Tag:LaMarcus Aldridge
Posted on: March 31, 2011 11:47 am
Edited on: March 31, 2011 11:54 am
 

Lakers wary of Grizzlies, Blazers in playoffs

An informal poll of the Lakers shows they're concerned about the Grizzlies and Blazers. As much as they're going to be concerned about anyone. 
Posted by Matt Moore




Asking NBA players who they want to see in the first round is pointless. Why would you possibly say you want to see one team, giving them material to mount an incomparable emotional challenge based off the oldest of athlete emotions: pride? Why would you possibly indicate that you don't want to see a team in the first round, giving them a mental edge when they recognize that you're "afraid" of them? There's nothing to be won or negotiated with that question. It's better to deflect or give the standard array of non-answers everyone gives. 

But the Lakers, when presented with the opportunity to give an informal poll, their answers unattributed to their name? They bit. 

From the Los Angeles Times
Based on the four players who were willing to trade their honesty in exchange for anonymity, three of them equally expressed concern about Portland and Memphis, while one other believed the Grizzlies would be the toughest opponent. Meanwhile, Lakers executive Magic Johnson spoke pretty frankly before the Lakers' 102-84 victory Sunday over New Orleans about which potential first-round opponent would give the Lakers the most trouble: Portland, because of the "hate factor," he said.

"They don't like us and we don't like them," Johnson said Sunday, walking in a corridor underneath Staples Center. "That would be a very physical and tough series, even though we would win and we're better overall. But they really know how to play us; they're well-coached and they're tenacious."
via Lakers informal poll reveals their belief Portland and Memphis would give them biggest challenge in first round | Lakers Blog | Los Angeles Times.

It's surprising that the Lakers chose to answer the question. It's more surprising that they were honest. It's even more surprising that they were correct. 

The Lakers are rarely if ever beasts in the first round. It takes them a few games to hit the playoff gear. But they're still good enough to overcome obstacles. Still, if you're going to upset L.A., it's going to have to be in that first round. From then on out, they're in that mode they have that that, you know, wins championships. And the only thing they hate more than getting their playoff effort in gear is having to do so against a scrappy, high-effort team, like the Blazers or Grizzlies. 

The Blazers, despite a much longer rivalry and a superior record, actually suffers more in the matchup. Despite LaMarcus Aldridge's superb and All-Star-worthy season, it's Zach Randolph's gritty, ugly, "how did he do that" work down low that is particularly effective against L.A.'s enormous size and length advantage. Marc Gasol is outplayed by his brother in the stats department because Pau Gasol is very good. But it's Marc's bulk and toughness that gives the Lakers issues, along with his ability to pass from the post and high pinch post. Mike Conley slices and dices Derek Fisher, one of the few guards in the league who can't torch Conley on perimeter drives. And the Grizzlies have enough wings to throw at Kobe Bryant to at least have a puncher's chance at slowing him down.

The Blazers on the other hand have Camby and Aldridge, but struggle defensively against the Lakers in matchups, as has been evident this year. But there's no matchup that accounts for the Blazers' ability to rise to the occasion, which they've illustrated time and time again during Nate McMillan's tenure. Either team is simply going to be a major headache that could turn into a legitimate challenge for the Lakers if a few things go their opponents' way. 

But then, the Lakers also know that if they play their best, execute, and focus, they're going to roll. That's what good teams do in the first round, it's really what great teams do in the first round, and it's definitely what championships do in the first round. This doesn't mean that the Lakers are afraid of the Blazers or Grizzlies, just that they recognize the dangers those teams represent. 

Which of course means that the Lakers are not afraid of the New Orleans Hornets. Who they could very well see in the first round. Chances are the Hornets use that as some motivation should the two meet in the first round. 

This is why you don't answer the question.
Posted on: March 24, 2011 10:59 am
 

Dunkometer Update: Dwight running away

An update on the top dunkers, statistically, in the league. 
Posted by Matt Moore


Year to Date
Rank Player Pos Team Dunks
1 Dwight Howard C ORL 207
2 Blake Griffin PF LAC 179
3 DeAndre Jordan C LAC 142
4 LaMarcus Aldridge PF POR 130
5 JaVale McGee C WAS 123
6 Kevin Durant SF OKC 110
7 Amar'e Stoudemire PF NY 110
8 Tyson Chandler C DAL 109
9 Nene C DEN 98
10 Kris Humphries PF NJ 93


