Damian Lillard, Beno Udrih, LaMarcus Aldridge, Kenyon Martin

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


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).



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.

Justin Anderson cuts under basket, reaches back for putback dunk (video)

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One player dunking on another is always fantastic.

But some of the best jams come when the dunker artfully dodges defenders in the first place.

Mavericks forward Justin Anderson did that with this putback slam against the Pacers last night.

Wednesday featured a ridiculous number of players getting dunked on (videos)

PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 26:  Willie Cauley-Stein #00 of the Sacramento Kings slam dunks the ball over Marquese Chriss #0 of the Phoenix Suns during the first half of the preseason NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena on October 26, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  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 Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Twenty NBA teams started their seasons last night, providing a glorious onslaught of basketball unlike anything we’ve seen in months.

One of the best parts? It seems players forgot they were supposed to duck out of the way, rather than defend, dunks.

That led to some fantastic slams

Gerald Henderson on Domantas Sabonis:

Lance Stephenson on Kenneth Faried:

Jonas Valanciunas on Boban Marjanovic:

Willie-Cauley Stein on Marquese Chriss:

‘Our 49 Pulse angels’: Orlando Magic honor those killed in nightclub

A banner printed with the names of the Pulse nightclub shooting victims and 49, the number of people who died in the shooting, is unveiled in the Amway Center during a tribute prior to an NBA basketball game between the Orlando Magic and the Miami Heat, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — There’s nothing that can give Mayra Alvear back what she lost, or ease her pain, or calm her anger.

With one gesture, she at least felt some joy again.

Underneath a softly swaying banner displaying the number 49 – commemorating the number of lives lost – and as first responders unfurled and held a massive American flag for the national anthem, the Orlando Magic paid tribute Wednesday night to the victims and survivors of the Pulse gay nightclub massacre with an emotional ceremony immediately before the team’s season-opener against the Miami Heat.

“We felt the recognition needed to be significant,” Magic president Alex Martins said. “We think part of the healing process for our community is making sure we don’t forget. And we felt it was most appropriate that we do it on opening night, so it receives the proper recognition and exposure – but also gave the greatest number of our fans the opportunity to recognize and remember.”

Some survivors were present, as were some relatives of those who were killed on June 12 in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The gunman, Omar Mateen, was killed after a three-hour standoff during an exchange of fire with SWAT team members.

“What the Orlando Magic are doing is amazing, is beautiful. I’m honored and grateful,” said Alvear, the mother of Pulse victim Amanda Alvear. “That they are lifting the number 49 out of respect, a symbol for our 49 Pulse angels, it has a deep meaning – demonstration of love and that they care, that all of them will be remembered.”

The nightclub remains fenced off, yet is still attracting a daily stream of mourners. Banners on the fence are dotted with thousands of handwritten messages from visitors, with some flowers and candles on the ground.

Martins was the chair of OneOrlando, a fund that collected $29.5 million in donations that’s being distributed to 299 claimants. At the time of the shooting, the Magic were just a few weeks removed from the hiring of Frank Vogel as their new coach, and less than three weeks away from a free-agent period where the roster would be greatly revamped.

But Martins quickly volunteered anyway, helping oversee the massive task.

“One of the ways that I felt I could help, that I could assist, was to help with the administration of the fund,” Martins said. “So I raised my hand immediately.”

The tribute coming before a Magic-Heat game was fitting, given how many of those affected by the events of that night were from South Florida.

It was particularly poignant to one survivor.

Heat employee Laura Vargas was shot twice that night. She can recall every detail – the strobe lights, the Heineken in her hand, how she was putting away her ID as she heard the first shots. She remembers watching Mateen reload a weapon, the blood pouring from her wounds, even the look on the police officer’s face when she was rescued.

Her best friend, Luis Vielma, who Vargas said was straight, was one of the victims.

“It’s not even just about me,” Vargas said. “It’s coping that he’s not there anymore. It’s a lot to carry around.”

Vargas isn’t able yet to resume work. She was at the arena the Heat call home last week for an event called “Loud And Proud” that celebrated the LGBTQ community, but couldn’t shake the feeling Mateen was there. Her flashbacks and nightmares are terrifying – she said she had “a total breakdown” recently at Disney when a fireworks show sounded like gunfire.

Nights like Wednesday, she said, make it all a bit easier.

“The love that’s come out of this is not fading,” Vargas said. “It brings me comfort to know that my best friend is one of the reasons why this world is a little bit less crappy, that his life isn’t just forgotten. No. He made a difference. And he would be happy to know that even with the chaos, the horror, he made a change.”

This was not a one-night commitment for the Magic, who have contributed both money and staff resources to the ongoing healing process and plan to continue. In addition to the banner, the team aired a video in tribute and invited singer Brandon Parsons – who composed a song called “Forty-Nine Times” – to perform pregame.

Parsons’ song included this phrase: “Takes more than just a gun, more than you to tear us down, so let your colors fly free.”

“It’s been so impactful since the day of that event,” said Otto Drozd, the Fire Chief for Orange County Fire Rescue. “This is part of the healing process. We continue to remember the 49 that lost their lives and those that were injured that night, and really, we do that because we don’t want to relive it.”

Joel Embiid hits shots, blocks Westbrook, looks good in debut


And somewhere, Sam Hinkie weeps.

After two seasons on the sidelines with foot injuries, Joel Embiid played his first NBA game Wednesday night — and he looked good — 20 points, seven rebounds, and a couple of blocked shots. The Philadelphia crowd loved him — when he opened the game with a nice move and free-throw line jumper, followed by a block of Russell Westbrook, the arena nearly exploded. He was later serenaded with “trust the process” chants as he shot free throws.

He’s still a work in progress — he tried to do too much rather than let the game come to him. That led to 7-of-17 shooting and him chasing blocks on defense and getting out of position. He played like an over-amped rookie. Which he was. (Apparently, some Philly fans were a little over-amped, too.)

But one with a world of talent. The Sixers have something here.