Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (Oct. 6) -- LaMarcus Aldridge talked with Gregg Popovich about his frustrations

This morning’s headlines:

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Aldridge discussed frustrations with Popovich — San Antonio Spurs big man LaMarcus Aldridge had a postseason to forget in 2017, particularly in the Western Conference finals. After that series was lost, trade talks surrounding Aldridge cropped up as well, too. As his third season with the Spurs nears, Aldridge told’s Michael C. Wright about how he spoke with coach Gregg Popovich this summer about his concerns about his role, the trade chatter and more:

Having already stomached the uneasy feeling of not being used in San Antonio’s system the way he’d envisioned, a disastrous showing in the Western Conference finals took it over the top, along with an offseason in which San Antonio attempted to trade Aldridge. The five-time All-Star decided it was finally time to get it all off his chest, so he asked for a heart-to-heart sitdown over the summer with Popovich.

“It was me kind of being blunt about it, and being kind of forward,” Aldridge recently told ESPN during training camp. “He was open to it. I kind of just spilled my heart about how I felt about how things were, and how things had been going.

“I think he was kind of caught off guard. I don’t think he really had noticed [that I was unhappy]. But once I said it, he was great about listening, and it was good from there. I felt like I wasn’t really fitting into the system as best I could. I wasn’t really helping like I felt I could.”

Popovich admitted his power forward’s frustrations were “all legitimate,” and the hope is the opened lines of communication will help light the path to another title run.

“This is a guy who played for nine years, I believe, before he came here,” Popovich said, “and it takes time to get used to a program that is not just new. But when you have nine years under your belt, doing something different, his concerns are totally legitimate.

“We have talked about what we can do to make him more comfortable, and to make our team better. But having said that, I think we are mostly talking about offense. Defense, he was fantastic for us. Now, we have got to help him a little bit more so that he is comfortable in his own space offensively, and I haven’t done a very good job of that.”

In June, as the draft approached, sources told ESPN that the Spurs had been in contact with at least three teams about a possible trade involving Aldridge. But a deal never materialized.

Aldridge, 32, took the news in stride, too, saying “if it happened, it happened, but it didn’t.”

“It’s a part of the NBA,” he added. “Guys move around and guys go from team to team at times. It happens. I’m used to it. I know I can only control what I do, and that’s what I did. I worked hard all summer and got better. Maybe in my younger days in Portland, I might have taken it personal. Now, I’m older and I’m used to the game. I know it’s a business. I don’t take it personal anymore.”

One way San Antonio plans to unleash Aldridge is to emphasize finding him for early post-ups in possessions.

“One of our things this year is if myself, Pau [Gasol] or if any big is running the floor and we duck in, it’s just more emphasis on, ‘OK, let’s look at the post,’ ” Aldridge told ESPN. “I think last year, looking at the post wasn’t really what we did. It was more, let’s do something else. But this year, already, it’s about, ‘If he runs the floor and he’s ducking in, give him the ball.’ So it’s just more of an emphasis on those types of things.”

That, in turn, means Aldridge needs to do a better job of actually running the floor. He admits to not always doing that these past two seasons.

“It was an afterthought [to get me the ball early]. But it was both [probably my fault and the team’s] because I didn’t feel like I would get it,” Aldridge said. “So I probably didn’t run the floor as hard, or I didn’t seal as good. Then, they didn’t look for me. Then, when we both thought about it, it was too late.

“But this year, knowing that it’s going to be a point of emphasis, I’m going to run harder. I’m going to duck in harder, and they’re going to look for me faster. So it’s going to be better.”

Aldridge plans to incorporate more 3-point shooting into his game this season, too. Before he departed for the summer, Aldridge said Popovich told him to “make sure you shoot [3-pointers] because I want you to get back comfortable doing that because our system fits it,” adding that “I’m going to be spread out a little bit more this year, so I definitely tried to focus on that.”

After not making the All-Star squad last season for the first time since 2012, Aldridge believes he’s ready to have a bounce-back year and refuses to let his struggles linger from last year’s Western Conference finals.

“I didn’t go into the summer and say, ‘Oh, I’m going to try to work hard just because of that series,’ ” Aldridge said. “I wasn’t sick about it. Everybody wants to win and I want to win. It didn’t go ideally. But I went home, and I got better. …

“I think I’m still able to play at [an All-Star] level, and I don’t feel like I’ve declined to not be in the top 10-15 guys in the league. I feel like I can still help teams win, and bring something dominant into the game. I’ve done my part. I went home, and worked hard. Hopefully, it pays off.”

