Cole Aldrich, nearly four years after being drafted in lottery, gets double-double in first career start

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BOSTON – As a swarm of media enclosed Cole Aldrich, the playful calls began from his teammates in the less-crowded areas of the New York Knicks locker room.

“Cole Stoudemire!”

“Cole Chandler!”

Aldrich could hardly contain his smile as he discussed his first career start with larger-than-usual-for-him audience. Without the Knicks’ highly paid big men, Amar’e Stoudemire (personal reasons) and Tyson Chandler) (recovery), Aldrich posted 12 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks in New York’s 116-92 win over the Boston Celtics on Wednesday.

Just four years ago, Aldrich was the No. 11 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. After being acquired by the Thunder on draft night, Oklahoma City threw him into the James Harden trade before last season began. A few months later, the Rockets pawned him off to the Kings in the Thomas Robinson trade. Before this season, he signed an unguaranteed contract with the Knicks.

Wednesday, he got the game ball.

“We know how much work guys like that put in, guys like Cole put in,” said Carmelo Anthony, who scored 34 points. “We’re with him every day. We know how hard he works. And for him to have this opportunity tonight and be a big part of our team’s success tonight, it’s a good thing to see.”

Like Melo, Knicks coach Mike Woodson made no effort to hide his delight in the big man’s big night.

“Guys want to play. They complain they don’t get minutes and don’t get shots. I think, when you’re trying to build a team, guys have got to understand it’s not about who’s getting all the shots. It’s not about who’s playing all the minutes. It’s what you do with the minutes and what you’re doing when you’re in there,” Woodson said. “…I’m just happy for him, because he’s patiently waited all season and never once complained and just went about his business. And it paid off for him.”

When Aldrich made a free throw fewer than five minutes into the game, that eclipsed what was his season-long scoring average (0.9). He probably stretched the limits of his offensive game against Boston.

But his impressive rebounding could be sustainable.

Entering Wednesday, nobody had posted a higher rebounding percentage (23.9) in as many minutes (139). Though that’s a small sample, it matches his coach’s eye test.

“He can rebound out of his space, in his space. He takes up space,” Woodson said. “He’s got great hands.”

For Aldrich, there’s no secret formula to rebounding.

“I’ve always been a big kid when I was little, and that was kind of my job as a big kid, just having that hard-headed desire to come out and snag those,” Aldrich said.

Perhaps, Aldrich has an opportunity to get his wayward NBA career back on track. Will he snag that, too?

Magic’s Aaron Gordon skies to finish amazing alley-oop (VIDEO)

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Aaron Gordon may not have had the best dunk contest this year — apparently drones and dunks don’t mix well — but the guy can still get up and finish with the best in the league.

As he did on this alley-oop against Detroit.

Elfrid Payton had to throw a lob that would get over Andre Drummond, but how many guys in the league can get that high, reach back and finish that? Damn.

Former Hawk Pero Antic’s celebration accidentally punches teammate in face in Eruoleague (VIDEO)

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Former Atlanta Hawk Pero Antic is now playing for Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, in case you were not aware.

Fenerbahce was facing Anadolu Efes in a EuroLeague game, it was tight late and former NBA player Ekpe Udoh was at the free throw line for Fenerbahce. He missed his second shot, but the rebound caromed out-of-bounds off an Anadolu Efes player. Antic was pumped.

Maybe a little too pumped.

Ouch.

That was Nikola Kalinic, by the way, the guy Antic now owes dinner to. Kalinic would like the dinner more than the hug and kiss he got from Antic right after the play.

Also, Anadolu Efes held on to win 80-77.

(Hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie.)

James Harden helped recruit Lou Williams to Houston

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The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.

While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”

Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”

We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.

Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.

Take a look back at just how great Shaq was with the Lakers (VIDEO)

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Shaquille O’Neal was as dominant a force as the NBA has ever seen.

His peak years came with the Lakers, when paired with Kobe Bryant one the court — and Phil Jackson manipulating both of them — they won three titles (and arguably would have had more if they stayed together). Those Lakers teams were one of the NBA’s great teams.

Friday night, the Lakers unveil Shaq’s statue at Staples Center. Take a look back at some of Shaq’s Lakers highlights.