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.

Giannis Antetokounmpo called for 10-second violation on free throw (video)

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This Giannis Antetokounmpo 10-second violation was a year in the making.

Unfortunately for the Trail Blazers, it was too little, too late. Antetokounmpo still finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, four blocks and two steals in the Bucks’ 115-107 win.

Iman Shumpert injures hand while missing open dunk (video)

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Plenty went right for the Cavaliers in their 126-94 win over the Knicks last night, but there were a few snags.

LeBron James and his teammates repeatedly failed the water-bottle challenge in the closing moments (though Kyrie Irving eventually nailed it).

Kevin Love‘s nose malfunctioned.

And Iman Shumpert injured his hand while missing an open dunk.

If Shumpert was faking as an excuse for missing, he sold it hard. Defending 4-on-5 on the other end, Cleveland ceded a 3-pointer. Then, Shumpert remained hunched over while the Cavs brought the ball up-court. It seems Shumpert might have been popping back in a dislocated finger, which jibes with him staying in the game – and shows his toughness.

But it also doesn’t erase the shame of hurting yourself while missing an open dunk.

Gregg Popovich calls coaching Tim Duncan-less Spurs a ‘refreshing’ and ‘fun’ challenge

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 26: Head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs argues a call against the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center on November 26, 2016 in Washington, DC. 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 Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)–  For so many years, the San Antonio Spurs have been defined by their consistency, an unprecedented level of stability that has brought five championships and established the organization as a model franchise in professional sports.

The colors don’t change. The coach doesn’t change. The core never changed.

After 20 years and those five titles, change has finally come to San Antonio.

Tim Duncan, the tone setter from the moment he was drafted in 1997, retired last summer. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have taken reduced roles this season, and the Spurs brought in seven new faces as part of a rare roster shuffle as they try to retool around Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.

“It’s been at the same time a challenge and a refreshing sort of situation,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “The team is changing personnel-wise and where the ball goes and a few different players so we have to do things a little bit differently. There’s a give and take, strategy wise, to fit the group. It’s been a lot of fun. Watching some of the young guys get minutes and develop has been fun.”

Fun because while the faces have changed, the results have not. The Spurs (18-4) have navigated the bumps in the road that come with unfamiliarity and have the second-best record in the league, tied the star-studded Golden State Warriors (18-3) in the win column. They have started the season 13-0 on the road and can match last year’s Warriors for the best road start in league history with a win in Chicago on Thursday night.

It hasn’t always been pretty for these Spurs. They’re not the same ruthless, precise machine that steamrolled the league during championship runs. They have had to muddle through things, overcome mistakes and struggle while they get acclimated to one another.

Newcomers like six-time All-Star Pau Gasol, steady veteran David Lee, Argentinian point guard Nico Laprovittola and shot-blocking center Dewayne Dedmon have had to work hard to integrate into a culture that is as enduring as any.

“You could see it in our games. Sometimes our offense is stagnant, our defense isn’t moving well or in our help positions,” Leonard said. “We have a big playbook on the offensive end. It’s just hard to learn it. It was hard for me to learn it. I didn’t get it down until probably my second or third year. We’ve just got to keep giving a consistent effort and being into the game and into our playbook and just keep moving from there.”

The result has been a team that tends to start slow, fall behind and then gradually digs its heels in. They are 5-4 at home, where they only lost once all of last season. They’ve lost to the Magic at home, were thumped by the Clippers and have not recaptured the breathtaking form they showed in a 29-point win at Golden State on opening night. But the wins keep coming.

“I think the first eight to 10 games was the coaching staff trying to figure out what lineups we’re going to play and there were a lot of changes, a lot of trying what works best,” said Gasol, who signed as a free agent this summer. “But now I think there’s more consistency, there’s more defined lineups. Guys know when to come in, when they’re going to play and what’s expected of them.”

The Spurs have won 13 of their last 14 games, and Popovich has leaned on his core more than he has in years to get them off to a good start. Leonard and Aldridge both average more than 33 minutes per game, the first time San Antonio has had two players averaging that much playing time since 2008-09.

“It’s been interesting to see how the team develops and comes together and who the leaders will be without Timmy being that overriding factor for so long,” Popovich said.

Leonard, for years the ultra-quiet storm trooper of the Spurs army, has been much more vocal this season. Gasol’s personality and approach have been a perfect fit as most expected and Ginobili and Parker are still there to help filled the void left by Duncan’s retirement.

And little by little, the new guys are getting up to speed.

“They’ve done a great job of making it easy for us and for Pop to throw them into the fire and trust them to know the system,” Green said. “We’ll continue to help them and they will continue to be sponges and absorb it.”

Kyrie Irving sticks water-bottle challenge before Cavaliers-Knicks buzzer (video)

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The Cavaliers were trying the water-bottle challenge on the bench late in their 126-94 win over the Knicks last night, but the national telecast showed Cleveland players only failing to flip a water bottle and have it land upright on the floor – including an erratic attempt from LeBron James that bounced onto the court.

Thankfully, the local post-game show had an angle of Kyrie Irving nailing the bottle flip just before the game ended, his toss just leaving his hands before the final buzzer. Count it!