This is the top ten of the Dunk-O-Meter we run here on CBSSports.com as of Thursday morning.  
Some notes:
  • Dwight Howard has not only reclaimed the lead after an early season surge by Blake Griffin and a mid-season push by LaMarcus Aldridge, but has a dominant 28 dunk lead on the Rookie of the Year (we're just going to go ahead and call him that, since we all know it's inevitable).
  • It's interesting that there are two Clips on this list, back to back in the top three. Especially considering the presence of Chris Kaman limiting Jordan's minutes. 321 dunks this season for Griffin and Jordan combined, that's 12 percent of all Clippers field goals this season. That's pretty amazing, and shows you how far Jordan's come and why the Clippers need to make sure he returns. 
  • LaMarcus Aldridge in fourth is kind of surprising to anyone who isn't a Blazers fan. To Blazers fans, it makes total sense. It would be interesting to see how many of these come off of alley-oops to compare. It's expected that the presence of Andre Miller's dulcet lobs would put Aldridge in first, but given how many Dwight gets, it's probably close. 
  • Kevin Durant in sixth is just as shocking, considering he's a perimeter wing. 
  • Amar'e Stoudemire is too low on this list, and probably needs to be creating more dunks as high percentage shots in his offense. Not by much, he's only 13 behind McGee for fifth, but it's worth noting. 
  • How about Kris Humphries? Very quietly, Humphries has a had a great season for the Nets, and him being on this list is pretty impressive with the kind of talent the Nets have. 

Dunks don't mean success, they don't mean production, they're fun and great for highlights. But they are high percentage shots and it does take a certain skill set to create them. It shows achievement, even if that achievement isn't indicative of success. Four of the players in the top ten are on lottery teams, six are on playoff squads. 

None are on a seed higher than four as of this writing.



Posted on: March 10, 2011 9:53 am
 

Gerald Wallace and the feelings behind trades

Gerald Wallace felt "betrayed" by the Bobcats in being traded to Portland. What's odd is that he's right, despite the Bobcats having done right by him. 
Posted by Matt Moore

From The Charlotte Observer


"Basically, you feel betrayed by somebody you love,’’ Wallace told the Observer before Saturday’s Blazers-Bobcats game. “I totally didn’t see it coming. I’d been there seven long years and then you feel like you’re not wanted anymore. That’s a bad situation to be in, especially for me, who committed so much to the organization."

“I understand the situation – it’s a business and they’re looking to start all over. They wanted cap room, and I guess I was the logical answer for them trying to get draft picks.’’
via Inside the NBA: Wallace: Bobcats betrayed me.

Getting traded has to be a strange feeling. In civilian life outside of professional sports, if your work wants to relocate you, they have to speak with you first. You have the right to simply not go and find employment where you want, in most cases. But in sports, you're traded and all of a sudden everything you've committed to a franchise, to a city, to its fans, is gone. It's all part of history. You're now a completely different player with a completely different uniform in a completely different role in a completely different city. And it happens in a day. Gerald Wallace woke up two weeks ago as a Bobcat and by 4 p.m. he was packing his bags and saying goodbye to his kids, headed for the west coast. As Ken Berger put it, "money is good, but nothing compares to family."

What strikes me in Wallace's hurt here is that Wallace was granted what so many players ask for. A second chance (third, really) on a playoff team. Wallace has been putting in stat-stuffing, All-Star worthy seasons for years, mired in the mediocrity of a franchise that got started on the wrong foot and has continously jumped on that same foot while pounding its other foot into a brick wall. The Bobcats have never gone anywhere. They made the playoffs last season as a result of a masterful coaching job by Larry Brown, then got swept from the playoff beaches by Orlando. Other than that they've been a joke. They've been forced into trading for above-average players with terrible contracts to get any traction at all and now that that plan has had its last ounce of success milked, they're back to rebuilding, this time actually rebuilding. Had Wallace not been traded he would have been miserable as a competitor, watching Stephen Jackson head elsewhere while he struggled to try and find some measure of success among Tyrus Thomas, D.J. Augustin, and Gerald Henderson. Who would want that life? 

Maybe not Wallace, but Wallace still wanted to be told. He wanted to be informed of the decision, for his time in Charlotte to have earned him the right to weigh in on whether he was relocated or not. You may not believe that Wallace has any right to be informed. After all, this is a business, teams have the right to trade players, they needed to trade Wallace and part of his contract allows for this scenario to happen. But it's more that Wallace had felt he'd given enough to the organization to warrant some level of being brought in, so as to not feel blindsided, or "not wanted" as he put it.  That's certainly not the case. In truth, the organization must have loved Wallace to have kept him this long. He was their All-Star, he was the franchise. They moved him because they had no other choice and moving him brought in the best package available. 

That Wallace fetched so little on the market had less to do with his value as a player as it did with the leverage and position of the Bobcats organization. And that same perception is reflected in how they treated Wallace by not informing him. It's the kind of thing that makes players reluctant to consider Charlotte, even with the GOAT at the helm. 

Perhaps the most important element in all this, however, is what it says about Wallace. Wallace was hurt that a franchise going nowhere gave him the opportunity to go be a part of a playoff team in a similarly small market, as a franchise cornerstone next to good, veteran players, and LaMarcus Aldridge.  He was disappointed that a franchise freed their best player to go have a shot at meaningful games on a succesful franchise. He felt unwanted by a team that basically stabbed itself and Stephen Jackson's career in moving towards a true rebuilding phase, and in doing so managed to get Wallace out of the way of the collateral damage. 

