Rumors of LaMarcus Aldridge‘s satisfaction with the Blazers have gone from pegging the MVP candidate as disgruntled, to appeased, to content in recent years, with speculation about his willingness to stay with Portland long-term settling down as the team has surprisingly stayed near the top the Western Conference standings this season. Now Aldridge is going on the record as wanting an extension, telling Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune that he’s ready to sit down with GM Neil Olshey and begin negotiating a new contract:
“I would like to re-sign here,” Aldridge says. “If they want to talk about it, I would talk about it. They haven’t yet, but I’m looking forward to the chance to do that.”
The two-time All-Star is scoring (23.6 PPG) and rebounding (11 RPG) at a career-best rate, and is likely to make his third straight appearance this year. It seems like a no-doubter that the Blazers, who have desperately constructed their roster to meet Aldridge’s desire to be on a competitive team, would extend the 28-year-old to a max deal, although Olshey says the “appropriate” time for those negotiations hasn’t arrived yet. Olshey wouldn’t reveal to Eggers when that time would be, saying, “It’s not a conversation that’s going to play out in the media in January.”
Aside from the Blazers’ success in the win-loss column this year, Aldridge cites a growing level of trust with coach Terry Stotts, the support of Portland fans, and the unselfishness of his teammates as reasons he wants to stick around with the team that acquired him on 2006′s draft night, when the Bulls made him the second-overall pick and dealt him to the Blazers for Tyrus Thomas and Viktor Khryapa.
As the trade deadline approaches Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times thinks the Lakers should trade Pau Gasol while they can still get something in return for him. Gasol in the last year of his contract and the Lakers with little financial flexibility after extending Kobe Bryant seem to be parting ways after the season according to Bolch. Bolch suggests a few trades the Lakers should look into. First, the Nets to see if they can acquire injured Brook Lopez for Gasol. Next, the Grizzlies to pair Pau with his younger brother Marc Gasol in exchange for Zach Randolph. If neither are interested, Bolch suggests contacting the Rockets for Omer Asik. Finally, Bolch states the Hawks have coveted Gasol for some time and he thinks they may be willing to part with Paul Millsap in order to fill the gap created by an injured Al Horford. If all else fails, Bolch prompts the Lakers to at least get draft picks for Gasol and avoid “a bleak future”.
A few other notes around the Western Conference.
- Although Andre Miller is one year removed from being called one of George Karl’s all-time favorite players, Steve Luhm of The Salt Lake Tribune believes we have seen the last of Miller in a Nuggets jersey. With a new coach in town and the Nuggets resurgence since Miller’s departure, Luhm thinks it is inevitable Miller’s absence will soon become permanent.
- Courtney Lee didn’t need to prove anything to the Grizzlies front office for them to want to trade for him says Michael Cohen of The Commercial Appeal. Lee had already done that five years prior when training for the draft with his former agent Jason Levien and his former development coach Stu Lash. Levien, now the CEO of the Grizzlies, and Lash, now the Grizzlies director of player personnel and basketball development, both admired Lee’s hard work ethic and defensive prowess when they represented him five years ago, prompting them to bring him to Memphis.
- While no one hopes for injuries, they have proven beneficial to Jodie Meeks‘ playing time and wallet. Eric Pincus of The Los Angeles Times writes that Meeks is halfway to hitting bonus incentives in his contract that will pay him $200K. Meeks has playing time bonuses that are triggered for averaging both 20 minutes and 25 minutes a game. With Lakers players down with injury, Meeks has been averaging 31.6 MPG so far this season.
- Not every wise transaction has to involve athletes, as John Canzano of The Oregonian points out. Canzano inspects the transactions Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen has made regarding GM Neil Olshey, president Chris McGowan, and head coach Terry Stotts. In fact, Canzano predicts Allen will extend Stotts’ head coaching contract before the All-Star Game. Stotts contract has a team option for next year but nothing beyond that.
Mo Williams intends to turn down his 2014/15 player option at season’s end, becoming an unrestricted free agent, he tells Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com. According to Williams, opting out was always his plan, but he hopes to sign a new contract with the Trail Blazers in July.
“I would like to be here long-term,” Williams said. “My goal is to work something out with Portland this summer. I like it here and I want to make this place home…. For me, it’s about finishing my career the right way for the X amount of years that I have and I’d love to do it here because of the fan support, the familiarity with the coach and [GM] Neil [Olshey].”
Williams, 31, signed a two-year contract with the Trail Blazers in the offseason that will pay him $2.65MM this season, with a second-year player option worth $2.77MM. Often, in that sort of modestly priced two-year deal, the player option serves as an insurance policy — for instance, if Williams were to suffer a serious injury this spring, he’d have the chance to opt into the second year, ensuring him a regular pay check for 2014/15.
Many of Williams’ per-game averages this season (9.4 PPG, 24.4 MPG) are the lowest marks since his rookie year. Still, he has filled the role Portland had anticipated for him, providing a veteran presence and serving as a dangerous third guard off the bench, backing up Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews. While he may not be in line for a big raise if and when he opts out, he could easily secure another multiyear deal.
