Trail Blazers commentators really mad about Scott Brooks benching LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard

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In the 2012 All-Star Game, LaMarcus Aldridge played fewer than 10 minutes, and he clearly wasn’t pleased with such a reduced role.

Ben Golliver of Blazer’s Edge:

After the game, Aldridge addressed a small group of reporters in the Mixed Zone media area, saying that he was as surprised about his playing time as everyone else. He said multiple times that he “definitely” expected more run.

“8 minutes? 9 minutes? I definitely did… I thought I was going to play more. It’s fine though. I had fun.”

And why should he have been satisfied with so few minutes? Aldridge is an excellent player who’s used to playing more. Of course, all his teammates fit in the same boat, so most of them probably felt that way.

But that doesn’t wipe out Aldridge’s license to want more playing time.

To his credit, though, Aldridge didn’t overblow his dismay. Aldridge, via Golliver:

“It’s cool,” he said. “First All-Star Game. Have the first one behind me. It was an eventful weekend, and now it’s over.”

He said he does not view the playing time he received as a snub on the level of being overlooked for selection to the 2011 All-Star Game.

“I could look at it like that, but I’m not… I had fun talking with the guys and being with the guys. It’s always going to be something. I think with my luck, it’s always something. I’m not going to trip on that. I’m going to go back and try to win games.”

Back in the All-Star Game this season – with the Thunder’s Scott Brooks coaching again, as he did in 2012 – Aldridge played just 13:17. His Trail Blazers teammate, Damian Lillard, saw the court for just 8:44 – even fewer minutes than Aldridge got two years ago.

This time, the complaints coming from Portland aren’t so tempered.

Trail Blazers color commentators Mike Rice Sr. (television) and Antonio Harvey (radio) had harsh words for Brooks (hat tip: Golliver).

Rice:

Harvey:

It’s important to remember Rice and Harvey don’t speak for Aldridge and Lillard, both of whom said they accepted their roles.

Aldridge, via Mike Tokito of The Oregonian:

“I definitely had my opportunity to score,” Aldridge said. “Didn’t make any shots, but I think I played more minutes – what’d I play tonight, 14 minutes? —  I think that’s an All-Star Game high for me. It was fun. The whole weekend was fun. I had fun with the activities and the things for the fans.”

Lillard, via Tokito:

“You’ve got guys that are producing at the same level that I am for my team, but they’ve been here five times already, so they’re going to be on the floor,” Lillard said. “That’s a respect thing. If I’m ever a five-time All-Star, four-time All-Star, and a first-time All-Star came in and played more minutes than me, or finishing the game over me, I’m not going to like that. So I respect it.”

Rice and Harvey are so closely affiliated with the Trail Blazers that their tweets carry weight, and both commentators overreacted. Every single All-Star played fewer minutes Sunday than his season per-game average. Some had to accept greater reductions than others, but everyone took at least some cut. Rice and Harvey would do well to consider that and the fact that Durant and most of the other minutes leaders are better than Aldridge and Lillard. Rice and Harvey just look petty.

Aldridge and Lillard, especially by comparison, look gracious.

Maybe the Trail Blazers – or just Rice and Harvey – are deliberately trying to stir up a rivalry with the Thunder in advance of a possible playoff series. If so, kudos. I’d honestly be more intrigued in that series if Aldridge and Lillard were seeking revenge on Brooks.

But even that bonus would be based on the misguided belief Brooks did something wrong.

Besides, there’s no indication Aldridge and Lillard share Rice’s and Harvey’s anger, anyway.

Adam Silver backs Knicks center Enes Kanter’s decision to skip London trip

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LONDON (AP) — NBA Commissioner Adam Silver says the safety and security of players will always be paramount for the league after New York Knicks center Enes Kanter did not travel to London for his team’s game against the Washington Wizards.

Kanter said he feared he could be attacked or killed over his opposition to Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan if he were to travel to London. Istanbul-based newspaper Daily Sabah reported that an arrest warrant was issued for Kanter by Turkish prosecutors on Wednesday.