Wallace has every right to feel the way he does, but things could have ended so much worse for him. And the Bobcats continue to show that both of the axioms about markets are on point. Small markets suffer because of the insurmountable hill they have to climb in order to be relevant as opposed to the anthill large markets have to overcome, and small markets suffer because of poor management, poor ownership, poor player relations which keep them at the bottom. 

Trades are weird. 
Posted on: March 9, 2011 1:09 am
Edited on: March 10, 2011 1:41 am
 

Game Changer: Heat lose 5th straight game

The Miami Heat lost to the Portland Trail Blazers, Erik Spoelstra looked even more overwhelmed than usual, LeBron James threw down a sick dunk and Brandon Roy had his best game of the spring. All that, plus plenty more. Posted by Ben Golliver.

Each game is made up of elements that help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the previous night's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what led to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.  

THE BIG ONE: DEEPER BLAZERS DROP HEAT

Posted by Matt Moore.

The loss to the Knicks? A bizarre turn based on an offensive flourish from a team playing with emotion in its first week together. The loss to the Magic? A division rival with a furious comeback thanks to hot shooting and some system systemic offensive breakdowns on the other side. The loss to the Spurs? A back-to-back road blowout against the team with the best record in the league. The loss to the Bulls? A fiery, emotional team with a superior defensive effort, a magnificent superstar, and a blown rebound by the other guys. But the loss to the Blazers?
 
That was just the case of a superior team 1-10 beating the Heat. A superior team performance, a superior coaching performance, a superior star performance, a superior overall win for Portland, who have gone from looking at a rebuilding project to right in line for a serious playoff run. They are deep, they are talented, and they close games. Yeah, that's right. Portland with the five knee surgeries and missing Greg Oden and Brandon Roy unable to play full games and the aging point guard and having just acquired their All-Star? They are what the Heat tried to buy.

The game itself was a slow, methodical affair (84 estimated possessions, which is glacial), and favored the Blazers' deliberate style rather than the Heat's up and down attack. There were some exceptional highlights (see below for the Chalmers behind-the-back wizardry), but still a loss for the Heat. Isn't that the formula this year? Amazing highlights, lots of hype, national television appearance... and a loss.

The culprits were who you'd expect. While the Blazers were peeling Gerald Wallace of the bench for 22 points on 14 shots, 9 rebounds, an assist, a block, and two steals, the Heat were pulling the lifeless corpse of Mike Miller off the pine for two points on seven shots. But really, the Heat still could have won this game even with the loserly henchmen pulling a "Die Hard" (fire 2,000 rounds, don't hit anything) and James and Wade combining for 7 turnovers. That's how good James and Wade were. The real problem? Chris Bosh.

Forget the shooting. Some nights you're going to be off from mid-range. It happens, not much you can do to control that. Bosh says he needs more touches in the low-post. Forgetting the fact that this goes against every trend in his career and against the logic of having the kind of perimeter players the Heat have, it also ignores the fact that Bosh needs to try getting some easy buckets. The hard kind. I'm talking about tip-ins. Offensive rebounds and put-backs. Instead, Bosh had four total rebounds, and only one offensive. But hey, at least he played pretty good defense, right?
 
Or, you know, LaMarcus Aldridge had 26 points. This is where the line between Bosh's incompetence and Spoelstra's mistakes blur. In the second half when Aldridge started to go off after a slow first half, Bosh was showing way too strong on the pick and roll, jumping over to cover Andre Miller (you know, he of the ridiculous explosiveness), and allowing Aldridge all the room in the world to operate. Bosh gave himself nearly no chance at recovering.
 
Meanwhile, Brandon Roy was nailing the kinds of key shots Dwyane Wade is supposed to and the Heat were throwing away opportunity after opportunity. Great teams capitalize on chances they have to destroy their opponent. The Blazers did. The Heat did not.

At this point in the season, these two teams could not be headed in more opposite directions. Judging from how this game went down, it's not hard to see why.

SNAPSHOT:

The Miami Herald quoted Heat coach Erik Spoelstra after the game: "Frankly, we don’t have a lot of answers how to get over this hump. We can just keep grinding and not let go of the rope."

 This picture says about 1,000,000 words.

erik-spoelstra  

GO-GO-GADGET LINES OF THE NIGHT:

Andrew Bynum: 16 points, 16 rebounds, three assists, three blocks, +17 on 8 of 10 shooting in 35 minutes in a Los Angeles Lakers road win over the Atlanta Hawks.

Gerald Wallace:  22 points, nine rebounds, one assist, two steals, one block, +7 on 8 of 14 shooting in 35 minutes in a Portland Trail Blazers road win over the Miami Heat.

Dwyane Wade:  38 points, six rebounds, five assists, one steal, two blocks on 12 of 21 shooting in 43 minutes in a Miami Heat home loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.

LeBron James:  31 points, 11 rebounds, eight assists, one steal on 14 of 17 shooting in a Miami Heat home loss to the Portland Trail Blazers.

DON'T MISS:

HIGHLIGHT REEL:

The Heat lost to the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday, but LeBron James threw down a sick tomahawk dunk off of a behind-the-back pass in transition. Small consolation.


