LaMarcus Aldridge: ‘Pressure is on Memphis to close us out’

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The Blazers avoided elimination with a Game 4 victory at home over the Grizzlies, thanks in large part to a brilliant 32-point performance from Damian Lillard that kept his team alive.

Portland still trails three games to one in the series, but in advance of another potential elimination contest, LaMarcus Aldridge says that his team isn’t the one that’s facing all the pressure.

From Michael Wallace of ESPN.com:

The second part is likely more true than the first.

No team has ever come back from a 3-0 deficit in NBA history, and this Blazers squad isn’t likely to become the first. They trailed by 10 in the fourth quarter of Game 4, and Lillard only had the breakout game that he did because Mike Conley sat out with a facial injury that later required surgery.

Conley is out again for Game 5, so Lillard (against the likes of Nick Calathes and Beno Udrih) will once again have his opportunities. But there is little margin for error where the Blazers are concerned, and if the team should find itself trailing late in the contest, it will be up to Aldridge at that point to prove his statement’s worth.

Reports: Suns push for Jarred Vanderbilt derailed Bojan Bogdanovic trade

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Utah traded Bojan Bogdanovic not to one of the contenders pushing for him — Phoenix, Miami, even the Lakers — but to rebuilding Detroit. It’s a move that caught the NBA off guard.

News has come out now that part of what hung up the Suns’ effort to land Bogdanovic was their push to make promising young forward Jarred Vanderbilt — who the Jazz got from the Timberwolves in the Rudy Gobert trade — as part of the deal. The well-connected John Gambardoro first had the report.

If the Suns had not pushed for Vanderbilt it doesn’t mean they would have landed Bogdanovic using a Jae Crowder-based package ( with another player, maybe Landry Shamet, and some picks). Reports have also suggested the draft package that was part of the Suns offer was not impressing the Jazz, so Utah moved on to a cost-cutting move rather than one where they took back more salary than they preferred.

The Pistons may decide to trade Bogdanovic again closer to the February deadline and maybe the Suns can get in the mix then. But for now, the Phoenix target is in the Motor City to start the season.

 

 

Knicks’ Leon Rose plays it safe with media, Mitchell trade: ‘We’re thrilled with where we are’

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Leon Rose continues to play it safe.

He’s played it safe with the New York media since he arrived — he doesn’t meet with them. Instead, he again turned this week to the MSG Network — owned by Knicks governor James Dolan — so he doesn’t have to face hard questions or defend decisions.

He also played it safe in the Donovan Mitchell trade talks, not going all-in to get the All-Star out of Utah. Mitchell is now in Cleveland and we will see over the course f the next 12-24 months if playing it safe was the right call. Here’s Rose’s explanation of the situation in that MSG interview (hat tip Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News).

“We went through that process and at the end of the day we made a decision to stay put. And we’re thrilled with where we are. Taking a look at the summer, we feel great about what transpired.”

As every GM does this time of year, Rose said he likes his team and its chances this season.

“One of our main goals has been to create internal stability. Signed RJ Barrett, first extension of a player since Charlie Ward. We retained Mitchell Robinson. He’s a player who has developed the last few years and we feel very fortunate that we were able to keep him. We got the No.1 point guard in free agency this summer in Jalen Brunson. So we feel really good about the summer.”

In the interview, Rose also defended Tom Thibodeau and his decisions as coach, despite rumors of him being on the hot seat. Rose said Thibs is not under pressure.

The Knicks should be better this season with Brunson, plus Barrett should take another step forward. New York’s problem is much of the East got better — Cleveland, Atlanta, Washington and others — and this roster likely still leaves the Knicks fighting to make the play-in.

Rose deserves credit for being patient, trying to build culture and foundation, and not just throwing Dolan’s money at an aging superstar. He hasn’t done anything stupid, which is a step forward in New York. But he also hasn’t done anything bold yet, he’s just played it safe.

At some point, Rose and the Knicks will have to push their chips in and make a bold, all-in move. But for now, they are playing it safe.