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Report: McGrady lands job with Magic — The short list of Orlando Magic greats has to include newly minted Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady. Aside from those honors, the former NBA scoring champ seems to have fully repaired his once-strained relationship with the Magic and has a new, front office-type job with them. Mike Bianchi and Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel have more:

The two-time NBA scoring champion and seven-time All-Star signed on to become a special assistant to CEO Alex Martins, the Orlando Sentinel has learned.

McGrady grew up in Polk County, and he’ll help promote and market the new Lakeland Magic G League franchise.

But McGrady’s duties are expected to go beyond that. He’ll be around, at least occasionally, to work with Orlando Magic players and coaches on and off the court. It would not be a surprise if he assists with recruiting free agents to the Magic.

Even though McGrady and the Magic parted ways on strained terms in 2004, a reunion between McGrady and the franchise has been rumored for years. The team honored him on opening night of the 2013-14 season as part of its 25th-anniversary celebration, and the gesture seemed to repair the relationship.

McGrady played 15 seasons in the NBA.

In 2000, he joined the team, along with Grant Hill, as a high-priced free agent in 2000. He spent four seasons in Orlando and averaged 28.1 points per game for the Magic. But with Hill severely hampered by injuries, the Magic never advanced beyond the first round of the playoffs during McGrady’s Magic tenure.

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Rose, Wade loving life in Cleveland — Individual and team success were hallmarks of Dwyane Wade and Derrick Rose’s respective careers during their prime. So too was carrying the lion’s share of the burden (and defensive attention). As they settle into life as complimentary players with the Cleveland Cavaliers, they’re enjoying the fruits of playing with so much talent. Joe Vardon of has more:

Even though LeBron James was on the bench against the Hawks for the preseason opener, Rose said the four starters he shared the court with provided him more room to maneuver than at any other time in his eight-year career. He finished with seven points and three assists in 15 minutes, playing alongside Wade, Kevin Love, J.R. Smith, and Jae Crowder (another Cleveland newbie).

“It’s the most space I’ve ever seen on the floor ever since I came into the league,” Rose said. “Looking like I’m going to be playing without a lot of double teams or without a lot of people loading up to me. This will be my first time experience with that so I will be able to tell you how that goes or what I see, but we’ve only played one game. I just see there’s a lot of space.”

Wade, a three-time NBA champion who of course played with James and Chris Bosh in Miami, said it was an adjustment being on the court in which all five players were “live” or active with the ball.

“It’s normally not like that,” said Wade, who like Rose scored seven points and also contributed four assists. “On most teams you have two guys and if you’re good you have three guys. … Once we get used to that we’ll be an even better defensive team because right now we’re a little slow getting back in transition because you’re just not used to everybody being live.”

Another item Wade and Rose have in common is their apparent unfamiliarity with each other. They knew the other’s style before arriving in Cleveland, but they hadn’t spent time together as regular people.

Wade said he’s been watching Rose since the two were children in Chicago (six years his senior, Wade said he’d watched Rose “since the second grade”).

“I’d say the best thing is getting to know him,” Wade said. “Everyone knows that he’s a little quiet from the outside but when it’s teammates, you get to see a different side of him. I love where he’s at right now. He’s attacking, he’s running the offense. You have to have a guy who can do that and his ability to score the basketball is always there.”

Rose said the two of them are “Just ballers, man.

“We’re hoopers,” he said. “We’re going to get the job done one way or another. But one thing I love is that we love the game. He’s always on his iPad looking at film, looking at practice film and he’s always learning. He’s a student of the game I would say. I’m the same way.”

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Celtics’ Morris ready to be ‘bully’ for team — Just about every championship winner or contender in NBA lore has had a tough guy of sorts on their roster. If the new-look Boston Celtics are hoping to find one on their squad as 2017-18 nears, Marcus Morris is stepping up for the job. Mark McMurphy of the Boston Herald has more:

“Competing against these guys over the years, I think they know what I can do,” the 6-foot-9 swing forward said after his first practice. “I know what they can do. I think it’ll be really easy for me to fit in. I gotta be the tough guy on the team. I gotta be the protector. Guys, you know, knocking my guys down, I can’t have that. You know what I’m saying? It’s going to be my role to be the bully. And I accept that.

“When I’m off the court, I’m cool and collected. But when I’m on the court, technical fouls. I kinda dumbed it down last year, I only had like six,” said Morris. “But the year before that I was like top three (in the league). It just depends on how hard they foul me. Like I said, man, I gotta protect my guys out there. I’m going to be the bully on the team.”

