Around The World: March 26, 2014

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Trail Blazers: LaMarcus Aldridge Hopes To Play Thursday, But says Not Yet 'Normal'

“Makes me want to play even worse? Yes it does. But it’s not about me, it’s about the medical staff and them saying I can play. I’ve been wanting to play but obviously if you can’t move then you can’t play.”

Trail Blazers: Jalen Rose On Portland Making The Playoffs And His Bet With Bill Simmons

“The Blazers have outplayed expectations regardless to what happens with the remainder of their season. Teams like Portland and Phoenix, we hate to acknowledge that there are more victories in sports where teams can’t have successful seasons that didn’t win it all. Well, those two teams have had successful seasons regardless of what happens in the playoffs because they’ve outplayed expectations. Damian Lillard has emerged and became an All-Star, so much so he did every event during All-Star Weekend.”

Trail Blazers: Trail Blazers Sink Lower With Loss To Magic

“I think we are just in a new territory for some guys,” said Lopez. “It is late in the season, and the playoffs haven’t started but essentially the playoffs have started. We need to realize that.”

Oregon Live: Are The Trail Blazers About To Be Rescued? Or Are They A Fraud Exposed? Final 10 Games Will Tell

“You can have all the momentum in the world going into the playoffs and you lose Game 1 of that series and momentum has shifted,’’ coach Terry Stotts said. “Look, it’s a good feeling when everyone has momentum, has confidence. You want that and you want to ride it. Ultimately, you have to fight through some tough times, too.’’

Oregon Live: Quick: Why Seeing LaMarcus Aldridge In The Buffet Line Was A Good Sign For The Trail Blazers On Tuesday

“I’m more type of guy where if I’m not playing, I don’t do too much talking,’’ Aldridge said. “I’ve said certain things to certain guys, but I haven’t been too vocal. If I haven’t been out there battling, I don’t feel like I should be saying too much.’’

Oregon Live: Trail Blazers Lose To Lowly Orlando Magic, Prompting Question: What's Wrong With Them?

“Slipping away? Nah,” said Lillard, who scored 17 points on 5-for-17 shooting, including 0-for-4 from three-point range, against the Magic. “We’ve had too much of a fun and exciting season to just let it slip away. I think we’ve got the team to get things going back in the right direction.”

CSNNW: Aldridge's Return Could Salvage Season For Blazers

“We need L.A.,” Lopez said. “In order for us to be at our best, he has to be on the court with us. He’s our leader.”

CSNNW: Aldridge's Return Won't Solve All Of Portland's Problems

“Yes, I'm also hearing that the return of LaMarcus Aldridge is going to change things. You know, it's said he's going to draw double-teams that will open up the three-point shooters. Well, maybe. The problem is, people seem to have already forgotten that over a good portion of the second half of the season, Aldridge has not drawn a lot of double teams. You don't need to double a player who is going to shoot a 22-foot, fallaway jumper. Aldridge's field-goal percentage has dropped steadily after the season's first 40 games. In his last 15 games he's shot 41.9 percent from the floor."

Rip City Project: Trail Blazers’ Quarterly Performance Adds Perspective

"Before the season started, I think any Blazers fan would have been happy to have the Blazers sitting at fifth in the Western Conference, with a record of 45-27. That’s pretty darn good, but especially so in this season’s historically stacked Western Conference. This recent patch has been rough, but as with anything in life, proper perspective helps. Let’s hope the team can turn it around in time for the playoffs."

Ball Don't Lie: Los Angeles Lakers TV Ratings Are Down Almost 50 Percent From Last Season

“This dip doesn't necessarily mean that the Lakers are any less loved. It's very common to see a team dip in measurable popularity only to bounce back as soon as it improves in the standings, or even provides fans with some reason to hope for the future. The Lakers have been both terrible on the court and put out a team that doesn't even have much connection to their likely future. Why exactly should teams watch a bad team that could employ just a few players who figure into long-term plans? Angelenos presumably knew things were looking bad when they ended the Lakers' longstanding Staples Center sellout streak in November, and they're smart enough to know there's little reason to tune in right now.”

