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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
There’s this overplayed angle talked about by some fans and pundits suggesting the Warriors just got lucky last season — for example, they faced a banged-up Rockets’ team in the conference finals then a Cavaliers’ squad without two of their big three through the Finals. Then there was Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers saying the Warriors were lucky not having to play the Clippers or Spurs in the postseason.
The Warriors are sick of hearing they were lucky.
Friday Klay Thompson fired back at Rivers, via CSNBayArea.com.
– “I wanted to play the Clippers last year, but they couldn’t handle their business.”
– “If we got lucky, look at our record against them last year (Warriors 3-1). I’m pretty sure we smacked them.”
– “Didn’t they lose to the Rockets? Exactly. So haha. That just makes me laugh. That’s funny. Weren’t they up 3-1 too?”
– “Yeah, tell them I said that. That’s funny. That’s funny.”
Warriors big man Andrew Bogut phrased it differently.
If you think the Warriors just won because they were lucky — you are dead wrong.
They were the best team in the NBA last season, bar none. They won 67 regular season games in a tough conference, then beat everyone in their path to win a title. Did they catch some breaks along the way, particularly with health? You bet. Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Kobe Bryant didn’t win a title without catching some breaks along the way, either. Nobody does. Luck plays a role, but it was not the primary factor in why the Warriors are champs.
All this talk of them getting lucky is fuel for the fire they needed not to be complacent this season. Way to give the defending champs bulletin board material, Doc.
Dwyane Wade has earned his status as an elder statesman, the E.F. Hutton kind of veteran who speaks and everybody listens.
Rookie Justise Winslow is listening.
Winslow (who should have gone higher in this draft) is a perfect fit for the Heat and he’s going to be part of their rotation off the bench from the start of the season (along with Josh McRoberts and Amare Stoudemire). Wade has already fully stepped into the mentor role with Winslow working with him on post moves, reports Jason Lieser at the Palm Beach Post.
“As his career develops, hopefully he’s able to do multiple things on the floor, but right now there’s gonna be certain things (Erik Spoelstra) wants him to do, and some of those things I’m good at,” Wade said. “I’m just passing down knowledge to someone who I think could be good at things that I have strengths at. It’s gonna take a while, but if he figures it out at 21, he’s ahead of the curve. I figured it out at like 27.
“All of us are where we’re at because someone before us helped us. They helped by letting us sit there and watch film with them or having conversations with them. If he’s a student of it and he really wants to know, I’m a pretty decent teacher in certain areas.”
This is what you want out of a veteran leader and some of the young teams out there have done an excellent job adding this kind of mentor — Kevin Garnett in Minnesota may be the best example. Someone who can pass on his wisdom and show the team’s young players how to be a professional and win in the NBA.
It’s a little different for Winslow, he and the Heat are more in a win-now mode, but he should be able to contribute to that.