Posts Tagged ‘Cole Aldrich’

Can Leftovers Make A Free-Agent Dish?

HANG TIME, Texas – OK, let’s say it’s the middle of August, we just won the entire Powerball lottery and, in a grand farewell gesture, outgoing commissioner David Stern says he’ll let us buy a new NBA franchise.

We can play our home games on Maui or Mars. We can have our team wear those tight-fitting jerseys with sleeves, just like the Golden State Warriors or even sprint up and down the court wearing Capri pants, if we choose.

There’s just one catch. The only players available to fill out our roster are those still dangling on the list of unsigned free agents. Now that Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Andre Iguodala, Andrei Kirilenko and even Greg Oden are long gone, is it too late to put together a respectable team? Or even one that could outperform the infamous 9-73 record of the 1972-73 Sixers or the 7-59 mark of the 2011-12 Bobcats?

So for all those last-minute bargain hunters who don’t start their holiday shopping until Christmas Eve, here are the Leftovers:

Antawn Jamison, Forward – The 37-year-old veteran is coming out of the lost season with the Lakers where he played 21.5 minutes per game and showed that he can still shoot enough from the wings to score in double figures. After 15 years in the league, he’s still a reliable enough producer and ranks higher in efficiency rating than even two regular members of the starting lineup for the two-time champion Heat (Udonis Haslem and Shane Battier). The Leftovers will have to put points on the board somehow.

Lamar Odom, Forward – You’ve got to have faith that Odom hasn’t simply lost the spark and lost interest after his past two dismal years. Following the horrible flameout in Dallas, last season was supposed to be a shot at redemption as a key role player and solid influence in the locker room with the Clippers. Odom was particularly ineffective in the first-round playoff loss to Memphis. The birth certificate says he won’t turn 34 until the start of next season, but the odometer has racked up more miles than an old pickup truck. The Leftovers will keep believing that you don’t simply forget how to pass, rebound and do the little things and give Odom another chance.

Cole Aldrich, Center – After being taken with the 11th pick by New Orleans in 2010 and traded to OKC on draft night, Aldrich has never been able to establish himself as anything more than a space eater at the end of the bench for the Thunder, Rockets and most recently the Kings. Aldrich finally got onto the floor for 15 games in Sacramento at the end of last season and pulled down a respectable four rebounds in 11 minutes of playing time per night. He’s the epitome of the old adage: “You can’t teach height.” That’s why he’ll keep getting chances and the Leftovers are hoping that this is the one that will pay off.

Mikael Pietrus, Guard – We’re going to plug the swingman into our lineup in the backcourt and hope to ride that streaky outside shooting and penchant for playing in-your-face defense for production at both ends of the court. He played just 19 games last season with the Raptors before tendinitis in his knee forced him to the sidelines for good in the middle of March. But he’s too young (31), too athletic, too active, too disruptive on defense and potentially still too good not to have him on our side.

Sebastian Telfair, Guard – In a league where it has become increasingly critical to have an elite level point guard running the offense, you don’t simply find them in the discount bin. There’s a reason why the Clippers have gone from pretender to contender and his name is Chris Paul. From a free agent list that ranges from 35-year-old Jamaal Tinsley to 25-year-old Rodrigue Beaubois, we’ll split the difference and take the 28-year-old Telfair. He’s never lived up to the advance hype because though he’s quick and small, he can’t finish at the rim and has only recently become dependable as a mid-range shooter. His size hurts on defense, but he puts out the effort and when you’re a Leftover that’s good enough.

Stats Notebook: Rockets Make Two Deals

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – On the day before the trade deadline, the Houston Rockets were active, making two trades with the Pacific Division and shaking up their frontline.

Less than eight months after he was selected with the No. 5 pick in the Draft, the Kings gave up on Thomas Robinson, sending him, along with Francisco Garcia and Tyler Honeycutt, to Houston for Patrick Patterson, Cole Aldrich and Toney Douglas.

In a separate deal, the Rockets reached an agreement to send Marcus Morris to Phoenix.

Robinson has been somewhat of a disappointment so far, but it’s hard to judge a rookie after just 51 games. It’s especially to hard to judge a rookie after 51 games with a dysfunctional franchise.

Time will only tell whether the Kings made a mistake in drafting Robinson with the No. 5 pick or if they made a mistake in trading him. Either way, they made a mistake.