Beyond playing against the Celtics, Morris was mainly familiar with the dynamic of this team through Markieff and the testy rivalry between the Celtics and Wizards.

“It was crazy, man. I was watching it when I was in Washington,” he said of last spring’s second-round playoff series. “It was pretty crazy. I would have loved to be a part of something like that. When I played against Boston in past years, (Jae) Crowder and (Isaiah Thomas), there was a lot of (expletive)-talking. I would have loved to be a part of that. Now I’m here, different group of guys. Now it’s our time to build our own legacy and build our own rivalry.”

Morris decided against coming to Boston to watch the series, unsure of how he would be received, wearing Wizards gear and rooting on his brother.

“I truly wasn’t really worried about anything, but I wasn’t rooting for Boston so I wasn’t going on the road, you know what I mean, wearing a Washington Wizards jersey or hat or whatever,” said Morris, “because I just didn’t feel like that was right. I still played for the Detroit Pistons so I wasn’t that big a fan of Washington. I was just a fan of my brother, you know what I mean?”

The parameters have obviously changed. A chat with Paul Pierce, the Celtics legend and fellow Kansas alum, gave Morris a good idea of his new team.

“He said I’m really going to love it a lot,” said Morris. “I wanted to work out with him this summer. I didn’t get an opportunity with what’s going on with the case and stuff, being in Phoenix for a while. But he told me I was going to love it out here.”

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Pelicans ramping up prep time in preseason — A solid start and, hopefully, a playoff push are on the minds of the New Orleans Pelicans and their coach, Alvin Gentry. That mentality has led Gentry to not give star players Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, Jrue Holiday and Rajon Rondo much of an easy workload in the preseason. Scott Kushner of the The New Orleans Advocate details how the Pelicans are trying to get in regular-season shape quickly:

“We have got to get in shape,” Gentry said. “Like I’ve said, we basically have three preseason games, so we have to start getting our basketball legs. That’s why they played so much. That’s why I played Jrue (Holiday) and (Rajon) Rondo more than I’d like to, also … when I thought about it, I wasn’t going to play them in the fourth quarter, but it’s how they ended up getting around 30 minutes or so.”

The Pelicans’ final preseason contest Oct. 13 is a preview of their regular-season opener. They will face the Memphis Grizzlies just five days before tipping off against Grizzlies in a game that counts on Oct. 18.

So Gentry has already stated he’ll likely sideline all of his starters that night (he expects the Grizzlies to do the same). That trims one game from an already shortened preseason schedule.

It leaves New Orleans with just two more opportunities to see what’s working and what isn’t. It’s why Anthony Davis said he wasn’t surprised he logged 32 minutes Tuesday night, scoring 22 points and pulling in 10 rebounds along the way.

“It was good,” Davis said. “We’ve only got four — well, three; we’re not going to play in that last one — so I think it was good for us to try and get ready to play those minutes. It’s good for us to, you know, get up and down against another team.”

Meanwhile, DeMarcus Cousins claimed it was the most he’s ever played in his seven NBA preseasons. The recently trimmed-down center played a game-high 33 minutes, scoring 20 points, grabbing eight rebounds and logging five assists.

“I don’t think I’ve ever played that many minutes in the preseason before, but if that’s what coach wants, that’s what’s going to happen,” Cousins said. “We are trying to build something here, so we are using this time as preparation. We’ll see how it goes.”

Gentry has shown a preference to keep Davis or Cousins on the floor at all times, and is likely to do the same with Holiday and Rondo, playing them in pairs to create mismatches against opposing bench units. So finding out which of those starters mesh most naturally together and with newly signed reserves Darius Miller, Ian Clark and Cheick Diallo is a critical facet of preseason.

“This isn’t like other years,” Clark said. “There just aren’t that many games. So we have to try to find that rotation quickly and learn who is best with who, so we can get to work.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Joel Embiid is back at practice for the Sixers … Let’s just say LeBron James isn’t a huge fan of “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” … The playoffs are a definite goal for the Nuggets’ brass this season … ICYMI, Norman Powell got a contract extension from the Raptors yesterday … The Hornets will be without forward Nicolas Batum for a while … Who will defer first in Houston: Chris Paul or James Harden? … Paul Zipser could have a solid role in the Bulls’ rebuild operation … Nick Young (hip) is doubtful for Sunday’s preseason game in China … Why it this season might not be Willie Cauley-Stein’s breakout campaign