The Blazers will miss LaMarcus Aldridge‘s production but not his ego, writes Jason Quick of The Oregonian. Quick contends there was a “general exhaustion” with Aldridge in Portland, citing frequent attempts to sit out games with minor aliments and a failure to get over long-ago incidents. The columnist notes a growing rift between Aldridge and Damian Lillard caused by Aldridge’s insecurity. He also believes the Blazers are in good hands with Lillard as the new team leader.
There’s more from the Northwest Division:
- Kim Hughes, the assistant coach who said Aldridge would leave Portland, was fired today, Quick writes in a separate story. “We can confirm Mr. Hughes is no longer with the team,” said Neil Olshey, Portland’s president of basketball operations. Team officials were reportedly “enraged” by the comments from Hughes, who has served as the Blazers’ big man coach for the past three seasons.
- Aldridge admired the Spurs for years before today’s decision to join the organization, according to Ben Golliver of SI.com. Aldridge accumulated a slew of individual honors during his nine years in Portland, but only advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs once. That one trip to the second round ended with a sweep by San Antonio. “They never stop playing,” Aldridge said at the time. “If you guard their first option, they’ve got a second option. If you guard their second option, they’ve got a third option. They’re persistent. They’re not going to change. They’re going to run their stuff over and over and over. Once you mess up, they’re going to make you pay.”
- The Aldridge decision could have far-reaching draft implications for the Blazers, according to Mike Tokito of The Oregonian (Twitter link). Portland owes a first-round pick to the Nuggets, but the Blazers will keep that over the next two seasons if they miss the playoffs. After that, the obligation will become two second-rounders.
- Thunder free agent center Enes Kanter could become a target for the Blazers, tweets Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman. He notes that Portland needs a center and has the cap space to throw a big offer at Kanter.
- The Thunder’s Kevin Durant is reporting progress on the foot injury that cost him most of last season, according to Andy Vasquez of The Record (Twitter link). “Going well,” Durant said of his rehab. “I’m jumping when I’m shooting. Not quite running and cutting yet but I’m almost there … I’m excited.”
- The Jazz are delaying the signing of first-round pick Trey Lyles to give themselves more cap room for possible transactions, tweets Jody Genessy of The Deseret News. There are also some minor details the sides are working out (Twitter link).