Portland Trail Blazers

Portland Trail Blazers v Memphis Grizzlies - Game One

Report: One Trail Blazers player gives LaMarcus Aldridge just 50-50 chance of re-signing

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ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne recently reported LaMarcus Aldridge is more likely to leave the Trail Blazers in free agency than most realize.

Is this just a Los Angeles writer opining?

Nope.

The same message is coming from Aldridge’s own locker room.

Jason Quick of The Oregonian:

Some Blazers players have already said they are worried free agency will take Aldridge away from Portland this summer. Earlier this month, before a home game, a Blazers player estimated the chances of him returning to Portland at 50-50.

It’s possible the Portland players are influenced by Shelburne’s report – or vice versa. So, these aren’t necessarily independent accounts.

But Aldridge’s teammates see him at times no reporter does. It’s more telling they’re unconvinced he’ll re-sign.

Of course, he said he planned to stay with the Trail Blazers, and that matters, too. But because the Collective Bargaining Agreement made it impractical for Aldridge to sign an extension, that opened the door for other teams to court him this summer.

Plans change, and the Trail Blazers – who just got dominated by the Grizzlies in Game 1 – have an uphill battle to leave a good taste in Aldridge’s mouth heading into free agency. Sure, injuries to Wesley Matthews, Arron Afflalo and Dorell Wright might be bad luck. But the feeling of winning a playoff series or two would help sway Aldridge, and that’s less likely to happen now.

I still think Aldridge stays, but nobody should take it as a given.

Grizzlies overpower Blazers for commanding series-opening win

Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge
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Since the first-round playoff matchups were locked in on Wednesday, the common joke about this Portland Trail Blazers-Memphis Grizzlies matchup has been that it’s the “loser leaves town” series. Marc Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge are both free agents at the end of the year, and both of their teams have questions to answer about their long-term directions.

Aldridge certainly did his part to keep the Blazers in the game on Sunday, with 32 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocks. But that was about all that went right for the Blazers as the Grizzlies took Game 1, 100-86, to take a 1-0 series lead.

With Wesley Matthews and Arron Afflalo out and Nicolas Batum banged up, the Blazers’ hopes rested with two players: Aldridge and last year’s playoff hero, Damian Lillard. Lillard’s 5-for-21 shooting night wasn’t ideal, and neither of his defense. Mike Conley, even with his gimpy foot, was able to blow by Lillard at will.

But it was Conley’s backup, Beno Udrih, who led the way for Memphis with 20 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists. Udrih, not Conley or Gasol or Zach Randolph, was the one who landed on the TNT postgame interview after the game, even though all of those more well-known names played well. That says it all about where these two teams are.

How long Conley’s good health will last is a valid question. But if it lasts another week or two, it’s hard to see the Blazers winning this series. Not after what Memphis showed defensively. Not with Portland’s lack of offensive weapons exposed. This is the kind of series Matthews would have thrived in. Take him away, and everything comes down to Aldridge, Lillard and Batum. And when two of those three players aren’t playing well, there’s nothing else there.

The Grizzlies’ offensive attack in Game 1 is probably not sustainable. The rest of the series should be more competitive than this, especially if the Blazers get Afflalo back for Game 2. But the Grizzlies’ defense and the Blazers’ lack of depth are not a good combination, and that bore itself out on Sunday. Memphis simply outclassed Portland at both ends of the floor.

PBT Extra: Injuries make Grizzlies, Trail Blazers series hard to predict

Marc Gasol
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Wesley Matthews. Arron Afflalo. Nicolas Batum. C.J. McCollum. Chris Kaman. Mike Conley. Tony Allen. And that’s not even mentioning Marc Gasol, and LaMarcus Aldridge having recently missed games for injuries (but they will play).

Injuries will shape the West’s 4/5 matchup between the Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trail Blazers in interesting ways. Without Conley or Allen at 100 percent, can the Grizzlies defense contain Damian Lillard? Will Portland have the bodies to limit Gasol and Zach Randolph up front from Memphis?

Jenna Corrado and I discuss this, and I still predict the Grizzlies advance in the lastest PBT Extra.

PBT Awards: All-NBA

NBA All-Star Game 2015
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Though none of us have a ballot for the NBA’s official awards, we’ll be presenting our choices and making our cases this week for each major honor.

Kurt Helin

First team

  • G: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
  • G: James Harden, Houston Rockets
  • F: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
  • F: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
  • C: Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

Second team

  • G: Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
  • G: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
  • F: LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers
  • F: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
  • C: DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings

Third team

  • G: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
  • G: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
  • F: Pau Gasol, Chicago Bulls
  • F: Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
  • C: Al Horford, Hawks

There are just so many good forwards, you can’t mention them all. Apologies to DeAndre Jordan, who easily could have been that third center.