WHIMSY:

Houston Rockets forward Chase Budinger makes a silly face as he dunks one home during a loss to the Phoenix Suns.

chase-budinger-dunk

FINAL THOUGHT:

Against the Heat, Blazers guard Brandon Roy had his most effective game since his post All-Star break return from arthroscopic knee surgeries. Roy hit all three of his three-pointers en route to 14 points on eight shots in 23 minutes. Often hiding out on the weakside, he is theoretically the ideal spot up shooter to space the floor off of power forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Nate McMillan smartly managed Roy's minutes, sitting him for nearly the entire third quarter so that he would be fresh to close the game. The Blazers went small down the stretch and outscored the Heat 12-5 in the final 3:25 of the fourth quarter, including a huge Roy three-pointer. 
Posted on: March 7, 2011 5:52 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2011 5:53 pm
 

Eye on the MVP: Who's still in the running?

Posted by Royce Young



We've all been talking about the MVP, well, since before the season even started. We're fascinated by it. Winning the award is something that places you with the legends.

And with two-time winner LeBron James taking his talents south to join forces with Dwyane Wade, most felt like for the first time in a few years, the trophy has opened up to the field.

There's a little more than a month to go before the NBA regular season closes its doors and while teams are battling for playoff position (or ping-pong balls), there's also a pretty good skirmish going on for the MVP. Most would agree it's kind of narrowing down to a three-man race, but I see it as five that still have a shot at winning the award. Here's what each needs to do to maybe get his name etched on the Maurice Podoloff Trophy.

Derrick Rose:
He's already jumped the biggest hurdle. He has everyone buzzing about his candidacy. National talking heads bring his name up first in most every discussion and he's near the top of every list. Rose asked before the season why he couldn't be the MVP and it appears that he's answering his own question: He can be.

Rose has the leg up on the competition because he plays in an extremely visible market for a traditional power that's winning. He's carried a wounded Bulls team to Eastern contention and has put up sexy stats to go with it. He's missing a couple signature moments though, as the Bulls tend to win close games more on the defensive end than by Rose taking over. For instance, against Miami, while he had some big buckets in the fourth, he almost gave the game away with a bad backcourt turnover and an airball. The Bulls won anyway, so we forgot about it. But Rose needs a moment or two.

In the end though, I think he'll win this award if the Bulls just keep winning. If they can push all the way to 60 wins, the award is entirely Rose's. But if they can at least overtake the Heat, it'll be hard to rule against him.

Dwight Howard:
You can't deny Howard's numbers. They are, well, insane . Look at the path of destruction he left in February: 27 points and 14 rebounds per game on almost 70 percent shooting. And he's picked right up from there so far in March.

But playing a position where it's tough to win, plus the increasing issue of his technical problem, Howard isn't going to win this award unless the Magic make a run. He's picking up steam and people are taking notice of what he's meant to a jumbled Magic roster. But finishing fourth or fifth in the East probably isn't going to get it done when Rose's Bulls are pushing for the top seed.

The Magic need to finish really well behind the strength of Howard. If that happens and Orlando gets to third in the East, he could absolutely sneak in and steal the MVP. But Howard's not winning unless his Magic overtake Rose's Bulls.

LeBron James: All we are thinking about right now with LeBron is failure. We're thinking about the shots he's missed in crunch time, how he's come up short in big moments so far for the Heat. His numbers are pretty much as good as ever and with the way the Cavaliers have tanked without him, his perceived value is pretty much at an all-time high.

But if he's going to take a third straight MVP, he's got to come up with some big plays over the next month. The Heat are going to finish with a nice record and their share of wins. LeBron will have eye-popping stats as always. But to separate himself in terms of value, he has to become The Guy That Wins Games. Right now, people associate him with missing big shots or with coming up short.

His team isn't beating the good teams and he's accepted responsibility for that. He can still win this thing because he's freaking LeBron James (don't forget that, but in order to do it, he's going to have to win back a lot of doubters.

Dirk Nowitzki: In terms of pure resume, nobody has a better one. He's been awesome this year. His team has been awesome. Without him, they lost, a lot. I think with those three things, Dirk meets the incredibly vague MVP criteria as good as anyone.

Dirk has one MVP to his name so it's not like he's some long shot, unsexy pick here. He's one of the league's elite scorers and leaders. He means as much to that Mavericks team as anyone else on any roster. He's not a highlight factory. He doesn't finish above the rim. His defense doesn't catch your eye. But he hits big shots, comes up in big moments and his team just wins, with him at the center of it.

It doesn't feel like Dirk is going to win this thing because the buzz doesn't appear to be there, but don't ignore him. He needs some big time box scores and some big moments to grab attention because just winning and playing well doesn't seem to be doing it.

Kevin Durant:
The preseason favorite and as a result, he was cursed by high expectations. Everyone loved him to win this award and while he definitely had the needed hype, he also had the burden of expectation. People figured he would just build on last season's awesome campaign by following up with an even better 2010-11. The reality is, his team is better, they're going to win their division, probably finish fourth in the West (or higher) and he has pretty similar numbers to last year, where he finished as the runner-up to LeBron.

