine, the borderline first-rounder remained in the draft beyond the withdrawal deadline.

What gives?

Rod Beard of The Detroit News:

Kyle Goon of The Salt Lake Tribune:

NBA teams sometimes promise to draft a player. They never reveal that before the draft. So, Utah’s denial doesn’t mean much – even if it’s true.

The Jazz were the last team to give Wilson a full work out before he injured himself in a Spurs workout. So, this rumor could be based on circumstantial evidence rather than leak of a Utah guarantee.

Wilson would make sense for the Jazz, who could see their payroll bloat if they re-sign Gordon Hayward and George Hill (and maybe even Joe Ingles). They could move Derrick Favors, an interior who doesn’t exactly fit with Rudy Gobert. Wilson would give Utah another option with Trey Lyles as developing stretch fours behind Boris Diaw. (Utah could even move Diaw and count on Lyles/Wilson to emerge sooner than later.)

Watch LeBron James’ top highlight from each of his postseason appearances (video)

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LeBron James and Tony Parker are the only players to play in the last dozen postseasons.

(If you’re wondering, Manu Ginobili missed the 2009 playoffs due to an ankle injury.)

It’s fair to say LeBron was a bit more spectacular than Parker in that span. As LeBron enters his seventh straight Finals, the NBA released this awesome video showing LeBron’s best playoff highlight from each year:

There’s no entry for this year. Here’s betting it comes against the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

David Stern: We thought we could re-work Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade until Mitch Kupchak ‘panicked’

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NBA commissioner David Stern – acting as New Orleans’ owner representative, he says – infamously vetoed a potential Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade in 2011.

But that didn’t close the possibility of Paul going to the Lakers.

The New Orleans Hornets (now the Pelicans and not be confused with the current Charlotte Hornets), Lakers and Rockets tried to rework the three-team trade that would’ve sent Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to Houston and Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick to New Orleans. But talks fell apart around the time the Lakers dealt Odom to the Mavericks.

Stern on Nunyo & Company (hat tip: Harrison Feigen of Silver Screen & Roll):

In fact, in the course of the weekend, we thought we could re-do the deal. We really thought that Houston would be ready to part with Kevin Lowry, and we had a trade lined up for Odom that would have gotten us a good first-round draft pick – not we, but my basketball folks. But Mitch Kupchak at the time panicked and moved Odom to Dallas. So the piece wasn’t even there for us to play with at the time. So that was it — just about what was good for the then-New Orleans Hornets.

Remember, Stern – roundly criticized for his handling of this episode* – has blamed the Lakers and Rockets for the lingering perception. This could just be him again trying to shift responsibility.

*Somewhat fairly, somewhat not. Owners veto general manager-approved trades often enough, and Stern was acting as New Orleans’ owner after George Shinn sold the franchise back to the league. But Stern had an agenda as commissioner. He never should have assumed such a large conflict of interest. What he did with the Paul trade was reasonable for an acting owner, but because Stern was also commissioner, it’s fair to question how much New Orleans’ interests and how much the league’s interests factored into the decision-making.

But let’s take Stern at his word – that he and the Hornets thought they could re-do the trade and send Paul to the Lakers. That doesn’t mean they were right. Maybe the Lakers and Rockets (who had Kyle Lowry, not the “Kevin Lowry” Stern named) were never going to part with enough to get Stern’s approval.

And maybe New Orleans didn’t properly convey its interest in still completing a deal. Perhaps, Kupchak acted reasonably by trading Odom to Dallas – for a first-round pick, a deal Mark Cuban would ultimately regret – rather than wait around for the Hornets, who eventually sent Paul to the Clippers.

It’s easy to blame Kupchak, but he might tell a different story.

Isaiah Thomas makes it clear he wants to stay in Boston

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It’s been a long time since there was so much discussion about whether a team needs to trade or just let go of an All-NBA and All-Star player at his peak who is clear and away a fan favorite.

Yet that’s where the Boston Celtics and Isaiah Thomas find themselves. After landing the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft — where they will almost certainly take point guard Markelle Fultz — and with the Celtics looking a full couple steps behind the Cavaliers in the playoffs, the question about whether Thomas is part of the future in Boston has come up. He is a free agent in 2018 and are the Celtics willing to pay the big money it will take to keep him?

Know this, Thomas wants to remain a Celtic and win a Celtic. You can listen to his full comments above, but Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe has the money quote:

Outside of chasing Gordon Hayward, this summer the Celtics are going to focus on getter some frontcourt help, someone to help with rebounding and rim protection. They will look to get better, but Danny Ainge isn’t going to push all his chips into the middle of the table to make a gambit on immediate massive improvement. He will remain patient, building this team so that in three years and five years they will be a force in the East.

And the Thomas discussion likely gets put on hold for a year (unless there is a change of course and contract extension talks come up, but that’s only if Boston misses on Hayward and any other big targets).