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?

Matt Barnes announces retirement from NBA after 15 seasons

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When too many fans think of Matt Barnes, they think of the guy who tried to fight Derek Fisher, the nightclub incident in New York, the guy who was a pest on the court and racked up more than his share of technicals and fines in a 15-year NBA career.

Ask Barnes former teammates about him, and they loved him — off the court and on. He was the quintessential guy you wanted on your team and hated to play against.

Barnes announced Monday on Instagram that his 15-year NBA run was over.

Barnes won an NBA title with the Warriors last season, and he played well for the team after signing in Golden State — Kevin Durant went down with a knee injury and Barnes stepped up his role and play. He earned that ring. However, this season there seemed to be no fit for him in the league.

Barnes was drafted in the second round out of UCLA by the Memphis Grizzlies and went on to play for nine teams during his career. He was the guy teams turned to for a spark off the bench — both because he could shoot the rock and because he played a fiery, emotional game. Barnes finished his career averaging 8.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per game.

I’m going to miss him. While he had a rough exterior and was plenty chippy on the court, off the court he was one of the more thoughtful basketball interviews out there — ask him about the game and he gave smart, calm, intelligent answers, not just clichés. He was active with charities and gave of his time and money, it wasn’t just a tax write off. I wish him the best and know he’ll enjoy life after basketball.

Shaq on free throws: ‘I told Rick Barry I’d rather shoot 0% than shoot underhand’

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Rick Barry famously made 90% of his free throws while shooting underhand.

Shaquille O’Neal infamously shot just 53% on his free throws, inspiring hack-a-Shaq.

Why didn’t Shaq use Barry’s technique?

Shaq, via Emmanuel Ocbazghi, Noah Friedman and Graham Flanagan of Business Insider:

Shaquille O’Neal: Because it’s boring.

Business Insider: But it’s been proven to be somewhat effective.

O’Neal: No, it’s not. It’s not proven. Just ’cause a couple guys did it doesn’t mean anybody can do it.

I told Rick Barry I’d rather shoot 0% than shoot underhand. I’m too cool for that.

O’Neal is somewhat trying to protect his larger-than-life, jokester image. But he’s also speaking to truth.

Barry would have been a good free-throw shooter overhand, too. Shooting underhand wasn’t necessarily going to fix Shaq’s problems at the line. Just because it worked for Barry doesn’t make it a “proven” technique.

Yet, every poor free-throw shooter – from Shaq to Andre Drummond to Andre Roberson – has been pestered about shooting underhand. It might be the right form for some players, but it’s no silver bullet.

Report: George Hill unhappy after Scott Perry promised him, Zach Randolph, Vince Carter that Kings would compete for playoffs

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After a recent Kings loss, George Hill tweeted:

Reading too much into vague tweets is often folly, but Hill hasn’t looked happy in Sacramento. Despite signing him, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter last summer, the Kings are 8-18.

Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune:

These are vets brought in to help a young team, and according to sources, were brought in with the promise of a team aiming to be playoff competitive.

But that promise was made to them by Scott Perry, who since left Sacramento and now makes personnel decisions for the New York Knicks. So the direction of the franchise has shifted since Perry left. An organization that brought in veterans aiming to win now is aiming to lose.

Not surprisingly, Hill isn’t happy, according to multiple sources

The Kings aren’t bad because they shifted direction after Perry left for the Knicks. They’re bad because they lack talent.

This team was mostly assembled by the time Perry departed, and it looked lousy. To whatever degree Sacramento is emphasizing youth post-Perry – Garrett Temple, Randolph and Hill rank in the top four in minutes – the won-loss record wasn’t changing much.

If Hill, Randolph and Carter didn’t know that, they have nobody to blame but themselves. Smart veterans like them should have understood the bargain they accepted.

Hill ($40 million guaranteed over two years), Randolph (two years, $24 million) and Vince Carter (one year, $8 million) took the money. In exchange, they’re stuck on a bad team. And that’s fine. Many of us prioritize salary in career decisions.

But now they’re dealing with the downside of that arrangement – grinding through a long, losing season. It’s disingenuous to sulk and blame Perry (though, if Perry pledged a team realistically competing for the playoffs, he overpromised).

Unfortunately for everyone involved, Sacramento isn’t making rapid improvement overnight. So, something might have to give with Hill’s mood.

Tristan Thompson: Cavaliers’ stated 3-4-week timeline for my injury was never realistic

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When Tristan Thompson suffered a calf injury early last month, the Cavaliers announced he’d miss 3-4 weeks.

More than five weeks later, Thompson still hasn’t played.

Tom Withers of the Associated Press:

Thompson:

Who said that was the real timetable? They told you guys three to four weeks. That was never the case. The first week, I was on crutches the whole time. So, there was no chance. So, I don’t know. I don’t know who told you three to four weeks. For that, I’m sorry.

Thompson sounds close to returning, so this issue should pass. But teams are usually conservative in these estimates so as not to expose their players to criticism for not working hard enough in rehab. Thompson was left hung out to dry here.

Maybe Thompson, who’s famously low-maintenance, doesn’t mind. But if a 3-4-week timeline was never realistic, I wouldn’t blame him for resenting the Cavs.

Poor communication on injuries might not be limited to only the 76ers.