Beckley Mason of the New York Times examines the chemistry and cohesiveness that have galvanized the Trail Blazers this season, prompting LaMarcus Aldridge to call this the ‘happiest time in his career’: “Guys are playing so (unselfishly) — our team chemistry is unreal right now…Coach Stotts gives us the freedom to play loose and make plays, and guys aren’t abusing it.”
Veteran point guard Earl Watson also weighed in: “Everyone accepts their role, and the roles were never defined. It’s the truth of our team, the DNA of our team. The way we fit together, it’s like the perfect storm, so to speak.”
Here’s more out of the Western Conference tonight:
Sam Amico of FOX Sports has tons of great stuff in his latest column, let’s dive in and check out some of the highlights..
- LaMarcus Aldridge was all over Hoops Rumors this summer with talk of dissatisfaction with the Blazers and trade demands, but it sounds like we can finally put that to rest. Aldridge, who looks like the best power forward in the league so far this season, appears to be content with his 12-2 club.
- There is some relevance to a suggested potential trade involving the 76ers and Cavs, according to league sources. Philly is likely to shop small forward Evan Turner, an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, and the Cleveland is exploring the idea of landing a starting-caliber small forward. It could be a good match, depending on the Cavs’ desire to gamble on the uncertainty of Turner’s contract. The possibility also exists the Sixers will hold on to Turner and re-sign him in the summer as he has played well and been a team leader under new coach Brett Brown.
- However, Cavs GM Chris Grant is not actively trying to make a deal, even though he likes to make trades and is always willing to listen.
- League sources believe Kings swingman Marcus Thornton is available. Thornton is a talented scorer, but a less-than-stellar defender and has fallen out of Michael Malone‘s rotation.
- The Derrick Rose-less Bulls could shake things up. Chicago still wants to win and get into the playoffs, sources say, but if things head south quickly, they could gut the roster and aim for a high lottery pick to pair with Rose when he returns. A team source says if the Bulls trade Luol Deng, they would have to get what they consider a steal (a young player and picks) to move him within the Eastern Conference. The asking price from a Western team wouldn’t be as high.
- One league source said that as of today, the Bulls won’t even think about what to do with Deng until the trade deadline nears.
- Guards Richard Hamilton, Shannon Brown, and Kendall Marshall remain unsigned, but they’re all drawing interest from several teams. League sources expect Brown and Marshall to sign somewhere by the New Year, and Hamilton perhaps not long after that.
LaMarcus Aldridge hasn’t told coach Terry Stotts that he wants to remain in Portland long-term, but he hasn’t said he wants to get out, either, so the coach tells Jim Rome of CBS Sports Radio that he isn’t worried about a player he believes is content playing for the Blazers. Ben Golliver of Blazer’s Edge has a transcript of those comments, as well as the coach’s remarks on the contributions of new acquisition Robin Lopez toward what Stotts perceives as a changed culture on the team. Here’s more on other new additions around the Association:
- Doc Rivers arrived in L.A. this summer with J.J. Redick atop his list of targets within the Clippers‘ price range, and he convinced Redick over dinner to come to the team, finally landing the player he’d sought multiple times while with the Celtics. Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com has the details.
- Xavier Henry didn’t perform nearly as well in New Orleans as he is with the Lakers, and while Pelicans coach Monty Williams takes responsibility for his role in that, Henry doesn’t blame him, according to Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.
- Lester Hudson is headed to play in China for the third straight season, inking a deal with Xinjiang, agent Brad Ames tells Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype (Twitter link). Hudson’s first trip East in 2011/12 resulted in late-season NBA stints with the Cavs and Grizzlies.
- The Thunder have lost plenty with the departures of James Harden and Kevin Martin the past two offseasons, but Jeff Caplan of NBA.com thinks this could be the most complete Oklahoma City team yet, thanks to the team’s youthful bench.
- Steven Adams, a member of that Thunder bench, has seen more minutes than starter Kendrick Perkins this year, but Caplan passes along Perkins’ praise for the rookie, and coach Scott Brooks isn’t concerned that Perkins will pout, The Oklahoman’s Darnell Mayberry notes.
No team except perhaps the Sixers was viewed as more likely to tank the 2013/14 season than the Suns, who shipped out Luis Scola over the summer and traded Marcin Gortat just days before the regular season began. But team president Lon Babby takes issue with the idea that Phoenix is intentionally trying to lose games, as he tells Sean Deveney of the Sporting News.
“There is a key difference between acknowledging that you’re rebuilding, which we are, and some notion that you’re not trying to succeed,” Babby said. “Anybody in this business, because you’re competitive, and you have a competitive nature, it is not going to do anything but give your heart and soul to try to win every night.”
