Lamarcus Aldridge Wesley Matthews

LaMarcus Aldridge doesn’t think he’s shooting too many jumpers, but thanks for asking


The Blazers have a new head coach, a lower overall talent level, and a couple of rookies who they’re going to get as much experience as possible in what is slated as a rebuilding year in Portland by just about everyone’s standards.

The team still has Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews and LaMarcus Aldridge, of course, but the new offense installed by Terry Stotts has the core talent playing in areas of the floor that perhaps aren’t the best to maximize their talents.

Aldridge in particular has been worse offensively, seemingly settling for far more mid-range jump shots than the bread-and-butter post play that once made him an All-Star. And apparently, he’s a little sensitive about that.

Jason Quick of The Oregonian has a solid breakdown of the numbers, and tried to get the story from Aldridge after Thursday night’s loss to the Clippers. Whether it was the timing of the questions or the questions themselves, Aldridge seemed irritated when giving his responses (excerpted here):

In a salty postgame interview Thursday after 7-for-17 shooting night, Aldridge said he doesn’t believe he is shooting too many jumpers.

“I don’t,’’ Aldridge said. “Obviously you do, you asked the question.’’

“He has plays that he calls that get me to the block.’’ Aldridge said of Stotts. “Other than that, you float to the elbow. So the offense is designed for me to be at the elbow.’’

“What do you want me to say?’’ Aldridge said. “I don’t have nothing to say. I’m taking what I’m getting out there. We call post up plays, but our offense starts at the elbow.’’

“Why am I shooting jump shots?’’ Aldridge snipped, repeating my question. “The system is designed for movement and flow, and the system is designed to be around the elbow. If you are around the elbow, you don’t post up. But we do have plays for me to post up.’’

Again, there are plenty of factors that go into why a player may get agitated at a post-game line of questioning. What’s clear, though, is that Aldridge is shooting too many jump shots, and whether it’s due to the offense pulling him of the paint or a combination of other factors, so far the plan hasn’t worked too well for the Blazers this season.

51Q: Does Ty Lawson vault the Rockets into the top tier of championship contenders?

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball against Ty Lawson #3 of the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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I see five clear upper-echelon championship contenders –  Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder and Cavaliers.

Do the Rockets belong in that group, or do they fill the next tier by themselves?

Ty Lawson – acquired for pennies on the dollar – could put Houston over the top.

But, really, this premise might not be fair to the Rockets. They earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last season and reached the conference finals last season. James Harden finished second in MVP voting. Dwight Howard looked like a star during the playoffs. The supporting cast – Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer and even Jason Terry – played better than anyone expected. Young players like Clint Capela, K.J. McDaniels, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell could make a leap at any moment.

There’s a case to be made we should have taken Houston more seriously even before trading for Lawson.

I didn’t, though, and I don’t think many others did either.

I suspect one of the biggest reasons is the Rockets’ balance. Houston – 12th in points scored per possession, sixth in points allowed per possession – was one of only two teams to win more than 51 games last season without ranking top five in either category. Of the seven teams with so many victories, the Hawks – sixth, seventh – were the only other. Atlanta was a darling team, winning 60 games after going 38-44 the season prior. The Rockets’ modest win increase, from 54 to 56, drew less attention.

But balance shouldn’t be punished. Houston’s surprisingly strong defense should be celebrated. Lawson might push its middling offense over the top.

There are reasons to question that, though.

The biggest is Lawson’s sobriety. If he’s not focused and engaged, this all goes out the window. His comments about going to rehab only because it was court-ordered raise doubts, though they hardly foretell anything.

Let’s say Lawson’s off-court problems are behind him. How big of an upgrade is he? The Rockets already had a pretty good point guard who fit well with Harden in Beverley. Lawson is a clear offensive upgrade, but in the biggest moments, the ball will still run through Harden. At that point, would you rather have Beverley or Lawson on the floor? Beverley is a far superior defender, and his off-ball offensive game isn’t far from Lawson’s. Beverley is is a fine spot-up shooter, and Lawson’s strengths involve having the ball and creating. Lawson’s biggest boost could come when Harden sits, but that was fewer than 12 minutes per game last season.

Sure, a secondary ball-handler could ease pressure on Harden throughout a long regular season. Lawson and Harden can take turns running the attack.

But we’re talking about title contention, and in those high-leverage situations, it’s Harden’s show. How much does Lawson matter then?

The Rockets have a chance to win a championship. As good a chance as the NBA’s five best teams? I’m not so sure.

UNLV following Kentucky’s lead with combine for NBA scouts

Goodluck Okonoboh, Patrick McCaw
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Kentucky held a two-day combine last season for NBA scouts.

Now, LSU and UNLV are following suit.

Rob Dauster of NBC Sports:

The Runnin’ Rebels will hold their event on October 23rd and 24th at the Mendenhall Center, UNLV’s practice facility, sources told The expectation is that all 30 NBA teams will be in attendance.

LSU has potential No. 1 pick Ben Simmons and another first-round prospect in Tim Quarterman.

UNLV features lottery prospect Stephen Zimmerman.

This won’t replace scouts attending games and watching practices, but the fact that all 30 teams plan to attend shows how seriously the pro league takes these. No college team wanted John Calipari to have that competitive advantage in recruiting, so the smart ones are leveling the field with their own combines. Soon, more college teams will follow.

As the calendar gets packed, NBA teams might have to pick and choose which they attend. At that point, we might get little clues about which prospects they’re scouting hardest.