Blazers coach Stotts says criticism of LaMarcus Aldridge is undeserved

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Overall, LaMarcus Aldridge is playing at a high level for the Blazers. But the fact that he’s seemingly reverted to jump-shots over post play has resulted in some criticism that his head coach doesn’t feel is appropriate at this time.

Aldridge’s points-per-game average of 20.8 is down alost a point from last season, but his rebounds are essentially the same at around eight per game, while there’s been a slight uptick in his assists and blocked shots per game averages.

One area where Aldridge has seen a significant decline is in his field goal percentage, which is currently at 45.9 percent, down from 51.2 last season.

Fans in Portland have been largely down on Aldridge this season because of it, and because when observing the games, it appears that more of his looks are coming from jump shots instead of from aggressive play in the post.

Go ahead and count Blazers head coach Terry Stotts among those who feel the criticism is neither warranted nor justified.

From Joe Freeman of The Oregonian:

Stotts is sick and tired of the general masses crushing LaMarcus Aldridge.

“He’s been doing everything that’s been asked of him at both ends of the floor,” Stotts said of his All-Star power forward. “And he’s done it willingly and effectively. And it just bothers me when people throw darts at him, when they are disparaging. He doesn’t deserve it. I don’t think the criticisms are valid.”

“When you look at plus-minus, everybody plays better when LaMarcus is on the floor,” Stotts said. “And that provides a tangible benefit that doesn’t necessarily show up in box score.”

And while it may appear to the naked eye that Aldridge has abandoned his low-post game, Stotts said the reality is that his franchise power forward is actually averaging “slightly less than one fewer postup every 36 minutes” compared to last season and roughly the same number of free throw attempts (4.9 to 5.0).

“I think it’s a legitimate observation,” Stotts said, referring to Aldridge’s dip in shooting percentage and rebounding. “But it’s undue criticism that he’s not being aggressive or he’s being soft or that he’s not pounding inside. He is doing all those things when he has opportunities.”

Aldridge’s dip in field goal percentage — again, really the only glaring area that’s a legitimate cause for concern — is likely due to where he’s being used in Stotts’ schemes.

Aldridge has said earlier this season that he’s simply doing what he’s told offensively, so there’s no reason to believe that after an All-Star campaign, where he was at times dominant in the post, he’d choose to follow that up by reverting to his jump-shooting preferences that were evident in the earlier stages of his career.

If that’s the case, Stotts will need to find more opportunities to use Aldridge in the post, as is his strength. Otherwise, the criticism is likely to continue to fall on Aldridge’s shoulders, whether justified or not.

Basketball Hall of Famer John Kundla dies at 101

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — John Kundla, the Hall of Fame coach who led the Minneapolis Lakers to five NBA championships, died Sunday. He was 101.

Son Jim Kundla said his father died at an assisted living facility in Northeast Minneapolis that he has called home for years.

Kundla coached George Mikan and the Lakers in the 1940s and 1950s, helping them become the NBA’s first dynasty. He went 423-302 before retiring at the age of 42 and went on to coach his alma mater, the University of Minnesota.

Kundla was the oldest living Hall of Famer in any of the four major pro sports.

Kundla was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995. A year later, he was named one of the league’s 10 greatest coaches as part of the league’s “NBA at 50” celebration.

 

Report: Magic signing Marreese Speights to one-year, minimum contract

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It’s a tough market for free-agent centers, as Marreese Speights learned the hard way.

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:

I wonder whether Speights regrets opting out with the Clippers, who were also slated to pay him a minimum salary. Not only is he stuck with a low-paying deal, he’s on a worse team and one with center depth.

Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo should play only center, where Speights is best. Speights can also play power forward, but Aaron Gordon should get all his minutes there. Maybe Jonathan Isaac should, too, though it’s more tolerable to play him at small forward while the rookie adjusts to the NBA.

Simply, there won’t be much playing time for Speights unless Orlando makes a trade (maybe this is a harbinger) or plays too big of lineups (a lesson it should have learned last season).

Likewise, the Clippers will be fine, though less versatile, without Speights. The acquired Willie Reed (free agency) and Montrezl Harrell (Chris Paul trade) to play behind DeAndre Jordan.

Speights clearly isn’t essential, but he has expanded his range beyond the 3-point arc. He defends with effort, though not necessarily well. There’s a place in the league for stretch fives like him. But he turns 30 in a couple weeks, and his stock is clearly low. At least he’ll have a chance for a bigger payday next summer.

Kristaps Porzingis on Knicks: “This is where I want to stay… this is where I want to win”

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There were multiple, connected reasons it was time for the Knicks to move on from the Phil Jackson era — a triangle of reasons, really — but this one should have been at the top of the list:

He was alienating Krisptaps Porzingis.

We don’t know yet if Porzingis can be a franchise NBA player, however, he shows the potential to do it. He could become a top five NBA player you can build a contender around. You endear yourselves to those kinds of players, not get into power struggles that lead to said player blowing off end-of-year meetings and being guided out the door.

With Jackson gone, Porzingis has more motivation to stay a Knick and be the guy that turns the franchise’s fortunes around. KP was running a youth hoops camp in his native Latvia and was taking questions from the children when one kid got in a question the New York media would have loved to ask: Are you going to abandon New York? Here is Porzingis’ answer, translated and obtained by the New York Post.

“I feel that it is the best place to win. And if you win in New York, you are king. For the last two years, I have had so many positive emotions here that this is where I want to stay and that this is where I want to win.”

The Knicks have their cornerstone big. Now they need a guy on the outside (Kyrie Irving will get mentioned, but he is not the only answer), they need to get and develop young players to go with their stars. It’s the next phase for the Knicks.

But if they can keep Porzingis happy, they can lock him up to a max rookie extension after next year and have that piece in place. Then it’s up to Steve Mills and Scott Perry to put the pieces around him.

Report: LeBron James won’t waive his no-trade clause

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They Cavaliers have had a frustratingly lousy offseason.

They ousted trusted general manager David Griffin. Since, they’ve watched Golden State load up while their roster stagnates, as stars like Paul George and Jimmy Butler have landed elsewhere. Now, Kyrie Irving is requesting a trade and reportedly blaming LeBron James for that leaking.

LeBron has practically thrown up his hands and left ownership and management to figure out everything.

But LeBron – with rumors swirling about him leaving in 2018 free agency – won’t take an earlier exit.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

LeBron James will not waive his no-trade clause for any teams at any point during the 2017-18 season, league sources tell ESPN.

Cleveland essentially has two options with Irving:

1. Trade him for better, older players

2. Trade him for worse, younger players

No. 2 becomes much more palatable if the Cavs can also flip LeBron (and Kevin Love) and launch into a full rebuild. But as long as LeBron is around, it’s hard not to contend for a title.

But if they trade Irving for immediate help and LeBron leaves next summer, the Cavaliers could be left with a ghastly roster. That might be the risk they’re forced to take now.

It’s hard to believe the Cavs would trade beloved LeBron, even if he didn’t hold veto power. It would turn owner Dan Gilbert and general manager Koby Altman into Cleveland villains, co-conspirators in LeBron leaving again. If Gilbert and Altman dare LeBron to leave in free agency, LeBron would have to own the decision himself.

Still, if LeBron and Irving would return incredible hauls of younger players and draft picks – I can’t even imagine what LeBron would draw in a trade – Gilbert and Altman should at least consider it. It just doesn’t seem the Cavs will have that option.