It's not Durant's fault that you penciled him in for 35 points per game this year. He's still having a terrific year and is going to win his second straight scoring title, all while his team improved and is a real contender in the incredibly tough Western Conference.

If he's going to get his name to the top of the list though, he has to finish strong. He needs a couple massive efforts, some late game heroics and for good measure, it'd be nice if the Thunder could get on a roll and take over third in the West. Durant's a big of a long shot right now, but he definitely has the chops to get there.

FOUR DARKHORSES

These four won't win, but they deserve a mention:

LaMarcus Aldridge: A player that elevates his game when the franchise player goes down for an extended period and therefore, his team wins more? I think that qualifies someone for MVP consideration. After Brandon Roy had his knees scoped, Aldridge cranked his game to another level. If the Blazers could rip of a good streak and get into the top four of the West, I'd be inclined to give him my imaginary vote.

Manu Ginobili: He's having one of his very best seasons for the best team in the league. When you look at the Spurs roster, it's hard to locate an MVP because nobody's numbers pop out. But Ginobili has been awesome for them.

Zach Randolph:
The Grizzlies are rising, and this is without Rudy Gay. The reason? Zach Randolph has been spectacular. He's averaging 20.3 points and 13.0 rebounds per game. If his name was Blake Griffin and he jumped over compact cars, we'd all be freaking out about everything he did. Don't short Randolph just because of his market and because of his style.

Russell Westbrook: Look at his numbers compared to Derrick Rose. Westbrook's are actually a bit better. Yes, he plays with Durant, but LeBron plays with Wade and that's not hurting things. Hey, I'm just sayin'.
Posted on: February 17, 2011 12:27 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2011 12:54 pm
 

Should the Blazers blow it up?

rich-cho-ball CBSSports.com's Ken Berger reports that the Portland Trail Blazers could be in for an active trade deadline. Posted by Ben Golliver. 

On Wednesday, CBSSports.com's Ken Berger noted a few factors that could make the Portland Trail Blazers an important player during the 2011 trade deadline season. First, the Blazers are just over the luxury tax line and presumably looking to get under it if possible. Second, the Blazers possess a number of expiring contracts that would serve as good bargaining chips. 
Execs are monitoring the intentions of Houston, Portland and Utah -- all tax-paying teams that will be deciding whether to go deeper into the tax or pull back from it.
One exec said he believes Portland GM Rich Cho is "poised for a pretty significant 24th." Given the grim prognosis for star guard Brandon Roy and the uncertainty about what cap space will be worth under the new labor rules, Cho is seriously considering cashing in on the expiring contract of Joel Przybilla and the essentially expiring deal of Andre Miller, whose 2011-12 salary is fully non-guaranteed. Marcus Camby, who has a year left at $12.9 million, could be enticing to one of the few deep-pocketed contenders not shy about taking on future money with CBA changes looming. The Mavericks, for example, will "listen to anything," according to a source.
Cho, Portland's first-year GM, doesn't have much of a track record to date, but he previously worked under Oklahoma City Thunder GM Sam Presti, who is known for his patience, discretion and how much he values salary cap flexibility. Cho appears to be cut from the same cloth. He's developed a reputation for his analytical approach to evaluating players and has made one significant move this season, dumping reserve guard Jerryd Bayless for a conditional first round draft pick in order to shed salary and increase his flexibility.

Here are the question that Cho has been grappling with all season: Are the Blazers, who have been bounced in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs each of the past two seasons, coming or going? And if they are going, is it time to blow things up and get younger?

I won't bore you with all the surgical details, but the Blazers have a number of factors clouding their ability to properly gauge their future lot. Two are much bigger than the others.

First, and most importantly, All-Star guard Brandon Roy has yet to return from dual knee surgeries and all indications are that he will be limited to some degree by his knees going forward. The Blazers are in the first year of a 5-year, $80+ million fully-guaranteed contract with Roy. He's as untradeable as a player can be.

Second, the Blazers must make a decision regarding chronically injured center Greg Oden this summer. Most likely, that decision will involve extending him a $8 million + qualifying offer which he will likely reject so that he can weigh multi-year offers. While his market value is unclear given that he is currently rehabilitating from his second microfracture knee surgery, the Blazers have indicated they are prepared to do what it takes to keep him. Between Oden and Roy, then, the Blazers have tied up a significant portion of their salary cap.

Making things even more complicated: the remaining Blazers have managed to climb all the way up to the middle of the pack in the Western Conference playoff picture and seem a solid bet to make the playoffs as is. Getting to the post-season matters to every NBA team, but it especially matters to the Blazers. Playoff gate revenue would surely be valued but, perhaps more importantly, this is a franchise that wants to take a place on the national stage whenever it can. Located in a small-market and geographically isolated from much of the basketball viewing public, the playoffs are a matter of pride and a chance for the team to shine when it so often feels overlooked. (Look no further than the LaMarcus Aldridge All-Star snub reaction to get a sense for this sentiment.) On top of that, Blazers owner Paul Allen is competitive and looking for a return on his investment of significant resources into this group of players.

