Western Notes: Aldridge, Thunder, Blair

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.

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