Trail Blazers commentators really mad about Scott Brooks benching LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard

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In the 2012 All-Star Game, LaMarcus Aldridge played fewer than 10 minutes, and he clearly wasn’t pleased with such a reduced role.

Ben Golliver of Blazer’s Edge:

After the game, Aldridge addressed a small group of reporters in the Mixed Zone media area, saying that he was as surprised about his playing time as everyone else. He said multiple times that he “definitely” expected more run.

“8 minutes? 9 minutes? I definitely did… I thought I was going to play more. It’s fine though. I had fun.”

And why should he have been satisfied with so few minutes? Aldridge is an excellent player who’s used to playing more. Of course, all his teammates fit in the same boat, so most of them probably felt that way.

But that doesn’t wipe out Aldridge’s license to want more playing time.

To his credit, though, Aldridge didn’t overblow his dismay. Aldridge, via Golliver:

“It’s cool,” he said. “First All-Star Game. Have the first one behind me. It was an eventful weekend, and now it’s over.”

He said he does not view the playing time he received as a snub on the level of being overlooked for selection to the 2011 All-Star Game.

“I could look at it like that, but I’m not… I had fun talking with the guys and being with the guys. It’s always going to be something. I think with my luck, it’s always something. I’m not going to trip on that. I’m going to go back and try to win games.”

Back in the All-Star Game this season – with the Thunder’s Scott Brooks coaching again, as he did in 2012 – Aldridge played just 13:17. His Trail Blazers teammate, Damian Lillard, saw the court for just 8:44 – even fewer minutes than Aldridge got two years ago.

This time, the complaints coming from Portland aren’t so tempered.

Trail Blazers color commentators Mike Rice Sr. (television) and Antonio Harvey (radio) had harsh words for Brooks (hat tip: Golliver).

Rice:

Harvey:

It’s important to remember Rice and Harvey don’t speak for Aldridge and Lillard, both of whom said they accepted their roles.

Aldridge, via Mike Tokito of The Oregonian:

“I definitely had my opportunity to score,” Aldridge said. “Didn’t make any shots, but I think I played more minutes – what’d I play tonight, 14 minutes? —  I think that’s an All-Star Game high for me. It was fun. The whole weekend was fun. I had fun with the activities and the things for the fans.”

Lillard, via Tokito:

“You’ve got guys that are producing at the same level that I am for my team, but they’ve been here five times already, so they’re going to be on the floor,” Lillard said. “That’s a respect thing. If I’m ever a five-time All-Star, four-time All-Star, and a first-time All-Star came in and played more minutes than me, or finishing the game over me, I’m not going to like that. So I respect it.”

Rice and Harvey are so closely affiliated with the Trail Blazers that their tweets carry weight, and both commentators overreacted. Every single All-Star played fewer minutes Sunday than his season per-game average. Some had to accept greater reductions than others, but everyone took at least some cut. Rice and Harvey would do well to consider that and the fact that Durant and most of the other minutes leaders are better than Aldridge and Lillard. Rice and Harvey just look petty.

Aldridge and Lillard, especially by comparison, look gracious.

Maybe the Trail Blazers – or just Rice and Harvey – are deliberately trying to stir up a rivalry with the Thunder in advance of a possible playoff series. If so, kudos. I’d honestly be more intrigued in that series if Aldridge and Lillard were seeking revenge on Brooks.

But even that bonus would be based on the misguided belief Brooks did something wrong.

Besides, there’s no indication Aldridge and Lillard share Rice’s and Harvey’s anger, anyway.

Stephen Curry scores 35, Warriors rally to beat 76ers 124-116

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Stephen Curry scored 35 points, Kevin Durant had 27 and the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors overcame a 22-point halftime deficit in a 124-116 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.

Joel Embiid scored 21 points and Ben Simmons had 23 points and 12 assists for Philadelphia, which led 47-28 after one quarter and 74-52 at the half.

But the Warriors erased that large deficit with a furious rally in the third quarter. Curry’s 3-pointer got them within one point. He then made a pair of free throws to give Golden State a 90-89 lead.

The two-time NBA MVP hit another 3 and Draymond Green blew past a defender for a dunk to make it 99-89 going into the fourth.

A raucous, sellout crowd that chanted “Trust the Process” most of the night went silent while the Warriors put on a shooting clinic in the second half.

Even veteran David West came off the bench and made big shots in the fourth quarter to give the Warriors distance. He finished with 14 points. Klay Thompson had 16.

Embiid was coming off a career-best performance – 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven blocks, seven assists – in a 115-109 win at the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

He seemed on his way to another monster game in the first quarter. Embiid embraced the frenzied fans and slapped hands with a guy sitting courtside after a dunk.