Missing the playoffs, then, would be a blow to the pride, but also a blow to the credibility of the management staff. Despite all of the injuries, the resources and talent is still there, and that's without mentioning the team's solid head coach, Nate McMillan, who's making a case for Coach of the Year consideration. There are still expectations, even if the roof has caved in and eliminated the "contender" hopes for the time being. 

Any potential trade deadline move for Portland has to be assessed from the perspective of whether it will meaningfully impact Portland's ability to make the post-season. If a potential deal carries that risk, then it better have a sweetheart reward. If a deal can be engineered that helps the finances or the team's future without compromising this year's run, then that's got to be on the table.

Assessing Portland's roster through this lens divvies the players into some fairly clear groups. Players like Aldridge, Wesley Matthews and Nicolas Batum are obvious building blocks going forward. Roy and Oden are virtually impossible to move. The obvious candidates for a potential trade are point guard Andre Miller, along with centers Marcus Camby and Joel Przybilla. 

While there are financial arguments for moving any of them, Miller, Camby and Przybilla are of varied on-court importance.

Much has been made of Aldridge's breakout season - he's been floated as a Most Improved Player candidate and has twice won Western Conference Player of the Week honors - but none of that happens without his improved relationship with Miller, who hits him not only with lob after lob but also runs an effective late-game pick-and-roll as well. Miller probably trusted in Aldridge more than Aldridge did to start the season, and it's no coincidence that his voice was the loudest to complain when Aldridge was left off the All-Star team. The relationship that never developed between Miller and Roy - the relationship former Blazers GM Kevin Pritchard had hoped would make the Blazers a contender - now exists between Miller and Aldridge. 

Without question, Aldridge's now dependable production would be diminished this year if Miller is moved. The Blazers also have no other legit options capable of handling full-time point guard duties. Portland would be left, for the fourth time this season, to craft a new identity for themselves heading into the playoff stretch run. It wouldn't be impossible, but it wouldn't be particularly pleasant. It also wouldn't be all that intelligent, as the Blazers can cut and run out of Miller's contract if they find a better option this summer or he can be moved to a team next year as an expiring contract. Given his on-court value and future financial flexibility it makes far more sense to hold on to Miller than to move him, and I haven't even mentioned that his age and lack of playoff success render his external value questionable.

One of the most intriguing, under-reported wrinkles of Portland's season is that the Blazers are 10-4 since Camby underwent arthroscropic knee surgery. The Blazers have made due by using Aldridge as a center and playing more small-ball. It's certainly possible, perhaps not probable, that the Blazers could move Camby and still remain in the top eight, assuming Aldridge remains as healthy and productive as he has been since December.

The problem, of course, is the team's longer-term uncertainty at the center position. With Oden's future up in the air and Przybilla not at 100% since returning from two knee surgeries last season, Camby figures to be a fairly valuable component of a 2011-2012 Blazers team. Without him, the Blazers would be forced to either re-cast their new franchise player, Aldridge, as a center, draft a big man and be prepared to give him real minutes right off the bat, or find a random big off the scrap heap. None of those options would seem to be nearly as appetizing as making due with Camby for now and moving him during the draft or next season as an expiring contract should the center position crystallize a bit. While playoff teams looking for an extra big have expressed interest in Camby's services during a playoff run, the Blazers are interested in him for the same reason, and also because they don't have another reliable center penciled into the roster next season. He's a key locker room presence, too.

Przybilla, though, is a different story. His contract is expiring and he's not currently a critical component of the rotation, although he's filled in nicely during Camby's absence. When Camby returns, however, Przybilla reverts back to his status as a small-minute insurance piece and would likely be used sparingly in the playoffs with McMillan preferring to ride his starters. Longer-term, Przybilla's future in Portland is unclear as well, even though he's a local icon. He's simply not productive enough at this point to warrant a real financial commitment from the Blazers, given their other commitments discussed above. He is a living seven-foot tall human that can rebound so he will draw interest from around the league this summer, and he's also mentioned the possibility of retirement. Were the Blazers able to move Przybilla and receive limited contracts in return, utilizing a team's trade exception or open cap space, it's possible they could get under the luxury tax line without truly jeopardizing their rotation or playoff chances.  

Another player that was mentioned last summer but hasn't found his name in many rumors over the last month or two is guard Rudy Fernandez. Given Matthews' dependability and the potential return of Roy, Fernandez would become the most expendable member of the team's current rotation, although his ability to handle the ball helps his ability to get on the court should his minutes get squeezed. The formerly disgruntled Fernandez claims he is now happy in Portland and he's still on his rookie contract, so trading his $1.2 million salary alone wouldn't be enough to get the Blazers under the luxury tax line. Previously, Fernandez's asking price was said to be a late-first round pick. At this point, however, his internal value to the Blazers is likely higher than that given the questions surrounding Roy's availability. If you move Fernandez, a team that already struggles to score consistently and space the floor will be stretched even thinner. You would also be sacrificing a known, young, cheap rotation piece heading into a summer when you're likely to rebuild and get younger. 