It may be an question of semantics, but Babby’s comments, along with the strong starts to the season for the Sixers and Suns, are a reminder that while a front office may put a team in position to lose games, the players on the court are certainly trying to win.
Here’s more from around the West:
- Rival team executives will continue to monitor LaMarcus Aldridge‘s situation in Portland, but the Blazers forward tells Sam Amick of USA Today that he has no desire to be moved. Asked about his current attitude, Aldridge replied: “It’s not ‘If there’s a better deal, then get me out of [Portland] or take that.’ It’s ‘We’re here. Let’s win, and let’s try to have the best season that we can.’” Amick adds that there’s a league-wide belief that GM Neil Olshey wouldn’t even consider an offer for Aldridge unless it included at least an All-Star player, among other things.
- Responding to comments made by ESPN’s Bill Simmons, Oklahoman contributor Jon Hamm rebuts the idea that the Thunder need to become a taxpaying team to win the title.
- On the heels of a 19-point outing from Ben McLemore, Kings coach Michael Malone tells Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee that the rookie guard is “a big part of our future.”
Kobe Bryant didn't inform Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni of his latest trip to Germany for a blood-spinning procedure on his right knee, and at least one other NBA coach sees that as a sign of disrespect, according to Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News.
Here's more from around the Western Conference…
- The Pelicans announced today in a press release they've waived 6'7" forward Rodney Carney. A product of Memphis, the 29-year-old Carney has been in the league for five seasons, playing in the past for the Sixers, Grizzlies, Warriors and Timberwolves with career averages of 5.9 points and 2.0 rebounds in 15.4 MPG.
- Nicolas Batum told CSNNW.com's Chris Haynes today was the first day Blazers coach Terry Stotts let the projected starting lineup of Batum, Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Robin Lopez play together. He said they played great (Twitter).
- After suffering a minor injury to his left leg during Blazers practice on Wednesday, Aldridge tells Mike Tokito of the Oregonian that he's feeling better after sitting out Thursday's practice. He was back on the court Friday.
- After coming aboard as the Blazers' GM 16 months ago, Neil Olshey has blossomed into a leader and the voice of a Blazers franchise that needed both, writes Joe Freeman at the Oregonian.
- Scott Rafferty of Ridiculous Upside believes Perry Jones III could use another season in the Development League before being called up to the Thunder.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post
While we heard earlier today that Shawn Marion may not be entirely sure of what the future holds beyond this season, his Mavericks teammate Vince Carter feels eager to continue his NBA career as long as his body allows him to: "I don’t want to limit myself. I think doing that, you start thinking about it as the season goes on. I just go. I just let the body pretty much dictate how I feel at the end" (Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas). The 36-year-old guard/forward is entering the final year of his three-year contract this season, though MacMahon notes that team owner Mark Cuban has already gone on record saying he'd like to re-sign Carter this summer.
After missing 2012/13 with a knee injury, Chase Budinger re-signed with the Timberwolves this summer, with both sides looking to put a lost season behind them. However, Budinger's year is off to an ominious start — the team announced today that he underwent successful arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, a procedure that will sideline him indefinitely (Twitter links). As Minnesota looks to avoid further visits from the injury bug that plagued the club last season, let's round up a few items out of the Northwest Division….
- Budinger isn't the only notable Northwest player who has recently undergone arthroscopic surgery. The Thunder have announced in a press release that Russell Westbrook had the procedure performed on his right knee today, and that he'll likely miss the first four to six weeks of the regular season.
- Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post explores the 10 most interesting stories to come out of the Nuggets' Media Day, including GM Tim Connelly's willingness to shake up the roster, if necessary. "If we enjoy the success we want to have, maybe we’re not as motivated to be deal-seeking," Connelly said. "But I want to be opportunistic, I want to be aggressive. I don’t think we’re where we want to be at this point."
- At Media Day in Portland, GM Neil Olshey encouraged reporters to "get over" their fascination with LaMarcus Aldridge trade rumors and "move on," while Aldridge indicated that he's looking forward to spending the season with the Trail Blazers. Joe Freeman of the Oregonian and Ben Golliver of Blazer's Edge have the details.
- At the Timberwolves' Media Day, Kevin Love wasn't too interested in discussing the past, including his injury-plagued 2012/13 season or his relationship with ex-GM David Kahn, writes Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune.
- In a separate piece for the Star Tribune, Zgoda talks to T-Wolves head coach Rick Adelman about why it took so long to determine that he'd definitely be back on the bench for the coming season.
- The Jazz finalized their camp roster today by signing Lester Hudson.