Here are some notes on the players that were dealt on Wednesday, from the new NBA.com/stats…

Lowest FG%, restricted area (minimum 100 FGA)

Player FGM FGA FG%
Austin Rivers 55 131 42.0%
Kevin Love 48 107 44.9%
Roy Hibbert 115 248 46.4%
Luc Mbah a Moute 64 138 46.4%
Brandon Jennings 115 242 47.5%
Thomas Robinson 74 152 48.7%

Rockets’ Red Glare Is All About Harden

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HOUSTON
– Sometimes the future looks so bright that you need sunglasses.

Or maybe that’s just the solar flare that is James Harden.

Three nights after the All-Star circus left town, Harden put on a show that could have filled all three rings under the big top.

There were a career-high 46 points to go with eight rebounds, six assists, a steal and a blocked shot. It all came on 14-for-19 shooting from the field, 7-for-8 on 3-pointers and 11-for-12 from the line.

“That’s as efficient a game as you can play in the NBA,” said Rockets coach Kevin McHale.

It was also necessary, since the Thunder are the Thunder and the Rockets were playing with only 10 bodies in uniform after the pre-game dealing sent Patrick Patterson, Marcus Morris, Cole Aldrich and Toney Douglas out of town.

While general manager Daryl Morey was doing his usual juggling act at the trade deadline — giving the Rockets a puncher’s chance at power forward with the addition of Thomas Robinson — Harden was once again the lion tamer, cracking his whip and taking complete control.

This was the kind of game that the OKC stars Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook usually put in a chokehold coming down the stretch, but instead it was their old buddy who took it into his hands and squeezed tight.

From the time he stepped to the free-throw line with the 6:29 left to play and the Rockets down by a dozen, the scoring the rest of the way showed: Harden 14, Thunder 12.

Any Rockets game has become the most entertaining NBA game to watch on any given night. That’s because of their frantic pace of play, constant desire to attack the lane, their ability to rain down 3s.

And Harden.

Nobody player has done more in the league this season to change the face and outlook for a franchise than Harden. With him relentlessly driving at the basket or pulling up to stab jumpers, he’s an offensive force every bit as unstoppable when he’s rolling as Durant, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.

Give Morey credit for pulling off the deal that brought him to Houston and for also adding supporting cast members Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik. Give the G.M. credit for forging ahead with a plan that has the Rockets already well positioned under the salary cap for free agency next summer and for swinging Wednesday’s deal that could pay off huge if Robinson comes to town and delivers on the talent that made him the No. 5 pick in the draft.

The Rockets have become a team that is attractive to free agents because they have someone who belonged on the floor with the rest of the All-Stars Sunday night with a game and style and confidence that should draw help down the line like a magnet attracts metal filings.

Keep the sunglasses handy. Truth is, Harden might be just beginning to glow.

Rockets’ Gamble on Robinson Worth Risk

HOUSTON — Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday and The Sundance Kid had nothing on Rockets G.M. Daryl Morey.

The itchiest trigger finger in the NBA got things rolling in the countdown to the trade deadline by shipping out two power forward candidates who hadn’t panned out and bringing back another with plenty of talent and still something to prove.

Officially, it was Patrick Patterson, Toney Douglas and Cole Aldrich going to the Kings for Thomas Robinson, Tyler Honeycutt and Francisco Garcia and Marcus Morris going to the Suns for a second round draft pick.

But the essence of the deal was the Rockets taking a shot at the 6-foot-10 Robinson, who was the No. 5 pick in the 2012 draft and a bundle of raw ability that many evaluators thought was the No. 2 pick of the litter eight months ago.

In two seasons, Patterson never established himself as a low post player on offense and did not carry his weight as a rebounder. Morris, too, is a decent mid-range shooter who also does not make his presence felt on the glass.

While there were character issues that surrounded Robinson before the draft and he was labeled a problem early in Sacramento and did not bloom, it is a move that is certainly worth the gamble for the Rockets.

If Robinson gets his act together and plays up to his potential, they’ve got a 21-year-old power forward who could fit in nicely on a roster that will now give him all the minutes he needs. If not, he carries a manageable $3.5 million contract that is only guaranteed through next season and also more cap space for free agency next summer. The Rockets were a team that had room to sign a max level free agent and another significant player and now they’ve carved out more room.

It is not on the blockbuster level of Morey’s deal that landed James Harden four days before the season opener. But it’s the kind of shrewd, low-risk deal that could set the Rockets up for an even bigger bang down the line.