Putting this all together, we shouldn't be surprised that things are busy for the Blazers in the run-up to the deadline. They've got loads of questions and an uncertain future, plus a bunch of potential trade chips and prospects on rookie deals. But the potential costs of a midseason overhaul seem to outweigh the benefits, and minimal activity at the deadline wouldn't preclude the team's ability to make the same moves this summer or during next season.
Posted on: February 17, 2011 8:33 am
 

Trade Deadline: Devin Harris to Blazers?

Report indicates Nets and Blazers discussing swap involving Andre Miller and Devin Harris among other pieces. 
Posted by Matt Moore

Devin Harris has been talked about in trade rumors which would ship him to Portland for months. He was part of one of the first Nets-Melo deals back in September. He was discussed in the second deal as well, with the idea being Denver would then ship him to Portland for Nicolas Batum. So the Blazers obviously have some level of interest in him, and the word's been out for a while that they would like to move Andre Miller. Which means that the latest report out of the Bergen Record has some immediate weight, as it suggests there have been talks already between Portland and New Jersey recently for just such a swap. From the Record:

The Nets and Blazers have exchanged trade proposals and still are discussing a deal. Harris and veteran point guard Andre Miller are the main pieces, but more players are involved, multiple NBA sources said. 
It’s doubtful the Nets will trade Harris, who turns 28 in two weeks, straight up for Miller, who turns 35 next month. 
The Nets want to expand the trade and are trying to include disappointing free-agent signing Travis Outlaw, who began his career in Portland. The Blazers are interested in shooting guard Anthony Morrow.
via Nets, Blazers talking about Devin Harris deal - NorthJersey.com.

The report goes on to suggest that the Nets have also brought up Rudy Fernandez and Joel Przybilla in the talks. Harris has struggled since his first season with New Jersey, which showed a lot of promise. Harris is still considered a "young" point guard despite turning 28 this month and has more athleticism than Miller (because he has any athleticism at all at this point).  Harris is the biggest value chip that the Nets have, and the Blazers have multiple assets they could be looking to move, so this one makes a lot of sense. The Nets could easily move Harris and pull in Przybilla to finish out his expring season, and then swap out Troy Murphy or buy him out to create even more space. 

And yet. 

Miller has been a huge part of LaMarcus Aldridge's explosion into stardom this season, lobbing to him several times a game. Miller's also been vital for their overall success and is a key component to their playoff run. Harris is likely the better player, but the old "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" axiom is in play here. If the Blazers want that playoff money, keeping Miller is a safe bet. Similarly, Rudy Fernandez after complaining for months about wanting to leave the country all together, has played fairly brilliantly for the Blazers. Will the situation be the same if he goes to a losing squad? 

Adding Morrow would be a great get for the Blazers, as he would provide balance with Aldridge and perimeter scoring by the handful. This is the kind of move for the Blazers that could upgrade their talent and clear their books, without having to take a step backwards towards rebuilding, which the franchise is hesitant to do, still. 

But where does Morrow fit in with Wesley Matthews and Brandon Roy? And for the Nets, why take on Miller knowing you'll just be left trying to find another point guard next year (assuming they drop Miller's last year which is non-guaranteed)? There are questions in this deal to be sure. But it's clear that Portland's interested in Harris, and the Nets want to deal.  There may be some fire to this smoke. 

Or, you know, it's yet another trade rumor. It's that time of the year, really.
Posted on: February 13, 2011 11:43 pm
Edited on: February 14, 2011 12:32 am
 

Game Changer: Is there any hope for the Heat?

The Miami Heat lose to the Boston Celtics for the third straight time this season, Rajon Rondo d's up on LeBron James, Blake Griffin throws down another alley oop, LaMarcus Aldridge sets a franchise record, the Birdman does some hanging out on the rim, and plenty more. Posted by Ben Golliver.

Each game is made up of elements that help formulate the outcome. Monday through Friday, we'll bring you the elements from the previous night's games in our own specialized version of the game recaps. It's not everything that happened, but it's an insight into what led to the results you'll see in the box scores. This is the Game Changer.  

THE BIG ONE: IS THERE HOPE FOR THE MIAMI HEAT?

Earlier Sunday, I took a look at how the Celtics' 85-82 victory over the Heat had a familiar feel to it, the game playing out as a "same old story" remix of Boston's first two victories against Miami the season. 

As much as we all might hope, the Heat aren't going to just fold up shop and cancel the rest of the season because the Celtics continue to stand in their way as a seemingly insurmountable opponent. Instead, Miami will work the spin cycle, focusing on Sunday's positive developments as they head into the All-Star break with the second best record in the East.

Despite their nationally-televised, much-hyped loss on Sunday, there were at least three positive takeaways for the Heat. 