But the Warriors showed why they’re the best by stifling Philadelphia in the second half to improve to 12-4.

The Sixers, who lost 135-114 at Golden State one week ago, fell to 8-7.

Playing his first game since receiving a lucrative contract extension, Robert Covington had 20 points for Philly.

Back home for the first time following a five-game road trip to the West Coast, the Sixers showed no jet lag in the first half.

They jumped ahead 15-4 following a 3-pointer by Embiid. Covington stripped Durant and hit a 3 to make it 37-18, electrifying the crowd.

Durant’s dunk off Green’s alley-oop pass got the Warriors within 70-51 late in the second. But Embiid finished off the half with a dunk that sent the Sixers into the locker room up 74-52.

 

Top-10 college recruit Anfernee Simmons may go straight to NBA

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A couple of years back, Thon Maker decided to play a post-graduate fifth year of prep school ball, not go to a major college, then jump to the NBA. He could because he had graduated a year before and was 19, the Bucks took him in the lottery, and so far it has worked out for everyone.

Now another recruit, Anfernee Simmons, may follow that path. Simmons is spending this year at the IMG Academy, and the combo guard is considered a top-10 recruit in this class.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN broke the story after speaking to Simmons.

“Some people have brought it to my attention,” Simons told ESPN during an interview in Connecticut, where his team was participating in the National Prep Showcase. “As long as the opportunity is there, I will do it.

“I can see myself going to the NBA combine, if I have enough teams to actually invite me or recommend me for the combine and enough teams want to bring me for workouts. I really need to hit the weight room hard and get a little stronger.”

This is a sensible approach — find out where you roughly fall in the draft, then make a decision. Listen to the teams, not friends/family/agents. If you have a first-round guarantee, then go pro.

Givony and others describe the 6’3″ Simmons as talented but still a project for the NBA level, starting with the fact he needs to get stronger (something true of most rookies). Not that it really scares off teams any longer, many are willing to develop and wait on a player with potential (he could spend a chunk of his first season in the G-League). Simmons is fast when he drives, and has a smooth release on his jumper. If he gets stronger and his game matures, a team may take a risk on him.

Shorthanded Cavaliers now without Iman Shumpert for 5-7 days

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Isaiah Thomas is still rehabbing his hip, he should return next month.

With him out, Tyronn Lue and the Cavaliers have had to lean more on Derrick Rose at the point, except he has a sprained ankle that is going to have him out a couple more weeks.

That has forced Iman Shumpert into the starting point guard role in Cleveland, although he mostly is there for defense/shooting as the playmaking duties fall to LeBron James.

Now the Cavaliers will have to get by without Shumpert for a while with water on the knee, Cleveland announced on Saturday. He left Friday night’s Cavs win against the Clippers with a sore knee and did not return

“Additional examination and imaging today at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health confirmed left knee effusion. He will be out 5-7 days while he undergoes treatment and rehabilitation,” the Cavaliers said in a statement.

This is going to force Lue to play Jose Calderon, who he has kept glued to the bench this season despite the injuries. J.R. Smith and Dwyane Wade will need to take on more run as well.

The Celtics have won four in a row — thanks to a more focused offense — and face the Pistons, Nets, and Hornets this week.

Joakim Noah on if he can play at former level: “Probably not. Probably not.”

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For three games, Joakim Noah has been clear of the 20-game PED suspension he started at the end of last season.

For three games, he has not even dressed for the Knicks.

This is the former Defensive Player of the Year who was already on the decline when Phil Jackson gave him a $72 million contract that is now the worst in the NBA. Noah is out of the rotation, where Enes Kanter starts at center (with Kristaps Porzingis at the four) and Kyle O’Quinn coming off the bench.

Noah told Marc Berman of the New York Post he is frustrated but gets the situation.

“I’ll be all right. I’ll be all right,’’ Noah said in his first comments since being reinstated. “I understand the situation. I’m going to make the best of it.”

When asked if he still feels he can be close to the player he was in his 2013-14 campaign, Noah said: “Probably not. Probably not. You know. I can help. I feel like I could help this team and that’s just my reality. But I just want to just be the best that I can be.

“It’s not about trying to be what I was three, four years ago, because it’s not the reality.”

Noah is a smart and mature player, he understands his reality, and he has the exact attitude you want a veteran off the bench. He can help in practices, he can help because he understands how to play defense and can teach it, and eventually, he will get a chance on the court. He is not part of the future of the Knicks, but he can guide these young players.

The Knicks new management will look for a way to unload Noah’s contract, but considering the sweeteners the Knicks would need to throw in to get a team to deal for Noah, it’s unlikely we see any action on that front for a long time.