It’s been a busy day so far for D-League transactions, with several teams either calling up or sending down young players. We heard earlier that the Nets re-assigned Tornike Shengelia and Tyshawn Taylor to the Springfield Armor. Now, let’s round up the rest of Monday’s moves:
- The Sixers have recalled both Elliot Williams and Lorenzo Brown from the D-League, the team announced today in a press release. Williams was just assigned to the Delaware 87ers yesterday, while Brown had been with the Sixers’ D-League affiliate for the last week and a half.
- Nando De Colo has been sent to the Austin Toros for the sixth time this season, the Spurs announced in a press release. De Colo’s assignments have each been brief, as he’s played just five total games during his time with Austin, averaging 24.6 PPG, 6.6 APG, and 6.2 RPG.
- The Mavericks have recalled Ricky Ledo from the Texas Legends, according to a team release. Ledo was assigned back on November 30th, and appeared in 14 contests with the Legends, helping to lead the club to a 10-5 overall record.
- C.J. McCollum has been informed by the Blazers that he’ll be active for Tuesday’s game, says Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com. McCollum hasn’t officially been recalled from the D-League’s Idaho Stampede yet, but it appears that will officially happen today or tomorrow, in advance of what could be McCollum’s NBA debut in Sacramento.
Jazz guard Diante Garrett is trying not to think about his non-guaranteed contract and the pending decision coming up on it, tweets Aaron Falk of the Salt Lake Tribune (via Twitter). ”I’ve just been … trying to play good so I can stay here,” said Garrett, who had ten points, four rebounds, and two dimes in last night’s contest against the Bucks. More out of the Western Conference..
- The Pelicans‘ recent release of veteran Lou Amundson is already adding early fuel to the fire that Idaho Stampede young gun Pierre Jackson may receive an NBA call-up by New Orleans in the near future, writes Keith Schlosser of Ridiculous Upside.
- C.J. McCollum‘s D-League stint will last for just a pair of games, as Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com notes via Twitter, and the lottery pick is expected to make his NBA debut on Tuesday for the Trail Blazers, according to Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports.
- The Sacramento City Council will vote Tuesday on whether to file an eminent domain lawsuit against the owners of a parcel of land where a new arena for the Kings is to be built, report Ryan Lillis and Tony Bizjak of The Sacramento Bee. It seems likely that a judge would rule in the city’s favor, allowing it to seize the land, if it came to that, as Lillis and Bizjak explain.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
As the Andrew Bynum rumors continue to pour in, the Cavaliers got some very good news today. Currently sitting only three games out of the East’s eight seed, the Cavs announced that star guard Kyrie Irving‘s left knee sustained no structural damage on Tuesday when he had to be helped off the court after an awkward fall.
Let’s take a look at what else is happening around the NBA on Wednesday:
- As Jonathan Tjarks of RealGM writes, the rebuild that the Raptors appeared to be destined for a month or two ago may have already happened in the form of the Rudy Gay trade, which has galvanized the remaining Raptors and given Dwane Casey a bench to work with.
- For Insiders, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton outlines what to watch for in the NBA in 2014, including whether flawed but dangerous teams like the Clippers, Blazers and Rockets will load up for a playoff run as well as if one of the top prospects for the 2014 NBA Draft separates himself from the pack by June.
- There are some players that will still be off limits for that trio of teams via trade, as well as the rest of the NBA, as Eric Pincus of HoopsWorld writes. Pincus outlines every player not yet eligible to be traded because of a variety of NBA rules.
- Joel Brigham of HoopsWorld lists Ben Gordon, Paul Pierce, Danny Granger, Kris Humphries and Amar’e Stoudemire as soon-to-be free agents that will likely have to deal with significant pay cuts in their new deals this summer. Brigham designates Andris Biedrins, Emeka Okafor and Richard Jefferson as honorable mentions.
At this point, 18 of the 30 NBA teams have sent players on D-League assignments this season and we have three more today. Below are the details. Don’t forget to reference our D-League assignment tracker to keep tabs of all of the moves this year.
- The Blazers have assigned C.J. McCollum to the Idaho Stampede, their D-League affiliate, the team announced today via press release. Portland selected McCollum with the No. 10 pick in June’s NBA Draft and the rookie fractured his left foot in training camp in October. He was just cleared to resume practice, and will play for the Stampede on Friday and Saturday, according to the team.
- The Hawks have assigned guard Jared Cunningham back to the Bakersfield Jam, the team announced today via news release. Cunningham, who has appeared in three games for Atlanta this season, was recalled from Bakersfield on December 29. This is the third time the team has assigned him to the Jam this season.
- We heard earlier today that the Celtics assigned MarShon Brooks to the Maine Red Claws. While many will assume the move represents a demotion, Brad Stevens and the Celtics don’t see it that way, writes Marc D’Amico of Celtics.com. Brooks hasn’t been playing much in Boston, and with a busy game schedule in the near future, the assignment will allow Brooks to get on the court somewhere.
