Sunday NBA grades: LaMarcus Aldridge looks good, as to Blazers

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Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while telling your wife to be you want to spend $3,000 to live tweet your wedding

source:  LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers. Aldridge returns to the lineup and the struggling Blazers rattle off three straight wins. It’s not a coincidence. Aldridge finished with 28 points (10-of-20 shooting) against the stout front line of Memphis, and he was the fulcrum of the Blazers offense that put up 105 points on the night. He also had a good defensive night. This was a big win for Portland, giving them a game on Golden State (which unexpectedly lost to the Knicks).

source:   D.J. Augustin, Chicago Bulls. With the game on the line Augustin came alive — 15 of his 33 points came in the fourth quarter (he scored more than half of the Bulls 29 in the fourth quarter) as the Bulls held on to beat the Celtics. Augustin’s quickness was on display on the shot that proved to be the game winner with the game tied 96-96. Augustin got the ball out top Joakim Noah came out to set a pick and Augustin took a step toward Noah then used a crossover to go the other way that shook Rajon Rondo just enough for Augustin to have space and he rose up and drained the three.

source:   New York Knicks playoff hopes. The Atlanta Hawks keep presenting the Knicks with chances to catch them (Atlanta lost its sixth straight Sunday) in the stumbling, bumbling Eastern Conference playoff chase. The Knicks finally took advantage of it with a big road win over the Warriors Sunday — the Knicks are now just 1 game back of the Hawks (the Cavaliers are 1.5 back of the Knicks). The Warriors were sloppy Sunday — remove Curry from the mix and the Warriors shot 31 percent and were turnover prone — but the Knicks played good enough defense when they needed to and they got good nights from J.R. Smith (21 points) and Amar’e Stoudemire (15 points, 13 boards, some solid defense) to get the win. The Knicks schedule the rest of the way is tougher than Atanta’s, but so long as the Hawks keep losing the Knicks can have hope.

source:   Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder. His season has been this good: He scored 31 against the Jazz and I almost didn’t include him here because that seems almost pedestrian for him. But the fact he put up those numbers on 9-of-13 shooting shows you just how efficient he has been this season. This is his 38th consecutive game with at least 25 points. That’s ridiculous. That’s your MVP.

source:  The Lakers are screwing with other team’s playoff chances, their own lottery odds be damned. While some people forget Kaman has some skills inside and the undersized Suns front line had no chance of stopping him, which is how he ended up with 28 points, 17 rebounds, and six assists. Kendall Marshall and Jodie Meeks played well for LA but the Lakers’ win was mostly the Suns imploding and shooting 38.5 percent overall and 8-of-36 from three (22.2 percent).

Report: Richard Jefferson signing with Nuggets

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Update: The Nuggets will waive Jameer Nelson, according to Wojnarowski:

It looks like Denver will ride with the younger Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay at point guard — a risky proposition. Nelson stabilized the position in the event Murray or Mudiay weren’t ready for bigger roles. The Nuggets aren’t hedging their bets now, which puts plenty of pressure on Murray and Mudiay.

Murray should be fine eventually. Mudiay’s promise is far less certain. But this is a team trying to reach the playoffs now, and it might have to ride out growing pains from its point guards without Nelson as a safety net.

 

Richard Jefferson became a late entrant into free agency when the Cavaliers traded him and the Hawks waived him.

But the forward is landing on his feet.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Jefferson could help the Nuggets, who look primed to end a four-season playoff drought. They were set to squeeze backup small-forward minutes behind Wilson Chandler out of the undersized Will Barton and oversized Juan Hernangomez. Jefferson is far more comfortable at the position.

He’s 37 and doesn’t offer long-term upside, but he’s a savvy defender and still pretty athletic. He picks his spots well enough offensively to help on that end, too.

But Denver also has a deep roster that already had 15 players on standard contracts. There’s not an obvious cut to make room for Jefferson, though the Nuggets clearly have something planned.

Sixers to keep Joel Embiid’s minutes in teens to start season, he’s not happy

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Joel Embiid wants to get on the court, he wants to unleash himself on the NBA this season. After three seasons of being bottled up — even in the 31 games he has played there was a minutes restriction — Embiid wants to impose his will on the league.

He’s going to have to do that in less than 20 minutes a night, at least to start the season.

Sixers coach Brett Brown says to start the season there will be a tight minutes limit on Embiid, who averaged less than 15 minutes in two preseason games after finally being cleared to play. Embiid does not like that. Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia has the quotes.

“I don’t really know if there’s a solid number,” Brett Brown said Monday after practice. “I can tell if you were to choose a number, it’s somewhere in the teens.”

“I didn’t know about that, but that’s very disappointing,” Embiid said Monday of the minutes restriction. “I feel great and hopefully that changes based on today’s practice and tomorrow’s practice.”

The Sixers being cautious with Embiid is about as surprising as the last Transformers movie sucking.

That said, if any particular game is close going into the fourth quarter don’t be shocked if Embiid breaks his minutes limit — this is a team that wants to start winning, and that means keeping their best players on the court longer. If Saturday night against the Raptors Brett Brown thinks giving Embiid 22-23 minutes helps get them the win, he will. The goal will be to get him up to the high 20s by the end of the season.

The real test for these Sixers will not be how the offense fairs with Embiid sitting — they have guys that can create and knock down shots if needed, such as Ben Simmons or J.J. Redick – instead it’s how well they can defend with him resting.

Report: Spurs signing LaMarcus Aldridge to two-year, $50 million contract extension

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From troubled to extended, LaMarcus Aldridge‘s Spurs tenure has changed directions in a hurry.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Piecing this together, Aldridge is exercising a $22,347,015 player option for 2018-19. That means his extension is worth $50 million over two years will carry him through age 35. All in all, Aldridge is now under contract for four more seasons.

Aldridge is a borderline All-Star, and he raises San Antonio’s floor. His back-to-the-bask mid-range games remains reliable, and he’s a willing defender. Him signing this deal should end pining for greener pastures, but it certainly won’t force him into diligent acceptance of his role forever. Players can become discontent whenever they please.

This extension significantly limits the Spurs flexibility the next two summers and maybe even in 2020, depending on Aldridge’s guarantee in the second year of his extension. They seem fine with that, perhaps believing they already have enough to topple the Warriors if Kawhi Leonard is healthy.

With Aldridge, Pau Gasol and Patty Mills all under contract for the few years around Leonard, San Antonio should remain stably good. But will these deals for aging veterans limit the Spurs’ ceiling? That’s the risk for an organization that has built its identity on championships and already has a young, in-his-prime superstar who has proven capable of being the best player on a title team.

Hawks: Dennis Schroder will face discipline for physical altercation

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Hawks point guard Dennis Schroder was arrested on a misdemeanor battery charge a couple weeks ago.

Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk in a statement:

“There is an ongoing investigation into the details of the incident involving Dennis Schröder that occurred on Sept. 29th. During this process, we plan to support Dennis as we would any of our players working through a situation.

However, from our preliminary findings, we are aware that Dennis was involved in a physical altercation. That behavior is unacceptable, will not be tolerated by the Hawks organization, and will result in discipline for Dennis at the appropriate time once the matter has been more fully developed through the law enforcement process and otherwise.

Dennis has accepted responsibility for his actions. He looks forward to learning from this incident and focusing on the season.”

On one hand, it’s odd that the Hawks are both deferring to the process and pledging discipline. On the other hand, teams should more often make their own judgments on how to handle these issues than blindly rely on the legal system.

This statement is intentionally vague, and it gives the Hawks wide latitude in how to proceed. Eventually – likely dependent on legal outcomes – they’ll reveal Schroder’s punishment.