Houston Rockets v Portland Trail Blazers

Thursday night NBA grades: Any more questions for LaMarcus Aldridge? Didn’t think so.

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Our quick look around the association on a busy Thursday night, or what you missed while worrying about what could happen to Santa’s home due to global warming

source:  LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers. I’ve been saying he is the best power forward in the game all season (yes, better than Kevin Love) and he showed it — 31 points on 12-of-22 shooting, plus 25 rebounds in the win over Houston. The list of guys who have done that in the last 30 years has only a handful of names like Barkley and Olajuwon. Actually, Aldridge shot 1-of-8 to start the game but was 11-14 the rest of the way, and  had 9 points and 7 boards in the fourth quarter when the Blazers took a tie game and pulled away for the win. Amazingly Aldridge did most of that damage from the outside — he was 3-of-8 inside 8 feet but 9-of-14 from the midrange. The Blazers may be a jump shooting team but when they hit the watch out — just like Aldridge.

source:   Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets. He had 32 points and 17 rebounds, which most nights make you the player of the game. He had 12 of those points in the fourth quarter and the Rockets tried to mount a few comebacks (Howard, as well as James Harden, were on the bench for the Blazers 10-0 run to start the quarter that really decided the game), and they got within a bucket but couldn’t get over the hump. Howard was also 4-of-6 from the free throw line and had three blocks.

source:   Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets. For the past couple seasons Williams has hobbled around while Chris Paul has carried the “best point guard in the game” mantle. These two used to have a rivalry and on Thursday night D-Will rekindled it. Williams owned the end of the second quarter when the Nets took control of the game, putting up 12 points in less than 6 minutes. His overall numbers may not impress — 15 points and 4 assists — but he put Paul on skates a couple times and rested the fourth quarter of an easy win. He looked like the D-Will Brooklyn needs.

source:   Jared Dudley, Los Angeles Clippers. Before the season I was very high on the Clippers signing of Jared Dudley — he had a better career three point percentage than J.J. Redick, smart team defender, good glue player who can do everything. But not lately. Dudley was 1-of-7 in this game and is now shooting 34 percent overall and 22.2 percent from three in the Clippers last nine games. Not good enough, especially with them counting on him to step up from three with Redick out. Dudley knows he isn’t playing well. That said, expect him to turn it around, the guy can shoot.

Watch Spurs’ Dejounte Murray throw off-the-backboard alley-oop to himself in pickup game

Washington guard Dejounte Murray, center, dribbles the ball past Mount St. Mary's center Taylor Danaher (50) as Washington forward Marquese Chriss, right, watches duirng the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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Just a suggestion for rookie Dejounte Murray: Don’t do this in front of Gregg Popovich. You may not like his reaction.

That said, the Spurs needed to get more athletic this off-season — landing Pau Gasol certainly didn’t help that cause — so enter first-round pick Murray, who pulled this off in a recent pickup game.

Murray is going to be brought along slowly in a backcourt where Tony Parker and Patty Mills will be splitting time at the point. Murray is more of a combo guard and is going to have to shoot a lot better than he did in college (28.8 percent from three) to get some run. But this is a situation where the Spurs can groom him, bring him along slowly, and see if they have another draft steal.

He’s certainly got the athleticism.

Corey Brewer: “James (Harden) is going to play defense this year”

HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 18:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets walks across the court during their game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Toyota Center on March 18, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  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 Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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James Harden‘s defense is not as bad as its reputation.

Well, at least it wasn’t two seasons ago — his near MVP season he was in good enough shape that he could put in a respectable effort on that end and still handle his massive offensive load. There were still some mental lapses, but his focus was better and his improvement lifted the team defense. Last season, he regressed back to youtube “highlight” defense Harden — his conditioning was not where it needed to be, he didn’t expend as much effort on that end, and it showed.

Harden got a massive contract extension this summer, and Dwight Howard is Atlanta’s problem — now Harden has to lead the Rockets. By example. Corey Brewer told ESPN you’re going to see that on defense.

“I think this year he’s going to play better defense, We’re going to let the past be in the past. It’s the future of the Rockets, man. James is going to play defense this year.”

We’re all Missourians on this one: Show me.

Remember that the Rockets will be out and running — Mike D’Antoni is the coach now, and Daryl Morey is going to get the up tempo ball he wants (which Kevin McHale had them doing, but Harden didn’t like him so…). D’Antoni’s teams in Phoenix played better defense than their reputation — points per possession they were middle of the pack — but that has never been his focus.

Will Harden be able to run like he needs to on offense and still defend at a reasonable level?

If he can, it’s a big step toward the Rockets being a dangerous team in the West because if he does it others will follow. Otherwise, every Rockets game will be a shootout, which is entertaining but not going to get a team deep into the playoffs.

 

Watch Drake hit a half court shot while doing a situp

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 26:  Singer Drake celebrates after Terrance Ross #31 of the Toronto Raptors sinks a 3-pointer in the second half of Game Five of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Indiana Pacers during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on April 26, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  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 Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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I can see the questions on Twitter/in the comments already so let me save you some time.

Because it’s summer.

Because it’s Drake (he’s a celebrity and an NBA hanger-on with some quasi-official position with the Raptors).

Because Stephen Curry did it, too.

Because what other hoops are you watching on a late August afternoon?

And besides, you clicked on it. You know you want to see it.

So here it is, Drake, hitting a halfcourt shot while doing a sit up. Enjoy.

FOR THE KIA!!!!! @highlighthub @bleacherreport

A video posted by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on

Mario Chalmers says he’s cleared to play

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mario Chalmers moves the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015, in Washington. Chalmers was ejected in the first half. The Wizards won 100-91. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster
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Mario Chalmers was thriving with the Grizzlies after a midseason trade from the Heat when a torn Achilles ended his season.

Not the way Chalmers wanted to enter free agency.

Still unsigned, he says he’s progressing.

Chalmers:

Can he go 100%, though? If not, when?

A few teams could use another point guard. If Chalmers shows his health, he belongs in someone’s rotation. But that might require taking a low-paying deal and working his way up from the third point guard spot – or even just onto the regular-season roster.