LaMarcus Aldridge

LaMarcus Aldridge won’t accept Trail Blazers’ max-extension offer, wants five-year deal as free agent

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LaMarcus Aldridge just completed a career year, finishing 10th in MVP voting and leading the Trail Blazers to their first playoff series in 14 years.

Now, Portland wants to pay him as much as possible in order to keep him.

As expected, he’ll pass.

Joe Freeman of The Oregonian:

Aldridge is happy in Portland now. This is all about money.

Aldridge is locked into a 2014-15 salary of $16,006,000.

He can sign a three-year extension that would pay him $55,490,801 over the following three years.

Or he can wait to become a free agent in 2015, when – based on a rough salary-cap estimate in which the cap rises annually by the same amount it’s projected to rise this year – he could sign a five-year contract worth up to $109,106,328.

Here’s Aldridge’s projected max salaries – on an extension (black) and new contract (red):

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Though playing out his existing contract and seeking a new deal rather than taking an extension seems like the smart move, Aldridge is taking a risk. He turns 29 next week. At 30, will he definitely command a max contract?

Aldridge’s stock has never been higher. It’s also possible it never will be higher.

This path carries risk for the Trail Blazers, too. Maybe they save money negotiating next summer if Aldridge has a down year, but they could lose him entirely. Even if he enters free agency intent on staying in Portland, it would be foolish for him not to at least meet with other teams at that point. And then what if he unexpectedly really likes a pitch he hears?

That’s why the Trail Blazers want to lock up Aldridge now. Thanks to the new CBA’s restrictive view on contract extensions, though, it just won’t happen.

One other thing to keep an eye on: Aldridge’s next season will be his ninth in the league. NBA max contracts are determined by experience level, and that’s split into three tiers – 0-6 years, 7-9 years and 10+ years. Maybe Portland could sell Aldridge on a one-year extension, so he becomes a free agent in 2016 seeking the 10-years-of-experience max – roughly projected to be $135,788,543 over five years.

The Trail Blazers would keep Aldridge under contract for an extra season, and he’d get a little more short-term security. The big risk for him would be trying to draw a max contract at age 31, but he’s prepared to go for it at 30. What’s one more year?

Report: LeBron James might not play for Team USA in 2016 Olympics because Kobe Bryant won’t

Kobe Bryant (L) and team mate Lebron James of the U.S. sit on the bench during the game against France during their men's Group A basketball match at the London 2012 Olympic Games in the Basketball arena July 29, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar
REUTERS/Mike Segar
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LeBron James admires Kobe Bryant.

How much?

Kobe pulling his name from 2016 Olympic consideration (perhaps an informed preemptive gesture just before the roster finalists were announced) might keep LeBron off Team USA.

Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:

Bryant not pursuing a spot on the U.S. Olympic basketball team this summer is a very real reason James might also not join the team, according to NBA sources.

James is that disappointed the Rio Olympics will not serve as the final, ultimate celebration of Bryant’s career—and more so that James won’t have the priceless honor of being Bryant’s co-star teammate when it ends.

I don’t buy this.

Kobe said during the 2012 Olympics those would be his final Olympics. Two weeks later, LeBron said he wanted to play in 2016.

Did playing with Kobe on Team USA become more important to LeBron over the last few years?

I suppose it’s possible. Many got behind sending Kobe to Rio as a sendoff into retirement. Perhaps, LeBron got attached to the idea and became bitter once it fell through.

I just have a hard time believing LeBron would tie his decision so strongly to another player. Remember, he left one of his best friends, Dwyane Wade, in Miami to sign with the Cavaliers. Would Kobe’s presence really dictate LeBron’s outlook?

LeBron has been mum on his plans for Team USA. I’m sure the length of Cleveland’s playoff run and the toll it takes on his body will factor. He might not yet know what he’ll do.

The ball is in his court, which can be challenging. There has been backlash from media and fans against players who turn down Team USA, and LeBron could be trying to avoid that.

I trust Ding was told LeBron felt this way, but nobody – including me, including Ding – can know what’s in LeBron’s head. But this report strikes me as LeBron setting up the ability to attribute his absence to Kobe’s rather than facing the full brunt of reaction that comes to turning down Team USA.

Did the Clippers reenact Paul Pierce being stabbed during pregame introductions? (video)

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The Clippers got hyped for Paul Pierce‘s potential last game in Boston by… reenacting the time Pierce got stabbed there? If not, it sure looks like it.

Mock fighting is the norm for the Clippers’ pregame, but I haven’t seen a single player targeted like this. Whatever gets you pumped, I guess.

Markieff Morris flips off Suns fan (video)

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris reacts to a call during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
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Markieff Morris‘ frustrations last night didn’t end with his scuffle with teammate Archie Goodwin. They didn’t end with the Suns’ loss to the Warriors, either.

As Morris was leaving the court, a fan heckled him: “Markieff, you f—ing suck. I can’t wait until you’re traded.” Though Morris probably agrees with the second sentence, he flipped off the fan:

Though it’s difficult to confirm that video was from last night, it jibes with a previous report of the incident.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7

Morris will likely at least be fined. Considering his previous behavioral problems this season – he threw a towel at Jeff Hornacek – I wouldn’t completely rule out a suspension. But a fine seems most likely.

Dwight Howard commits ridiculously sloppy inbound violation (video)

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An embarrassing lack of focus by the Rockets? I can hardly believe it.

Late in a game against a team Houston is battling for playoff position, Dwight Howard was just careless, stepping on the baseline as he inbounded the ball. It’s a needless goof, and he’ll get plenty of deserved criticism for it.

But don’t overlook Patrick Beverley‘s frustration foul on Damian Lillard before the ensuing inbound. That was nearly as foolish and even more costly.

The sequence sparked a 7-0 run for the Trail Blazers, who seized control of the game en route to a 116-103 win.