The Portland Trail Blazers are 3-8 in their last 11, have lost three in a row now and hit a new low in a loss to Orlando on Tuesday. They are sliding down the Western Conference standings and look like the team everyone wants to face in the first round of the playoffs.
Except they could get their All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge back on Thursday. If not then, soon.
Aldridge has been out seven games after taking a hard fall on his back against the Spurs but told the media he hopes to play Thursday against Atlanta. Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com has the quotes.
“I say I’m trying to go no matter what [against Atlanta on Thursday] but if I look good enough to play [in Wednesday’s workout], then I’m going to play,” he said. “It’s up to the medical staff….
“It (losing) makes me want to play even worse, yes it does,” Aldridge answered in frustration. “But it’s not about me, it’s about the medical staff and them saying I can play. I’ve been wanting to play but obviously if you can’t move, you can’t play.”
We’ll see if he gets clearance, I wouldn’t bet big on it. Watch the video above and he says he wanted to play Tuesday night but “I can’t run, and if you can’t run what can you do?” So you can’t run on Tuesday but you’re going to play in an NBA game on Thursday?
I understand how frustrated Aldridge is, and you can see watching them play how much they miss his offense — no Aldridge makes it easier to focus on Damian Lillard and the other jump shooters on that team. Portland has struggled on the defensive end as well in their last 10 games and Aldridge can help solidify there, too.
But the Blazers stand no chance in the playoffs without him, they need Aldridge healthy and all the way back. If he’s not ready he can’t rush it. No matter how frustrating.
Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.
Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.
But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.
LeBron James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.
LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.
However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.
For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.
Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.
Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:
Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.