LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol

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.

76ers tie NBA-record losing streak, dropping heartbreaker to Celtics

Isaiah Thomas, T.J. McConnell
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After a rare period of on-court competence, the 76ers led the Celtics by five with two minutes left tonight.

Then, Philadelphia snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

The 76ers yielded a 9-0 run to close an 84-80 setback.

They’re now 0-16. Combined with their 0-10 finish to last season, that’s a 26-game losing streak – tied for longest in NBA history. Last year’s 76ers already shared the record.

Philadelphia is also in danger of the worst start to a season. The 2009-10 New Jersey Nets began 0-18, and last year’s 76ers won only one game sooner.

The 76ers will try to avoid the all-time longest streak at the Rockets on Friday. If that goes unsuccessfully, they’ll try to avoid matching the worst season start at the Grizzlies on Sunday. And if both fail, they could set the worst-start record against the Lakers on Tuesday.

76ers-Lakers – it’s shaping up to be a big one.

Timberwolves read mean tweets about themselves (video)

Flip Saunders, Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyus Jones
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The Timberwolves didn’t select the meanest tweets about these players, but credit Karl-Anthony Towns, Tyus Jones, Shabazz Muhammad and Zach LaVine for being good sports.

LeBron James: I’m healthier than a year ago


LeBron James received an injection in his back before the season.

It’s working.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

LeBron James now says he feels better than he did even a year ago.

“I feel better in the mornings; I feel better throughout the games; I feel better throughout the day,” James said before a Cavs shootaround Wednesday in preparation for their game against the Toronto Raptors. “It was a rough start to the season for me last year and for our team. Obviously the way we’ve been playing, a lot is predicated on my health and being able to lead these guys out on the floor and not from the sidelines.”

LeBron certainly looks healthier than he did at this point last year. He’s moving much better and giving more effort.

But comparing November to November means very little for the Cavaliers, who hope to play deep into June.

The key question: Did LeBron properly time his injection? There’s a limit on the number he can have in a year, and it takes time to recover after one. Cleveland doesn’t want LeBron to peak to early.

It’s good for the Cavs that LeBron feels better now, but his health in the playoffs remains the priority.

Report: Suns signing Bryce Cotton

Bryce Cotton
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Eric Bledsoe missed the Suns’ loss to the Spurs on Monday with a knee injury.

So, Phoenix is bringing in a reinforcement – Bryce Cotton.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The Jazz waived Cotton before the season despite Dante Exum‘s injury leaving them with just two other healthy point guards. That says something about Cotton – but also Utah’s depth.

Cotton – who went undrafted out of Providence last year – is quick, varies his speed well and can leap. There’s reason to believe in his potential at age 23. But his 6-foot-1 frame limits him defensively, and he’s not much of a distributor.

Phoenix will rely on Brandon Knight and Ronnie Price at point guard if Bledsoe is unavailable. The Suns can also use fewer two-point guard lineups – giving more minutes at shooting guard to Devin Booker, Archie Goodwin and Sunny Weems.

Cotton provides insurance while Bledsoe is banged-up with what seems to be a minor injury. But he might have to show something to keep drawing an NBA paycheck once Bledsoe gets healthy.