Portland Trail Blazers v Phoenix Suns

LaMarcus Aldridge’s MVP-level season looks a lot like last season

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How about these numbers: 21.1 points per game on 48.4 percent shooting (17.8 shots a game), 9.1 rebounds a night and with a PER of 20.4 as the undisputed leader of his team.

That’s your newly minted early MVP candidate LaMarcus’ Aldridge’s numbers… from last season.

This season he is scoring 23.6 points per game on 48.6 percent shooting (20 shots a game), 11 rebounds a night with a PER of 23.8. Those numbers are up slightly but not dramatically from last season, he’s taking a few more shots and a little stronger on the boards, but he’s basically the same player shooting the same percentage.

What changed is he is getting noticed because the Blazers are 22-4. The team around him improved — Damian Lillard matured, Nicolas Batum is blossoming, the team’s defense has improved (not enough, still bottom 10 in the league, but improved) and the offense has exploded.

This discussion was started by a note from the often wise Couper Moorhead on twitter.

Royce Young of CBSSports picked it up from there.

They are right. Aldridge has taken on a little more of the Blazers offense this season, but his numbers are not out of line with what he did in seasons past (and coaches voted him an All-Star the last couple seasons because they knew how hard he was to guard).

Not everything is identical. One of the differences for Aldridge this season is he’s getting more post touches — last season 33.7 percent of his shot attempts came in the post and he shot 47.6 percent on those. This season he gets 41.5 percent of his attempts on post ups, shooting a reduced 40.7 percent. That’s come at the expense fewer spot up opportunities. (Stats via Synergy Sports.)

He’s getting the same number of shots as a roll man (18.7 percent of his offense) but this season is shooting nine percentage points higher, 56 percent.

But really, the big difference is you’re noticing because the Blazers are good. Aldridge is pretty much the same top power forward he has been for years.

Report: Rockets will leave Donatas Motiejunas’ offer sheet open

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 12:  Donatas Motiejunas #20 of the Houston Rockets and Bojan Bogdanovic #44 of the Brooklyn Nets fight for the loose ball at the Barclays Center on January 12, 2015 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.The Houston Rockets defeated the Brooklyn Nets 113-99. 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 Elsa/Getty Images)
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Donatas Motiejunas’ agent, B.J. Armstrong, said he knows their rights.

Apparently, so does Houston.

Motiejunas has refused to take a physical with the Rockets since they matched his offer sheet from the Nets. So, Houston will hold him on that offer sheet indefinitely.

Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

Motiejunas can’t sign an offer sheet with another NBA team. He probably can’t even join an overseas team in a FIBA-accredited league, because his NBA holdout will prevent him from getting clearance.

All he can do is submit to a physical or negotiate a new deal with the Rockets.

Motiejunas could undergo a physical anytime between now and March 1. If he passes, he’d join Houston on the terms of his matched offer sheet. If he fails, he’d go to Brooklyn on the original offer-sheet terms (which are $6 million apart).

Motiejunas could also negotiate a new deal with the Rockets. They have immense leverage with his matched offer sheet in place, but perhaps a compromise could be forged. Motiejunas obviously wants a chance at that $6 million, but he’ll have to concede something in exchange. Maybe that’s a later guarantee date on his 2017-18 salary. If both sides agree to a different contract, Houston would withdraw its match, which would make Motiejunas a restricted free agent. Then, the Rockets could re-sign him.

They sure aren’t letting him out of this limbo just to seek a better offer sheet from another team. A new contract must already be agreed upon.

In the meantime, Motiejunas will continue to count toward the Nets’ team salary while the offer sheet is open, which is a nuisance but not hugely disruptive. They have plenty of cap space anyway, and the odds of adding significant salary in a trade are low.

Houston will continue to play without Motiejunas. That’s also not ideal for the Rockets, but they’ve been fine without him so far.

The qualifying offer will expire on March 2, when Motiejunas will no longer be eligible to sign an offer sheet with another team. He’d still be allowed to re-sign with Houston, though. Failing that, he’ll re-enter free agency next summer, when the Rockets could again make him restricted, and we’ll start the process all over again – with the caveat that the Nets can’t sign him for one year after his offer sheet expires.

Maybe something will break before it gets to that point, but Houston and Motiejunas have trudged deeper into this standoff than ever imaginable.

Stephen Curry skips pass between DeAndre Jordan’s legs, gets Zaza Pachulia a layup (video)

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Nicolas Batum wasn’t the only player to bounce a pass through an opponent’s legs last night.

Stephen Curry nutmegged DeAndre Jordan on this sweet assist to Zaza Pachulia.

Clint Capela and Montrezl Harrell take turns dunking on Julius Randle (videos)

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 05:  Head Coach Luke Walton of the Los Angeles Lakers talks with Julius Randle #30 during the second half of a 107-101 Jazz win at Staples Center on December 5, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  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 Harry How/Getty Images)
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Rough night for the Lakers, who lost 134-95 to the Rockets.

It was particularly harsh for Julius Randle, who got dunked on by Clint Capela:

And then Montrezl Harrell:

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.