First, Chris Bosh got the best of his match-up with Kevin Garnett - both from a scoring and rebounding perspective - a critical component if Miami ever hopes to top Boston. Simply put, each of Miami's Big 3 must play better than their counterpart to overcome Rajon Rondo and the chemistry advantage that Boston possesses because they've played together for so long. Bosh's 24 and 10 to Garnett's 19 and seven earned a respectful backslap from KG as the players left the court. Bosh has rightfully drawn criticism this season for his softness and inability to exert his influence on games this season, but neither of those flaws was an issue tonight, as Bosh stuck a big jumper down the stretch and never flinched from the moment.

Second, the Heat can be proud that they out-rebounded the Celtics while shooting virtually the same percentage from the field. There's a mental hurdle in going against a team with as many big, physical players as Boston, and Miami overcame that nicely, getting big boarding nights from forwards LeBron James (seven rebounds) and Mike Miller (nine rebounds). On the other side, Boston's frontcourt players combined for just five offensive rebounds. Given the makeshift nature of Miami's frontline, these numbers will serve as nice ammunition for the Heat coaching staff if and when a playoff match-up needs to be discussed in the locker room. "Look, guys, you've rebounded with them before, you can do it again." At the very least, we learned on Sunday that the perception of Boston's dominance inside is more pronounced than its actually dominance. (At least as long as Shaquille O'Neal remains out.)

Finally, the Heat can take solace in the fact that Dwyane Wade had a real stinker, scoring just 16 points on 17 shots and committing six turnovers. While Paul Pierce's historically awful shooting night drew most of the headlines, an average night from Wade would have certainly meant a Miami road win. If Wade shows up, things look a lot different. Miami likely would have taken home its  ninth straight victory and would be sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings. Over the course of a seven-game series, even against Boston, Wade isn't likely to repeat a performance like that more than once. 

Even given all of that, though, you would still much rather be the Celtics waking up on Monday morning rather than the Heat. All the confidence and mental advantages are yours. All the questions and needs for adjustments are Miami's.   

GO-GO-GADGET LINES OF THE NIGHT:

Rajon Rondo: 11 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists on five of 10 shooting in 43 minutes in a Boston Celtics home win over the Miami Heat.

Dwight Howard:  31 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, three blocks, 13 of 16 shooting in 39 minutes in an Orlando Magic home win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

LaMarcus Aldridge:  36 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals, one block on 12 of 17 shooting in 41 minutes in a Portland Trail Blazers road win over the Detroit Pistons.

Steve Nash:  22 points, 18 assists and two rebounds on eight of 17 shooting in 37 minutes in a Phoenix Suns home loss to the Sacramento Kings.

DON'T MISS:

SNAPSHOT:

The Boston Celtics needed to turn things up in the second half against the Miami Heat, and point guard Rajon Rondo led the charge, harrassing Heat forward LeBron James all over the court. Incredible snapshot of two All-Stars sizing each other up. 

lebron-james-rajon-rondo

Western Conference Playoff Chase

Don't look now, but the Western Conference standings are getting pretty insane. Just five games separate the New Orleans Hornets, the fifth seed, and the Phoenix Suns, the 10th seed. To make things even more intriguing, the two biggest wildcards - the Denver Nuggets and Utah Jazz - are tied for the sixth seed, with their division rivals, the Portland Trail Blazers just a half-game behind. The Nuggets are still in no-man's-land with Carmelo Anthony, the Jazz are dealing with their first coaching change since the Reagan Administration, and the Blazers are, improbably, on a four-game winning streak and expecting to get center Marcus Camby and guard Brandon Roy back within the next few weeks. In other words, we've officially reached the "everyone checks the standings first thing in the morning" stage of the season, and the All-Star break isn't until next weekend.

The real question: Does this flattening affect anyone's strategy in advance of the trade deadline? 

It seems to me like more teams than ever rightly feel like they have legit playoff hopes. If that's true, it's reasonable to expect that the sellers will dry up a bit as the teams in the Western Conference's vast second tier would be more inclined not to make a rotation-changing deal, preferring instead to hold down the fort as is. 

Additionally, this group is a clear cut below the West's top four, which could also mean that they won't be inclined to make a bold "win now" type move either. Melo obviously remains the biggest wild card, but, at this point, I'm leaning towards this being a relatively quiet trade season out West. The fringe teams would seem to have more motivation to stick with the status quo rather than going for it or blowing it up.  

HIGHLIGHT REEL:

This is just a Blake Griffin dunk every single day, you know how I do it. Here Griffin catches the alley oop lob pass from Baron Davis and throws it down two-handed in transition against the Raptors in Toronto. Jiminy.


WHIMSY:

Colorful Denver Nuggets big man Chris Andersen scowls at the rim during a dunk attempt.

birdman-dunk

FINAL THOUGHT:

The Portland Trail Blazers announced on Sunday that power forward LaMarcus Aldridge became the first player in franchise history to score 36 or more points in three consecutive games after he scored 36 to lead the Blazers past the Pistons in Detroit. Given that Clyde Drexler, Bill Walton, Brandon Roy, Rasheed Wallace, Zach Randolph and others all donned the red and black, that's an amazing accomplishment. 
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com