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.
Ever since Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant died in a helicopter crash last month, we’ve been seeking answers about what went wrong during the flight piloted by Ara Zobayan. After all, Kobe Bryant had made helicopter rides such a normal part of his life.
Now, Vanessa Bryant – Kobe’s wife and Gianna’s mother – is suing the company that operated the helicopter for wrongful death.
Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times:
The complaint in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Island Express Helicopters and Island Express Holding Corp. alleged that pilot Ara Zobayan, who also died in the crash, failed “to use ordinary care in piloting the subject aircraft” and was “negligent.”
“Defendant Island Express Helicopters’ breach of its duty and negligence caused the injuries and damages complained of herein and Plaintiffs’ deceased, Kobe Bryant, was killed as a direct result of the negligent conduct of Zobayan for which Defendant Island Express Helicopters is vicariously liable in all respects,” the lawsuit said.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the back injury for Philadelphia 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons “isn’t a day-to-day thing”.
Simmons missed the Sixers first game following the All-Star break on Thursday. He then left Saturday’s game in Milwaukee after playing just 4:44.
Over the weekend, Philadelphia ruled Simmons out for Monday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks and said he would undergo further evaluation. Per Wojnarowski’s report, that evaluation is ongoing and a course of treatment is yet to be decided upon.
Expect Philadelphia to lean on Raul Neto, Alec Burks and Shake Milton as primary ballhandlers while Simmons is out. None possess the size and skill combination of Simmons, but all have had moments throughout their careers. Neto drew the start in place of Simmons on Thursday. Burks was acquired at the trade deadline to give the team much-needed bench depth. Milton has flashed at time in his second season, after beginning his NBA career on a Two-Way contract.
Philadelphia loses Simmons while in a battle with the Miami Heat for homecourt advantage in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The fifth-place 76ers are 1.5 games behind the Heat for the fourth seed, and two games ahead of the sixth-place Indiana Pacers.
Kobe Bryant making two free throws after tearing his Achilles was one of the greatest moments of his legendary career.
On a day Bryant was honored, we learned Pacers guard Jeremy Lamb made a similarly gutsy pair of free throws during Indiana’s loss to the Raptors yesterday.
During the second quarter of the Pacers game at Toronto on Sunday, Indiana Pacers forward Jeremy Lamb sustained a torn left anterior cruciate ligament, a torn lateral meniscus and a lateral femoral condylar fracture.
He will undergo surgery on a date to be determined. He will be out the remainder of the season. Any further updates will be provided after surgery.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Lamb misses all of next season. This is just a devastating set of calamities.
At least Lamb has a guaranteed $10.5 million salary each of the next two seasons.
Indiana (sixth place, 33-24) will have an even tougher time winning a playoff series now. The Pacers could challenge in the first round, but they’ll almost certainly be significant underdogs.
They have depth at shooting guard, for what that’s worth. Victor Oladipo just returned. Justin Holiday is a solid reserve. Finding his lane at point guard, Malcolm Brogdon can move off the ball when T.J. McConnell or Aaron Holiday plays point guard.
The NBA just held All-Star Weekend in Chicago, where Michael Jordan starred for years with the Bulls. Jordan wasn’t a visible part of the festivities, though. He just prefers to remain out of the spotlight.
Yet, Jordan spoke at Kobe Bryant’s memorial service today. That’s how important Bryant – whom Jordan described as a younger brother – was to Jordan.
Jordan even addressed the elephant in the room – that he was reproducing the “Crying Jordan” meme. Thank goodness for another laugh amid the tears.