Thunder Inside Men Do The Job

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook will continue to draw the biggest crowds and garners the most headlines for all that goes on with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

That’s what All-Stars do. But if the Thunder challenge the Spurs, Lakers and Mavericks for the Western Conference crown this season, they’ll have to do it from the inside out.

And that means they’ll need more of what they got from Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka in last night’s win over Portland that clinched their second consecutive playoff berth. The two Thunder bigs came up with clutch, back-to-back blocks at the rim in the final minute of a tight game (above), setting the stage for Westbrook to finish the Trail Blazers off with big shots in the final 53 seconds.

“They do a good job protecting the basket,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks told the Oklahoman. “They compliment each other very well.”

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About Last Night: OKC Does It With D!

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – For all the flashy, highlight-reel dunks and plays made by the Miami Heat this season, the backbone of their title quest is the fact that they are one of the league’s most relentless defensive teams when they are at their very best.

Seeing the Oklahoma City Thunder stifle the Heat with their defense last night at American Airlines Arena confirmed what we already knew: this Thunder team has truly graduated to the next level.

The addition of Kendrick Perkins and Nazr Mohammed to the Thunder’s interior defensive rotation, alongside Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and even rookie big Cole Aldrich, completely changes the way this team can attack teams on defense. It also gives the Thunder a fighting chance against any of the elite teams in the league (Lakers, Celtics, Spurs, Bulls, etc.) if things shift to the inside on a given night.

“We’ve got four bigs that do a good job of rotating and helping each other,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks told reporters after the game. “They’ve got a lot of experience, I’m confident in any of the guys out there. They can all mix and match. They all play hard. They all set good screens. They all make extra passes.”

The Heat shot just 38.5 percent from the floor and LeBron James and Dwyane Wade struggled to match their usual production, combing for 40 points on 15-for-42 shooting from the floor (they were 21-59 with the third member of the crew, Chris Bosh, included).

Against the Heat, Brooks told the Oklahoman, those bigs and the Thunder defense was as good as it gets:

“Our defense was as good as it could possibly play,” Brooks. “We haven’t been the 48-minute defending team that I would like (and) that we need to be. But tonight, we defended right from the start…Tonight, it was for four quarters. That’s the way it should be played.”

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Love Of The Game

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Remarkable is the only word we can think of to describe the rise of the Oklahoma City Thunder in the past 14 months.

Remarkable.

Now we don’t mind pointing out that we were ahead of the curve in predicting big things for the Thunder this season, just check our midsummer rankings and see if we weren’t dead on in our assessment of this crew when we ranked them behind the Lakers in the Western Conference food chain.

Fine, if you don’t wanna go back and see what we said in July we’ll do the work for you:

2 — Oklahoma City

Last season: 50-32

The Skinny: You think this is too big of a jump for a team was the 8th seed last season, don’t you? Well, too bad. If you’re not ready to drink the Thunder Kool-Aid we’ll handle it for you. As long as Kevin Durant is healthy and Russell Westbrook continues to evolve into one of the league’s elite point guards, the Thunder will be a force. Last season’s breakthrough season was just the appetizer. Jeff Green and Thabo Sefolosha are quality players at their positions, on both ends of the floor, and Nenad Krstic has Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and rookie Cole Aldrich helping him out down low. James Harden had a solid rookie season and could challenge for a more prominent role this season. But even if he doesn’t push for a starting spot he’s already a huge part of a Thunder second unit that has been upgraded tremendously from where it was this time a year ago. Eric Maynor could start of plenty of teams at point guard and Daequan Cook gives them a distance shooter with fantastic size and solid experience, having played with Wade in Miami the past three seasons. Of course, everything here starts with Durant, who signed a five-year extension this summer. The Thunder will be among the West’s elite for as long as he is in uniform.

The one thing we left out of the mix is a fan base that rivals any in the NBA.

Seriously, the Thunder will enjoy a home court advantage this season that few teams on the professional level will ever have the luxury of experiencing. (Be sure to weigh in on the Prime Minister-inspired poll at the bottom of this post.)

We’re talking about a basketball love affair that is going on in Oklahoma City right now, with both sides equally head over heels for the other. It’s been spotlighted by several publications, Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated did a masterful job of capturing it in his magazine’s NBA preview.

But no one understands this bond like the folks that live it.

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