Wolves president of basketball ops Flip Saunders consulted coach Rick Adelman this summer as the team was debating the merits of signing J.J. Redick, O.J. Mayo and Kevin Martin. It was Martin, Adelman's former player on the Rockets and the only one of the trio who signed with Minnesota, who stood out to the longtime coach.
"All of them could help us," Adelman said, as Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune notes. "Anybody who could make a shot was going to help us. But Kevin I knew so well and I knew he’s going to get you 20 points every time he steps on the floor."
Zgoda passes along more from Adelman on his decision to return to the bench this season and his working relationship with Saunders, and we have more on Minnesota's rivals in the Northwest:
- Blazers GM Neil Olshey was testy with reporters when asked about LaMarcus Aldridge trade rumors at media day today, as Ben Golliver of Blazer's Edge notes. For his part, Aldridge reiterated that he's not angling to get out of Portland. Golliver has a complete transcript of Olshey's media day comments here.
- Olshey and Blazers coach Terry Stotts both expect the team to make the playoffs this season, as Mike Tokito of The Oregonian observes.
- Tyrone Corbin, entering the final season of his contract with the Jazz, will be judged on how well the team's players develop this season rather than wins and losses, opines Gordon Monson of The Salt Lake Tribune.
- We rounded up the latest from the Nuggets earlier this evening, including the team's addition of Kyle Fogg to its training camp roster.
Ben Golliver of BlazersEdge relays a portion of the transcript from a radio interview between Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports and John Canzano of 750 AM The Game as it relates to trade rumors surrounding LaMarcus Aldridge. Wojnarowski believes that while the circumstances could change, he can't imagine Aldridge leaving Portland in the foreseeable future and adds that the team hasn't shopped him. He's also not sure if the market is currently presenting anything worth trading for and doesn't think Trail Blazers GM Neil Olshey is likely to deal the 6'11 big man for pennies on the dollar. Here are more miscellaneous notes out of the Western Conference tonight, including a handful of injury updates:
- Tim Cowlishaw of SportsDayDFW thinks that while the Mavericks could be okay this year, he's concerned about two to three years down the line when the team might not have any young stars to build around.
- In a piece for The Oregonian, Canzano says that he wants someone from the Trail Blazers to step up and guarantee a playoff berth.
- Bill Oram of The Salt Lake Tribune reports that Jazz big man Enes Kanter has looked great in workouts, has had no issues with his shoulder, and participated in 5-on-5 scrimmages today for the first time since his injury (Twitter links).
- Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw wouldn't commit to any projected recovery timetable for injured forward Danilo Gallinari, saying that it isn't "anything that anyone can determine at this point" (Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post).
- Mark Medina of InsideSocal passes along an injury update from Lakers forward Pau Gasol, who looks to be fully healthy heading into this season after a summer of much-need rest and rehab.
- In a piece for Sports Illustrated, Ben Golliver made note that Rockets guard James Harden believes that he is a top-10 player (hat tip to Comcast Sportsnet Houston): "For sure. Last year I got a chance to prove it, I kind of broke out of the shell a little bit. Even though it was my first year (as a starter), I've got a lot more to prove. I've always kind of been the underdog, always been looked over, so it's nothing new."
- Sean Meagher of OregonLive.com provides season previews for the Thunder and Jazz with help from Darnell Mayberry of NewsOK and Bill Oram of The Salt Lake Tribune, respectively.
- Jim Eichenhofer of Pelicans.com continued his list of reasons to be excited about training camp in New Orleans, listing a fresh start for Tyreke Evans at number five.
LaMarcus Aldridge's reps reportedly met with Blazers brass earlier this summer to discuss trade possibilities as the big man was unhappy with the direction of the franchise. However, Aldridge made it known this week that he never asked out of Portland. Here's the latest out on Aldridge and other notes out of the Northwest Division..
- Even though LaMarcus Aldridge says that he didn't demand to be traded from the Blazers, he did converse with GM Neil Olshey about the direction of the club, tweets Marc J. Spears of Yahoo. "I did the whole rebuilding thing. I want to win. I told him let's get better this summer. I think (Olshey's) done that," said the All-Star.
- When asked if he feels like he's wasting the prime of his career with the Blazers, Aldridge said he doesn't and says that he still has "a lot" of years left in his prime (link). The big man added that the Blazers have a chance to make the playoffs, but they'll have to work hard for it (link). Hoops Rumors readers are split 50/50 on whether that's a reality for Portland.
- DeAndre Liggins was already going to have to fight to make the Thunder roster and his arrest only hurts his chances, notes Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman (on Twitter). Liggins is on a non-guaranteed minimum salary.