Ball Don't Lie: Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward Want Jazz Fans Not To Root For Losses, Which Is Reasonable, But Not The Whole Story

"Still, it's difficult to justify giving what will wind up being more than 3,500 minutes to players like Jefferson and Williams who were never part of the big picture when you've got younger foundational pieces (in this case, Kanter and Burks, although it's more a matter of him playing the two alongside Hayward at the three) who would likely benefit from a healthier helping of those minutes. Plus — and this is where we get back to the fans — "watch the young guys run up and down!" is one of the very few things that a team can dangle in front of its fan base to keep them engaged during a season that everyone expects to be bad. Jazz fans haven't even really gotten much of that this season."

Ball Don't Lie: Tim Duncan And Jeff Ayers Had A Creepy Encounter At A Haunted Hotel

“Duncan's reticence to return to the Claremont might explain why many NBA teams stay at the Four Seasons in San Francisco. In fact, the stories of the Claremont are fairly well known around the Bay Area and have affected other basketball teams, as well. I've heard of at least one NCAA team that stayed there for a road game against Cal (whose Haas Pavilion is very close) and made several older players check the rooms to make sure everything was safe. Duncan and Ayres might sound a little ridiculous for fearing ghost activity, but they're certainly not alone."

CNNSI: Biggest Obstacle To Heat's Three-Peat Run? The Heat

“It wasn't hard to see this malaise coming, because three-peat attempts are a special challenge of mind and body. The Heat have had their share of injuries -- Dwyane Wade has missed 19 games with his chronic knee issues, James is dealing with back and ankle problems, and various role players have been knicked up -- but their biggest obstacle may be the psychology of chasing ring three. "There's a reason that these teams don't do it," TNT analyst Steve Kerr, a member of the Bulls' three-time champs from 1996-98, told the Los Angeles Times before the season. "Emotionally, it's just exhausting to keep doing it year after year, particularly when you have to deal with everything Miami has to deal with on a daily basis, just the constant critiquing and scrutiny of the team."

Grantland: Culture Club

“The Mavericks spent the summers of 2012 and 2013 angling to land a big-time free agent. They had the cap room and the championship pedigree, and they felt they had the pull to attract another superstar. In 2012, the Mavs targeted Deron Williams; they didn’t get him. In the summer of 2013 they courted Dwight Howard; they didn’t get him, either. After Howard chose Houston last summer, the Mavs found themselves at a crossroads. Aside from a core group of aging veterans, they’d already thinned out their roster with an eye toward paying Howard. They could’ve traded away Nowitzki and other vets like Shawn Marion or Vince Carter for future assets and joined the growing band of “smart losers” strategically racing toward the bottom of the NBA, but they chose a different tack; they chose to reload and to fight. They signed all kinds of guys to all kinds of contracts. Jose Calderon for four years. Monta Ellis for three years. Samuel Dalembert for two years. Devin Harris for one year. When all was said and done, the 2013-14 Mavs roster added nine new faces, including three new starters. And Ellis — Monta Ellis! — has been the most valuable addition."

ESPN: Who Rules The East? Heat Vs. Pacers

"False. But I guess that depends on one's interpretation of reasonable. Are the Nets and Bulls capable of crashing the party and preventing what once seemed like an inevitable Heat-Pacers rematch in the conference finals? Yes, they're both capable. Is it possible? Yes. But reasonable? I'm not quite sure I'd go that far just yet. What the Heat and Pacers have shown recently is that their flaws will force them to carry on deeper into a series than they probably should go."

ESPN: Heat, Pacers Ready To Rumble

"I don't like when players are saying it's a rivalry or not a rivalry or coaches are saying it's a rivalry or not a rivalry," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "That is for others to decide."

SLAM: Post-Up: Dirk Delivers

"Dirk Nowitzki had 32 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists, and he was aided by Jose Calderon (22 points and 8 assists). The Mavericks weren’t able to slow down Kevin Durant, who went off for 43, but they forced Russell Westbrook into committing 8 turnovers. Dallas moves back into the eight spot in the West, though they are technically tied with the Memphis Grizzlies, who hold the same record."

HangTime Blog: Pacers' George Shouldering, Slumping Under Load Of NBA Stardom

After the Pacers’ practice Tuesday, he added: “We just haven’t been having fun. We’re making the game much harder than it needs to be. Somewhere along the line we forgot how much fun this game can be. … We went through a streak of games where we were just getting by because we were the more talented team. Where now we have to play good basketball to get wins.”