Celtics’ center Robert Williams out 8-12 weeks following knee surgery

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Robert Williams had knee surgery last March that was supposed to sideline him for 6-8 weeks, but he pushed and beat that timeline and get on the court for the Celtics playoff run that went all the way to the NBA Finals. Williams played through pain — and he played well — “Taking it day by day, step by step, getting all the treatment I can, throwing everything I can at my knee to make sure I’m running.” The Celtics medical staff told him it would not make things worse.

Williams underwent a second surgery on the knee this week and will be out 2-3 months, the team announced.

That timeline would have Williams returning in December, just before Christmas.

Williams’ absence, combined with coach Ime Udoka being suspended for the season, could lead to a rocky start for a Celtics team that is a title favorite

Williams can put a few points on the board (10 points and 9.6 rebounds a game last season), but he was a game changer for the team on the defensive end. Boston’s league-best defense was 3.7 points per 100 possessions better with Williams on the court, and in the playoffs that jumped to 6.4 points per 100 better. And that was with him playing through a sore knee.

Look for the Celtics to try and add a center. Their current centers are Luke Kornet and, when they go small, Grant Williams.

Celtics: Investigation of Udoka found multiple violations of team policy

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The suspension of Ime Udoka by the Celtics for the 2022-23 NBA season came after an investigation by an outside law firm found he had a “volume of violations” of team policy, Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck said on Friday, adding he stood by the punishment (which some saw as too severe).

And no, Brad Stevens is not coming back to the bench.

Those were two of the big takeaways from Grousbeck and team president Brad Stevens press conference on Friday. While the pair avoided discussing details of the allegations against Udoka — who had an improper intimate relationship with a Celtics staff member — some things have become clear.

Here are the key takeaways from the press conference and reporting since the announcement.

• The Celtics spent months investigating this situation and hired an outside law firm to do so, Grousbeck said. That investigation ended Wednesday and found a “volume of violations” of the team code of conduct, which led to the team’s suspension of Udoka. Subsequent reporting by Shams Charania of The Athletic found the “woman recently accused Udoka of making unwanted comments toward her.” Sources told NBC Sports that a serious power dynamic was involved in the situation and it was much messier than the early reporting on this suggested.

• Celtics players were “very concerned about this” and Grousbeck spoke to them about the situation.

Stevens was moved almost to tears over the random and rampant speculation on Twitter about who the woman involved with Udoka was (some Celtics fans were speculating and posting pictures of staffers on social media, unfairly dragging them into this nightmare).

“We have a lot of talented women in our organization. I thought yesterday was really hard on them,” Stevens said. “Nobody can control Twitter speculation, rampant bulls*** but I do think that we as an organization have a responsibility to make sure we’re there to support them now. Because a lot of people were dragged unfairly into that.”

• There is a “significant” financial component to Udoka’s suspension, Grousbeck said.

• The duo confirmed reports that assistant coach Joe Mazzula would take over as the interim head coach.

• Grousbeck added he asked Stevens about a possible return to the bench, but “Joe’s the best choice to do that by a long shot,” Stevens said.

• Mazzulla was arrested on a domestic battery charge in 2009 in Morgantown, West Virginia, where he allegedly grabbed a woman by the neck. Steven said that they vetted the situation before hiring Mazzulla and that he takes full responsibility for the incident.

“[I feel] strongly that that probably shaped him into who he is today in a really, really good way. He’ll be the first to tell you he’s 100% accountable for that,” Stevens said.

• Because of the now smaller and less experienced coaching staff, it is possible a veteran coach is added to the staff, Stevens said, but there has been no conversation along those lines yet.

• Both Stevens and Grousbeck said that a decision about what happens beyond this season — with Udoka and the coaching position — has not been made. The Celtics are going to take their time with this.

• This quote from Grousbeck summed up the overall theme of the press conference: “We think our culture is very strong. We’re very proud of it. But this has shaken it. I don’t think there is a wider issue than what we’ve spent several months uncovering.”