Brett Pollakoff

First team

  • G: James Harden, Houston Rockets
  • G: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
  • F: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
  • F: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
  • C: Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

Second team

  • G: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
  • G: Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
  • F: LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers
  • F: Pau Gasol, Chicago Bulls
  • C: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

Third team

  • G: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
  • G: Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
  • F: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
  • F: Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers
  • C: Al Horford, Hawks

Sean Highkin

First team

  • G: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
  • G: James Harden, Houston Rockets
  • F: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
  • F: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
  • C: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

Second team

  • G: Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
  • G: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
  • F: LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers
  • F: Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks
  • C: Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

Third team

  • G: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
  • G: John Wall, Washington Wizards
  • F: Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors
  • F: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
  • C: Pau Gasol, Chicago Bulls

The first team is self-explanatory. The positional logjam forces Paul and Westbrook onto the second team — it’s a little ridiculous that they can’t be on the first team, but there are only two guard spots and it would be hard to justify not giving them to the top two MVP candidates. Aldridge carried the Blazers through several injuries and even put off thumb surgery until the summer, without falling off at all. The Gasol brothers were great for different reasons. Marc has a legit case for First Team honors, and Pau was the Bulls’ most consistent player while Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler missed time with injuries.

Dan Feldman

First team

  • G: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
  • G: James Harden, Houston Rockets
  • F: Anthony Davis, New Orleans Pelicans
  • F: LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
  • C: Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies

Second team

  • G: Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
  • G: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
  • F: LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers
  • F: Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
  • C: Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks

Third team

  • G: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
  • G: Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
  • F: Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls
  • F: Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs
  • C: DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers

I could easily flip Horford and Jordan between the second and third teams, and DeMarcus Cousins isn’t far behind.

Putting Butler at forward might be cheating a bit, but he guarded small forwards often enough to qualify in my book. Apologies to Blake Griffin, who would have taken that spot if I hadn’t fudged Butler’s position.

John Wall was the toughest omission otherwise followed by Paul Millsap, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Kevin Love (who regressed from last season, disappointed relative to expectations, didn’t play as well as he’s capable, was misused – and still had a pretty good year).

PBT First-Round Playoff Previews: Portland Trail Blazers vs. Memphis Grizzlies

LaMarcus Aldridge, Zach Randolph
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SEASON RECORDS
Blazers: 51-31 (fourth place in Western Conference)
Grizzlies: 55-27 (fifth place in Western Conference)
KEY INJURIES
Blazers: It would be easier to list who’s healthy. LaMarcus Aldridge’s thumb is probably fine but he missed two of the last three games with a left foot sprain. Nicolas Batum has a bruised knee and missed the season finale. C.J. McCollum has a left ankle sprain. Arron Afflalo will miss at least the first game with a right shoulder strain. And that’s before you get to the season-ending injuries to Dorell Wright and Wesley Matthews.
Grizzlies: Marc Gasol (ankle) and Mike Conley (foot) are banged up. Courtney Lee is playing through a torn hand ligament. All should be available for the series opener but they’re worth keeping an eye on.
OFFENSE/DEFENSE RANKINGS
Blazers: 105.5 points scored per 100 possessions (8th in NBA); 101.4 points allowed per 100 possessions (10th in NBA).
Grizzlies: 103.1 points scored per 100 possessions (13th in NBA); 99.9 points allowed per 100 possessions (4th in NBA).

THREE KEYS TO THE SERIES

1) Will the Blazers find wing production? The loss of Matthews effectively killed Portland’s hopes of contending. The injuries to Wright and Afflalo don’t help. Beyond Batum and McCollum (who are dealing with minor injuries of their own), the Blazers are counting on a lot of production from the likes of Allen Crabbe, Alonzo Gee and Tim Frazier, which isn’t ideal to say the least. That’s all the more pressure on Damian Lillard to have another heroic series like last year’s first-round matchup with Houston.

2) Can the Grizzlies get anything on the perimeter? We say this every year, and you’d think they would have done something about it by now, but there’s no reliable outside shooting anywhere on Memphis’ roster. Jeff Green has shot 36 percent from three since being traded to the Grizzlies, and their two best three-point threats, Conley and Lee, are playing through injuries. The Grizzlies will have to do all of their damage in the paint, which, luckily for them, they’re perfectly equipped to do.

3) How far can Aldridge and Lillard carry the Blazers? With Matthews gone, the Blazers’ two superstars are going to have more defensive attention on them than ever. Memphis can put Tony Allen on Lillard and Zach Randolph on Aldridge. With Aldridge’s thumb injury, a matchup with Randolph can’t be something he’s looking forward to, but unless one of the unknown role players steps up, it’s going to be a two-man job.

PREDICTION

This is going to be a hard-fought series with terrific home crowds in both cities. But between Memphis’ home-court advantage and the Blazers’ litany of injuries, I have to think the Grizzlies will prevail. I’m picking Grizzlies in 6 but I don’t feel great about it.