Posting up career-numbers in points, rebounds, and assists in addition to leading the Trail Blazers to a current three-way tie for the league’s best record, LaMarcus Aldridge is arguably a strong candidate for the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award at this point in the season. Ben Golliver of Blazers Edge relayed some noteworthy comments from Aldridge during an interview with ESPN’s Chris Broussard, and it appears that the 28-year-old forward wants to remain in Portland for the long-term:
“I’m here. I love it here. This team is good and we’re winning. I’ve been here my whole career. I’m in the history books here. I don’t want to leave. I feel this team is good enough to win it all one day and be there.”
Here’s more of what we’ve gathered out of the Western Conference tonight:
- Although some offseason narratives had the Thunder taking a step back this year after losing Kevin Martin to free agency, Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix writes about how Oklahoma City’s young bench – in addition to career-best numbers from Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka as well as elite play from Russell Westbrook – has played a major role in keeping the team within title contention this season. Interestingly enough, Mannix points out that the reserves’ combined 34.1 PPG marks the highest output of the entire Durant era.
- Sam Amick of USA Today echoes the same sentiments from Mannix and revisits how the Thunder, facing drastic changes due to the NBA’s harsh new collective bargaining agreement, were able to recover nicely after making the tough call to deal James Harden over a season ago.
- Previously relegated to spot minutes in San Antonio, DeJuan Blair has had tonight’s matchup against the Spurs circled on his calendar for quite some time, says Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas, who adds that the 6’7 forward has been a bargain banger since signing with the Mavericks this past summer. Blair, who is currently averaging 8.3 PPG and 7.0 RPG in 20.9 MPG, has made it known on several occasions about being unhappy with the way his 4-year stint with the Spurs had ended.
- According to Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times, Lakers forward Ryan Kelly has carved out a role in the team’s rotation and earned some public praise from Mike D’Antoni after practice earlier today: “He knows how to play, defensively and offensively…Defensively he’s the first one to get to the right spot. I think that going forward, he can keep earning more time. I’m pretty excited about him.” D’Antoni also suggested that Kelly’s newfound opportunity to earn floor time could come at the expense of Chris Kaman and Robert Sacre‘s rotation minutes.
Knicks management is confident it can attract the stars necessary to pull the team out of its malaise, and its first target will be Rajon Rondo, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com. The Knicks hope Rondo will become discontent with the Celtics and attempt to force them to trade him to New York sometime between now and 2015, when his contract ends. If they come up short on trading for Rondo, the Knicks think they’ll sign him in free agency or land one or two of the following potential 2015 free agents: LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol, Roy Hibbert, Kevin Love and Tony Parker.
The notion of Rondo joining the Knicks isn’t new, since the point guard’s high school coach claimed earlier this month that fellow former pupil Carmelo Anthony has been trying to recruit Rondo. Anthony pointed out that any such talk could constitute tampering, and both he and Rondo denied that they were discussing the idea of teaming up. It’s not clear how the Knicks could sell Rondo on the notion of pushing for a trade to New York, as Anthony did in 2011, without violating tampering rules. Still, much of the Knicks’ confidence in their future comes from the built-in lure of star-making capital New York, Windhorst writes.
Anthony could leave in free agency himself this summer, and there’s talk that the Knicks may attempt to trade him by the upcoming February 20th deadline if they don’t feel as though they can retain him. Windhorst seems to suggest there’s little chance of that happening, given how certain the Knicks seem about the road ahead. An executive from another team says the Knicks expect to re-sign Anthony and have another star player with him in a year’s time, adding that, “They’re so sure about it you’d think they already know what will happen.”
The same attitude explains why Mike Woodson is still coaching the team, according to Windhorst. The Knicks don’t feel there’s an adequate replacement available during the season, but plenty of intriguing candidates may exist in the summer, Windhorst writes. Having traded their potential lottery pick for 2014, the Knicks may be better off trying to make the playoffs this year with Woodson as coach, the ESPN scribe opines.
There were conflicting reports this summer about whether LaMarcus Aldridge wanted to be traded, but Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher hears that there was a deal in the works that would have sent him to the Bulls for Joakim Noah. It’s not clear how close the deal came to happening or whether it was the Blazers or Bulls who initiated the talks, but Portland indeed made Aldridge available in the offseason, Bucher writes.
Rumors about Aldridge have become less frequent since the start of the season as his career-best performance has helped the Blazers to a 23-5 record that has them atop the Western Conference. He’s averaging 23.1 points and 11.0 rebounds a game, both career highs, and his 22.7 PER matches his best mark from his seven previous NBA seasons.
The Bulls drafted Aldridge second overall in 2006, but sent him to Portland in a regrettable draft-night deal that brought in a package of Tyrus Thomas and little else. Chicago might have brought Aldridge back this summer, but it would have cost the Bulls an All-Star of their own in Noah. It’s not clear if there were other players in the discussion, but a one-for-one swap of Aldridge and Noah wouldn’t have worked under salary-matching rules, since it would have added too much to Chicago’s payroll.
I’d be quite surprised if the Blazers revisited Aldridge talks with the Bulls or any other team, given Portland’s fast start, so it seems the scenario will remain a “what if?” proposition.