Silver, speaking ahead of Thursday’s game, says “it was never a suggestion from the league that (Kanter) was not welcome on this trip.”

“There are significant issues that he is dealing with, and I recognize that for the NBA, by virtue of the fact that we’re a global business, we have to pay a lot of attention to those issues as well,” Silver says.

Kanter, who has frequently criticized Erdogan, had his Turkish passport revoked in 2017.

Wizards beat Knicks with game-winning goaltending call in London Game

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The good people of England could use a break from the dumpster fire that is Brexit, so the NBA came to town to entertain with their very best… their biggest stars… the teams that were willing to go, the Knicks and the Wizards.

But the Londoners got to see one unusual ending.

The Knicks were up 100-99 thanks to a Noah Vonleh hook shot, but the Wizards had three seconds to try to get off a game winner. Scott Brooks designed an interesting play, with Bradley Beal starting in the backcourt and sprinting into the frontcourt, and when the defense moved to him as the likely shooter he passed to Thomas Bryant rolling down the lane, he put up the finger roll and…

That was a goaltend by Allonzo Trier to my eyes — the ball is just starting its downward trajectory, and it may have been over the cylinder (in an NBA arena there would have been an above-basket camera with a better angle on if it was over the rim, but that did not seem to be available in London).

The Wizards — who owner Ted Leonsis said will never tank, so forget about them trading away assets at the deadline — have won 3-of-4 and are 6-4 since John Wall was sidelined with his foot injury, with a +3 net rating in those games. Washington is now just two games out of the playoffs in the East and GM Ernie Grunfeld does not believe in tanking, so expect them to make a push.

Which is why wins like this matter.

PBT Extra: DeMarcus Cousins’ return will be big boost for Warriors. Maybe.

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The Golden State Warriors — the two-time defending NBA champs, the team on top of the Western Conference with the best offense in the NBA — are about to get a whole lot better.

Maybe.

Nobody really knows.

What we know is DeMarcus Cousins is scheduled to make his return to the court on Friday night against the Clippers in Los Angeles. Cousins missed the end of last season and all of this season recovering from a ruptured Achilles.

I get into all of it in this PBT Extra.

As NBC’s Tom Haberstroh pointed out, the history of big men bouncing back from this injury does not bode well for Cousins. On the other side, Cousins was so skilled, if the Warriors can get 75 percent of the old Cousins it will be an upgrade over Kevon Looney and give Golden State a guy who can exploit mismatches.

On paper, the Warriors should get better with Cousins in the lineup. But nobody really knows.

Spurs president-coach Gregg Popovich says he doesn’t know whether he’ll retire after season

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Spurs president-coach Gregg Popovich said in 2015 he made a commitment to newly signed LaMarcus Aldridge, presumably to coach through the five-year contract he signed in 2014.

That contract will expire after this season.

Then what?

Popovich, via Marc Stein of The New York Times:

“I don’t know the answer,” Popovich said when asked about his plans for next season in an interview Wednesday

Maybe Popovich is legitimately undecided about his future. Maybe he has a firm plan and was just being dismissive because he didn’t want to discuss it publicly. There’s obviously a massive difference between the two, but it’s difficult to parse from only his quote.

Popovich will coach Team USA in the 2019 FIBA World Cup and 2020 Olympics. That responsibility means a lot to the Air Force veteran. Some have even speculated he’ll retire from the NBA after this season to prepare for his USA Basketball duties.

In the meantime, Popovich remains one of the NBA’s top coaches. He has helped San Antonio turn around its season, building a strong offense around mid-range shooters DeMar DeRozan and Aldridge and getting everyone on enough of the same page defensively to be reasonable on that end. The Spurs aren’t a great team, but they’re good in ways that have Popovich’s fingerprints all over them.

Popovich could continue to succeed in the NBA for the foreseeable future. The question is – with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili gone and Popovich nearing age 70 – how much longer he wants to do it.