Around The World: March 27, 2014
Trail Blazers: Shootaround Notes: LaMarcus Aldridge Returns To Lineup
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t (watching the standings),” said Aldridge. “I think everybody in here is watching the standings. Your moms is probably watching the standings and your grandma is probably watching the standings. I am … We’ve had some luck on our side and now it’s just time to get back on track.”
“Back on March 3, the Trail Blazers announced a contest in which fans would get a crack at creating the new court at the Moda Center that the team would play their home games on for the foreseeable future. Now the contest have moved on to the second phase, with three user-submitted options being put up for a vote. All of the courts have various differences, though they all share two traits: no paint at the top of the key and two-tone color scheme.”
Trail Blazers: Trail Blazers Vs. Hawks Preview
“It's been a rough three weeks for Portland (45-27), which has dropped eight of 11 to put its playoff hopes at risk. The Blazers are just ahead of Golden State, Memphis, Phoenix and Dallas, who are battling for the Western Conference's final three postseason berths.”
“After an 0-3 start featuring two lopsided losses sandwiched around a narrow defeat at the hands of the defending NBA champions, the Blazers (45-27) will be near full strength with the return of LaMarcus Aldridge after missing seven straight games. The Hawks (31-39) enter Thursday's contest losers of four in a row, including a 24-point road drubbing to the Timberwolves in Minnesota Wednesday, 107-83.”
““They are right there. Right there,’’ Blazers guard Damian Lillard said of recent charge by the Suns, Dallas and Memphis. “But at the end of the day, we are still ahead of them. And we still believe we can take off. We tighten up tonight and get a win, go to Chicago (Friday), stay locked in, finish the road trip strong, then we go home. From there, it’s a business mentality. We have to understand what it is, and take care of it.’’
“Golden State (44-27) made a surprising late-season move, with coach Mark Jackson re-assigning first-year assistant coach Brian Scalabrine out of a bench role, Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski reported. According to Wojnarowski, the move reflected "an increasingly dysfunctional atmosphere" in the franchise, with Jackson having had previous issues with former assistant coach Mike Malone, who is now Sacramento's head coach."
“I absolutely would have sat out,” he said. “The pain is that bad. But I have to give it a go.”
“You can't blame Young for not really remembering that buzzer-beating victory; a lot's happened over the past 58 days. (I checked.) M.J. had twins. Pierre got rebooted. (We kind of miss the old one.) The Dunk Contest was a bummer. Everyone talked about tanking a bunch. Jason Collins and Phil Jackson got gigs. Kobe's dunzo, and sleeved jerseys might be, too. The Olympics happened, a giant airplane disappeared, and Taco Bell's got breakfast now. And in your neck of the woods, the winds of change have been blowing something fierce. See ya, Evan and Lavoy. Sayonara, Spencer. We hardly knew ye, Danny, Earl and Eric. Glad to meet you, Jarvis, Darius, James and Casper. The only thing that's remained constant, of course, is the losing.”
“The prediction that I’m happiest about, though, concerns Kevin Durant’s scoring numbers this season: “Picking up the slack while Russell Westbrook is sidelined, Kevin Durant will win the fourth scoring title of his career and become the first player to average 32+ points since Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson accomplished the feat in 2005-06.” Durant is a shoo-in to win the scoring title and he’s averaging 32.2 points per game, the highest mark of his career, entering Thursday’s action. He’s also sitting on a streak of 36 straight games with at least 25 points or more, he’s the first player since 2008-09 to top 50 points twice in the same season, and he’s shooting 51/41/87 on more than 20 field goal attempts per game. If his numbers stay as is, Durant will be the first player ever to average at least 30 points per game while shooting 50 percent overall and 40 percent from deep. We will be telling our grandchildren about Durant’s scoring prowess this season, unless of course he tops it next year."
"Everyone on this team is resilient," DeRozan said. "We use all the negativity, all the critics. Everyone here wants to win. That's the biggest thing. We remember the years not making the playoffs, of being the laughingstock of the league. Everyone in this group bought in to what we are doing and we have been doing it together. I have heard so many critics talking about how people were going to be traded, [how] we are trying to lose on purpose to get a better draft pick. Whatever. But we soak it in and use it as motivation."
“Here's one element that is getting overlooked, perhaps, and it's something Curry pointed out recently. This team is two years away from being really bad. Last year set a new standard because of a first-round upset, and this year raised the stakes because of a big free-agent addition. But let's just say the Warriors didn't get past Denver, and still bring in Iguodala. The feeling would likely now be like that of the Gilbert Arenas-led Wizards, "Let's get to the second round!"
True Oakland: Do Warriors Have Faith In Mark Jackson?
"If you’re looking for a reason as to why a seemingly successful coach lacks fan support, you might tilt your head in this direction. The Bay Area isn’t the Bible Belt, after all. According to The Atlantic, it’s actually the least religious major metro area of the country, with only 24 percent of residents claiming “very religious” status. Factor in how NBA fans skew young, plus how young people skew secular, and you have a less than ideal audience for Jackson’s (literal) preaching. After games, Jackson is sharing an intense, sincere worldview with many who either disagree or lack the context to relate. Locally, it doesn’t help matters that the preacher was caught up in a sex scandal early in his Warriors tenure. The slipup served as snarky joke fodder for those who were already cynical about messengers of faith. "
True Philly: The Great Blight Hope
“In Philadelphia, even the losses themselves are encouraging, suggestive of an ability to build a thing that works the way it’s supposed to. The Sixers aren’t merely tanking -- half the league is -- they’re tanking better than anyone else. They’re the 1996-97 Chicago Bulls of deliberate losing. This thing is a work of art. "
“The Bucks say a specialist in Los Angeles examined Ilyasova's ankle on Tuesday and instead of surgery recommended rest and rehabilitation. The team made the announcement Thursday."
“The Pacers moved one step closer to reaching their season-long goal of locking down the top spot in the East, getting a hotly contested win over their rivals from Miami. David West (13 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists) hit the biggest shot of the night, hitting just his fourth 3-pointer of the season with under a minute to go to give Indy a four-point lead. After Chris Bosh (8 points) came back with a triple of his own to cut the lead to one, George Hill missed two free throws to give Miami a final chance with two seconds on the clock. Bosh left a jumper short to let the Pacers off the hook."
Pro Basketball Talk: Mark Cuban: ‘It’s An Absolute’ Eastern Conference Teams Are Tanking
"Have you seen the 76ers play? Plus, more and more teams will start tanking as they’re eliminated from playoff contention. Rarely do teams begin the season tanking, but once the postseason is out of the picture, increasing lottery odds becomes more tolerable. Players will miss games with minor injuries. Coaches will use experimental lineups with young players."
Heat-Pacers Packs Punch As Playoff Preview, Palate Cleanser
“Our guys are getting punched in the face and clotheslined out there and we’re getting two shots,” Bosh said. “Then we get an offensive foul called – and it’s a flagrant. I guess we really need to decipher what ‘flagrant’ means. Because I don’t feel they were going for the ball. Especially in those two situations. If you can come down and clothesline somebody, I mean, it’s open season. People are going to get hurt. I don’t know, we’re going to have to revisit what ‘flagrant foul’ means to see if it’s even. But they had one and we had none, even though LeBron got punched in the face and clotheslined.”