Since the offseason began, the Blazers have been collecting young players on cheap rookie deals from other teams: first Noah Vonleh, then Mason Plumlee, and now Moe Harkless, according to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski:
After a promising first two seasons in the league (including a 2013-14 season in which he shot 38.3 percent from three-point range), Harkless largely fell out of the rotation in Orlando last season. He had a down season statistically last year, and it’s clear the Magic don’t have much use for him going forward after bringing back Tobias Harris on a max deal and investing a No. 4 pick in Aaron Gordon last year. But he’s only 22 and still has upside at both ends of the floor. As the Blazers enter their rebuild without LaMarcus Aldridge, they could do a lot worse than to take fliers on young players like Harkless and hope some of them pan out.
Now that four of five starters are gone, the Portland Trail Blazers are unequivocally Damian Lillard’s team. He’s signed a five-year, $120 million extension that keeps him in Rip City until the 2021 season, and he’s now the longest-tenured Blazer, going into his fourth NBA season. When LaMarcus Aldridge left last week to sign with the Spurs, there was talk that the four-time All-Star power forward resented Lillard’s visibility as the face of the franchise. But Lillard said on Saturday that there are no hard feelings between them, and they’re on good terms:
From Yahoo’s Marc Spears:
Aldridge told Lillard he was leaving Portland before his final decision to sign with San Antonio became public.
“We basically exchanged texts about how much admiration we have for each other,” said Lillard, who signed a five-year, $120 million extension with the Blazers this week. “That change wasn’t about me. I did express that I wanted him to be back. I told him I respected his decision. I respected that he told me before the news broke and I saw it on TV.”
Was there anything more that Lillard or the Blazers could have done to keep Aldridge?
“I’m not sure there is,” Lillard said. “I think he needed a change and wanted to go some place where he felt he had a better chance to win.”
It’s hard to knock Aldridge’s decision. Going to San Antonio clearly wasn’t about the money, since the Blazers had the ability to offer him an extra year and around $30 million more than any other team. Aldridge wanted to be closer to his family in Texas, and he wanted to go where he had the best chance of winning. It’s hard to find a better organization to that end than the Spurs.
Lillard’s new-look Blazers will be young and full of upside, but they probably won’t win very many games next season.
Gregg Popovich really wanted LaMarcus Aldridge on the Spurs — he flew back out to Los Angeles for a second interview, a lunch with the big man. I’d say “he never does that,” but he obviously will for the right big man. It worked, Aldridge signed with the Spurs.
So what was it like to sit and talk with Popovich?
Pretty much like his television interviews, Aldridge told Marc Stein of ESPN in a SportsCenter interview, as transcribed by Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News (hat tip Eye on Basketball):
Popovich is who he is. There are moments, days when he feels more like opening up, or gets on thoughtful discussions of his interests outside basketball (wine the best known among them), but he’s not Doc Rivers.
Stein also asked Aldridge about leaving Portland and his comments last year that he wanted to be the “best Blazer ever.” Aldridge said that was not some PR line (hat tip to Blazersedge for the transcription).
It was tough. I did want to be the best Blazer ever. It wasn’t some hoax or me just trying to, you know, sweet-talk the city. I did. But I felt like they were kind of in that middle role where they kind of wanted to make a change, kind of go a different direction. You know they definitely told me that they wanted me back, but kind of I felt like we both were kind of in that limbo. They wanted to go young. Damian is a great talent. He’s going to be an All-Star for many years to come.
It sounds like Aldridge had an idea he was moving on for a while, even while saying all the right things about the Blazers.
The Lakers had a verbal agreement to acquire Roy Hibbert from the Pacers in the early days of free agency, but as we saw on Wednesday with DeAndre Jordan and the circus that played out between the Mavericks and the Clippers, deals like this are ultimately meaningless until the paperwork is signed.
L.A. and Indiana completed the deal on Thursday, and announced it via official release.
The Los Angeles Lakers have acquired center Roy Hibbert in a trade with the Indiana Pacers, it was announced today by General Manager Mitch Kupchak. In exchange the Pacers will receive a future second round pick.
“We’re happy to add a veteran big man to the roster,” said Kupchak. “Roy is a proven All-Star center that will help improve our front line. In addition he is a consummate professional and we look forward to having him on the team.”
Hibbert is in the final year of his contract, and for a Lakers team that missed out on guys like LaMarcus Aldridge in free agency, adding the former Pacers big man as a plan B while giving up basically nothing in return was a more than acceptable option.
The Lakers also formally announced the signings of Lou Williams and Brandon Bass, along with Anthony Brown, who was the 34th overall pick in this summer’s NBA Draft.
In the coming days, the Spurs will officially sign and introduce LaMarcus Aldridge, which means he will need to pick a jersey number. The number he wore for nine years in Portland, 12, has been retired for Bruce Bowen. However, Bowen has given Aldridge permission to wear the number, as sort of a welcoming gift.
From Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:
“You want LaMarcus to feel part of the family,” Bowen told the Express-News. “If I can have a hand in that, shoot, why not? I don’t play anymore.”
Not long after Aldridge agreed to a four-year deal worth more than $80 million to join the Spurs last week, general manager R.C. Buford phoned Bowen to ask about bequeathing the number to the team’s new prize.
The 44-year-old Bowen, who last played in 2009, agreed immediately.
“I hope it helps (Aldridge) feel comfortable,” Bowen said. “If he’s comfortable, the sky’s the limit for him here. It’s one less thing he has to worry about.”
It’s a cool gesture by Bowen, who was a starter on three of the Spurs’ five title teams and would have had every right to want his number to stay in the rafters.